Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review: Reservations for Two

Being the restaurant chef person that I am I was really eager to get a hold of this book and review it. I thought the premise of Reservation for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge to be a nice and refreshing one. Amongst all the bonnet novels- Amish and otherwise- and the other historicals on the market I was ready for a contemporary novel set in the food world!

I requested and began this book not realizing it was book two of a series, something I avoid like the plague as I find it difficult to come into a cast of pre-established characters and backstory and not feel lost and uncomfortable but I decided to just give it a go.

From the first the reader is dropped, literally into the middle, of a conversation that feels as if it’s been directly carried over and picked up right where it was left in the first book. It was off putting, frankly, and I struggled to figure out what was going on and what I had missed from the first book. It is clear in the first few chapters that the main character, Juliette, has been undertaking a great adventure as she searches for clues to her grandmother’s past but it was hard to figure out what was going on and who all the people were beyond that. Without the back of the book I would not have been able to figure out anything.

Another reason I struggled with this book is that I found the writing style to be a rather odd one. I consider myself a person who has read widely and enjoys a variety of literary styles but this I did not enjoy. This I found unreadably choppy and really missing a lot of the trimmings that makes a text pleasant to read.

In the end I will confess that I did not finish this book. After a certain point I simply began flipping and skimming till the end.  It’s a fact that galls me to admit as I’ve sat through a number of truly horrid novels and forced myself to finish them word by word, but with this every paragraph was a losing battle.   

In the end I won’t recommend this book. Not because I found something terribly wrong with it but because it just wasn’t my style. Perhaps for others it might be. Perhaps if it had been the first volume it would have had a chance. 

Final Review: 1.5 

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: Irish Meadows

I have had a terrible time in sitting to review this book.

In all honesty I was finished with it a good six or seven months ago but since then it has sat in my review stack as some horrible pariah that I haven’t been able to purge. And I assure you I have tried! Multiple times I have sat to review this and simply gotten tied up two or so paragraphs in unable to sort out the heart of this story or what to say about it.

At the beginning I thought this was a book that I would very much enjoy. The setting is a horse farm in 1911 Long Island and the background of the family is Irish- and who doesn’t love a good strong Irishwoman on a quest? Brianna’s quest is to attend collage but her father’s vision is to marry her and her sister off and quick to the richest man he can find in order to infuse the farm with badly needed cash. Needless to say their wills clash like the climax of The 1812 Overture.  To complicate matters her childhood best friend Gilbert is at war with himself over pursuing her hand or striking out to make his own name in horse farming.

Then there is Brianna’s older sister Colleen, a frivolous scheming incorrigible flirt determined to be the ruin of herself and her family. As punishment for a particularly egregious scheme Colleen is sent to work with orphans in the big city under the watchful care of straight-from-Ireland distant cousin and soon to be priest Rylan. And what’s a reforming bad girl to do but fall in love with a priest?

Readers, if this seems like the beginnings of a complicated plot I assure you that I have only scratched the surface!! This book goes from jam-packed to ridiculously drawn out and twisted with every passing chapter. I began with liking one sister and hating the other and by the end of the book had completely flipped my opinion on them. It was like one grew and matured as the other devolved and regressed into completely absurd childishness! The respective beaus didn’t help matters either and in both cases willingly compromised their beliefs in order to get what they wanted. Any extraneous angst over their decisions was overdone and sadly disingenuous. To top things off the girl’s father never stops bullying whoever is in his reach to do his bidding- no matter who gets hurt. I am frankly sick to death of the overbearing tyrant father trope; there is any number of other ways to put people into pickles then to malign fathers in a culture that does quite enough of that already. 

Overall I couldn’t have been less impressed with a cast of characters than I was with these- and considering I started out loving them for the first third of the book that seems a great feat.  
Throughout this book I found the Spiritual content sadly lacking.  This book comes from a strongly Catholic viewpoint and I found myself wondering why the author felt the need to go that direction when surely there are just as many Irish Protestants as there are Catholic’s? When writing for a Christian publishing house one would have thought the author would have considered this. Beyond that I found the Spiritual counsel that Ryland gives to be doctrinally unsound.

For the above reasons mentioned, and many more that I could list, I cannot recommend this book. I forced myself to read through to the end and finish it to see if the end would be any better than the middle but it wasn’t, and any book that makes you want to fling it across the room out of disgust for the stupidity and childishness of the characters just isn’t worth reading.

And that’s the end of it. 

Final Rating: 1.5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Perspectives On Misbegotten Days and Mercy

Note: These thoughts were journaled about a month ago when I was on a two week work-visit at my Gran's. 

I have to admit that I didn’t have my best day the other day. 

The day had begun with hope and great anticipation as I was expecting to get out and see my mom, my niece, and to be able to finally connect to the internet and send some important messages after more than a week being stuck in the time warp of my Gran’s house.

Hope came crashing down around me in the form of eight inches of snow and a canceled doctor’s appointment.

Crushed doesn’t begin to describe my disappointment.

After a bit I decided I really shouldn’t be crying over something that couldn’t be changed and dug into my morning devotional book. The entry for the day was on “Not Why, But How” and encouraged the reader when suffering- be it horrible disappointments or burdensome illness- to just do the next thing and to ask God for joy in doing what you’re doing, big or small. For me, it really bounced off of a previous entry that talked about weaving the straw of our hardships into the gold of fulfilling his purposes for us.

So I set out on my morning with that perspective and prayer of turning a day I deemed rotten from the start- into something good.

And I promptly fell flat on my face.

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where someone smashes down on one of your buttons hard and unexpectedly- and you lose it?

Yeah, me too.

Well I’ll tell you, as I slammed the door behind me and marched out of the house with my shovel to do my worst to the thing that had ruined my morning I knew I had acted wrongly and would have to apologize. Thing was I didn’t know how to do that and not cause a full-scale meltdown. So, long after I had finished my little path down the walkway and to the mailbox I stood there, a frosty sentry to the garage stewing in my own indecision. I prayed as I stood there and whined and murmured at God about how this was not joy, and this was certainly not gold either! 

It’s a good thing God has a sense of humor and that He doesn’t strike us down with the plagues of Revelation when we are floundering.

It’s a good thing He gives us mercy instead.

His mercy to me that morning was a divine appointment that was far better than the doctor’s appointment that was planned.

His mercy pulled right up to the curb of my Gran’s house, pulled out a shovel, introduced themselves as a neighbor, and offered to help me clear the eight inches of dense-pack white stuff in the driveway. An hour later when Jamie and I had finished we tramped into the house for some fortifying coffee and a slice of fresh baked apple cake and got to start getting to know each other.

Jamie is a mid-twenties girl on her own, not much family to speak of, and only a few friends. She is in a point of her life where she is beginning again in many areas and looking for purpose for her life. She was full of questions for Gran about her Scottish background and our family, and it was nice to share that with her and see her excitement of learning something new as she heard stories I’ve heard a hundred times about how my grandparents came to the states.

As our conversation meandered she began to talk about deeper topics like “The Dash” between our birth and death dates and what we use our lives for, about a program she watched about evolution, and about how she believed her mother’s death was helping her help a friend who recently lost their mother.

And there was my mercy. There was my joy. Hiding under half a foot of snow and ice was my gold.

I had the privilege of witnessing to Jamie that morning. I talked to her about how our lives do have purpose and about our loving Creator. She talked to me about her interest in learning about God and about finding a church to go to. When Jamie left that morning she had my info and my favorite tract to share in her hand, she had my promise to help find a good church.

When Jamie left that morning I had received the blessing and the joy in double measure. I had seen the straw turned to gold.

I had started the day off with not my best of anything and had been given the best of His everything.
I stared off the day missing out on one appointment and was given another in its place of far greater significance, one I would never have had if not for eight inches of snow.

One I never would have had if not for His mercy even when I fall flat on my face.