Thursday Book Feature: An Irish Country Cottage

An Irish Country Cottage

By Patrick Taylor

Copyright 2018.

 

This story takes place during the late 1960’s and is about three doctors. Although it’s part of a series, it can stand alone. In the Irish community of Ballybucklebo, Dr. O’Riley organizes a relief effort to help a family who lost everything in a fire. Dr. Laverty and his wife are trying to conceive a child, and Dr. McCarthy, a trainee, suffers from a lack of self-confidence. The Protestant-Catholic conflict provides an ominous backdrop to this portrayal of idyllic small-town life.

This book reminds me, in a way, of the James Harriott stories except that the patients are people, not animals. Funny things happen that will make you laugh, and there are serious moments that may move you to tears. I like the way the author interjects Irish culture into this story. He tells us that in Ballybucklebo, everyone gets along, whereas in the rest of Ireland, people are duking it out over religion and politics.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues that aren’t resolved in the end. Not wanting to give you any spoilers, I won’t tell you what they are, but I’m sure you’ll find them when you get to the end of the book. I hope a sequel is forthcoming. Meanwhile, I suggest you let this book take you back to the good old days when doctors made house calls. Don’t you wish those days still exist?

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By Betty Smith

Copyright 1946

 

This is a biographical novel about a girl, Francie Nolan, growing up in Brooklyn during the earlier part of the 20th century. She and her younger brother live in a shabby apartment with their alcoholic father and their mother, who supplies most of the family’s income by cleaning houses and doing other odd jobs. When the children are older, they take on paper routes and other work. Her mother’s family is supportive, but their resources are also limited.

When Francie is fourteen, her father dies, and her mother gives birth to a third child. With the added financial burden of an extra mouth to feed, Francie is forced to put her dreams of higher education on hold. The ending is satisfactory, yet unrealistic.

This book is hard to put down. There’s a lot of narrative, but it’s necessary in order to move the story along, since it spans over a decade. Everyone should read it to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be poor and thus be thankful for what they have and compassionate towards those less fortunate.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: The Enchanted April

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.The Enchanted April

by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Copyright 1922

 

Four English ladies retreat from their miserable lives in London to a medieval castle in Italy that they have rented for the month of April. Lottie and Rose are escaping their husbands. Lady Caroline is trying to get away from men in general, and Mrs. Fisher, a grieving widow, wants only to rest and think and not be disturbed. As the weeks progress, attitudes change, and things get interesting when the husbands and landlord show up.

This is a good story, but Elizabeth Von Arnim, like many authors of the time, includes way too much narrative, which slows it down. Because I was curious after seeing a theatrical production of this book, and my regional talking book library’s group decided to discuss it, I slogged through and found the ending, like that of the play, satisfactory. This might be a good book to read during the month of April in a sunny garden, perhaps in Italy. The excessive narrative plus the sun’s warmth may cause you to slip into a peaceful afternoon slumber.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book feature: A Low Country Christmas

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.A Lowcountry Christmas

by Mary Alice Monroe

Copyright 2016

 

Christmas 2018 is looking bleak for ten-year-old Miller and his family in rural South Carolina. Miller’s father, a shrimp boat captain, has been forced to dock his boat by rising fuel prices and limited income while his mother works two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. As a result, his parents have no choice but to tell him they can’t afford to buy him the dog he wants for Christmas. To make matters worse, Miller’s brother Taylor, a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, receives a service dog, but a miraculous surprise is in store. Each chapter alternates the storytelling from the first person point of view of Miller, Taylor, and their mother Jenny and is preceded by a quotation from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Recipes are found at the end of the book.

I would like to have known more about what happened to these characters after that miraculous Christmas in 2010. The prologue and epilogue take place in 2015, and we learn that Taylor still has the service dog and is married with a baby, but how did he get to that point? We also realize that Taylor did not reconcile with his high school sweetheart, with whom he broke up after returning from Afghanistan, but how and where did he meet his current wife, and what sort of work did he find once he’d overcome, to a certain extent, his post traumatic stress disorder?

What about Miller’s family’s financial situation? In 2010, after docking the shrimp boat, his father was working whatever construction jobs he could find, but did he end up with more stable work after that? Did his mother continue to substitute teach and clean houses? The prologue would have worked better as part of the epilogue.

I liked the many references to A Christmas Carol. I was moved to tears when Taylor was first presented with his service dog and fascinated by the training process, not unlike that of preparing a guide dog for someone with blindness or low vision. This is a great holiday read. I know it’s a little late now, but maybe you can put it on your reading list for next year.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: Fishing for Maui

Image contains: me, smiling.Fishing for Maui

by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Copyright 2018.

 

This novel about food, family, and mental illness is set in a Maui village off the coast of New Zealand. Main characters include Valerie, a doctor and mother of four children; Elena, her oldest daughter who is pregnant and writes a food blog; Michael, her oldest son, a university student obsessed with surfing and his heritage; her younger son John, sixteen, and her daughter Rosa, eight. Over the course of a year, Elena discovers her partner is having an affair; Michael is diagnosed with psychosis; John leaves school, and Rosa is struggling to make sense of everything. The book includes recipes.

I like the way the author takes us into the minds of each character by alternating the storytelling from each character’s point of view. I found the snippets of information about Maui culture interesting. A review I recently read said this book should be read in November, but I think it could be read any time of year. Since it takes place in a coastal village, it could even be a summer beach read.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

***

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Thursday Book Feature: Sugar and Spice

Sugar and Spice

By Cara Wade

Copyright 2018.

 

Kaylan’s life is turned upside down when she learns she has inherited her deceased aunt’s bakery. Kaylan has a job and a life in the city, and the last thing she wants to do is move to the small town where she grew up and run the shop, but she agrees to try it for a few months. Along with flour, sugar, and other ingredients, add a resentful boyfriend, two dedicated employees,, and a handsome stranger named Jack to the mixture, and what comes out of the oven could be interesting.

This is a good story, but it’s not well-written. The author tells the story from Kaylan’s first person point of view, which is fine, but it’s in present tense, often slipping into past tense, which doesn’t work. I can understand using past tense to tell back story, but even when she’s in the present, she occasionally shifts into past tense. These instances could have been mistakes her editor didn’t catch. In any case, the story would have been more effective told in the past tense. Besides this, I noticed some grammatical errors and minor plot inconsistencies.

I also didn’t appreciate the detailed descriptions of love-making in this book. Unfortunately, many romance writers feel they need to include such scenes to show how their hero and heroine feel about each other. In most cases, descriptions of sex slow down a story. In this case, it was pretty obvious that Kaylan and Jack were falling for one another by their kissing, caressing, and cuddling. The bedroom action wasn’t necessary.

On the other hand, I like the way most of the character’s back stories come out in dialog and not in narrative. According to the author’s biographical information at the back of the book, Cara Wade is a new indie author. It looks like she has a lot to learn, and I hope she improves. As I said before, this is a good story, and it teaches an important lesson about relationships. Honesty with each other is always the best policy.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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Thursday Book feature: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng

Copyright 2017

 

In 1998, the Richardson family is happily living in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Then Miah, a nomadic artist, and her teen-aged daughter rent a house from Mrs. Richardson. When one of Miah’s co-workers sues the state for custody of a baby she abandoned a little over a year ago, Miah and Mrs. Richardson are on opposite sides of the debate. Then Mrs. Richardson discovers a secret Miah has been harboring for years.

When the book opens, the Richardson home has just been destroyed by a fire, and the family is left homeless. Then it shifts to the previous year, detailing events leading to the fire. I found this disappointing because I then had an idea of how the book would end. I considered not finishing it, but curiosity drove me onward. Although I like the author’s depiction of Shaker Heights as a perfect little town, I don’t appreciate the way she inserts narrative during crucial dialog. In most cases, this narrative explains how characters feel, which, from what is being said, should already be obvious to the reader. The ending is unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I liked the way Ng tells the story from the point of view of each character. She gives the reader a glimpse into each of their minds, even that of the Richardson’s youngest daughter who is often misunderstood. She also tries to help us understand why Miah feels the woman who abandoned her baby should have the right to take the child away from loving parents, unable to have children of their own, who want to adopt her. Despite its drawbacks, this book is a compelling, thought-provoking read.

***

 Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.