Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

49-1My first introduction to Tuck Everlasting came from the movie (starring Alexis Bledel as Winnie). I think it was actucally through the movie that I heard of the book. After reading the book, I’m surprised the movie didn’t take as many liberties with the story as I originally thought it might.

I think I would have enjoyed this story more if I hadn’t seen the movie, but in some ways the movie also heightened the novel since I had a visual of characters and landscape, in particular the creepy man in the yellow suit (played by Ben Kingsley), and the sound of the music box! (Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to see their favorite classics ruined by a movie, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The movie is very beautiful.)

In Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit threads the dream of immortality into the life of Winnie Foster, a prim and proper Victorian girl being trained for her upper class role, as she meets the Tuck family. She comes across the youngest Tuck, Jesse, in her father’s woods bent over a tree drinking from a spring, but when she wants a drink Jesse tells her she can’t and a struggle ensues. Winnie ends up being kidnapped by the Tucks in order to preserve the secret of the spring, and their own, whoever drinks from it will live forever.4

Babbit deals with a heavy topic. Living forever, or being forever young, seems like an ideal situation, but through the Tuck’s Winnie learns that there’s more to the allure than meets the eye. Life’s a cycle and death is supposed to be a part of it. There’s a finality needed in life that immortality doesn’t bring. The reality of endless life in this world, ultimately, fills empty for the Tuck’s. Even if they can live forever, travel to exotic places, and have adventures they can never settle down, start a family, put down roots–as Miles sadly experienced.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Tuck Everlasting and would recommend it. It’s very well written, childlike, and reminds me of a dream.

The Novel & the Movie


There are some differences between the novel and the movie, which are to be expected. The plot doesn’t change, but a few minor (or not so minor) details do. For one, Winnie is 10 going on 11 in the novel and between 15-17 in the film, which sets her up for a romance with Jesse (whose 17). At first, I was disappointed that the movie changed the age to add the romance aspect, however as I read on they didn’t add the romance but embellished it. In the book, Winnie is quite enamored with Jesse from the beginning,

Sitting relaxed with his back against the trunk was a boy, almost a man. And he seemed so glorious to Winnie that she lost her heart at once. (25)

Jesse even asks Winnie to drink from the spring when she’s 17,

…and then you could go away with me! We could get married, even. That’d be pretty good, wouldn’t it! We could have a grand old time, go all around the world, see everything.” (72)

In the film, Jesse and Winnie’s romance is elaborated and quite sensational–if you’re a hopeless romantic you’ll love it.

The only other difference I can think of is how Mae is rescued, but overall no changes to change the plot and theme of the novel. I enjoyed both the book and film. Who knows…maybe you will too!


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TwentiesGirlI just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella this morning. It wasn’t my plan to read it. I went to the library Wednesday to pick up The Day the Falls Stood Still that I had on hold (which I’m really excited about) and did some book browsing. I found it on the new books shelf and figured why not. If I didn’t like it I could just put it down….and I almost did.

Here’s the synopsis:

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man.

Sadie, however, could care less.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way. (from Random House)

For the first good bit I was wondering why I was reading it. It’s the same formulaic chic lit plot with the over-the-top embarrassing situations, money woes, and naive characters. I almost put it down. Twice.

But I’m glad I finished. I know this will sound corny, but in some ways it was a little more than the regular chic lit. Of course, there’s romance and embarrassing moment after embarrassing moment, but in the end it’s about family. Kind of. It made you, or at least me, wonder what you’re long-lost realtives were like in their youth. They weren’t always old.  What were they like? Anyways…

It was an enjoyable, quick read. Longer than most chic lit books…pushing 500 pages. I think one thing I enjoyed was that the end was not about Lara’s life being “fixed” or a happily-ever-after ending, although those were definitely there. It was a nice departure from the normal chic lit, not too far. I’d say it’s a favorite…for chic lit, that is.

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FYI – This is a long post…so you might want to go grab a drink or something.

I first heard about Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy when my husband and I were talking our childbirth class (Bradley method) before Joey was born. I jotted the title down in the back of our workbook to remember for later. This has been one book I’ve really been looking forward to reading this year.

Did you know…Cassidy_cover_sm

  • The U.S. has the 2nd worst infant mortality rate in the developed world. (See articles here and here.)
  • The U.S. is ranked 41st in the world for maternal mortality. (See articles here and here.)
  • The U.S. C-section rate hovers around 30%, double the World Health Organization recommendation. (See articles here and here.)

Coming away from it my feelings are a little mixed. While Cassidy had a lot of great information and a very thorough history of birth, I came away feeling that the book was part factual, part memoir, and mostly personal opinion. While I’m an adocvate of natural birthing, midwives, and reform in obstetrics in America, Cassidy’s writing comes across much of the time as a personal vendetta against doctors and obstetrics in general. As the book progressed, it was hard to tell what side of the fence Cassidy was on. It seemed in an attempt to be unbiased she jumped from the natural birth/midwife camp to the hospital/doctor camp.

A lot of crazy things have been done in the history of modern obstetrics from “twilight sleep” and strapping laboring women to beds to a mandatory shave of the pubic area and father free deliveries, things that modern medicine (of the time) deemed best. Now we know many of those techniques are not only obselete, but dangerous. Many descriptions aren’t for the faint of heart, more like gag worthy. Ever hear of a craniotomy in labor? You don’t want to know.

The author gives a brief history of the birth experiences from the women in her family. Crazy stories, similar to that of my husband’s grandmother and other women who went into labor and later couldn’t even remember delivering their own child. Cassidy’s first birthing experience was less than what she expected, describing the aftermath as tragic and horrifying. It’s her personal experience and I don’t doubt the trauma, but she isn’t shy on the melodrama either.

I am lucky enough to have come from a line of women who have given birth natural. My mother and both grandmothers has 13 deliveries between the three of them all natural. I’m also glad that I meet a few women over the years who were unafraid to birth naturally and share their experiences. Without these women, I would have probably never thought there was another option.

I was eager to read this book for the facts and while there’s a bibliography over 15 pages long there are no in text references, which makes me doubt her some of evidence and wonder just how much embellished some details may have been. I was surprised that there wasn’t so much as a

So-and-So in his book “Whatever the Title Is,” said

She just breezed by any such references and that really bothered me. There is a section of endnotes for each chapter that matches the beginning of sentences with their corresponding reference like so,

Before he closed the wound: Bulletin of the History of Medicine 50 (1976): 243.

And while that’s better than nothing it left me wondering what would have been so hard about inserting a number in text with a reference to an endnote at the end of the chapter? The way it was done felt irresponsible and as if there might be something to hide.

In the end, I’m glad I read the book and wish that there was some way more people could know about the history of obstetrics and that natural birthing and midwives are not as dangerous as doctors and culture has painted them. Actually, statistics around the world show that, in general, birthing outcomes are better with midwives and with natural techniques. Much of the labor and delivery methods in many hospitals today is for the convenience of the medical staff, not the laboring mother. Come on, who thought it was a good idea to lay down and push? In that position you actually have to push the baby up and out!

As much as many women praise the epidural, who knows what it’s long term side effects are? Doctors once thought it was safe to give a pregnant woman an x-ray! Some studies are beginning to link pitocin and epidurals with the raise in Autism I think it’s crazy that women will go 9 months through pregnancy watching what they eat, being careful they don’t take medications that will harm the baby, etc and then get an epidural thinking it’s safe. Whatever you get, the baby gets…even in labor. My goal is not to offend anyone here and I’m sorry if I do, but to me the logic just doesn’t line up.

And as another quick aside, when labor is not progressing instead of having women do something that may promote labor, oftentimes they’re given pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, which brings about contractions often more intense than they would have naturally progessed and the next shot is an epidural to handle the pain, then in most cases slows labor which leads to a C-section.

I think what America needs in its obstetrics is a better education system. Women are basically told an epidural or C-section is the way to go. There is little to no education on techniques to manage labor and even fewer freedoms once laboring at a hospital. My word to you: educate yourself. Read books on labor and delivery, the natural way and how hospitals approach birth. (I hate to clump all hospitals together. I know some are more natural birth friendly than others.) Ask a lot of questions. Do your own research. Don’t just trust your medical professional, ask why.Understand that more care doesn’t mean better care. Decide for yourself what is best for you and your baby.

In the end, balance what is best for the mother and infant. For me and my family, we’ve decided that birth free from drugs and with as little intervention as possible is best for us. I researched midwives and birthing centers in the area we lived and found one that I absolutely loved with a great history and recommendations. I wouldn’t have traded my experience at Best Start with my midwives for the world. For the record, I’m not against a C-section if it is necessary, however many women today are having C-sections for convenience rather than necessity which can be very dangerous.

If this topic interests you, then I’d recommend finding a copy of The Business of Being Born and watching it.

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When the Soul Mends is the third and final book in the Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall.WhentheSoulMends_001

Here’s the synopsis:

Rumors and lies left Hannah’s life in tatters; can the truth possibly stitch it back together?

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, Hannah finally has found happiness in the Englischer world, as well as love with Martin Palmer, a man with whom she can safely entrust her heart. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her reopens old wounds.

As Hannah encounters former fiancë Paul Waddell, truths unknown to her surface about the events during her absence and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she return to the Plain Life-and perhaps her first love?

I enjoyed When the Soul Mends the most out of this series. More than just the loose ends being tied up, you get to see more character development in Hannah and her relationships. She returns home after a desperate call from her sister, who she finds is suffering mental instability, and is forced to work with her former fiancee, the only one who is able to help Hannah’s sister.

As the story progresses, Hannah comes to know about what happened after she left particularly with Paul, whom she thought deserted her. It’s interesting as Hannah is faced with choices between her old way of life and family with the new life and family she’s made for herself. Even more so as Woodsmall pits her two loves against each other in a battle of character, which makes you wonder why Hannah choose one of them in the first place. One man is revealed to be more shallow and self-absorbed, while the other is humble and faithful.

The ending was very satisfying and, I felt, ended the way it should have albeit a bit predictable, but that’s the genre! If you like Amish fiction I’d definitely recommend the Sisters of the Quilt series as  a read.

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When-the-Morning-Comes_002The Sisters of the Quilt series continues in When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall. Here’s the synopsis:

When the Morning Comes is the sequel and continuation of the best-selling novel When the Heart Cries. Her relationship with fiance Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her secluded Old Order Amish community in hopes of finding a new home in Ohio with her shunned aunt. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to navigate the confusing world of the Englischers.

Will the countless opportunities in her new life persuade Hannah that her place is amongst the Englischers or will she give in to her heart’s call to return home and face the past?

It seems to me that the second book in trilogies (or at least Amish trilogies) is little more than a holding pattern for the third book. When the Soul Mends continued right where the first book left off and added a new set of characters, while maintaining the storyline with those introduced in the first book.

When the Morning Comes was good in that it continued the Hannah’s story without missing a beat and kept up with the details that were going on in her community. Where I felt it fell short was with the new characters. Relationships were introduced, but as the reader you didn’t get to see how they developed. I would have liked to see how Hannah got to know her long-lost aunt. Another aspect that seemed inconsistent with the first book was how quickly Hannah became accustomed to and embraced the Englischer ways.

Overall it was a good book for the genre. Definitely a holding place.

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It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Amish fiction. As you can tell, from time to time, I step off the beaten path (aka, my book list 5105oZ3P8ULfor the year) and devour a few Amish fiction novels. For awhile I’ve had When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall on my PaperBack Swap wish list, but decided to see if the library had it instead. I knew it’d be a quick read and it isn’t likely I’ll read it again, and who wants to waste a good PBS credit on a book you can easily get from the library?

Of course, they had it. It’s a good thing they have the whole series, because I read it in one day. It’s one of those quick, refreshing reads you need (or at least I do) between heavier reading. It fits the bill for me.

(I just have to say that my son has been sitting for at least 10 minutes now flipping the pages of his little board books back and forth, over and over again. He’s so quiet that I keep going to check on him thinking he’s getting into something he shouldn’t, but he’s being a good little boy.)

On to the review…

Here’s the synopsis:

Hannah Lapp was born and raised in an Old Order Amish home, without electricity, a telephone, or the right to follow her heart. Without her parents’ knowledge, she’s been in love with Mennonite Paul Waddell for years. When he asks her to marry him, she accepts, even though to do so will cause her family to avoid her for the rest of her life.

Before Hannah and Paul reveal their relationship, tragedy strikes. In one unwelcome encounter, all that Hannah has known and believed is destroyed and she faces losing everything: her family, her fiancé, and even her faith in God. (from CindyWoodsmall.com)

I enjoyed the book, but what I was surprised at was that the synopsis happens all in the first chapter with a tragedy that progresses throughout the novel.  It’s hard to review the book without being a spoiler. It keeps you hanging on as one bad thing after another is added on to the initial tragedy, which Hannah has to deal with in near secret. As she tries to leave the past and move on in her future life with Paul there is a hindrance at every corner that puts her against her family, community, and faith.

The writing is well-crafted, better than the Sisters of Holmes County series, and the plot keeps you hooked sympathizing with Hannah and her pain as she’s posted closer and closer to being unofficially shunned. I even cried a bit.

What story does is highlight the how living under the law of the Old Order isn’t always the right thing. It’s amazing to see how such a community that is so tight-knit and willing to help others in their time of need is also the same one that with turn and shun a person if they don’t follow the Ordnung or if there is even a hint of suspicion, even their families. They’ll  stick closer to the Ordnung than to family.

It was interesting to see how Woodsmall pitted the letter of the Ordnung against the spirit of Ordnung throughout the novel. In this community of faith little forgiveness is freely given and compassion is replaced with abandonment.

I’m looking forward to reading the next installment of the series, When the Morning Comes.

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FeminineAppealCarolynMaha5989_f In Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney, Girl Talk blogger and wife of pastor/author CJ Mahaney, tackles the famous and often debated Titus 2 passage  toward women focusing on the seven virtues as a godly wife and mother.

Titus 2:4-5 – “…and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure,working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Over all I enjoyed this book and found it helpful, not so much in changing my own views and opinions as they are already much in line with out Mahaney lays out. I found the book encouraging and helpful in that I feel I can better explain and talk about those more controversial aspects of the passage. Particularly the phrase that woman are to be “working at home,” which in the Greek literally means to work at home.

I’ve known many women to struggle with this, myself included, and I have to say that Mahaney’s interpretation is probably the best I’ve heard. Simply put, a woman’s greatest sphere of influence is the home and other endeavors may take her outside of the home (work or volunteer, etc), but her main focus is to be on serving her family and managing her home. If she can make commitments outside of the home as long as it isn’t to the detriment of her family. As Mahaney puts it, “Working at home must always remain a constant and ongoing priority in our lives” (104).

One thing that didn’t sit so well with me was how in some passages she described the managing of the home as the woman’s sole responsibility. Portions of the chapter came across that a woman should, essentially, take care of everything home-related to free up her husband to fulfill his tasks. While I’m not opposed to being the one “in charge” of managing the home it could come across that a man should not have to have any duties around the home. He should be completely served. I’m sure this is not what Mahaney is saying, but it definitely could be construed that way.

Toward the end of the book transitions seemed weak and connections between ideas lacking at times. It almost felt like there was a rush, but I also tried to keep in mind that this book originated in a series of talks Mahaney gave. Overall, I enjoyed, found the book helpful, and would recommend it.

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