Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the mood for a memoir

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor WheelsThe Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently read two memoirs I had borrowed from the library.  First, was The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story by Ree Drummond. I picked this one up because I knew a little bit of the story behind Ree's blog and was always fascinated by it.  This book follows her courtship and first year of marriage to her husband "Marlboro Man."  If you're a sucker for a love story, you need to read this book.  It is a fabulous read, made all the better because it actually happened.

Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Chocolate Shop That CouldChocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Chocolate Shop That Could by Frances Park & Ginger Park
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second memoir I just finished was Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could by Frances and Ginger Park.  I had never heard anything about this shop or the owners before picking up this book.  It turned out to be a good read and an absolute celebration of chocolate.  It's also an interesting look inside a small business for anyone who has ever dreamed of opening up their own shop.  These sisters had a really rocky start, but in the end they were able to fulfill their dream.  The book doesn't sugarcoat their struggles and it also addresses some tough subjects such as their father's death and both of their parents' experiences in war-torn Korea.  There were lots of happy moments as well and overall, it was a sweet, heartfelt story.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Midwife of the Blue Ridge

Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book the night of my Memorial Day train snafu and just finished it the other day. Come to think of it, I don't know why it took me so long, especially because it was a really good read.

The story follows the life of a young Scottish woman named Maggie Duncan. As a child, her entire village was massacred, leaving Maggie an orphan. A local midwife adopts Maggie, but because of her history as the lone survivor, she is regarded with superstition by the rest of the townsfolk. She is considered un-marriageable, even though she has grown into a talented, beautiful woman. Unhappy with her life in Scotland, Maggie agrees to travel to America as an indentured servant after the death of her adopted mother.

The rest of the book chronicles the adventures and hardships Maggie encounters in the New World. The plot moves along swiftly enough, but there is also a lot of attention paid to the details of Colonial life and to the relationships between all the characters. At times the book portrays unspeakable cruelties, but these things were a reality during this turbulent time in history.

I found this book so enjoyable to read because it covered the full gamut of emotions. You have both romance and danger, tenderness and heartache. Maggie's Scots accent and tell-it-like-it-is personality reminded me a bit of some of the characters in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (an all-time favorite of mine). This book was a nice escape and the only downside is that there is no sequel!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Evenfall by Liz Michalski
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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My book of choice while staying in Ocean City, NJ this past Memorial Day weekend was Evenfall  written by Liz Michalski. It is written from three different points of view. First, there is Andie, a 30-something young woman who comes back to the farm where she spent summers as a child with her Aunt Gert, Aunt Clara, and Uncle Frank. Clara and Frank have died and Andie returns to the farm to help Gert clean the house out and get ready to possibly sell it. Gert is the second character whose point of view we get to see. As a young woman, Gert and Frank were in love, but a combination of circumstance and choices kept them from marrying. Frank ended up marrying Gert’s sister Clara instead. Frank, still in love with Gert, lingers on as a ghost. One of the best parts of the book is that Frank’s ghost is an actual character and the third point of view the book is written from. When I first picked this book up, I thought the story sounded great, but I was a little worried about how the ghost element would manifest itself. Hauntings and ghosts in books, especially romance books, often come across as silly "bumps in the night" and “signs” from a lost loved one. Boy, was I glad to be wrong in this case. From the very first pages, we know that Frank is a ghost and a prominent character in the story. This whole scenario requires a little suspension of disbelief, it is fiction after all, but I really think Frank's ghost adds a lot to the story.

Gert, who is still alive, is haunted by regret for letting Frank go. Having lost the great love of her life, Gert is in a unique position to give Andie romantic advice when she finds herself in a relationship with Cort, a young man she babysat as a child. He’s all grown up now of course, but Andie convinces herself that Cort is nothing more than a summer fling. Even though it turns out to be much more than that, Andie does not know how to handle it. She has just come out of a bad relationship with a man I just love to hate. The best word I can use to describe him is “slimy.” He is a total charmer which really is just a nice way of saying he's a master manipulator and I was more than happy to root for Andie and Cort to work things out. Overall, this is a fabulous read for a day at the beach or any other time you have to just relax and escape to the book’s idyllic farm setting and get lost in a great story.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cherries in Winter

Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard TimesCherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colon
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even with all the books I have on my shelves, I picked this one up at the library. It is a memoir about a writer who lost her job in the recession and who digs into her Nana’s recipe file to help save some money and learn to live on less. In the meantime, the author also digs into her family’s history and relays some really great stories about her relatives. Many of the stories date back to the Depression, but not all of them. I found the cast of characters endearing and I especially loved the author’s grandfather whom the author was very close with. Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read. It was perfect train reading.