Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Catch a Frog

The subtitle of Heather Ross's delightful book is "and other stories of family, love, dysfunction, survival, and DIY." Illustrated with her own beautiful drawings, this book is part memoir, part how-to manual, and a total joy to read. Heather tells stories of her childhood growing up in primitive circumstances on a Vermont mountain, her forays into trying to build a creative business, and her relationships with her family, friends, and lovers. In other words, she takes us on a path through the messiness of everyday life. Her previous books, Weekend Sewing and Heather Ross Prints, focus solely on her creative endeavors as a fabric designer and artist. Here, in How to Catch a Frog, we come to know Heather as a creative, thoughtful, and adaptable person who has carved a beautiful life for herself.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Keeping Kate by Lauren Winder Farnsworth

At the age of 10, Kate loss her parent in a car accident.  She was sent to live with her kind uncle but not so kind aunt.  Shortly after her uncle dies, and she is then sent to live with the Brooks, a very wealthy family who paid for her education in exchange for household duties.

After graduating from college Kate finds employment with Thorne Field Ranch as a nanny.  Kate is determined to make life for herself on the Utah ranch, taking care of a little girl named Addie.  When she meets her irritable employer, Kate is force to confront the past she's been running from and face a future she never dreamed possible.  This latter-day twist on the classic Jane Eyre is a romantic and gripping read.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker prize winning novel “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” is a masterwork of realistic fiction.  Having read last year’s Booker prize winner, Catton’s “The Luminaries,” and a few reviews of this newest winner on Goodreads, I was prepared to be awed by intimidating prose and literary style, with character and story line appearing as merely well-crafted afterthoughts.  I guess what I’m saying is, I was ready to like this novel in spite of itself.   How fortunate for me that this was not at all the case. 
The novel opens in the near-present with its primary narrator, the aged Dorrigo Evans, a famed surgeon and war hero, musing about his past as he leaves the scene of yet another disappointing marital affair.  Through switchback-style storytelling, the reader learns that Evans grew up in impoverished rural Australia where, as a lover of classical poetry and literature, he earns first a medical degree, and then a rise in social station, via a fortuitous engagement to the daughter of a wealthy family.   Stationed at a coastal base, as a young officer in the Australian military, Dorrigo begins an impassioned affair with his uncle’s young wife shortly before being shipped off to join the allied offensive in the Pacific.    After the surrender of Singapore, Dorrigo, along with his unit, is sent to work as a POW on the famed Thai-Burma Death Railway. It is at this point that the tale takes on new narrative voices as they are introduced.  

The story of Dorrigo and his men, and the story of their Japanese captors, unfolds with breath-taking clarity.  Several times I both longed to, and could not, look away from this novel.  Fans of “Matterhorn,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and “All the Light We Cannot See,” will find Flanagan’s novel more than up to the task of matching and surpassing these novels’ contribution to literary history.

Fresh Power

Have you ever heard a believer say, "There has to be something more!"? Have them read any one of Jim Cymbala's books on the Holy Spirit:  Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Fresh Power.
 In Fresh Power you will learn much about the Holy much so, you will hunger for Him.  Cymbala gives us many precious nuggets:  You honor the Spirit by looking to the Spirit; you accomplish more by waiting for the Spirit; the Spirit is not just about Power, but also Unity and Love! These are just three of many many nuggets.
Fresh Power, above all, shows us how we are to live as contemporary Christians.
Fresh Power is the April 2015 selection for Faith Book Club at the Delphi Public Library.

Down From the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer

Growing up in a cult-like religious community has turned Eva into an inexperienced, naïve young woman. Joining Righteous Path at the age of five with her mother, she does not remember much from the outside world and has no idea where her father is or if he has ever searched for her. Righteous path only has 17 members, most of which are women who are all married to their leader, Ezekiel.
This story revolves around Eva who finds out that she is very talented at making jewelry. They make jewelry for profit and make weekly trips to the nearest town to sell their creations. One day, Eva is allowed to make the trip down the mountain and experience the outside world for the first time since she was five. The outside world is scary at first since she was raised to believe all outsiders are heathens and sinners but she comes to realize that this may not be true. If Ezekiel lied about this, what else has he been deceitful about? Maybe he is not a prophet after all.

 Elizabeth Fixmer has done a wonderful job of creating a unique world and telling the story of a girl who transforms throughout the story. The descriptions of Righteous Path are wonderful and paint a scary picture of how it would be to grow up so sheltered and away from the world. After the first few chapters, I could not put the book down and became obsessed with the setting and story and rooted for Eva to realize she was in a dangerous situation and get the strength to escape and take her mother with her.