My Interests

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Avid reader who loves finding new authors with well written books. Am interested in reading and reviewing various genres and am always looking for the next good read.

Upcoming Books to Read and Review

  • 44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel
  • Code Blue by Richard Mabry
  • Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb
  • Vandalism of Words by Derek Haines

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

After River by Donna Milner Review

After River by Donna Milner, 352 pages


Before River, everything was perfect. . . .
Growing up on a Canadian dairy farm less than two miles from the American border, fifteen-year-old Natalie Ward knows little of the outside world. But her loving, close-knit family is the envy of young and old alike in the nearby town of Atwood. Natalie adores her three brothers—especially Boyer, the eldest, whom she idolizes. But everything changes one hot July afternoon in 1966 when a long-haired stranger appears at their door—a soft-spoken American, a Vietnam War resister, who will test the family's morals and beliefs, and set in motion catastrophic events that will shatter Natalie's relationships with those she most dearly loves.


It is hard to believe that this was Ms. Milner’s first novel as it is so well written. I loved the Canadian content and felt that I could relate and picture her story vividly.
One of my favourite excerpts from the book was: “My favourite memory is of my father and brothers working in the fields. I carry a mental picture of them drenched in the golden glow of the late summer sun. I keep this precious gem hidden deep in the dark closet of my mind, behind all of life's stored clutter. I take it out rarely, cautiously. Like a fragile object stored in opaque tissue, I unwrap it with slow trepidation. I turn it this way and that, trying to see more, to see beyond the faded edges of memory". This is an outstanding example of what I meant about such vivid imagery.
Natalie Ward, is a happily married middle-aged mother and a natural journalist who also has a capacity for showing great empathy and kindness, but she also has secrets - mostly about her family and childhood. These secrets and a sudden phone call from her daughter Jenny telling her that her mother Nettie is dying, thrusts Natalie back into the past where she forced to relive memories and events as she grows up on her family's dairy farm in British Columbia. 
Natalie seems to relish in her alienation. At school she does nothing to encourage friendships, content to spend most of her spare time with Boyer (her older, bookish brother), playing his word games in his room up in the attic and reading his books. Things change when a young American draft-dodger by the name of River Jordan comes to live and work with the Ward family.  
Natalie falls in love with River however, nobody could predict the eventual heartache that came with River’s arrival as it was the catalyst that caused the is the tragedy and  shattering of her family come about. River’s ghost still echoes throughout their lives for decades to come.  
When Natalie travels towards Atwood on the bus thirty-five years later, "like a time machine carrying her in slow motion back to her past," she must ask for forgiveness from her mother Nettie and her brother Boyer and see beyond the faded edges of memory. Natalie longs to unburden herself and to finally confess and seek redemption and forgiveness.
The theme I found the most profound was the bigotry and intolerance that isolated the Ward family - as anything or anyone out of the ordinary was shunned. 
What we learn is that children see things differently then adults. Heartache and heartbreak could have been avoided if Natalie had opened up and confronted her demons when she was a teenager. Instead she bottled everything up which affected her life. 

It is a very good read and I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Rating 4 out of 5

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel Review

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeannette Wells, 288 pages, 2009


Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds—against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’sOut of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

Having read and enjoyed The Glass Castle so much in the past, when I saw this book, Half Broke Horses, another true story by Jeannette Wells, I knew that I must read it. This book had a very different style than The Glass Castle and didn't enjoy it quite as much.

Lily, Jeannette's grandmother was a truly remarkable lady. So gutsy and determined even while living through the Great Depression. Lily was born in a mud hut on the banks of a river, she worked as a teacher during a shortage, learns how to fly, she was an extremely competent horsewoman, she also learns how to drive. In one town, she was the one-woman teacher wherein she taught, was the janitor, bus driver and disciplinarian. Lily's a very strong woman, and I found myself enthralled with her story. She had many struggles and set backs along the way and moved around quite a bit as she didn't have the proper teaching credentials so kept getting replaced when a licensed teacher would come back. The book flows well, short sections reading like stories told one by one over time, but forming a cohesive whole.

I'd recommend the book if you like memoirs, and stories about living in the southwest of America during the early to mid 1900's.

It was a quick read but one that I would not bother to read again unlike The Glass Castle which I thoroughly enjoyed and have read a few times.

Rating 3 out of 5.