Archive for March 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

This book is currently atop the NY Times Best-Seller List under “Paperback Trade Fiction” (whatever that means).  It intrigued me and that’s why I had to download it on my Kindle.

Disclaimer: “A Reliable Wife” is NOT a happy book.  It is dark, depressing, sad, and any other synonym to those words.  If you don’t like those sort of books, then this one is definitely not for you.  This is probably one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.  Yet as painful as it was to read, I had to finish it.

The story starts in 1907 with Ralph Truitt, a very wealthy man in his 50′s, waiting at the train station for a woman.  This woman came to him from an ad he put in the papers for a “reliable wife” (meaning a simple woman who could live with him and be a companion of sorts).  A younger woman named Catherine had answered his ad and sent a picture and he paid for her to come to Wisconsin and live with him.  When Catherine arrives, she is not the same woman in the picture (it was actually her cousin), but he keeps her anyway.  They “bond” immediately after he is injured on the ride home and she has to care for his wounds.  Little does Ralph know that Catherine isn’t who she says she is and she has other intentions for her new relationship.

I can’t go into the details of the storyline any further, but I’ll say that the story winds a tale of selfishness, passion, debauchery, sex, drugs, grief, and death (not necessarily in that order).  The book didn’t make me cry or anything, but it was just a very heavy read.  It was an interesting story and shows you the darker sides of city life back in the early 20th century.  Okay, I’m ready to read a light-hearted chick lit book now!

Spinning Forward by Terri Dulong

Did you know that there is practically a genre for novels that are based around knitting?  There are mysteries, dramas, et cetera.  I ran across this book on the Kindle recently and it helped inspire me to teach myself how to knit!

Spinning Forward” is about a 50-something woman named Sydney who has just received the shock of her life – her husband passes away… and she also finds out that he has left the family broke.  Sydney’s daughter, her only child, is already out of the house, so Sydney decides that she wants to get away from New England and start her life over again.  She decides to visit her friend who owns a bed and breakfast on a little island off the coast of Florida.  Once she gets there, she doesn’t want to leave.  She opens a business to sell her hand-spun yarn and goes through some adventures.  She meets numerous characters along the way – a man who at first, she doesn’t like, but then becomes a love interest for her, an older woman who she befriends and who helps her at the yarn shop, that woman’s eccentric and non-social sister, an older gentleman who tells her about the history of the community.  Throughout her journey, Sydney is also struggling with the decision of whether or not to start the search for her birth mother (she was adopted).

This book was a pretty easy/quick read.  Some of the parts were perhaps a little unbelievable (you can figure out which parts yourself if you read the book), but it was good as a entertaining, mindless read.

Terri Dulong has another book coming out this fall called “Casting About”…. get it?  Casting on?  Knitting?  Okay… non-knitters probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Do you like reading historical romance fiction (is that a genre??)?  I do!  If you like the novels by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc, then I think you might like this book.

The Apothecary’s Daughter” is based in England during the Regency era.  Lilly Haswell helps her father, Charles, run his apothecary shop in Bedsley Priors; her mother left the family when Lilly was a young girl.  Lilly’s estranged aunt and uncle suddenly come to visit, hoping to “adopt” Lilly’s brother Charlie as an heir to their estate, but then they find out about Charlie’s disabilities (based upon my limited medical knowledge, it seems like he may be Autistic) and decide that he will not work for their plans.  Instead, they offer to bring Lilly to London to teach her lady-like things and to hopefully marry her off to a rich young man.  In those days, women were not allowed to be apothecaries and her knowledge of Latin, medical terminology, and science was not seen as a good thing, so she had to try to keep that secret.

Lilly is enjoying her time in London, going to parties and meeting potential suitors, until she gets a letter from a friend of her father’s asking her to come home because her father is “not himself”.  When she arrives home, the apothecary shop is in shambles and her father is a mess.  Lilly decides to stay with her father and tries to help him recover from his mystery illness and she brings the shop back to life.

Throughout the story, Lilly has gotten herself involved with several men.  I won’t go into too much detail about that because that’s one of the items that kept my attention… I wasn’t sure who she would end up with at the end.  Lilly also struggles with new laws for apothecaries that go into effect which cause huge problems for the Haswell Apothecary.  I know that I’m leaving out a ton of little things, but again, I hate giving out too many details because I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone who goes out and reads it.

I really like books like this; I think it’s fun to think about what it would be like back in those days (and then think how lucky I am to be alive in this century!) and in other countries.  Although I reference Jane Austen and Charlotte and Emily Bronte above, this book is not written the way those books are (from what I can remember from when I read them back in high school).  The book is written in a way that is very easy to read with no fancy old-fashioned language to have to decipher.  I also noticed when reading reviews that this book was sometimes classified as Christian fiction, but I didn’t notice any major Christian undertones like I’ve seen in other books.  It just seemed like a good romantic fiction.

Julie Klassen has authored several other books that seem to go along the same theme of Regency England.  Haven’t read any of them yet but may put them on my list!

Raising Jake by Charlie Carillo

Raising Jake” probably isn’t a book that I would have normally picked up off of a bookstore shelf… it didn’t really call out to me as being something that I’d find interesting.  It had been free on the Kindle (of course) a few months back so I figured I’d give it a chance.  And I’m glad that I did.

Contrary to popular belief, I do read books that are non-chick books!  The two main characters in this book are men.   “Raising Jake” is about a divorced, middle-aged tabloid writer named Sammy and his teenage son, Jake (hence the name of the book).  The story starts out with Sammy being fired from his job and Jake being kicked out of prep school.  I should mention that the two don’t have that great of a relationship.  Since they now have some free time on their hands, Sammy decides to take Jake on a little weekend trip back to his old neighborhood in Queens to show him what kind of life he had growing up.  As the two men start to bond over the tales of Sammy’s childhood, Jake pushes Sammy to face some issues that he had tried to push out of his memory but that he eventually has to face.

Like many other reviews of this book that you may find online, I don’t want to give away too many details of the story because that is one of the great things about this book – you are wondering what comes next.  As I mentioned above, this is definitely not a chick book, however I am sure that women and men alike would enjoy the story of the father-son bonding that takes place and their personal growth that comes along with it.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

A new book was released last week from one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult.  Unfortunately, the book isn’t available for the Kindle yet so I can’t read it.  I refuse to pay $14-18 in a store when I can (eventually) get it for $9.99 for the Kindle.  I guess I’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books of hers, “Plain Truth”.

This was the second Jodi Picoult book that I ever read (“My Sister’s Keeper” was the first) and it totally made me fall in love with her writing.  In “Plain Truth”, a teenage Amish girl named Katie is accused of murdering her baby…. which she denies even ever giving birth to.  Ellie is a lawyer who is familiar with the Amish and agrees to take on the case, even though Katie really doesn’t want her help.  Throughout most of the book, you are asking yourself several questions: Was it really her baby?  How did she get pregnant?  How did the baby die?  What really happened in that barn???

Ellie asks an “old friend” of hers, a psychiatrist, for assistance in determining what is truth and what is fiction and as Katie goes to trial, the real story comes out, piece by piece.  During this whole process, Katie is being shunned by her Amish community (including her own father) and you learn a lot about the rules and values of the Amish people.

Bonus – this book has been made into a movie!  I’m sure everyone has heard of or seen the movie version of “My Sister’s Keeper” (except me!  I know I would hate it.), but “Plain Truth” was a Lifetime movie starring the wonderful Mariska Hargitay.  I accidentally ran across it while browsing the TV listings guide a few months back and watched about half of it.  I accidentally fell asleep during the other half – not at the fault of the movie.  I probably had a migraine.  Anyway, I totally love Mariska in “Law & Order: SVU” and was worried that she’d have the same I’ll-kick-your-butt demeanor that she does as Detective Olivia Benson, but she doesn’t.  She has a much softer personality and you could see her being someone that a frightened, confused teenage girl could trust and bond with.

What I like about this book is that I was asking myself questions and trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle throughout the story; it was never just handed to me already put together.  I also enjoy books involving trials and such, as long as they’re about something interesting (that’s probably why I’m a big fan of “Law & Order: SVU”, too).  Quite a few of Jodi Picoult’s books have this same feel, typically the newer ones, but I had a really hard time reading some of her older books.  I’ll write about her other books another time!  Hopefully I’ll be able to write about “House Rules” sometime soon… as soon as it comes out in Kindle format!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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