The Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz ~ review

isleofthelost

What a cute story! I have to admit I love Disney Channel’s movie Descendants.  This is the perfect prequel, full of excitement and ending just moments before the movie begins. This is a great read for tweens or anyone who loves the worlds of Disney Princesses and has ever wondered what happened to them all after ‘happily ever after’.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus – review

In September of 1874, Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with the Great White Father, President Ulysses S. Grant. He came with a proposal that would ensure a future for his people, an opportunity to peacefully assimilate into the white culture rapidly taking over their homelands. Little Wolf asked President Grant to gift the Cheyenne tribe one thousand white women, to marry into the tribe and produce children. Completely logical to the Indian way of thinking, the women could begin to teach them the ways of white civilization, and the children born of mixed blood would be the first bridge bringing the two peoples together. He offered a fair trade of horses for the women.

Although publicly claiming disgust at the proposition, Grant agreed to participate. In great secrecy the government scoured prisons and insane asylums for female ‘volunteers’ to join the Brides for Indians program. In exchange for their participation, marriage to a Cheyenne tribesman for the period of two years or birth of one child – whichever came first, they would be rewarded with their freedom.

The story opens to May Dodd, headed west on a train with several other women in March of 1875 – the first installment of women to marry into the Cheyenne tribe. May had eagerly accepted the government’s offer. Having been confined to a lunatic asylum by her parents for the sickness of Promiscuity, she imagined the unknown and possible horror of living with savages could only pale in comparison to the nightmare of the asylum and the ‘treatments’ she had endured.  The story is told through her letters and journal entries.

In this incredible journey May finds the love, friendship, and freedom she had always dreamed of, and a level of betrayal she had never known possible.

This well written story quickly pulled me in, painting beautiful and cruel pictures of the last days of freedom for the American Indian, the strength and commonalities of women across all cultures, and the wonderful generosities of our great government.

A definite keeper, already back in rotation to re-read.

 

Luna Tree: The Baby Project by Maya Berger ~ review

luna treeThis true story chronicles first time author Maya Berger’s deteriorating health, struggle for diagnosis, and quest for healing.

Chronic insomnia followed by wide spread sudden on-set pain left many doctors without a solid diagnosis. Many made guesses and offered ineffective treatments, but her pain continued. A chance encounter offered a possible diagnosis, which was finally confirmed by a physician. Unfortunately, effective treatment was still unavailable. After spending much time and money seeking treatment across Europe, Maya finally receives some relief at a Relaxation Clinic using Energy techniques led by a Chinese healer.

Over the course of several years, Maya continues to learn and grow in the ways of Energy, realizing she needed healing for more than the medical condition.  Because she never gave up, always believed she could once again live a normal, fulfilling life, Maya has now learned what real happiness is, and is eager to share her story to encourage others who may be living less than fulfilling lives, and especially those who are ill and have been told by their doctors that there is nothing more they can do.  Maya urges everyone to keep an open mind, learn to relax, and accept the healing energy that is available to us all.

This story is written with honesty, sharing much about her personal and family relationships, although it is not clear until the ending chapters why much of the information is given.  I also question the addition of “The Baby Project” in the title since the issue of having a baby does not appear until the last chapters. I struggled a bit at first to find a rhythm in the writing, finding some of the phrasing awkward and sometimes repetitive. Once I realized English is not the authors primary language, this made sense and as I became engrossed in the story, less of a concern.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for hope, or feeling like they have run out of options.

**I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey ~ Review

winter bloom

This story begins when Eva Madigan, recently single and relocated to Ireland with her young son Liam, stumbles upon a long neglected garden. Although she has never successfully grown anything, Eva is drawn to the overgrown walled lot.  After initially rejecting Eva’s request to try to revive the forgotten acre, the icy owner best known for murdering her husband agrees to allow her to attempt the feat. Eva excitedly posts a flyer asking for help from the community and is soon joined by Emily, an odd young introvert; and Uri, a retired tailor with much needed gardening skills – although he denies having much experience. Uri’s son Seth and the elderly owner of the garden, Mrs. Prendergast, soon cannot resist the pull of the garden and join in the efforts.

Through real magic of the garden or simply the shared experience of nurturing it, their personal walls begin to crumble and slowly relationships bloom.

The surface interactions between these five as they coax the plants and flowers and vegetables into existence would have made a pleasant, entertaining read. But the story went much deeper. One by one we learn the heartbreak that led each of them to this place – needing the healing powers of the growing garden to bring them back to life.

I chose this novel as I do most books I select – for a light and entertaining read. This was so much more. The depth, emotion, quality story, and excellent writing make this easily one of my favorites in a long time.

Winter Bloom will go on my re-read shelf, and I am eager to read more from this author.

 

The Lake House by Marci Nault – review

the lake house

When Heather Bregman purchased the little house on the lake, she imagined afternoons in the sun, evenings by a bonfire, and growing friendships with the neighbors in the close knit New England neighborhood.

She quickly realized this was not to be. The neighbors – all over 70, living in the homes they grew up in and having known each other since birth – were not happy to have a newcomer invade their space. Determined to drive her away, the men of the little community pranked her house with cigar smoke, ants, and stink bombs while the women greeted her icily or ignored her completely.

Victoria Rose moved back to her home on the lake hoping to make amends with the only family she had left. Still hurting from her decision to move to California to pursue an acting career over 50 years ago, her childhood friends met Victoria with much the same cold welcome they gave Heather. Two lonely souls with more in common than the vast age difference would suggest, Victoria and Heather quickly became close friends.

Together they navigated the fallout from their personal and profession decisions, both finally learning – to have a friend you must be a friend.

I have to admit I almost put this book down after the first several pages. Jumping from character to character and moving back and forth through time, it was a bit much to follow – and very slow to engage. I am glad I stuck it out. As the chapters passed a lovely story developed, showing that even our most personal decisions can deeply effect those around us, and reminding us that when we think of others instead of ourselves, happiness follows.

Surprising and comical, I laughed out and smiled through the entire book. Definitely a keeper.

Longbourn by Jo Baker – review

LongbournLongbourn Manor, rural England, early 1800’s, also the setting of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have never read this classic, but may now need to.

This story centers around Sarah, the young house maid of Longbourn Manor and the other below floor servants who have been her family since she was orphaned as a young child. Sarah often dreamed of the world beyond the little town outside her neighborhood, but had comfortably reconciled herself to a life of repetition – each day the same as the last, for all the many years ahead.

The militia’s unexpected arrival in town, an eligible bachelor’s purchase of the vacant home next door, and the interesting stranger’s addition to the staff shake things up at Longbourn Manor, sending some of them down paths they’d never expected, bringing others full circle.

When Sarah is presented with every opportunity she thought she wanted, she has to choose between the life she’d dreamed of and a life of continued difficulty and hard times, with the chance of true love and happiness.

Some story twists and turns were a bit predictable, some completely unexpected, and some I thought improbable but still hoped for. I was not disappointed.

I loved this book. Should I now read Pride and Prejudice, or just leave well enough alone and stick to the story from the servants’ point of view?

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard ~ Review

the art of arranging flowers

Flowers have the power to heal heart and body, mend broken relationships, bring together new love, and accomplish almost any other miracle or wish of the heart. That seems to be true when Ruby Jewell is arranging the flowers. After an early life filled with tragedy, Ruby uses her bouquets to bring hope, love, and happiness to the residents of small town Creekside, Washington. When all those she has helped through the years decide it’s time for Ruby to find love, amazing things happen.

I love the idea that flowers have power. If the color of the walls of a room can induce a particular feeling and essential oils can alleviate various ailments, then the look, feel, and smell of flowers must have similar qualities.

Although many of the twists and turns were predictable, I still really enjoyed the story.  Likely to be one I read again.