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review 2018-01-17 19:43
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
Pigs In Heaven - Barbara Kingsolver

I have a theory about the genesis of this novel. By the time she wrote her first novel, the beloved The Bean Trees, it’s clear that Kingsolver was already deeply invested in social justice issues. But she missed one when her protagonist, a young woman named Taylor, traveled through Cherokee tribal lands in Oklahoma just long enough to unwittingly rescue a battered native toddler dumped on her by a frightened aunt. And when Taylor returned, with the best of intentions, it was to fraudulently adopt the child without the knowledge of the tribe.

As I envision events, a Cherokee reader talked to Kingsolver about this, pointing out that Cherokee have large extended families who would miss the child; that after a long history of genocide and other abuses at the hands of white America, including the removal of children, tribes need to hang onto their kids if they are to survive (hence the Indian Child Welfare Act, which among other things prohibits outside adoptions without the tribe’s consent); and that Taylor, who is physically and culturally white despite a Cherokee great-grandparent, is unequipped to teach Turtle about her heritage or how to deal with racism.

So Kingsolver, as we all should do when confronted with our oversights, recognized the problem and set out to fix it. And this sequel was born.

Pigs in Heaven picks up three years after the end of The Bean Trees. Turtle gets her fifteen minutes of fame when she witnesses an accident, and a newly-minted Cherokee lawyer named Annawake – who has a personal stake in ICWA – hears her story and realizes something is fishy. After a visit from Annawake, Taylor panics and takes off with Turtle, but her mother, Alice – just out of a brief and unsatisfying marriage – takes a different tack, going to stay with a relative on tribal lands in hopes of amicably resolving the problem and getting to know Turtle’s extended family.

I actually liked this book better than The Bean Trees; Kingsolver has clearly matured as an author. The plot is more focused and cohesive and flows smoothly, without ever feeling slow. It follows several major characters while keeping everything moving and the reader eager to know what will happen next. It examines the central issues from all sides and with empathy for everyone involved, all of whom make mistakes but are trying to do the best they can for Turtle. Yes, it can be predictable, but in this case I don’t see that as a flaw; this story is built not on suspense but on family relationships, and I enjoyed sinking into the characters’ journey and guessing at where it would lead them. The writing style is good and endows the book with warmth and wisdom.

Meanwhile, Kingsolver seems to have done her research, or rather the friends she credits in the acknowledgments did a thorough job of educating her. I read a legit Cherokee book right after this in part to check her facts, which checked out. But there are also subtle things, like the story that’s told to two different people and slightly differently each time, that readers familiar with Cherokee culture will likely appreciate. If anything, life on tribal lands seems a little idealized – there’s a lot of family values, community and tradition, with social problems acknowledged but kept out of sight – though much of this is related through Alice’s point-of-view, and I suspect that her experiences as a visitor to tribal lands were, reasonably enough, based on Kingsolver’s.

My two issues with the book aren’t with the writing. One is that there are several continuity errors between the first book and this one. The legal first name (April) that Taylor gave Turtle on adoption vanishes; Alice and Taylor’s Cherokee ancestor changes from a grandfather to a grandmother (significant because clan passes through the female line); Taylor’s father goes from a mystery man about whom Alice would only say that he was nobody Taylor knew to an ex-husband about whom she’s not reluctant to speak when necessary. The other is more about judging other people’s parenting than anything else. Taylor makes several questionable choices that are never called out in the narrative, from moving herself and Turtle in with a boyfriend about whom she’s not that serious, to telling the real story of her abandonment on national TV – which is not only stupid because it’s inconsistent with official records, but publicly telling the story in front of Turtle and allowing it to be made light of seems hurtful. But real people aren't perfect, so characters shouldn't be either.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, which tells a compelling story about contemporary issues, with good writing and populated by sympathetic characters. I read it quickly and was fully engaged with the story and characters, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like these days. I recommend it, whether or not you read The Bean Trees first.

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review 2017-12-20 13:28
The Pastures of Heaven - John Steinbeck

The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck
Love hearing how this book came about and how he achieved writing it.
Starts in very old days of 1700's and the book explains who founded the area and who lived in the house through the centuries til Monroe's move in.
Love explanations of words as they appear, informative.
Enjoy the different households and the things that are important to them in this town.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).

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review 2017-12-16 19:20
Fantastic!!
Angel Bumps: Hello from Heaven - Anne Ba... Angel Bumps: Hello from Heaven - Anne Bardsley

I confess, when I received an offer to read Angel Bumps, I said no.  I think my words were, "It would have me crying in my cheerios."  But I had a second thought, because the lady that made the offer has been sending me reading material for a while so I felt I owed her a favor.  I'm happy I changed my mind and didn't miss out on this gem.  Anne Bardsley has compiled an amazing collection of stories from people that have had signs that their loved ones that have passed on are still with them and watching over them.  The stories are moving, touching tributes to love that never dies.  Did I cry in my cheerios?  No, but I may have blinked away a tear or two.  I didn't sit and devour the whole book as I usually do.  I spaced the stories out over a few days.  I have to say, after reading a few stories from this book each day, I felt lighter.  I've never had an Angel Bump, but it lightened my mood that others have found comfort with a little nudge from above.  

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review 2017-11-11 06:54
Thoughts: Close to Heaven
Close to Heaven: A Colorado High Country Christmas - Pamela Clare

Close to Heaven
by Pamela Clare
Book 5 of Colorado High Country


A few days prior to publishing this book, Pamela had written a blog post about how Close to Heaven was supposed to have been a Christmas novella, but that it ended up being long enough to be novel-length.  So rather than being a Christmas novella special for the Colorado High Country series, it is now the fifth installment of the series.

As I finished the second half of the book, I couldn't help but wonder whether, maybe, this story would have worked out better as a shorter, novella-length work.

This isn't to say that the book was terrible, but I certainly felt like it dragged on the last half of the story.  I easily saw Pamela's vision and direction for Close to Heaven, but I'm not sure it was necessarily a smoothly executed one.

Nonetheless, even with my misgivings and conflicts about how this novel was presented, I can't deny that, as usual, Pamela always creates a great story, story premise, and characters, with a lot of heart.


The Story:
It is about a month before Christmas and Scarlet Springs is expecting a wintry snow storm in the next few days.  Rain Minear has been feeling lonely ever since her daughter left for college, and she hasn't been able to catch the eye of her boss, Joe Moffat, whom she has been in love with for the past twenty years.  During the night, she starts to wonder if maybe it's time to move on with her life, and maybe start over in another place away from her childhood home of Scarlet Springs.

What she doesn't expect is that her roof would collapse because of the heavy snow, and she would be left without a home, all too suddenly.  Fortunately for her, Joe is generous and caring, and offers to house her at his home until the snow clears and she can find a place to stay.  Unknown to Rain, though, is that Joe has also harbored the same feelings for her these past twenty years, but has never felt right acting on them due to his own rules for not messing around with his own employees.  On top of that, a sordid family history has also influenced Joe's outlook for his own future.

This Christmas, however, it seems that life has some other plans for the both of them.


My Thoughts:
The first thing that came to mind, surprisingly, was the fact that I had thought Rain was younger--the way she'd been described from the first book, I had had the impression that Rain was in her early twenties, or something.  Apparently, I was a little off, or just didn't really pay attention, even though she was one of the side characters I'd hoped to see a story for.

So when the summary came out that this was Joe's and Rain's love story, I was intrigued.  Throughout the series' first few installments, Joe is clearly an older man--which, at least I didn't mistaken his age.  I wondered how this relationship would play out, my mind thinking that Joe Moffat, in his forties, had at least twenty years on Rain, whom I'd thought was in her twenties.

Then Rain was introduced in this book as thirty-seven years old.  Okay, not as young as I'd thought, but still ten years younger than Joe, according to the narration.  It's still a bit of an age gap, so we can still play on that age gap thing.  Or at least, for a while, it was one of the reasons Joe gave for not making a move on Rain.

Even though that particular reason seemed to NOT be a reason, left behind and forgotten.  It was still a significant factor, of course--Rain had gotten pregnant twenty years ago, with a man ten years her senior, who then proceeded to abandon her.  So Joe didn't want to come off like that jackass.

Then, reason after reason came out for why Joe never made a move on Rain for the past twenty years...  TWENTY YEARS.  And we'll come back to these reasons, but, really, I know Rain has her own misgivings, but twenty years is quite the time for two adults to be lusting after each other NOT to notice.  And twenty years is also a long time for Rain to hold a crush on a guy and not do anything about it--she seems like the straight-forward type, and certainly she held no misgivings about making any moves during the course of this story.

I guess that's why we have a story.  And maybe all it took was for her to have a random opportunity.  Like, say, maybe being stuck living in Joe's home while she awaited her insurance claim, and for the snow to melt off her crumpled property.  And maybe for Joe to get a few hard-ons while she's around so she could finally conclude that maybe Joe was interested in her as much as she was interested in him.

I don't know.  It just seems overly convenient a plot.

Anyway, as for Joe's own issues:  He pretty much refuses to make a move on Rain for so many reasons.  His ancestor was a terrible, terrible man who had taken from people, murdered, and forced sex on his own female employees.  And Joe was of the notion that he didn't want to be anything like his ancestor, Silas Moffat.  In fact, Joe's guilt and shame, brought on by all the horrible things that ancestor Silas had done when the man first settled in Scarlet Springs about a century ago, has even made Joe feel like the Moffat name should die with him.  After all, according to him, his grandfather was also a horrible person, and so was his own father.

Somehow, Joe came out the decent man in the Moffat line.  And he's worried that he'd end up starting a family, giving birth to a son, who ends up inheriting previous Moffat male characteristics for evil-doing.  Apparently with all the knowledge and smarts that Joe has, he hasn't figured out the concept of "Nature versus Nurture."  Nor has he stopped to wonder that he was able to become different from his previous male relations.

So Joe refuses to make a move on Rain because she's his employee and he's ten years her senior; he doesn't want to abuse his authority over her.

It just seems like a lot of wasted time, you know.  Twenty years goes by, and even while the two of them are good friends and colleagues, working well together to run the bar, restaurant, and brewery, known as Knockers... well, it just seems like a lot of wasted time where someone could have made a move, or someone could have recognized feelings, whether lust or deeper.


Close to Heaven is up to Pamela Clare standards as far as characters, writing, and heart are concerned.  The schmaltz factor is more subtle in this book.  However, the ending half felt a little dragged out, even after our couple finally acknowledge feelings.  Because then we're just spending time slowly ambling towards that Happily Ever After as the days move forward towards Christmas.  Like, that maybe Christmas was the ultimate end location for this story, and everything from the mid-mark where Rain and Joe finally reciprocate feelings, moving forward, was just filler until the time was right.

I'm not saying it was terrible or anything.  It was sweet and enjoyable and heart-warming--probably what our lovely author was aiming for.  But I just felt like maybe that section of the book could, maybe, have been shortened a little bit.  Because I couldn't help but get the feeling that that latter half of the book went on forever.  And it makes me feel bad, because I DO love a great Pamela Clare romance novel, and Close to Heaven was, once again, very sweet, even if a bit frustrating on Joe's part since he was being so stubborn about Rain.

I mean, for crying out loud, she practically jumped him, and then paraded around naked in front of him, and he STILL thought he'd be the one in the wrong if he made a move.  Even after Rain tells him that she wants him.

And so, props to rain for not letting herself get stuck on this relationship.  After a couple of rejections, she finally just moves herself on and stops her own advances.

But enough of that.  The Happily Ever After happens, feelings are reciprocated, and the book was enjoyable on certain levels.  I'm satisfied enough.


***

The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

16 Festive Tasks -- Yuletide


I read Close to Heaven for Square 9 -- YuletideA book that is set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.  Most of the book takes place during a big snow storm that pretty much closes down the entire little town of Scarlet Springs.

Meanwhile, as I was reading this book, I found how many other squares this book would fit.  Although being that this book is the fifth in an ongoing Contemporary Romance series, I don't know how much this helps.

 

  • Square #1 | Calan Gaeaf:  There is a supporting character named Rose.
  • Square #4 | Penance Day:  Our MC, Joe spends most of the book struggling over his guilt over the terrible things his ancestor had done to people over a century ago, and feels that he needs to give back to the community what his ancestor took from them.
  • Square #5 | Advent:  There is a Christmas tree showing in the background of this book, which, of course, is a pine tree.  I don't know how much of a stretch this would be since it's a little hard to see unless you look closely.
  • Square #7 | Saint Lucia's Day:  Obviously, snow features as one of the main events in this book, which is kind of what gives our couple a reason to end up stranded under the same roof.
  • Square #10 | Pancha Ganapati:  There is red on the cover.
  • Square #11 | Soyal:  This book is set in Colorado.
  • Square #13 | Christmas:  The MC is named Joseph Moffat.
 
This book also takes place leading up to Christmas, if that will count for one of the Holiday Book Joker options.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/11/thoughts-close-to-heaven.html
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review 2017-11-07 04:14
Little Heaven
Little Heaven: A Novel - Nick Cutter

Why, why, why, does someone like me, who is terrified of horror movies and books, keep choosing these books from NetGalley? To be fair, I have not chosen a lot of them, and they all have one commonality — they were all written by Nick Cutter (or Craig Davidson, who uses this name as a pseudonym.) I don't know what it is about these books, but I've said it before (here) and (here), I just find Cutter's writing completely compelling. This time, I didn't even tell my husband about it, I just went ahead and read it without the horror-shaming that usually comes first from him. And guess what? I loved this one too, more than The Deep, and a teensy-bit less than The Troop. Maybe next time I'll try a Davidson book, so I won't have to sleep with the lights on for a week after I finish.

 

Honestly, that's all I'm going to say about this, you don't need anything else from me. Get the book and read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Freaked out, confused and sleepless, but definitely not disappointed.

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