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text 2019-02-15 09:00
Friday Reads - February 15, 2019
The Preacher's Promise - Piper Huguley
What Lies Behind Us (The World War 2 Sisters Book 1) - Sierra Rose
The Genius of Birds - Jennifer Ackerman

It's the middle of the month and my reading has slowed down due to real life. My daughter turned 6, we went to see Alien Ant Farm and P.O.D. at a free concert on base (thank you USO/Armed Forces Entertainment!), my husband put the paperwork in for his last re-enlistment (5 more years!), and Valentine's Day added into the normal week has me exhausted. 

 

I still have to finish last week's short book pick The Preacher's Promise and my short book for this week is What Lies Behind Us. I am still in chapter 3 of The Genius of Birds for my science reading - it's interesting content delivered via ASMIR (and I am reading the print version). So I hope to get something done by the end the holiday weekend (made longer by a no school day today), but I am not getting my hopes up too high.

 

I hope you had a good Valentine's Day and for my fellow Americans, have a good Presidents' Day weekend. My son turns 8 on Monday, so I am going back into birthday mode. May your reading be all 5 stars!

 

 

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text 2019-02-08 08:00
Friday Reads - February 8, 2019
The Preacher's Promise - Piper Huguley
Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage - Edith B. Gelles
The Genius of Birds - Jennifer Ackerman

I read Corvina: The Perfect Bride (Brides of Paradise Ranch #1) by Merry Farmer and Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. I DNF'd Maisie Dobbs - I just couldn't find the energy to slog through Maisie's teen years.

 

My random short book this weekend is The Preacher's Promise (Home to Milford College #1) by Piper Huguley. Trying to finish The Genius of Birds and start Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage by the end of the weekend.

 

I've got my little one's birthday party on Sunday (we invited her entire class because I hate myself), birthday snack for her class on Tuesday (brownies, unfortunately not the fun ones), and taking her to a free concert on base Tuesday night (P.O.D. and Alien Ant Farm is touring Europe and the USO worked with the bands to play on the base on their off night). Little Miss Sassy Pants is turning 6!

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review 2018-07-03 09:23
A #coming of age story full of atmosphere and a nostalgic look at a more innocent era
Son of a Preacher Man: A Novel - Karen M. Cox

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you are looking for reviews) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

Recently, I read and reviewed one of Karen M. Cox’s novels I Could Write a Book (you can read the review here) and as she was one of the authors who’d also taken part in one of my favourite recent anthologies (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), when I heard she was going to publish a new book and read the description, I had to check it out.

In contrast with the other two books, this book is not a Regency novel (it takes place in the South of the USA in the late 1950s –early 1960s), and it is not related to Jane Austen (although, like her novels, is excellent at reflecting the social mores of the place and the era). It is the story, narrated in the first person, of Billy Ray Davenport, a young man with a tragedy in his past (he lost his mother to a terrible accident), whose father is a travelling preacher. He used to spend his summers travelling with him (he went to school and stayed at his aunt’s the rest of the year), but when we meet him, just before he goes to medical school, he is due to spend a few weeks with a doctor, friend of the family. He hopes to gain medical knowledge and get a taste of what his future will be like. This summer will prove momentous for Billy Ray, who will learn much more about the world, small-town society, girls, and himself than he had known until then. What he experiences there will make him question some of his strong-held beliefs and what he is truly made of.

This novel captures beautifully the everyday life in a small-town, where rumours and whispers can destroy somebody’s reputation (especially a young girl’s), where everybody knows everybody else and there is nothing private and nowhere to hide.  Marlene, the daughter of the doctor Billy Ray is working with, takes a shine to him and proves to be very spiteful, badmouthing and spreading rumours about another girl, Lizzie. Lizzie is like a modern scarlet woman, and her behaviour repels and attracts Billy Ray in equal measure, putting his beliefs about proper behaviour and relationships between men and women to the test.

Lizzie is a great character. Although she does not always behave consistently, and at times she manages to make things more difficult for herself, we get to understand her and root for her. She has had to make herself strong and mistrusts everybody for very good reasons. She is different to the rest of the characters in the novel and in Orchard Hill, and it is not surprising that Billy Ray sets his eyes on her. She is a modern woman who knows her own mind and is prepared to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true.

Billy Ray feels very old-fashioned, perhaps even more because he falls for Lizzie, and the contrast between the opinions and behaviours of the two could not be more extreme, at least at first sight. Billy Ray is the preacher’s son of the title, and although we might be familiar with stories about the children of preachers rebelling against their strict religious upbringing (Footloose, for instance), he is a chip off the old block. I wondered if Billy Ray is not, in fact, even more morally upright and a stricter follower of the spirit of the Bible than his father is. He is a thoroughly good man (he struggles at times and is not perfect, but he is one of the genuinely good guys), and although he is young and naïve at the beginning of the story, he has the heart in the right place and tries very hard to live up to Christian moral standards. He is a thinking man and the roller-coaster of his emotions and his doubts and hesitations reflect well his age. The roles between the two main characters challenge the standard stereotypes, and we have the good and innocent young man and the experienced woman who tempts him trying to send him down the wrong path, rather than the rogue going trying to steal the virtue of an innocent young woman. Of course, things are not that simple, and the relationship between the two main characters has many nuances, ups and downs, and despite what they might think, they need each other to become better versions of themselves.

The rest of the characters are given less space (this is a coming of age story, after all, and adults are not the centre of the book, although the relationship between Billy Ray and his father is beautifully rendered) but even the characters we don’t get to know that well (the rest of Lizzie’s family, the doctor, the midwife) are convincing and engaging. There are parallels between Billy Ray and Lizzie and some of the older characters as if they embodied what would have happened to them if they hadn’t found each other. It is evident that Billy Ray is focused on telling the story of his relationship with Lizzie and the book reflects the single-mindedness of his protagonist, as the affairs of society and the world at large only rarely get mentioned.

The rhythm of the novel is paused and contemplative and it feels like the summer months felt when we were young: eternal and full of possibilities. The turn of phrase and the voices of the different characters are distinct and help recreate the Southern atmosphere, adding a vivid local feel, and some humorous touches. After the summer we follow the character’s first few years at university and we see him become a man. I don’t want to go into detail, but I can tell you I really enjoyed the ending of the book, which is in keeping with the rest of the novel.

Although religion and the character’s beliefs are very important to the story’s plot (I am not an expert, so I cannot comment if this novel would fit into the category of Christian books, or if it would be considered too daring, although there is no explicit sex and I cannot recall any serious swearing), and the main character might appear old-fashioned and not a typical young man, for me, that is one of its assets. It does not feel like a modernised recreation of the past, but as if it truly had been written by somebody who was recording the important aspects of his long-gone youth.  I recommend it to readers keen on books full of atmosphere and centred on characters and relationships that differ from the norm. It is also a great book for people looking to recreate the feeling of the late 1950s and early 60s in a Southern small town.

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review 2018-05-10 22:47
The Preacher's Wife
The Preacher's Bride - Jody Hedlund

This book was so much better than I expected it to be. I looked at the cover and the title and thought it would be a silly romance novel. As it turned out, it was actually a well written story based on John Bunyan who wrote The Pilgrim's Progress but also focusing on Elisabeth, his second wife who support him. I was surprised to find out that many of the details and characters were based on fact and transcripts. This book was an amazing view into the past world of the Puritans and their persecution.

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review 2018-01-15 00:00
The Preacher's Son
The Preacher's Son - Lisa Henry,J.A. Roc... The Preacher's Son - Lisa Henry,J.A. Rock The blurb does a good job of laying out what this story is and yes, religion plays a large part in the story. This book won’t be for everyone based upon that (and I should also warn that there are references to and on page scenes of suicide attempts) but those who enjoy getting into the heads of characters and being fully engaged in the struggle within them that will lead to the ultimate payoff will be pleased.

What Jason did to Nate, how he used him, was horrible. Being in Jason’s head during the act, we know he is aware that what he is doing was wrong on so many levels and feels guilty while he’s doing it. Jason is just one of the people in the story who misguidedly believes they are doing something right. Something good that will help people. Meanwhile, 18 year old Nate, a virgin who is spending the weekend looking at a college, on his own for the first time, thinks he has found a friend, a lover and a person who understands. Even though the reader doesn’t hear about the fallout until years afterwards, it is no less gut-wrenching.

Picking up four years later, the story is focused on the characters trying to make things right as much as possible for themselves and those they have hurt. Nate has it especially hard, trying to reconcile his homosexuality, his faith and his place in his family. Working at his father’s conversion camp while knowing he is lying to the teenage children who heard his story and may believe it on some level. Struggling to change, but not sure which way is best and who he will hurt more with every decision.

Jason is struggling too. A pariah in the town he hated as a teenager and hates now that he is forced back he wants to make amends to Nate, but doesn’t expect Nate to forgive. The two start to see each other and a relationship develops. Jason wants Nate to help change him. Nate needs to learn to think and live for himself and not for his father or anyone else. Even since the incident, Nate has always felt something for Jason even though he question having feelings for his abuser.

All the relationships in this story are complex – Nate and his family especially. Nate’s mom understands him more than he knows, but their relationship has also been fractured, not as much by the scandal but by the differing beliefs they all hold. The family is functioning in dysfunction and once Nate starts accepting himself and seeing his father’s flaws, he begins to see his mother in a new light as well. Nate loves his father, but is afraid that his father’s love for him will only go so far when he learns the truth.

What works very well here is the characters have good intentions, but they have flaws and they sometimes do things that are wrong. They are living in the gray areas that all people do and struggling with how to deal with it. Questioning motives, feelings and long-held beliefs, questioning their worth to the people around them and society in general and trying to find the balance of what they owe themselves and what they owe others. Jason struggles with what he did to Nathan while still wanting to see Moving Forward burn to the ground. He struggles with whether he is deserving of Nate’s forgiveness even when all he wants is to love Nate and make him happy. Nate struggles with his hypocrisy, his lies and how he can help the kids at the camp when he is really struggling with what is going on there. His belief that what his father is doing can help the kids is repeatedly and tragically tested with the new group of campers that arrive at the same time Jason does.

Yes, there is a romance storyline but the meat of the story is more each character’s journey of self-discovery and forgiveness – of others and themselves - and of learning how to live their truth and reconciling that with their faith, family and long held beliefs.

I found myself interested and invested in all the characters. There were a few times where the characters’ thoughts felt a bit repetitive, but overall I could understand the struggle each was going through and empathize with them. I’ve always enjoyed the writing team of Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock and while this story was different than I’ve read from them in the past, I enjoyed the departure.
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