Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Welcome to What I'm Reading Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have a treat to share with you today:  Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller.

About Caroline

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 12, 2018)

USA Today Bestseller! One of Refinery29's Best Reads of September

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril. 

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

My Review:

Since reading about Caroline via the October, 2017 Indie Next List, I placed it on my TBR list.  So when TLC Book Tours presented me with the opportunity to read, review, and share on my blog, I jumped at the chance!  The Little House series is a favorite of ours, and I read the entire series to both of our children because it was one of my favorites as a child.  I was eager to read this beloved story of the little house on the prairie from Caroline's point of view.  I was not disappointed, but it did take me a little bit of time to get used to the adult point of view because I'm so familiar with the Little House series.

Miller's version of the story is well-researched, and it's a blend of Laura Ingalls Wilder's story from Little House on the Prairie and historical accuracy.  I found the story so frustrating for the Ingalls family because they leave their life and family in Wisconsin to stake a claim in Kansas; the beauty of the plan is that they would be debt-free with the money from selling their land in Wisconsin.  The family's travel to Kansas is difficult and suspenseful: crossing the frozen Mississippi River as it's thawing; severe storms and torrential rains; and wet and mildewed supplies.  The family makes it to Kansas, and Mr. Edwards helps Charles build a home for the family (where they survive a wolf pack that could have easily entered their quilt-covered door).

Carrie is born in Kansas, and Charles and Caroline start meeting people and forming bonds.  Then Gustafson defaults on his loan to Charles and moves on.  Charles can't pay for the Kansas land, and his former property reverts back to him.  Now the Ingalls must move home.  There are several things that stand out in my mind about this book.  The first one is Caroline's concern over her baby's quickening as they travel.  There's always that anxiety paired with everything else as the family moves with their meager belongings in their covered wagon.  Plus Charles' reaction to Gustafson's inability to pay for his property is heartbreaking.  That scene is so powerful that it made me cry!

If you love the Little House series, you'll love Caroline.  I enjoyed it so much that I've already placed holds on Miller's books about Lizzie Borden and Helen Keller.  If I enjoy them as much as I did Caroline, then I'll purchase them for our home library.

About Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller began writing her first novel at the age of ten, and has spent the last two decades working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of two previous historical novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown. Her nonfiction debut, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, was hailed by the New York Times as "a historical version of Law & Order." She lives in Michigan. Find out more about Sarah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Disclosure:  I received a softcover copy of Caroline from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 8, 2018

Literary Friday: The Weaver's Daughter

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all have made some fun weekend plans.  Our older daughter is coming home for a visit, and we have lots of fun activities planned.

This week I read The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd.   I'm finding that I enjoy titles written by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and I'm so happy I've discovered them via TLC Book Tours.

According to Goodreads:

Kate's loyalties bind her to the past. Henry's loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?

Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder --including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father's pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war seeking refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather's goals to modernize his family's wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family's livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry's side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village's future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls - even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Review:

This Regency historical novel had me hooked from the first scene when Kate is a child, and she is informed by her best friend (and sure to be rival as an adult), Frederica,  that they can no longer be friends because Kate's family are weavers and the Penningtons, once weavers, are now millers.  This scene also illustrates the rift between an old, traditional way of life and modernization.  Later in the novel, the two groups can't even share the dance floor at the End of Winter Festival Ball, with the weavers dancing one round, and the millers the next, etc.

Class is often a source for conflict in Regencies, but in this novel it's more than that.  It's about losing: one's livelihood, creative process,  regional tradition, and the devastation of one's pride due to losing all three.  Kate's father Silas is a leader of the weavers.  He doesn't trust Henry Stockton because of his prejudice against Henry's grandfather.  War has changed Henry, and he is more open to listening to others with differing viewpoints and meeting them halfway, however, he also understands his responsibility to his family's business and their workers.  Kate enjoys her work, yet her father only sees her as a woman.  Plus he's bitter because his son Charles went to work for the Stocktons at their mill.  Kate has a difficult time maintaining her relationship with her brother because Silas forbids Kate to see Charles, and he isn't allowed in their home.  One of the many things I love about this novel is that Henry and Kate aren't stock characters; they are well-developed and unique.

Given the restrictions placed on Kate and the prejudices instilled in Kate and Henry about the other's family, their relationship seems doomed from the start.  One unexpected twist is Kate's budding friendship with Henry's sister, Mollie, and another is Henry's dependence on Charles's skills at the mill.  But love conquers all, and this Regency has the added benefit of suspense and a surprising mystery.  The Weaver's Daughter is a fantastic novel, and I highly recommend it especially if you enjoy Regency romances.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Weaver's Daughter from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Connect with Sarah

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Rosie Project and theRosie Effect

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I can't believe that I've never shared either of these books by Graeme Simsion.  Don Tillman is one of my favorite characters, and I recently read both books again.

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The Rosie Project

According to Goodreads:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My Review:

Don Tillman is a scientist, and he believes that all things should be accomplished through the scientific method.  He lives a very regimented life and has little patience for nonsense and social nuances.  Many of his habits do make sense, like his weekly "standardized meal system."  When Don decides to take dating into his own hands and pursue the Wife Project, brilliant PhD student Rosie Jarman calls on Don and his mad grasp of DNA to help her find her biological father.  This sweet romance has so many hilarious scenes, yet Simsion is very sensitive to Aspergians (I would not have liked the book otherwise).  One scene in particular that I loved is when one Don's colleagues asks him to give the keynote speech at a conference for teens with Aspergers and their parents.  He gets the teens all riled up, and it's clear that Don is unaware that he has Aspergers.

I love witty dialogue, and this novel is full of it.  I belly laughed throughout most of the book, and some scenes had me crying with laughter. Don's ability to make everything in his world more efficient makes for entertaining reading especially compared to Rosie who's one hot mess in all aspects of her life with the exception of academics.  Don's abilities far outweigh his social challenges.  If you think you'd enjoy an unusual romance, I highly recommend The Rosie Project.

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The Rosie Effect

According to Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they're about to face a new challenge because - surprise - Rosie is pregnant. 

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he's left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. 

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. 

Graeme Simsion first introduced these unforgettable characters in The Rosie Project, which NPR called "sparkling entertainment along the lines of Where'd You Go Bernadette and When Harry Met Sally." The San Francisco Chronicle said, "sometimes you just need a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud." If you were swept away by the book that's captivated a million readers worldwide, you will love The Rosie Effect.

My Review:

I was a little anxious to read this book because I did not want Rosie and Don to break-up.  Don is facing so many stresses: a big move to New York City; a new job as a researcher at Columbia University; plus Rosie is expecting.  In pure Don style, he approaches the pregnancy as a scientific project, and gets arrested when he takes one of Gene's suggestions to "observe young children."  Moms and nannies in Central Park do not appreciate Don's video recording of their charges at play.

Don isn't the only one stressed out about becoming a parent.  Rosie is burning the candle at both ends as she's simultaneously working on her PhD and her medical degree.  She has many issues from childhood that are affecting her current decisions, and she's completely leaving Don out of the parenting loop.  Intrepid Don doesn't give up on Rosie nor on fatherhood.  In spite of the stress and the secrets he and his friends are keeping from Rosie, he limits himself to only one freak-out.  I was so surprised by this sequel, and I think I like it slightly more than The Rosie Project.  I read that Simsion is working on book three in the Rosie trilogy, and I can't wait to read it!

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Until next time...

Ricki Jill