4.5 stars The only thing I needed to know about The Mill River Redemption before deciding to read it was that it’s perfect Maeve Binchy's fans. Trust m...more4.5 stars The only thing I needed to know about The Mill River Redemption before deciding to read it was that it’s perfect Maeve Binchy's fans. Trust me, that’s pretty much all you need to know as well, but here, I’ll share a few more details about this marvelous read just to be safe. What can I say, I’m generous like that.
It’s quite obvious that I’m a huge Maeve Binchy fan, and now I’m a huge Darcie Chan as well. Her prose is elegant and rich with emotion, her setting warm and familiar and the characters… oh, those characters. There are no words, even from a linguist like myself.
Chan paints Mill River to absolute perfection: not only the streets and the buildings, but the charming little community as well. This is her second book in this little town, a companion novel of sorts that can function very well as a standalone. (I myself have not read the first book yet.) As I understand, some of the secondary characters had a more important role in the previous book and the community was well established long before now.
The narrative itself jumps back and forth in time between 1983, when the newly widowed Josie arrived to Mill River with her two small daughters; and 2013, when she died and left a will designed to force the estranged sisters to communicate. The entire story is told in third person, from multiple perspectives, and the feel of it is similar to old realism authors like Flaubert and Balzac, without the excruciating details, of course. I’d go so far as to say that Mill River Redemption reads like classic literature in many ways,
The title says it all, I suppose. This is a story about two sisters’ long journey in different directions and back again. After years apart, Emily and Rose are forced to spend time together by their dead mother’s last wish, but years of silence aren’t so easy to overcome. Chan doesn’t give us easy solutions, though, nor does she offer absolutes. Forgiveness is hard to give, but often even harder to receive.
I was thoroughly impressed by Rose, not her actions or her personality, but the fabulous complexity of her character. It takes great courage to seek forgiveness, and Rose simply lacked that courage for the longest time so she chose to hide behind meanness and snide remarks. I felt that her inner battles and motivations were far more difficult to comprehend than Emily’s and I enjoyed solving the puzzle that was Rose Frye.
Please allow me to make this quite clear, even at the risk of repeating myself: Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Redemption is a wonderfully warm and elegant read, a book to be enjoyed with a blanket and a cup of hot tea. It’s very easy to surrender your heart to these characters – mine has yet to recover from the experience.
4.5 stars Sometimes, though not nearly often enough, a book grabs my attention from start to finish and refuses to let go. Rites of Passage is one of t...more4.5 stars Sometimes, though not nearly often enough, a book grabs my attention from start to finish and refuses to let go. Rites of Passage is one of those books that make you experience and react strongly to everything that happens, but also forces you to realize some harsh truths about yourself, truths you could have kept hidden and unacknowledged otherwise.
In other words, it made me face the fact that I’m a wuss.
Watching Sam McKenna go through hell at the military school she chose to attend on a dare – not only physical hell, but emotional as well – made me realize that I might just be a quitter somewhere deep inside. However, while I can’t finish a year (or even a day) of training at DMA, I can certainly finish a book in one sitting. Or, you know, several. Hah! Take that, Mac! You can do a gazillion push-ups, but I can turn those pages like nobody’s business.
And turning the pages frantically is exactly what I did. Unexpectedly… shockingly even, Rites of Passage was very emotionally draining. It had been a long time since a book really made me cry, but watching Sam being ostracized, completely rejected not only by her peers, but by her dysfunctional family as well, broke my little heart into a million pieces. I admired this girl’s bravery and persistence the entire time. She never once faltered, not even when she was left all alone, beaten and abused.
I was also more than a little surprised by the quality of Hensley’s writing. Her language is simple and clear, but the level of emotions that permeate every sentence of her narrative is extremely high. I have, unfortunately, learned not to expect much when picking up something entirely unfamiliar, but my low expectations made this whole experience that much more thrilling.
The ending, however, was less than satisfactory, which broke my heart in a different way altogether. This was going to be a perfect five-star read until things started to unravel. When they did, they went in two different directions: some were resolved far too neatly and suddenly, and some felt completely unfinished. The romance especially, after a whole lot of build-up, didn’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling like I expected and needed it to after the emotional turmoil this book put me through. There is talk of a sequel, however, so hopefully things won’t be left like this permanently.
The first thing you need to know about Don’t Call Me Baby is that it’s not Young Adult at all, it’s actually much closer to a Middle Grade read, and i...moreThe first thing you need to know about Don’t Call Me Baby is that it’s not Young Adult at all, it’s actually much closer to a Middle Grade read, and if you approach it as such, you’re going to be a very happy camper. If, however, you’re looking for a YA read with everything that entails (including kissing, yes), you’re going to have to look elsewhere. I was forewarned and fully prepared for a younger protagonist, which is probably (at least in part) why I ended up enjoying this book immensely.
Don’t Call Me Baby is a surprisingly thought-provoking read. Imogene’s problems may that of a 15-year-old, but they will give any smart parent plenty to think about. We often underestimate our children and stop paying attention, even though we find ways to convince ourselves of the opposite. Imogene’s mother knew what’s best for her. A mother always does, right? But really, even we mothers are someone’s daughters and we make plenty of mistakes every day, we just hide them better.
To Imogene, a simple request for privacy meant years of arguments and miscommunications. Somewhere along the line, her mother stopped being a mom first and a blogger second, even though she constantly claimed otherwise – on her very popular blog, of course. I think bloggers, especially those of us who are a bit older, will understand very well how blogging can take over your life.
As a parent, I’m very conscious of my child’s privacy, even though she’s only seven years old. I’m not above sharing an occasional photo on Facebook with friends and family, but I’m always aware that there are boundaries and that she’s her own person, with a right to decide some things for herself. Since she’s still too young to do so, I keep her as far away from the internet as I can. However, I clearly see how easy it would be not only to live vicariously through her, but to share her life here for everyone to see. That’s precisely the trap Imogene’s mom fell into, and Imogene was forced to find a way out.
I think I’ll save this one for my kid to read in a few years. If she has fun with it, great. And if she somehow learns from Imogene how to get in my face and make me see my blind spots, then even better.
Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point series is a favorite of mine. All these books are perfect rainy day comfort reads that make me want to curl up with a blank...moreRobyn Carr’s Thunder Point series is a favorite of mine. All these books are perfect rainy day comfort reads that make me want to curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate and shut the world out. Her Thunder Point is a very small town with a tight-knit community. Everyone is up in everyone else’s business, but not one of them with bad intentions.
Consequently, I see all the characters as my dear friends. There is a couple at the center of each book, but the community is never neglected. We get to see those we’re already very familiar with, as well as those we have yet to get to know.
That said, it makes me incredibly sad to write a less-than-stellar review for this latest Thunder Point novel. Scott and Peyton’s story isn’t up to Carr’s usual standard, and as hard as I tried, I failed to get invested like I should have. Above all else I was bored and severely annoyed by their lack of communication.
Although present, the community I love so much took a back seat in this book, which would have been fine if Scott and Peyton were a strong enough couple to carry the full novel. Neither their romance nor their problems were big enough to keep me interested throughout, though, and I wished others were given a more important role.
Once again, Therese Plummer completely saved the day. She is the type of narrator who could easily read a phone book and make it sound interesting. Her confidence and voice characterization are practically unmatched. I doubt I would have finished this book if not for her. As it was, she made the whole experience more pleasant.
I will go back to this series, of course. I'm not quite ready to give up after one weak link. I just hope The Homecoming proves to be a diffrent kind of read, one closer to those first four I liked so much.