Country tied was a heartfelt cowboy kind of story, down to earth and made for simpler times. I genuinely loved it. At first, I was completely rivetedCountry tied was a heartfelt cowboy kind of story, down to earth and made for simpler times. I genuinely loved it. At first, I was completely riveted by the farm. Although classified as a soft romance for young adults, the first couple of chapters had not even a hint of romance, if you ask me. It was all about the farm, and I was enchanted. My grandfather was a vegetable farmer, and I have lots of wonderful memories of summers growing up on the farm, picking acres of strawberries with the other kids and sitting in the back of a pickup piled high with corn to be husked for that nights corn festival. If we husked it all by that evening, we'd each get a dollar to spend at the fair, and of course, our fill of wonderful fresh crunchy corn on cob to eat! Although we didn't have animals, we had people, and farmers, and greenhouses, and tractors, and haystacks and barns with high lofts to jump from. There's just something really special and magical about farms and this book brought me back.
So when the romance part of the book hit, I was not only flustered and irritated, I wasn't thrilled with our first guy, David. Besides the fact he had left once before with no explanation, we didn't have a whole lot of background for the romance. (Yeah they were kids together and played together, but when did the spark happen and how?) I wanted to go back to the cows and the shows and the hay and Jared, her main show competitor. But after a while, Buttars finally won me over with her soft spoken main character, Jenny, who had strength and integrity you so often see in kids who grow up on a farm. Although she wasn't described physically too much in the beginning, probably to force us to fall in love with her personality first, we come to know her as an auburn beauty, and she ends up getting lots of attention. At first I thought the romance was a little light, and had to ask who the target audience was. Because if it's a typical young adult of today, there just wasn't enough heat. (ie backstabbing, love triangles, angst, etc.) Not that I'm saying I like all that, but if we look at popular teen novels of today, like Twilight, we see a lot of that. But after finding out it was labeled a "soft" romance, I felt it was written perfectly. Books today for teens don't need to have all that stuff to make it good, and it's perfectly fine and even somewhat wonderful to add some morals into the novel. And it doesn't have to be labeled a Christian romance or an Amish romance to be that way, although you could almost label this one that way. I really loved how Buttars addresses the sex-before-marriage in a straightforward but realistic way that can really apply to any teen today. I also love how Buttars didn't specifically say Jenny shouldn't have sex before marriage, but instead gave the opinions of some adults Jenny respected and in the end, left it up to her to decide what was best for her. In this way it probably wouldn't go over as well in today's conservative Christian market.
One aspect of the romance that bothered me, and I'm not sure if Buttars did this on purpose, but between the different men in her life, I wasn't sure who we were rooting for. Usually there's a little hint or foreshadowing as to who the winner will be, but halfway through the book, I really wasn't sure, and I honestly didn't care for the contenders that much. Would it be David, the guy who left her not once but twice without a word back home, but understood her life on the farm and who she was? Or would it be Mick, this new slick Californian, with the big house and fancy car, that cared about spending time with his nephew and seems irritated at the references of him as a playboy? At this point, Jared was my favorite, the boy who didn't even seem like a contender but made an impression back in the beginning with beating Jenny in the top prizes for showing cows, but was the first one to show compassion when her father was hurt. I'm not sure if I liked the surprise or if I didn't like the fact that I didn't know who we were rooting for. And by this point, the farm was long gone and it was all about the boys, which left me a little disappointed as well, except that I was still riveted. Would she stick up for herself and her life? Would she show her country colors proud in the face of these rich little brats who probably never had to work a day in their life? I just didn't know. I loved that for a 16-yr-old, Jenny knew herself very well, and knew what she wanted out of life. It was one of the main things that made me fall in love with her.
In the end, we come to an even better, if not typical ending, a lack of choice. A risky move on Buttars part, but very satisfying in my opinion. We finally realize the reasons behind David's distance and can understand him a bit better, if not like him. But then Buttars leaves the book open a bit and I think this was an elegant way of showing that every girl teenager doesn't have to be "boy crazy". And instead use intelligence and logic to understand that she's still young, and has her whole life ahead of her. I loved this idea and it made the whole book light and refreshing for me, a real change of pace from the usual romance. Overall, I don't read romance as much as I used to, but I did read it a lot at one time, so I know what's out there. I think this book has a unique style all it's own, I just wish it hadn't strayed so far from the farm where it started. I would love to read another Buttars where the entire book is set on the farm, it would do my heart some good.
Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry was an alluring read that had me enamored throughout. A young adult novel about three girlfriends who plan a trip to PaSecond Fiddle by Rosanne Parry was an alluring read that had me enamored throughout. A young adult novel about three girlfriends who plan a trip to Paris for a musical competition, the story takes place in 1990 in Germany, when the wall has just come down. On their way home from a music lesson one day they witness a crime and end up saving the life of a Soviet soldier who is wanted from the government. Little did they know he'd turn their whole world upside down. They decide to help him get home and take him to Paris with them. That's where the adventure starts. Where do I begin? First of all, I loved the time period of the piece and everything it represented. My mother being born and raised in Germany, I have my own particular sentiments about the wall coming down. So much history changing everyday, and we so often don't see it. Parry explained the political climate in easy and interesting description, that was fun to follow and hard to put down. I could identify well with the main character, Jody, in her plainness, or at least that's how she viewed herself. Toward the end I think she ended up having a natural beauty who's impact went unnoticed by her. You get hints throughout the story that they'll end up getting caught, but I kept thinking to myself, who cares? Can you imagine taking a trip as a teenager to a foreign country with friends and having all these adventures? You'd have memories for a lifetime. I also really enjoyed the musical/art theme that ran throughout the plot. Being involved with music most of my life, I remember well those solo and ensemble contests, and it brought back memories for me. Another aspect I enjoyed was the dusty old bookshop where they ending up staying for the night. Being an avid reader, I love when stories have little used bookstores in them. Although I did pause on wondering what Parry's intent had been when she spoke of socialism when the shop keeper offered the girls money. They didn't quite understand what socialism was and Parry left us feeling it was just about people being nice to one another. I did laugh when the shop keeper offered a book on it to the girls and they declined, saying they'd be grounded if they came home socialists. Although I appreciated the authenticity of the Karl Marx quote, I wondered at what Parry was trying to convey. Was it just another attempt at explaining the political climate of the times? Or was Parry trying to throw a little of her own beliefs in the mix? Perhaps I'm just jaded since this country has been moving more in that direction since Obama became president.
In any case, the story was fantastic and I found myself tearing up at the end. Intelligent, young, girls on an adventure in Paris, following their hearts in trying to do the right thing was what it was all about. I really enjoyed it. My only thought is, I wonder how many young adults are reading this type of literature? I don't remember reading anything like this when I was a teenager, but was it because I didn't want to? Or because I just didn't come across it? I hope it was the latter and that I can raise my boys to want to ingest this kind of reading. Not only was it a beautiful story, but Parry then gave us an Author's Note at the end, telling us about the division of Germany and how it affected the surrounding countries. And it all was in an eloquent and easy to understand explanation. I know many adults my age who don't have a clue as to what the wall division between East and West Germany was really about and would love to see them read this story. What a wonderful world we live in that has literature like this for our young people. Although it doesn't have enough qualities to be considered classic literature as of yet, it was a captivating story and a delightful read. I highly recommend it.