Monday, July 3, 2017

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

First of all let me say that I have not read any of Jane Austen's works except excerpts from Little Women years ago; however, since reading this book, I am curious to take a look at Austen's books. This story is largely based on one of Jane Austen's works called Sense and Sensibility though modernized as if the characters are living in current middle class American society. There are three sisters, Celia, Jane, and Margot who lost their mom to a car accident and their father to a business scandal. Despite these circumstances, the sisters stay together and start a tea salon before choosing to move it to Austin, Texas. While trying to find a suitable space to grow their company, they go through confusion and heartbreak.

There were several factors keeping me reading until late into the morning one night (I could not put the book down after I hit about the halfway point.)  While mainly focusing on Jane's relationship, the unanswered questions about Celia's breakup with long-term boyfriend Teddy drew me to the end of the story to find out what happened to shatter their relationship at the beginning of the story. Additionally, I found Lodge's depiction of Callum, a young wounded veteran, a good balance to the book as it switches viewpoints between Jane and Callum. The nightmares and physical troubles Callum goes through stuck out as interesting to me because it is something that happens everyday to young men and women in America who have sacrificed for their country.  I also loved the references to American culture such as the Frozen mention or Lord of the Rings joke; those parts of the book, plus the references to technology such as their online business, gave the story a 21st century feel like it was happening in our world. Lastly, her writing style is as charming as the recipes following chapters; she has almost convinced me to try cooking again or drinking tea.

Since I was invested in the characters while reading this book, now I want to find out what happens to Margot when she reaches adulthood. Hopefully Lodge will continue to write charming romances.

I can also say that even if you are unfamiliar with Sense and Sensibility, you will still enjoy this book.

(I received this book for free from WaterbookMultnomah Publishing but this review is my own opinion.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall

Being the second book in a series, this review is bound to have spoilers for the first book so read with caution if you tend to dislike spoilers like I do.

The third and last book in this series comes out next month so this is the best time to get and read the first two books both of which I highly recommend.

Fraying at the Edge continues the story started in the previous book beginning right as Ariana and Skylar are learning about the lives they were meant to have been a part of. Switched at birth, Ariana grew up Amish when she was supposed to have grown up in an American broken household, while the vice versa is true of Skylar.  Ariana experiences going to movies and malls, cutting her hair, wearing colorful clothing, driving a car, and going on a cultural road trip all for the first time while coping with whether she is going against the very literal faith she grew up learning in the Amish community. She also has to learn to love her birth father who is an atheist constantly trying to prove her faith wrong. Meanwhile, Skylar is coping with her drug addiction and losing faith in living life as the Amish lifestyle gently shows her another side to life.

The part that stuck out the most to me was the character development. Through Woodsmall's relaxed and simple writing style, the story played out dramatically in the minds of her characters. Ariana learns how to reconcile her faith with the positive and negative truths she finds in the real world, which is something powerful that we go through everyday as Christians. Skylar starts to find unconditional love in an unlikely place, while her Amish twin, Abram, finds friendship even amidst his rejection from the first book. I look forward to seeing the end result of their journey as it concludes in Gathering the Threads.

Additionally, as Ariana explores the normal world, I love the references to pop culture such as the Disney movies she watched. It makes the series feel more like it is really happening here in our time and part of the world especially for those who have not seen Amish Country or horse and buggy firsthand.