Monday, July 25, 2016

The Excellent Lombards

It's about the time of year when I start thinking of all the good things that come with autumn. One of my favorite fall things is a sweet, crunchy apple. The Excellent Lombards, Jane Hamilton's newest novel, takes us to an apple orchard in Wisconsin run by, you guessed it, the Lombard family. It's an extended family that owns the orchard, and our particular view of this pastoral setting comes from Mary Frances "Frankie" Lombard, whose father and uncle are sharing the responsibility of running the orchard. Like any farm, it requires a lot of  hard work. And Frankie dives right into it. She loves her life on the orchard to such a great extent that she cannot imagine leaving it. She dreams that she and her brother William will in fact never leave; they will stay there together and run it forever. This does not take into account her uncle, her cousin, or the hotshot farmhand her uncle hires. Suddenly Frankie's future fears threatened. This is a beautifully written book of a girl growing up and figuring things out. Reading it, you may remember what it felt like to gradually see the nuances of life that you missed as a child. Some of those realizations are bittersweet. But that apple you'll want to munch while reading, well that one will be perfect.

posted by Kelly Currie

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

After his wife dies suddenly in an unexplained accident, a man and his two young sons are faced with a grief that threatens to consume them. Soon after, the Crow of myth comes to stay with them, promising to stay with them until he is no longer needed. Crow is just like he is in the fables: a trickster and a villain, but he is also a solace to the family struck-through with sorrow.

The publisher’s description calls Grief is the Thing with Feathers “part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief,” and I have to agree. Porter has taken a straight-forward narrative – a father and his sons work to regain themselves after suffering a tragic loss – and infuses it with the realistic unreality of fable and writes it to reflect the disjointed way we remember our lives during times we are faced with overwhelming grief. He infuses a bit of madness here, a spot of humor there, and an underlying feeling of being lost but maybe (hopefully) not forever. The wordplay and flow reminded me of beat poetry, but the content and story feel very 21st Century.
I love both short stories and novellas. When done well, they take a story and strip away all of the extra, anything that is unessential, leaving only the truth behind. Porter has done just that.  Don’t let the small size fool you (it’s only 128 pages), this book is not light reading.

-Portia Kapraun

Monday, July 11, 2016

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is a twisty-turny tension-filled debut novel. It opens with DI Ray Stevens and his new partner Kate Evans interviewing a mother whose 5 year old son has slipped from her grasp on the way home from school and is killed by a hit and run driver.  Of course the police are determined to find who would be so despicable as to leave a child dying in the street.
Unable to face the devastating accident, Jenna Gray runs away and hides out in the small coastal village of Penfach where the police and press can't find her. She slowly settles in the village, making friends with the owner of the caravan park and with the owner of the tiny cottage she rents.  Previously she was a sculptor, here she begins to take photographs of the beach and sells them as postcards.  She finds a half dead puppy and forms a romantic friendship with the local veterinarian.  She is beginning to put her past behind her and feel hopeful about the future.  Then it all comes crashing down around her when the police find her and arrest her.
This is Part One of the book.  Part Two begins with Jenna meeting her husband and fills in the backstory to the time of the arrest and after.  There are so many twists, that revealing any more of Part Two would give away too many of the surprises. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

This story captivated me from the first chapter and would be a great chapter book to read aloud with your family. The mystery of a young boy who shows up on a young couple’s porch one morning hooked me immediately.

A young married couple who never had children, John and Marta, learn about unconditional love, happiness, and compassion when they take this strange, mute child into their home. Learning to communicate with him was a challenge but instead of feeling frustrated or giving up, they persevered and found a way to interact with him. Family does not have to mean blood relation and will not always look the same as another. The main characters realize that love and support are what create a family.

Not being able to speak, the young boy cannot convey his story or explain where he came from to John and Marta. The couple know they must find out where he came from and how he a young boy appeared on their porch. Not only does the mystery of this book keep the reader intrigued, seeing the young couple go through a life-altering journey together and learn lessons that only the love of a child can provide, make the story worthwhile. This would be a great book to read with the entire family.


Sunday, July 03, 2016


This book made me think about my own spirituality  and what faith means to me. The question Albom asks is: "what if faith wasn't what divided us, but what brought us together?"  In a world where so many wars are started in the name of religion and holier-than-thous attitudes prevail amongst so many different groups, it seems like all of our problems would be solved if only we could just say, "Hey, I have faith, you have faith, however we get there doesn't matter.  What matters is that we both BELIEVE."  Doing good for others is sometimes the greatest way to experience pure joy.  If we all gave a little more of ourselves, than maybe that peace would prevail.

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH is really a good read.  Beyond the story and the characters, the message is deep.  It's a book that will stay with you for quite awhile.