Review: The Harem Midwife



I enjoyed reading the first book by Roberta Rich, The Midwife of Venice, but I ended up having much of the same issues. Unlike many series, the reader will want to read the first book before reading this one. The story will make much more sense that way. My problem of course is the ending. Again.

We meet up with Hannah and her husband Isaac, this time they’re living in Constantinople, with the baby that Hannah stole and brought with her. She starts up her midwife business again, and do to her amazing skills, she falls into good graces with the Sultan’s Harem. Aside from the story of Hannah and Isaac, there are two new characters brought into the fold. The stories of these two new characters blend with Hannah and Isaac, and much drama ensues. About half way into the book the reader is almost overwhelmed with all of the drama and negativity that is going on. It looks like there is absolutely no way that the families involved can get away unscathed – and yet – in true Roberta Rich fashion, in the last 15% of the book, everything magically comes together and works out.

This. Frustrates. Me.

It frustrated me in the previous book, and it frustrates me again now. The books themselves are incredibly detailed, beautiful, well written works that I enjoy on such an enormous level – but the endings constantly leave me shaking my head sadly and wondering “Wow. Did I really just read the entire thing to have it end like THAT?”.

It is so incredibly disheartening.

3/5 stars


The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey


This is a book I had never even heard of before, so it wasn’t on my radar whatsoever in 2014. It was first published back in 2012, and I’m surprised that I had never read it. A friend made the suggestion to me that I would probably enjoy it, after they heard about it on a CBC radio show. The announcer wasn’t actually discussing the book per say on the show, but speaking to someone else who happened to mention they were reading it. This book was one I couldn’t put down, I kept wanting to see what would happen next. It is about a married couple, Jack and Mabel. They lose a child early in their marriage, and it sends each of them into their own pits of despair. They decide to move out to Alaska on their own and take up farming. Jack, in his need to provide, won’t let Mabel help with any of the work that needs to be done to prepare the fields (and there is a lot to be done). Mabel starts falling into a heavy stint of depression, and the opening scene of the book is one of heartbreak.

Together during the early winter they create a snowman, and mysteriously after they create this snowman, they start spotting a girl darting through the trees in the forest near their home (meanwhile the snowman they have created has been stripped of its clothing, and lays in a pile of broken snowballs). The young girl has a pet fox that trails after her through the forest, and  the real story begins from that point on as the focus shifts.

As always I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that this book was beautifully written, and the story was haunting. It was probably my 2nd favourite book of 2014, and I highly recommend it.

5/5 star review

I Know This Much Is True – By Wally Lamb




This book  is one of my favourites from this year. It made me think, and then made me think some more. The story follows the life of Dominick Birdsey and his interactions with his family. His twin brother suffers from schizophrenia and at the onset of the book he chops off his hand – in a public library. Right from the start you’re pulled into the incredible turmoil of family life. Dominick loves and hates his brother at the same time. He has his own problems, his families problems, and his brother’s problems. Some how he has to deal with them all and not get pulled down by the weight of life.

There are side stories throughout that involve other family members and how their lives affected Dominick and helped to shape who he was. Some of my favourites include passages from his grandfather’s life though these stories are certainly not for the faint of heart and they are very emotional. They made me realize I have much to be thankful for and while this was a made up story and not “real life” a book that makes you think in relation to your own life is a great book. A book that can make you feel like this one did is a fantastic one.

Don’t be put off by the length, either. Yes, it’s a long book but as you read it the pages seem to fly by because you’re completely wrapped up in Dominick’s world.

5 / 5 stars

The Midwife of Venice – By Roberta Rich



I had been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I actually heard about the series because of the second one in line (which I’m hoping to read next). This is book one of the midwife series, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story follows the life of Hannah Levi, a midwife in sixteenth-century Venice. With that being said, I should note that I know absolutely nothing about Venice, or life in that era, so when people in other reviews complain about the inaccuracy, I don’t have an argument. What I can say is that the writing was well done and the story drew me in right from the start.

Hannah is Jewish, and her husband is missing, held captive on Malta as a slave. Her goal is to go and rescue him, and she’ll do anything she can to accomplish this goal. The love that this woman feels for her husband is etched into every word of the book, and I really appreciated that.

Isaac, her husband, is working on making his way back to her. I felt his story was lacking in places and was a bit too good to be true. He shares the same passion when it comes to the love of his wife, and I liked how in love these two felt for one another.

Hannah is asked to help birth a Christian baby, which is against the law. She also has a special tool she uses to help ease the baby out, which others consider to be tools of evil. She doesn’t care, and continues to use the tools because they help.

Life is difficult, the story is dark. Problem after problem seems to follow Hannah around, but she doesn’t give up and she keeps working towards the overall goal of rescuing her husband.

This is where I start to have problems with the book. The final 15 percent or so seemed incredibly rushed. Suddenly after an entire book of problems, heartache, and darkness, the clouds just instantly clear and everything magically fits together and works out. It did not seem to fit with the rest of the book and it ruined the ending for me.

I’m still going to move forward with the second book to the series because the story was incredibly moving, but I hope the ending doesn’t fizzle out like the first book.

3 / 5 stars

Review: The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman


I picked up this book on a recommendation from Amazon, it was on sale and it had some pretty good reviews. Plus I wanted a bit of a change after reading some fantasy books. I have always said that I think I was born in the wrong era, and books like this remind me of that. Patience Murphy is a midwife in the 1930’s, and there’s so much struggle in her life it seems overwhelming. The reader is constantly reminded of what a harsh world Patience lives in, with very little happiness shed her way.

That being said, when she does get to experience a bit of happiness, you really feel for her. The author takes the time to flesh out each character so that even though Patience is disconnected from her community, the reader doesn’t feel the same way. In fact I found the writing so well done that it was one of those very few books that I could not put down, and I think I finished reading it in two or three days.

I didn’t agree or enjoy everything about the story, especially Patience’ past that always comes up to haunt her. It sounded a bit too unbelievable to me but the writing was fantastic, and I was able to bypass these small discrepancies. It was the perfect book to curl up on the couch with, a nice hot mug of tea in hand.

Reading about the births and deaths that Patience attended, and how she coped with each one (and how the families coped with each one) really made me appreciate what I have in my own life. The author did a wonderful job of conveying the emotion felt and the miracle of birth. Over all I was incredibly pleased with this spontaneous purchase.


4/5 stars

Review: The Hole in the Middle, by Kate Hilton



A free book I picked up from Amazon, I’m not sure what enticed me to read it, but I’m glad I did. The basic story was not that profound but the characters and their decisions throughout really hit home for me. It’s about Sophie, who is about to turn 40. She is married, has kids, has a stressful job, and of course has a past that involves another man. Throughout the book she is constantly questioning herself and her decisions. She wonders if she has made the right choices, if she would be any happier had she travelled down another path and this is something I think we all end up asking ourselves at one time or another (or maybe it’s just me).

Her coping mechanisms are those of any person under stress. At first she tries to ignore it, tries to feign that everything is fine to anyone in her world, but eventually that falls apart and she is left upset and vulnerable. I thought that the book was headed down a particular path around mid way through it, but the writer surprised me and went another direction that I think worked out really well, and reminded me that some times that we just think the grass is greener on the other side but it doesn’t always have to be true.

All in all, a nice easy read with memorable characters and a surprising ending.

4/5 stars

Review: The MacKinnon’s Bride, by Tanya Anne Crosby


I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like thinking. I picked up this book back in April when I was doing a lot of travelling and I completely forgot to write a review when I finished reading, so it’s a bit late. It helped that I also got the book free on Amazon during a promotion. You can never go wrong with free books.

This highland romance novel was about Iain MacKinnon and his son (who is kidnapped at the beginning by the English). In retaliation for the kidnapping, Iain captures the daughter of his enemy, expecting to use her as a bargaining tool. Things don’t work out in his favour though as the English laird doesn’t want her back. She is of course, furious at being kidnapped, and in a typical romance story sort of way, they fall for each other while the rest of the MacKinnon clan look on with disapproval.

I didn’t start getting into the story until the last 25% or so. It felt like there was a lot of “filler” material throughout, as though the author was trying to meet some sort of page deadline. I enjoyed the basic story, but the characters (for me) fell short. I grew frustrated with Page as soon as I met her. One minute she seems hell bent on getting her way and is a ferocious lion and the next second she’s as brainless as a scarecrow without any real reason.

Still, it was exactly the type of book I was looking to read, and I suppose I got what I was looking for.

3/5 Stars


Review: The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grisson



I love books that are historical fiction, and was surprised to hear that this was Grisson’s first novel. It’s about a white woman who grows up as a servant girl on a plantation, experiencing life from that perspective. Yes, the book does have stereotypes and they can come across strong at times – but – the writing was really well done, and I loved the story. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down.

The life of the servant girl is one of a lot of pain and heartache. Lavinia loses her parents while on a ship from Ireland, and is taken in by the servants of the plantation. She witnesses all of the horrible things that happen at “the big house” and eventually as she gets older, she moves from the servants quarters to the big house because of the colour of her skin. She’s shown that she is not like the servants, even though she has no desire to treat them ill or begrudge them in any way for her upbringing.

The book isn’t sunshine and roses that’s for sure. There’s a LOT of heartache that goes on, a lot of angst and pain. Life was hard, and Grisson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling. The characters are colourful and detailed, and you really get a sense of what the plantation would be like – something that almost always pulls me into a book.

Highly recommended, though keep in mind it does follow stereotypes and isn’t a very happy novel. I still feel that the writing style and the story itself is able to overcome these things.

4/5 stars

Review: Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson


In an attempt to branch out from my typical genres, I decided to join a book club hosted by Random House, and this was their current book selection, along with a chat with the author taking place on December 3rd. When I initially signed up I did not expect to finish the book in time because there was less than a week to go, but I found myself pulled into the story right away and finished it with lots of time to spare.

Crow Lake is beautifully written, and incredibly emotional. You follow the story of a family who lives in a small farming community, from the perspective of a middle child. They undergo incredible tragedy early on and must either learn to cope, or lose the closeness of their family.

I had a bit of an issue with the main character’s perspective but I think it was because I found her hard to relate to. She was incredibly aloof and I found her to be self centered masked behind a “this is what I think is best for the family” persona.

The book also (in my opinion) ends rather abruptly. You’re very slowly and cautiously lead through the happenings of this family, painstakingly falling into their world bit by bit and it all builds up to one moment where everything is unleashed – and ends, within the same last section. It left me wondering and wanting more, which I suppose is the purpose.

Still, I’m very glad I picked up Crow Lake and highly recommend it. A wonderful book by a fantastic Canadian author.

The Bookstore – By Deborah Meyler



The bookstore was advertised to me as a ‘quirky’ book about a young woman who finds herself single, pregnant, and working in a bookstore (while also working on her PhD in art history at Columbia) and it certainly delivered. I found it easy and relaxing to read although there were parts that annoyed me.

The main character, Esme, is a smart young woman but in sections of the book she seems way too naive. Overly so. More so that I would have believed of a “real” woman. Especially because in other sections she’s not naive at all. Everyone came across as a bit too perfect – except Esme’s ex-boyfriend of course.

The characters are colourful, and I found myself wanting to hear more about them as the story progressed which is always a good thing except that the book never delivered on my desire.

There’s a lot of details about her schooling, and her ex-boyfriends career. Details about the bookstore which I found really endearing. The writing flip-flopped while I was reading though, from being detailed and quite intricate to being very plain and simple. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it did make me want to skip some of the boring bits to get to the main story again.

Over all, I do think it was a well written debut novel. No issues with grammar or layout of the ARC I was given in return for an honest review. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a light romance story with a lot of education packed behind it – and of course anyone who loves those little bookstores that are tucked away in all of our cities.

4/5 stars