Thursday, July 5, 2018

Orphan Train Tale: Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ♥♥♥ three out of five hearts= okay

Book two in the Orphan Train series


Marianne Neumann has a heart for the dirty and hungry orphan children of New York City, partly because she can relate to their story- her past wasn't all flowers and sunshine. Working with a local orphan society, her first placing trip is coming up. She'll be heading towards the West, stopping along the way to find homes for the children in her care. What her employer doesn't know, however, that part of the reason she's looking forward to this trip is to hopefully find for her long-lost sister, Sophie- whose loss Marianne feels responsible for. However, she didn't expect to be making this trip with charming fellow placing agent Andrew Brady. 

Born into privilege, southerner Drew Brady hasn't told anyone about the past he's trying to flee. Working as a placing agent may not be the easiest job, but he's good at what he does, and he loves the kids- even the teens who seem bent on refusing his friendship. Plus, the trip will give him the opportunity to get to know the lovely Miss Neumann, whom he seems to feel a connection with. 

Sure, Marianne and Drew share a strong attraction, but will it be enough to stand the test of their pasts? 

My Review: 

Despite the many Jody Hedlund books I've loved over the years, something felt off about this one. Maybe because I didn't read book one and therefore wasn't  enmeshed into the Neumann family, which certainly could be part of the problem. It was also hard trying to figure out what had already gone on in the character's lives and how things fit in. Some may not have this problem, but I would recommend reading book one, With You Always, just in case, so you have a more enjoyable read. 

 As for the characters, I liked Drew's confident personality, and Marianne was fine too, but I still think I would have gotten more out of their characters (Marianne, anyway) if I'd read the previous book. I didn't feel very connected with them, and their problems and successes. 

The writing also seemed choppier than Mrs. Hedlund's previous works. Like I said before, I feel as if I would be able to, perhaps, give this novel a better review had I read book one first (which, sadly, I was unable to do). But still, if a book grips me in the middle of a series, I just count that as a very good book. If you start a series from the middle, the book just has to work harder and be very good to get you into the action and characters (just my opinion), and Together Forever failed to do that. Sadly, then, I'm afraid my review hasn't been very positive so far. I wasn't hooked.

Of course, not everything was a disappointment- there were some good points to the novel as well. Drew was charming and energetic (my favorite character, although nothing was wrong with Marianne) and I enjoyed seeing how the orphans were placed out in 1800's America. It's always interesting to see how things were done way back when. And I am curious now to see how the series began, and also how it will end.

Hopefully I'll be able to read book one at some point and maybe then I'll have a different opinion. But as of now, my advice is, read book one before you try this novel. You may be more invested and better able to understand the happenings in the story. 

Note: I got this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Girl's Guide to Conquering Life by Erica and Jonathan Catherman

Genre: Youth-Nonfiction

Rating: Three out of five hearts ♥♥♥

Also available: The Girl's Guide to Conquering Middle School, The Manual to Manhood, The Manual to Middle School

Growing up presents you with so many new experiences, challenges and difficulties to sort through, The Girl's Guide to Life wants to help you along. Inside, you'll find instructions on many things, from how to throw a football to how to create a personal budget. And all the topics, from 'Guys & Dating' to 'Work & Ethics', are categorized so as to be found easily. 

My Review: 

I've always wanted a how-to guide on essential stuff like this. On growing up and getting older, I feel like Robin Hood BBC's character Much when I say, "There's so much to remember!" because it's true. This stage of life, from ages 13 to adulthood, can be so confusing, challenging, and hard. There are so many essential things to do and figure out, and this book does help you along with some of that. I think it may be especially helpful for those girls out there who maybe don't have parents to help them learn some of the stuff that's contained in this how-to guide, or maybe who do have parents but have conflicting schedules. 

Some of my favorite how-to's were "how to behave during a police stop", "how to interview for a job" (since I had that one coming up in the near future shortly after I received the book) and the section on tools and fix-it, since I want to know some of these things for my own home someday. Mr. and Mrs. Catherman's instructions were clearly written and will, I think, be useful for me. I also liked the illustrations. At the beginning of each how-to, there is an illustration of a girl doing whatever it is you're about to learn. As one who likes to draw and is very visual, I always appreciate it whenever the illustrations are realistic and well-drawn, and I was admiring the way the girls and their different activities were portrayed (this may make no difference to you in whether or not you like a book, but how something looks visually is very important to me personally). Illustrations, if done well, can also help make a book more interesting, and I think these did their job well.  

However, all that being said, I felt as if there were more skills I would have liked to have learned about, and felt that some in the book were unnecessary. The book was targeted toward teens, and as such, I felt that instructions such as how to make a bed, wash your hands, wash your hair, etc. were unnecessary. I don't know about all the teens out there, but I've known how to do those things since I was in grade school, and I'm pretty sure the vast majority of those out there have too. I think it would have been useful for some teens to have read about childcare, or some other such helpful things as that. If the unnecessary how-to's had been omitted, there could have been room for more, perhaps useful, things. I'm not saying this book won't be helpful for different people, I just think it could have been more helpful, more informative, if done a bit differently. During a lot of the book I felt as if I already knew a lot of what I was reading- the information was perhaps more appropriate for a middleschooler or young teen, although I did find some things (as I mentioned above) that seemed age-appropriate for a young adult instead. And also, if you're a conservative, you may not appreciate the 'girl power' stance that the authors seem to take. 

So personally, I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. While some of the content may be helpful for me, it wasn't quite as nice as I was expecting.

Note: I got this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.