Review: Down from Cascom Mountain

Why I picked it: Staci (Life in the Thumb) sent me this book after she read it and mentioned that she thought it was a novel I would enjoy.  I love it when I'm reading a book and start thinking about which friend to pass it on to.  Thanks Staci!

Synopsis: In Down from Cascom Mountain, newlywed Mary Hall brings her husband to settle in the rural New Hampshire of her youth to fix up the house she grew up in and to reconnect to the land that defined her, with all its beauty and danger. But on a mountain day hike, she watches helplessly as her husband falls to his death. As she struggles with her sudden grief, in the days and months that follow, Mary finds new friendships-with Callie and Tobin, teenagers on the mountain club's crew, and with Ben, the gentle fire watchman. All are haunted by their own losses, but they find ways to restore hope in one another, holding firmly as they navigate the rugged terrain of the unknown and unknowable, and loves lost and found.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Down from Cascom Mountain starts with a bang. We quickly learn that Mary's husband has fallen to his death, what happens after ultimately a story of hope.  As you turn the pages you discover that the characters in the novel are all seeking closure from the past.

Mary's father in-law caught me off guard with his forwardness, I couldn't believe some of the things he said to Mary.  Yet we all know people like him.  Most of the new friends that Mary makes are teens/college kids working on at the Mountain, in a camp environment.  This setting worked for me.

I appreciated Mary's relationship with Ben.  They helped each other heal. 

Like Staci wrote in her review, 'At first glance you really don't think any of the characters have a single thing in common, but after sitting back and letting myself absorb what I read,  I realized that no matter what age, sex, or life experience, grief can be a constant companion for any lost and hurting soul.'  Well said!

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy

Review: The Blue Sweater

Why I picked it: I saw this book at a friends house last summer.  She had just returned from a conference where the author was the guest speaker.  In my quest to learn how to give back, this was a great book for me to read.

Synopsis: The Blue Sweater is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. It all started back home in Virginia, with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession—until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had made its trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our actions—and inaction—touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet.

She shows, in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and can change millions of lives. More than just an autobiography or a how-to guide to addressing poverty, The Blue Sweater is a call to action that challenges us to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink our engagement with the world.

Type: Memoir/non-fiction

Quick Take: I'm so glad I listened to this book since I may not have finished it if I was reading a paper copy.  How many books have you started a book only to close it with the intention of finishing?  I was expecting a heartfelt compassionate book about one woman's journey, this book is more academic... explaining the system, it's weaknesses, discovering ways to empower women and make a difference. 

I do encourage everyone to read this book - it was eye opening reading how Jacqueline navigates a male dominated world, not taking no for an answer with the end goal of making the world a better place for women and children in Africa.  She also deals with cultural hurdles, being a white business woman in Rwanda, and at times the women she's working with do not always agree/understand what she's trying to accomplish. Eye opening.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: personal copy (audio)
Countries: Rwanda

Review: Outlander

Why I picked it: I have been warned, really, that this is not a book for me.  Many of my friends have told me not to read it.  But when I read Kristi's review (Peetswea) mentioning that it's her favorite novel read this year, I wanted to try it.

Synopsis: The year is 1945. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive. Thus begins a work of unrivaled storytelling that has become a modern classic.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Sorry Cheryl, Nancy, Kristi and others who were so excited for me...I didn't finish this one.  I listened to more than half of the novel before skipping 13 CD's and jumping to the last two so I could hear the ending.  Guess what? I didn't feel like I missed anything in the plot, it just picked right up with James suffering another beating, her tending to him and him finally disappearing.

I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if the story was half the length, sometimes I would listen of two hours without any plot movement.

Did you know the target audience is 16-18 years old?

Have you read it? So many people love this book, please tell me what I missed.

Rating: n/a
Country: Scotland/British Isles
Source: Library (audio)

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