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Llamas spit!

Reinventing Hillwilla Book Cover Reinventing Hillwilla
Hillwilla #3
Melanie Forde
contemporary fiction, romance, animals
Independently published

Life on a llama farm, set in remote “Seneca County,” West Virginia, transitions from contented to chaotic in this final novel in the Hillwill trilogy -- all under the watchful eye of canine guardian Ralph. Five years after we first met northern urban transplant Beatrice Desmond, she is finally adapting to her mountain hollow among the wary “born-heres” and is more open to the blessings in her life. She has developed a rewarding mother-daughter relationship with troubled local teenager Clara Buckhalter and is inching toward marriage with dashing, but complicated entrepreneur Tanner Fordyce. Meanwhile, Clara sets off on a productive new path, one that would have been unthinkable had Beatrice never come into her life. All of that progress is suddenly jeopardized by Clara’s scheming mother Charyce. Ultimately, the upheaval touched off by Charyce’s schemes serves as the catalyst for new beginnings for the Seneca County misfits (even Ralph).

This was the 3rd and final book in short series about life on a Llama farm and how a woman reinvented herself – more than once when settled on it in deepest West Virginia.

Now West virginia is a place I have only heard of in terms of Hill Billies and I am aware that they have their form of speech and customs derived from being isolated from the mainstream culture and poverty. So I had to look up the term Melungeon when I read it in the book. It appears that it is a term unique to the Southern Appalachians and means a tri-racial mix of European, African and Native American blood in a person. Now why you need a special term for this I am not sure but there you are.

Llamas being used a guard animals was something new to me as well, as I had never seen that in english sheep farms, but it appears to be quite common as they have good hearing and once bonded with the herd, are fierce protectors. to me, it seems like an excellent idea – if you look after the llamas that is, as their wool is wonderful and can be shorn just like the sheep. It is free of lanolin and reputed to be allergen free too, but a little coarse so is usually mixed with ordinary wool when spun. Vicuna and Alpacas produce better wool, but I don’t know if they are used as guard animals.

This was an interesting story as I learnt quite a bit about the area and customs and geology and thus weather. Though realistically, if you live up a mountain you must expect to be cold and have lots of snow, but why move yet further up?

The behaviour of some of the people just reinforced what I had heard about Hill Billies unfortunately and I wonder how much this stereotype is true. I also found that it was rather difficult to follow the story at first as i had not read the previous books in the series. It took me a while to settle into the story and i needed more background earlier on.

In the end, the final decisions were to be expected and thus the story lacked some of the expected tension for me.

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Cultivating What?

The Farm Book Cover The Farm
Joanne Ramos
General Fiction (Adult) , Literary Fiction
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
07 May 2019

THE MUST-READ DEBUT NOVEL OF 2019. Sharp, compulsive and darkly funny, this is an unforgettable novel about a world within touching distance of our own.

Ambitious businesswoman Mae Yu runs Golden Oaks – a luxury retreat transforming the fertility economy – where women get the very best of everything, so long as they play by the rules.

Jane is a young immigrant in search of a better future. Stuck living in a cramped dorm with her baby daughter and shrewd aunt Ate, she sees an unmissable chance to change her life. But at what cost?

A novel that explores the role of luck and merit, class, ambition and sacrifice, The Farm is an unforgettable story about how we live and who truly holds power.

A book that makes you think about your own moral code and just when you might be tempted to farm out a body! Yes, a body – perhaps your own body, or perhaps you might farm someone else’s?

And what would you be cultivating? Why a baby?

So The Handmaid’s Tale with a twist and actually something that is all too likely to be inexistence, and as it would be very secret, we would never know.

We all know that people use surrogate mothers when they can’t have babies for themselves – male couples for instance, or perhaps when they can’t carry a child themselves due to illness or…

But the premise in this book is that the uber-rich may want to use surrogates for other reasons. Perhaps they are too old have a child, perhaps they are too busy, or perhaps they just don’t want to ‘spoil’ their figures? Or just go through the grind of pregnancy?

And how to choose your surrogate? What would motivate them? There are good reasons why in the UK you cannot pay the surrogate expect for reasonable expenses, and also, even with a contract, the child is still the ‘property’ of the person who carries it through pregnancy. In Australia the law prevents commercial surrogacy, and this is the case in most countries. In some even altruistic surrogacy is banned, eg France and Germany; but in the US it is decided by the State. States generally considered to be surrogacy friendly include California, Illinois, Arkansas, Maryland, Washington D.C., Oregon and New Hampshire among others. Both New Hampshire and Washington State have laws permitting commercial surrogacy from 1/1/2019.

So a very timely book on a subject that is very controversial still. Well written and one that I couldn’t put down – I wanted to know what happened to the young women who contracted out their bodies for pregnancy and still think that Jane was badly treated despite what she thought!

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I ended very cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful Book Cover Reasons to be cheerful
Nina Stibbe
humour, romance, coming of age
Penguin
(28 Mar. 2019)

'When people in the village heard I was about to start working in the city they tried to unsettle me with tales of woe. The sun, blotted out by the tall buildings, couldn't shine and the rain was poisoned by the toxic fumes that poured from the sock factories. My skin would be covered in pimples from the hell of it all'

So begins a young woman's journey to adulthood. Lizzie Vogel leaves her alcoholic, novel-writing mother and heads for Leicester to work for a racist, barely competent dentist obsessed with joining the freemasons.

Soon Lizzie is heading reluctantly, if at top speed, into the murky depths of adult life: where her driving instructor becomes her best friend; her first boyfriend prefers birdwatching to sex and where independence for a teenage girl might just be another word for loneliness.

In Reasons to Be Cheerful Nina Stibbe shows her extraordinary gift for illuminating the vital details which make us human. She is that rare writer who makes us laugh whilst reminding us of the joy, and the pain, of being alive.

 A story that crept up on me until the life of our heroine Lizzie became so bizarre that I just had to keep on reading. Her mother, her family, friends and in particular her work at the dentist’s – JP Wintergreen -, became part of my fantasy life and dreams too. The discussions were absurd and yet, somehow resonated of the time.

Her mother was described as being a:

Drunk; divorcee; nudist; amphetamine addict; nymphomaniac; shop lifter; would-be novelist; poet; and playwright.

In that order.

And her boyfriend was clearly asexual or gay, she assumed, because he liked having freshly laundered clothes, made fruit salads, and once experimented with lemon in his tea. And most importantly of all, never got his penis out, despite her belief that it was often intended as a compliment.

We never really find out just how many pregnancies Lizzie’s mother had, or affairs, but we do realise, that due to her addictions, as a child, Lizzie and her elder siblings, more or less raised themselves in a rather eccentric and liberal household.

The oddities of Lizzie’s family and her work  and romances, are recounted in such a dry manner that I found it difficult not to become enthusiastic over the life of this town and want now to meet them all in real life please!

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Let’s all go on an adventure?

The Age of Misadventure Book Cover The Age of Misadventure
Judy Leigh
contemporary fiction, romance, humour
Avon Books UK
February 18, 2019
368

The gloriously funny new novel about living life to the full, whatever your age, from the author of A Grand Old Time. 55-year-old Georgie Turner doesn’t need a new man. Her daughter, aunt and sister are the most important people in her life (and the most infuriating). But it seems the older they get, the further apart they drift. Georgie’s never been a fan of her sister Bonnie’s husband, so when she learns her brother-in-law has been up to no good, Georgie sees an opportunity to bring the women of her family back together. Along with her 21-year-old daughter and 80-year-old aunt, she packs Bonnie into the back of her car and they leave Liverpool to hide out on the coast of Sussex. With the help of some sun, sea and bottle or two of prosecco, this will be an adventure they’ll never forget. But could the right man find Georgie while she’s stopping the wrong man finding her sister? A gorgeously fun and uplifting novel, perfect for fans of The 100 Year Old Man and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Yes, all 3 of us – let’s leave Liverpool and go to Brighton…

Why? Well, there’s the rub – we need to get out of town quick, ‘cos a bad man is after us…

But we can borrow this really smart flat with lovely views. Just one problem – we can’t leave it, because someone’s very stupid husband made a very bad and very dodgy deal and now they are after us to pony up. Which of course we can’t. So we need to stay hidden. 2 sisters and an elderly, but game Aunty.

I wish this story had been quite as amusing as it would seem from the description. I did think that Nan was brilliant but found the sister weak and whiny and very shallow with nothing at all humorous about her. The potential elements were there for a really great story that would make a brilliant film. But it just missed its mark for me.

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On the Lam (B)

Baby Daddy Mystery Book Cover Baby Daddy Mystery
Shady Hoosier Mystery #2
Daisy Pettles
mystery, murder, humour, detective
Hot Pants Press, LLC (30 Nov. 2018)
December 15, 2018

It's spring in Pawpaw County, Indiana. Everyone has a bad case of hanky-panky pants. Senior sleuths Ruby Jane (RJ) Waskom and Veenie Goens are on the run, chasing down cheating heart jezebels and shaking child support out of deadbeat baby daddies. Love takes a peculiar turn when a prominent local dentist turns up dead, dressed like a scarecrow, on the porch of his father's mistress’s home in Hound Holler. When a gigged body floats up at the White River Boat and Gun Club, Sassy Smith, senior cougar, is arrested for the murder. RJ bemoans that no one in Pawpaw County can keep their pants on or their skirts down as her grown daughter, Joyce, begs for help chasing down her philandering husband. The romantic mysteries come to a surprise head as the senior sleuths outrun shotgun showers to close in on the answers at the Moon Glo Motor Lodge, the Original Home of Hillbilly Hanky Panky. Veenie and RJ have to buy an extra case of Bengay and a buttload of BBs just to keep up with the romantic misadventures in this humorous crime classic.

I found the language in this story really interesting – and very funny. Very idiomatic of these rural US areas.

The story was full of all sorts interesting phrases and sayings and one of my favourite was about Children and Genetics:

God is blind and baking a cake with whatever is left over in the larder – the ingredients are OK but proportions are off. This explained a lot about this town and its surroundings.

Too much nooky and who knew the father of any child was – they didn’t like to travel far for their entertainment and thus some very mixed genes – which often led to some seriously weird people and behaviours.

An enjoyable romp through rural Indiana. And loved having ‘grandmas’ as the best detectives around – usaully through gossip.

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