Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I have never thought of giving a book a “content suitability for certain audiences” rating before I read this one.  I would have to give this an “X: Adults Only” rating due to the explicit sexual content, violence and language which I found unnecessary for this story line.

This story tells a tale of two time lines in the life of a circus veterinarian. It begins as the elderly version of the man who is forced into memories of his youth. Throughout the story,  he is transported back and forth between the two time lines. This is the first dual time line story that I’ve actually enjoyed. With the exception of the “X” rated parts. This is a delightful easy read. The author has a talent for description which allows the reader to easily become absorbed by the story line.  She has done quite a bit of research into circuses of the past, which helps to make the story more authentic.

In the Company of Others by Jan Karon

This is another beautifully crafted adventure of our beloved Father Tim Kavanagh and his wife Cynthia. Over the years, Jan Karon has allowed the reader to share in the intimate most parts of Father Tim’s life. And, in this novel, we join him and Cynthia in an adventure in Ireland where Father Tim explores his Irish roots as they celebrate Cynthia’s birthday.

I really enjoy Jan Karon’s novels. Reading them is like taking a mini vacation. I find her words delicious and irresistible. They are always full of great food, landscapes, wonderful people and beautiful relationships.

The Help – a novel by Kathryn Stockett

The story ended abruptly. I didn’t get to see my hopes and wishes for the 3 main characters fulfilled. I wanted, so much, to see them find happiness and the fulfillment of their dreams. I liked those women. I thought that each of them could be someone I could call a friend.

The Help is a story about 3 women, of 3 different generations, living in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s, at a time when common thought about civil liberties and American culture were being challenged. A young white women, fresh from college, is inspired to write about the exploitation of black women who earn their living working as maids and nannies for white families. I loved the colorful characters created for this Jackson community and the intrigues that played out.

The main villain in the story is Miss Hilly. Another fresh from college ambitious socialite who uses cruelty and bullying behavior to advance herself and her husband in the community.  Sadly, I’ve known more than a few Miss Hillys in my time. Their cruelty is not saved only for those whom they deem racially inferior. It was fun to see Miss Hilly get her due!

Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet by Deepak Chopra

This is the 3rd in a series of 3 fictional novels that Deepak Chopra wrote, about  3 great Profits; Buddha, Jesus  and Muhammad.  This is the first in the series that I’ve read.

The author painted for me, a representation of the life and culture that existed during Muhammad’s lifetime.  And, introduced me to Muhammad and the birth of Islam, through stories of his life, as if related by those closest to him; his family, friends and enemies. And, he also gave me a brief introduction to Islam. I enjoyed reading this story, immensely.

I also greatly appreciated the Author’s Note and the Afterward which was a fact based discussion about Muhammad and Islam, past and present.  I’ve not thoroughly studied Deepak Chopra, but my sense of him is that he speaks honestly and without personal bias. I appreciate and trust his work.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

“It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable. Enter the world of Mitford, and you won’t want to leave. “

In this first novel, in the Mitford Series, we are introduced to the main character, Father Tim who is at the age where he should be considering retirement, but instead Jan Karon finds unexpected adventures to send him on.  Along the way we meet the colorful and lovable town folk who have amazing relationships. Jan Karon makes gardening, enjoying food, family, friends and pets seem magical.  I read these stories when I need a warm and fuzzy fix.

Esther’s Gift, A Mitford Christmas Story by Jan Karon

With some sort of magic, Jan Karon paints amazing stories from simple everyday life events such as gardening, enjoying food, family, friends and pets. Many of the residents are amazingly talented in one or more of those areas. “Esther’s Gift” is a beautiful Christmas story about Esther who makes legendary cakes desired by everyone. In the year of this story, her accountant husband crunches the numbers to figure the cost of each cake she gifts and she decides that maybe the gift of a cake is more extravagant that she’s willing to be. That is, until she is overcome by the spirit of the season. I enjoyed this lovely, charmingly illustrated booklet. I found the story very touching, with a surprise at the end that a true Mitford fan would weep over.

The Mitford Snowmen, A Christmas Story by Jan Karon

Mitford has a snow day and one of the shop owners on main street inspires a snowman building contest and everyone on main street,  from the Pastor of the Episcopal Church to the town’s Mayor,  comes outside to play.  After the sweetness of this day, the Mayor designates it as The First Annual Mitford Snowman Jubilee and buys donuts for all of the 26 participants.

For me, Jan Karon paints such rich and colorful stories about Mitford and its residents. This is about one amazing day, that is very moving and memorable.  There are delightful illustrations, of snowmen and snowwomen, in the booklet to assist the imagination.  This is one of my treasurers.