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The Clever Mill Horse Paperback – August 15, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this delightful debut novel set in the early 19th century, a young woman fights to patent her flax-milling machine. . .An assured, cleverly plotted piece of historical fiction with an irrepressible female protagonist."
                        --Kirkus Reviews


". . .intricately plotted and exceedingly well paced. . . filled with danger, science, and suspense, the story rings true with historical and natural detail. . . a complete and finely polished first novel."
                        --Foreword Reviews (5 Stars)

About the Author

Jodi Lew-Smith lives on a farm in northern Vermont with her patient husband, three wonderfully impatient children, a bevy of pets and farm animals, and 250 exceedingly patient apple trees which, if they could talk, would suggest that she stop writing and start pruning. Luckily they re pretty quiet.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Caspian Press; First edition (August 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0991341201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0991341207
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,917,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lancelot R. Fletcher on April 16, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
The Clever Mill Horse is a book that can be read in more than one way. For this reason it fairly demands to be read more than once because it’s hard to take in all the different levels of the story on one reading.

You can read the book as a suspense-adventure story in which the young heroine, Ella Kenyon is racing to Washington to patent the flax milling machine that she and her grandfather have invented before her enemies manage to steal their invention and patent it ahead of her.
But to think that this patent adventure is what the book is really about you would have to completely ignore the remarkable “prelude” with which the book begins. Here is the opening sentence:

“An invention can become a member of the family. Someone you must attend to even when you’re tired to death of it. A pint of your blood.”

If this opening sentence is a true guide to what follows, it seems that Ella Kenyon is not just pursuing her own goal. No, she is like a primary care-giver to a disabled family member. And that family member — the invention — is something she feels burdened by, but at the same time it is in her blood and she can’t just give it up. But the question that is asked a little later in the prelude is, “Whose blood?”
The prelude offers some insight into the nature of Ella’s ambivalence, and at the same time I believe that it provides some hints about how the author would like her book to be read.

The prelude opens on a misty evening in April of 1804 in “Deborahville”, a fictitious village in central New York State, presumably near what is now the city of Oneida.
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Format: Paperback
What seemed like a boring concept, turned out to be a suspense filled tale with many twists, turns, secrets and discoveries. I know that I’m treading on fragile ground when I say that Jodi Lew Smith has blended the gothic and historical romance novel into one, but it’s true. Okay, consider this...the gothic novel; such as, Emily Bronte’s 'Wuthering Heights' (1847) emphasizes the devastating effect of jealousy and vengefulness: Heathcliff is rebuffed by Catherine in favor of Edgar and seeks revenge. In The Clever Mill Horse, Henry Emerston’s proposal of marriage is rejected by Aunt Lucille and Henry spends his life looking for retribution. I’m calling Jodi Lew-Smith’s novel a historical romantic gothic (is there such a thing?) because of our heroine Ella’s relationship with Zeke/Lucas and the fact that the Flax Gin was a real invention, albeit in the later 1860s. This is not to be confused with Maximilian de Winter, Rebecca and the second Mrs. de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s 'Rebecca' (a 1938 gothic romance novel). However Daphne du Maurier had the best sinister character in a Mrs. Danvers. Are you confused yet? What I’m trying to say is that Jodi’s novel had a lot of the above characteristics which reminded me of those famous novels.

Now since gothic novels employed descriptive writing, how did Jodi do? I think she did very well. On page 43, Jodi describes Ella’s father, Amherst…”He was of middle height, but seemed shorter because of his unusually thick shoulders-derived from years of hefting flour sacks. Unlike his powerful shoulders, his face, which must have once been handsome in a rugged way, had sagged here and puffed there, until he had come to wear an old man’s face on a vigorous body.” Not bad for a farmer with 250 apple trees!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Too slow.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I first wanted to read The Clever Mill Horse because I love history of the 1800s and have some strange obsession with mills and grist mills (might be in my blood, my great x6 grandfather owned a mill). As well, I like weaving and textiles and all those old sorts of professions and inventions. I enjoyed Jodi's foreword quite a bit about the flax vs. cotton mill and the history and I thought it was going to be a wonderful read about inventing the flax-mill and how it worked and changed society.

Though I don't think that initial wish came true, there was still much in the book to be enjoyed. I did hope that it would have an independent and incorrigible female protagonist that was determined and defied the odds. Check! It did. That was clear right from the start with Ella and carried on throughout the book, as she gave us a well-rounded, intelligent, and feisty female that the rest of us can all admire. That was her best formed character, followed by Aunt Lucille, the Native American from the Oneida tribe named Pete, and Jenny, Ella's sister. I also enjoyed the antagonist, Emerston, as he was conniving, manipulative, and wholly dimensional. I felt those characters were the best done and those are the ones I'd remember as the stars of the book. At first I wasn't sure that any of her characters would be memorable like Ella, and almost found them flat or surface in the beginning, but by halfway in, she proved me wrong as the other characters began to show themselves. I was glad to see so many strong female characters in this book.

I have to admit when I started the book I wondered where it was going and if it was reading like a middle reader more than a novel. It was slow to start and I wondered if I'd want to read it.
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