Tag Archives: book review

Book Reviews – August 2020

26 Aug

First off, since I haven’t done a book review since May, I am going to add a few more books that I really have been wanting to share with you on SGL. Because of that, this will be quite the mix of classics and modern books, so get out your TBR list because I’m sure you’ll find a couple at least, to add to it!

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich – A story about a young girl that dreamed of doing something big with her life. When she became a young bride, she followed her husband West and became one of the pioneers that helped build a nation- in so doing, becoming part of something great! ~This story was heart-touching and with little life lessons all throughout. I can’t believe I’ve owned this book for years and haven’t read it before this! Following Abbie from childhood to the end of her days, you meet all the people she comes in contact with and see all the joys and trials she goes through. Living with her through the difficult pioneer years and raising children and watching them grow makes you appreciate all that our ancestors did.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo – When the poor hunchback, Quasimodo, is tortured during the Feast of Fools, the only one who steps forward and helps him is a young gypsy named Esmerelda. That one act of kindness fills Quasimodo with love. But his caretaker, a cold, stern priest – Dom Claude Frollo, has plans of his own for Esmerelda, and Quasimodo. What will happen to each of these people under the shadow of Notre Dame?

~Now, I’d tried reading this back about 12 years ago and didn’t get too far. I’d been wanting to give it another shot (as I’d been carting the same copy around all this time for just that reason), when I spotted a read-along on Instagram for it! The group helped me in finishing it as I likely would have given up again. Don’t get me wrong, the story is quite good and heartbreaking and the twists of the plot keep you turning the pages. It was just all the other aspects of the whole unabridged version that I tended to struggle through. In the future, I plan on reading the abridged version. But, I do recommend you read the full book for yourself, at least once. The end was GOOD and I can’t give spoilers away here but I didn’t see all of how Hugo was going to tie it all off. True, some of it was a little dissatisfying to me but, shrug. It didn’t end up ruining it for me. The other characters that Hugo weaves into the story were very interesting – the crazed woman, the beggars, the gypsys, etc. One last thing, this is quite different from the Disney version! Much darker and if you think Frollo is bad in that movie… Just give it a read yourself before giving it to a young teen to read, is my suggestion. (book pictured is my abridged version, 1956)

A Table By The Window by Lawana Blackwell – Carley has finally created a calm, orderly life for herself in San Fransisco. Her childhood was neither of those things, leaving her scarred. But, then she receives word that a grandmother that she barely remembers, left her an inheritance in Talullah, Mississippi. She travels to the small town and is instantly charmed by it as well as the friendliness of its residents. She decides to move there and open up a bistro. She loves her new life, and getting to know her family there. But she gets more than she expected when suddenly, she’s involved in a murder mystery.

~I’m not sure how I’ve never reviewed this book! I read it at least once a year, and that’s saying something since my favorites tend not to be set in modern times (unless of course, we are talking about Dee Henderson books…) I really enjoy how Carley learns and grows through the story. How she learns what it means to be part of a family and to let go of the past. The romance is good and sweet and unexpected. Plus, she opens a Bistro and there’s a murder mystery – as well as she gets migraines occasionally. Need I say more? Give this one a try!

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis – This is a partial biography by Lewis – his main goal of this book wasn’t to give a full description of his life. Rather, it was to share what he viewed as the main points in his life that drew him ever closer to what he’d been searching for all his life, that which he called – Joy. The longing for something so good and intense that it couldn’t be explained with words. However, he does cover quite a bit of his life, sharing stories with a mix of humor and sadness.

~My brother and I had been talking about Lewis and when he heard that I hadn’t read this- he loaned it to me! I’m glad he did as it was an interesting read. His younger years were entertaining to read about and yet sad. If you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, I recommend reading this as well.

She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard – When Cambridge professor, Horace Holly, and his ward, Leo Vincey, open the package left by Leo’s late father. It contains artifacts suggesting an ancient mystery about the Vincey family. They quickly set off on an adventure to the interior of Africa, but they’ve no idea what is in store. Eventually they meet Ayesha and a primitive race of natives. Ayesha reigns as ‘She’ or ‘She-who-must-be-obeyed’ – and who does have an inexplicable connection to Leo.

~Now this is an interesting story – and quite different from probably any that I’ve read before.I first read this well over 10 years ago, but my copy from at the latest 1905 (thanks to the inscription), didn’t have the last of the story printed in it… And i never found another copy (or didn’t really look) until last year when I did find one! It was much more satisfying, with the ending, even though it is still a fantastical story. It can be pretty open/violent/descriptive in places, I found, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a younger reader. I’m really not sure that I’ll read it again anytime soon, but there’s something special about it to me, plus, just look at the book itself!

The Pillar of Fire by J.H. Ingraham – The Prince of Tyre, Sesostris, goes to Egypt as a state guest of Pharoah. His letters to his beloved mother describe Egypt and the plight of the Hebrews that are enslaved there; all the way to their subsequent release from their labors and set free.

~This was a book that I found at Powell’s – and then it sat on my shelf for probably almost two years, waiting for me to read it! It did take me about four months to finish, a large part of that because I got on a Brandon Sanderson kick. It started out rather slow for me, as I expected the part about the plagues to start quite early in the story. But the descriptions of how the author envisions how Egypt was, were incredible. I did get bogged down by them at times, to be perfectly honest! I’m so glad I didn’t give up on the story though as it was well wort the full read. How they took the Biblical account and gave it such life was very interesting – and I didn’t spot any glaring discrepancies. I highly recommend this book as a way to bring that story to life. My copy is from 1859 but you can buy newer copies on Amazon.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (book 1) – Elantris was once a golden city in Arelon – literally glowing from the magic of the Shaod. It was the epicenter of trade and the demigods used their power to help others. Ten years ago, all that changed – the Elantirans became like lepers, and the city became their prison. In the devastation, a new capital has risen, Kae -in the shadow of the walls of Elantris. From across the waters, Princess Sarene of Teod comes to wed Prince Raoden – eager at last to meet and fall in love with this enigmatic man, but instead finds out that he has died and according to the laws of Kae, their engagement vows are as binding as marriage vows. Hrathen is a high priest of the Fjordell empire, and stepping into Kae hours after Princess Sarene has only one goal – convert the people of Kae in a few months’ time or they will all be killed. As Sarene battles politics in order to save both Teod and Kae from Fjordell control, she finds out the truth of Prince Raoden. He had become an Elantrian – outcast in the decaying city, and while trying to help the wretches there, he just might find the answer to the secret of Elantris.

~ Yes, this book deserves a long review. I LOVED this book. I never would have chosen it myself, but thank goodness for friends that send you books out of your ordinary! This quickly became a favorite of mine. The story line twists and turns so that I never knew how it was going to end and the characters were very well written. Neither Sarene nor Raoden are your typical royalty, and even the villian, Hrathen, has depths that intrigued and kept him from being someone you grew bored of. All in all, an excellent book full of suspense and lacking in anything sensual or ‘sketchy’. Highly recommend.

I did finish the Chronicles of Narnia series, click here for a review I wrote in 2018

Mistborn Era series by Brandon Sanderson

Currently Reading:

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

~Laura

What have you been reading this month?

Book Reviews April 2020

2 May

It’s been a while since I did a monthly book review, so get ready to add some books to your To-Read pile! I’ve honestly been having a hard time finding a book that really grabs  me and pulls me into its world that I don’t finish in just a couple of days! I’m thinking it just might be time to get back into the Wheel Of Time series (I’m only on book 7..or 8..or 9…).  

One last thing, these aren’t all from this past month- I’ve not read quite that much in four weeks!

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Little Princes by Conor Grennan – I shared a full review here if you’d like to go check it out. This was such a great read that it made it to my 2020 Favorites List.

Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson –    …. I also have a full review here if you’d like to read it. And I have since bought all three books so that I CAN read them yearly, or bi-yearly, whenever the mood strikes.

None Like Him : 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin – While humans were created to reflect God’s image, there are several ways that we do not – unlimited power, knowledge and authority. This book delves into those attributes, shining a light on how realizing these limitations of ours compared to a limitless God can help us in our daily lives.

~This is the second study book that I’ve read by Wilkin. (In His Image being the other one.)This was insightful in highlighting the incredible attributes of God. As with the other of hers, I was a little disappointed how she stayed, what I felt, was surface level, with the topics and chapter questions. So while it was good and well worth the time, I would have appreciated a deeper delve into the topic. 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia #4 -chronological order) by C.S. Lewis – King Caspian has built the first ship that Narnia has seen in centuries. He sails to find the lost Lords of Narnia – and Lucy, Edmund and cousin Eustace travel with him.

The Silver Chair  (The Chronicles of Narnia #5- chronological order)  by C.S. Lewis -Narnia is in need again, and this time Eustace and Jill are the ones brought to help. They must help find (and then rescue) the lost Prince of Narnia, who has been put under an evil spell. 

~Forgive me for combining my thoughts for both these books into one section. But – IT’S Narnia. And that means adventures; Aslan; Magic; Lessons; and just a wonderful world to escape to. I fell in love all over again with Puddleglum (from the Silver Chair) and enjoyed all the different adventures on the islands in the Dawn Treader. Delightful reads all around.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – Despereaux is not like the other mice, he loves stories and music and the gentle Princess Pea. Roscuro is a rat who isn’t like other rats because he likes light and soup. Miggery Sow is a serving girl who dreams of being a princess. These four – a mouse, princess, rat and serving girl- are about to enter each other’s lives in ways they never dreamed. And when that happens, the choices they make will lead them in dark twisty tunnels of a dungeon, in the glittering light of the castle and through Cook’s kitchen. 

~I’d been curious about reading this story after having seen the movie a few times (although it has been several years since I saw it last). When I saw this at Goodwill (quite a few months ago now), I snagged it right quick! It ended up being quite fun and Camillo’s way of writing TO the reader just added that extra little bit of uniqueness to the story. I can see this being a great read-aloud book with your kids. 

The Candymakers (The Candymakers #1) by Wendy Mass- When the yearly national candy competition nears, Logan Sweet is excited. He’s finally old enough – 12 – to enter and make his candy-making father proud. His family owns Life is Sweet candy factory. But he’s not the only contestant that will be making their entries at the factory – three other kids from his town will also be there. Daisy, Miles and Logan show up on the first day – she with a bounce to her step and encouraging. Miles with a backpack and nervousness. Phillip with a briefcase and attitude. Which one will create the most innovative new candy this year? 

~I had no idea this was a series! I also didn’t know what to expect when I picked it up, at first I felt that it was pretty formulaic but I quickly revised that opinion. I got sucked into the story so much I felt kind of silly since it IS a children’s book! Mass shares each child’s perspective of what’s going on in the competition and their own personal world and that just made it so cool to see each motivation and viewpoint. A very fun story.

I also read/started these two books but for various reasons didn’t like them/finish them. So they are both leaving my bookshelf to open up space for more books! 

Zorro by Isabel Allende

The Measure of a Lady by Deanne Gist

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Currently Reading: 

‘Tis Herself by Maureen O’Hara

Pillar of Fire by J.H. Ingraham

Virginia by Cathy Marie Hake

 

To Read: 

the next Narnia book

The Prairie Legacy Series by Janette Oke

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

the next Wheel of Time book (I just have to figure out which one I’m on!)

Little Princes Book Review

8 Apr

Little Princes : One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan, was a New York Times Bestseller. As well as
Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee for NonFiction (2011)
Goodreads Choice Award for Travel & Outdoors (2011)

I snagged this either at the library book sale corner or the thrift store… Either way, it was very inexpensive so I decided to give it a try. As you probably know by now, I’m very hesitant to pay full price on any book – much less on one that all I know about it is from the back cover.

But I’m so glad I grabbed this one. I’ve read a few other books in this genre of Autobiographical/travel/cultural. (it’s really amazing how many genres one book can cover!)

Here’s the synopsis from the back cover: In search of adventure, twenty-nine year old Conor Grennan embarked on a yearlong journey around the globe, beginning with a three-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in civil war-torn Nepal. But a shocking truth would forever change his life: these rambunctious, resilient children were not orphans at all but had been taken from their families by child traffickers who falsely promised to keep them safe from war before abandoning them in the teeming chaos of Kathmandu. For Conor, what started as a footloose ramble became a dangerous, dedicated mission to unite youngsters he had grown to love with the parents they had been stolen from – a breathtaking adventure, as Conor risked everything in the treacherous Nepalese mountains to bring the children home.

This story of Conor’s was engrossing pretty much from the first page and I found it hard to put down. I even stopped reading the other book I was in the middle of! Learning about the kids at the orphanage, you feel as if you truly know them and that of course, makes Conor’s efforts to get them home again even more of interest, as you’re suddenly heart-invested. The descriptions of the people and culture help you step into the world of these children. The chaotic mass of people, the beauty and danger of the mountains and the different way of looking at things all serve to better transport you.

Plus, isn’t there just something that calls to you about Nepal? I can’t explain it but, it’s there.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for something inspirational.

Here are the books of the same type that I’ve reviewed: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun.

~Laura

February 2020 Book Reviews

11 Mar

It’s a bit late for a Monthly Book Review but I’m going to give you guys a quick one! I’m going to be talking about the books that I shared in My Library Book Haul.

I’ve already shared my thoughts about The Bridge to Belle Island. Trust me, you want to click over and have a read.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill – When Piper Sail’s best friend, Lydia, goes missing, the only thing she knows is that she can’t just sit around waiting for the police to find her. Especially when it seems that they are looking in all the wrong places. She sets out on her own investigation, with the aid of a young detective, into the underbelly of Chicago in 1924. She’s determined to find Lydia, no matter what. But she soon has to decide exactly what that means as the truth just might upset her privileged life. ~This book immediately made it to my Favorite Reads of the year list. I’ve not read anything else by Morrill but she wove an incredible story of family, intrigue and 1920s Chicago. It was also very clean, with only subtle mentions of women of a certain profession and innocent romances. If you’ve followed SGL for a while, you’ll know that for this to be on my Faves list, it HAS to be clean! I adored Piper’s spirit, her brother (even when he was being a jerk), and of course, the detective who decides to help her.

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #3) by Theodora Goss – When the girls of the Athena Club return home only to find that their friend, Alice has been kidnapped along with Mary’s employer, Sherlock Holmes, they rush to find them. But along the way they realize that the kidnappings are only a small part of a sinister plot that threatens not only the Queen, but all of England. Can Mary, Justine, Diana, Catherine and Beatrice stop the plans already in motion and save, not only their friends, but their country as well? ~As I shared in the Library Haul, I’ve not read book one. These were both on the ‘new arrivals’ shelf of my local library and they intrigued me. This series is very different from what I’m used to – seeing as how each of the girls are victims of an evil scientists’ experiments on them (one’s poisonous, one’s a vampire, one’s part cheetah etc). I’d almost say that I’d enjoy these stories more if those elements were taken away. But, I’m certain that those very parts are what makes this series stand out. I did end up enjoying this one- to a degree. The chase and revealing of the sinister plot were clever and intriguing – and were what kept me reading. The other stuff relating to the… vampire and such, were a bit much for me. Just like in the first book, honestly. But it seemed to be more present in this one. I don’t think I’ll read either of these again but they were well written with a fun, unique plot. If you want to see my review for the first book, click here.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – I want to do a review of the full series, so for now – know that I enjoyed this conclusion to The Inheritance Cycle

Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams – The Early Years 1903-1940 by Gary Giddins – This covered Bing’s childhood and on up to his rise in fame til the 1940s. I did enjoy what I got read of it. But, well… it took me several weeks to get a quarter of the way through it. And that was with skipping ahead to a section that was of more interest to me. Giddins wrote it well, and he did extensive research on Bing’s ancestors and life. While I fully appreciate that, it was a bit more than I was wanting. I finally just wanted my (huge) stack of library books gone, so I returned it without finishing it. Perhaps one day I’ll get back to it. But, even if I don’t, I still learned some cool (and sad) information on Bing. And found some songs of his that I’d never heard before!

Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia #2) by C.S. Lewis – When Susan’s horn is blown, the Pevensie children are called back to Narnia to help Prince Caspain reclaim his rightful throne. The false king is ruthless and will stop at nothing to kill the old Narnians and maintain his rule. ~I’m reading this series as part of a reading group on Instagram. It’s been fun to re-read these again as I feel it’s been a while! Prince Caspian is, I think, one of my favorites of the series as we see some of the growing up the Pevensie’s have to go through and of course, we meet Caspian and see Aslan again.

Jennifer: an O’Malley Love Story by Dee Henderson- I have read the O’Malley Series, for years and I still enjoy them immensely. This is a short story with one of the siblings as the main character. It was so nice to get to read more about Jennifer as a doctor and see as she falls in love. The heartache though! Agh. Even knowing what is coming (thanks to reading the O’Malley series beforehand), it was still a good, quick read. If you love the O’Malley’s, check this one out.

Thrive by J.J. Eden – A small book of poetry and micro-fiction that focus on the highs and lows of life. On keeping the will to thrive strong in our hearts. ~I got this book free for my honest review. And while I haven’t read any poetry in several years, I enjoyed this a lot. So many of her words resonated with me and some of the micro-fiction I was wishing was a full length story!

Currently Reading:

Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Tate (Montana Marshalls #2) by Susan May Warren (ebook) – this one is so good but with it being an ebook, I’m just not reading it much.

Zorro by Isabel Allende

To Read:

Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis

The Bridge to Belle Island Book Review

3 Mar

Synopsis:

Lawyer Benjamin Booker has just been publicly humiliated by a beautiful woman. Vowing never to be taken in by a pretty face again, he is relieved to turn his attention to another case. One involving the murder of the law offices senior partners old friend. Both unsatisfied by the progress by Bow Street, Benjamin agrees to start his own investigation, which takes him from London to Belle Island. While he’s glad to be free of London for a while, he finds that the island – isolated on the Thames and veiled in mystery – is home to the beautiful Isabelle.

Isabelle claims to have never left the island in ten years. She’s created a full and productive life in her small world, one that she’s proud of, even if she is ashamed of her fear keeping her trapped. When the handsome lawyer shows up on her doorstep to tell her of her uncle’s death, she’s shocked. But when evidence points to her, Isabelle isn’t sure what to do. Can she trust her own mind? Can she trust the friends surrounding her, or should she trust the handsome Benjamin?

After having read some reviews that were all over the place on how good this book was, I was unsure if I would enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed her other books that I’ve read. (for links to those that I’ve reviewed here, they’re at the bottom of this post!).

My review on Goodreads right after I finished it :
Klassen did it again. This murder mystery was so engaging and kept me guessing right up til the end. I liked Benjamin Booker – just out to do the right thing and not get misled again by a pretty face. And while I didn’t understand the given reasons by some of the characters (Isabelle included) held back information about the night in question, it did add to the suspense of it. I admit – I found myself wishing I could live on Belle Island.

This made it on to my FAVORITE Reads of 2020 book list! So even though there were bits that I was scratching my head on, I liked the differences of Klassen’s story line for this murder mystery. I would recommend this for pretty much anyone – although I’d suggest pre-reading it before handing it to a younger teen reader.

Here are links to the other books by Klassen that I’ve reviewed here on SGL!

The Painter’s Daughter

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

Book Review – The Silent Governess

While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.

Thanks for stopping by SGL! If you’d like to see what I’m up to on a -slightly – more regular basis, check out my Instagram page.

~Laura

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden Book Review

24 Dec

I’m back here on SGL for a review of a completely unexpected new favorite book! Not only that, but it was printed this year – 2019- and if you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that it’s very rare when I read a book in the same year it was printed. And I always, inevitably, end up feeling proud of myself.

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This was one of those on the new-arrivals shelf at the library the other day and its gorgeous cover and intriguing synopsis pulled me in and I decided to try it.

Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Just in case you didn’t catch that by my opening statement…

It’s titled a Proper Romance (if you want to know more about them, click here), and that of course, called to me too. Could it possibly mean that it’s a clean love story?!

It was. You guys. IT WAS.

Sorry, I’m just a little excited about this. This story was as clean as a christian romance novel – actually, cleaner than some – without any preaching obviously.

Here’s the synopsis for you (from goodreads) before I squeal with excitement without you guys knowing anything about the book.

Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school and a well-respected author of “silver-fork” novels, stories written both for and about the upper-class ladies of Victorian society. But by night, she writes very different kinds of stories—the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men. Under the pseudonym Mr. King, Elizabeth has written about dashing heroes fighting supernatural threats and dangerous outlaws romancing helpless women. They contain all the adventure and mystery that her real life lacks.

Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Mr. King started taking all of his readers–and his profits. No one knows who King is, including Fletcher’s fellow members of the Dread Penny Society, a fraternity of authors dedicated to secretly fighting for the rights of the less-fortunate.

Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. As a fellow-author, she is well-known among the high-class writers; perhaps she could be persuaded to make some inquiries as to Mr. King’s whereabouts? Elizabeth agrees to help Fletcher, if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered.

For the first time, Elizabeth experiences the thrill of a cat-and-mouse adventure reminiscent of one of her own novels as she tries to throw Fletcher off her scent. But the more time they spend together, the more she loses her heart. Its upper-class against working-class, author against author where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line. “

 

Quotes:

“I suspect I’ve always been bold underneath it all. I’ve simply never allowed myself to let that part of me escape its shackles.”

“If I were you, I’d not disappoint her like that again, guv’nah.”

“As much as she was enjoying playing spy, she had to be careful else these moments of adventure might cost her every bit of security she had fought for.”

“There was no time for hesitation, not even for the woman of his very dreams.”

 

Eden creates a world in Victorian London that feels real as you follow Elizabeth on her campaign to keep her school respectable and money coming in through her writing. Fletcher Walker is a fun character that has a feel of reality to him with his rough origin, talk of the ‘streets’ and goal to save as many kids as he can from the life that he himself escaped.

I do always enjoy when a main character is an author and this one had two!

I plan on keeping my eye out for this book on sale as it is one that I definitely want to add to my personal library. If you’re looking for an intriguing, suspenseful romance that is also clean with a bit of the ‘penny-dreadful’ feel, you must check this one out.

~Laura

Hunted by Meagan Spooner Review

26 Jul

If you’ve been around SGL for a while, you probably know that I really enjoy a good retelling of fairy tales ( I’ll link some of my reviews of retellings at the bottom of this post). My friend and I found this book at Powell’s bookstore and I immediately said ‘we’ve got to get this’. I mean, look at that gorgeous cover! And when you read the synopsis, I’m sure you’ll understand why I was instantly hooked.

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I’ve never read Meagan Spooner before but I’m now eager to try more of her books. I know, of course that sometimes, there’s just one book that I’ll love of an author. I really liked the different twists given on this timeless tale of Beauty and the Beast. It’s been weeks since I finished it and I’m still thinking about it. Which means I’m likely to pick this up again soon. Yes. It really was that good.

I’m going to pull the synopsis straight from the back of the book for you:

“Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones – and in her blood. 

Here in the wilderness Yeva is under no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas… or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. Here she feels one with the ebb and flow of life. Here she is home. 

But when Yeva’s father goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey : the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sister’s protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory – a cursed valley, a ruined castle and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin, or salvation.”

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Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be. She reminds us of what we could be.”

“She was so tired after all. Tired of fairy tales, and magic, and empty castles. Tired of wanting so intensely that she didn’t know what she wanted.”

“The satisfaction of desires sated was short and pale in comparison to the dream of wanting.”

Getting little snippets from the Beast’s side added so much to the tale, and gave us a chance to see the Beast more fully than just a selfish man having to pay a heavy price until someone comes to, basically, rescue him. His story is just as important as Beauty’s and getting to read his feelings about his transformation, about Beauty and…well, all of it, was great.

I appreciated the moral lesson that Spooner wove through the tale. She also seems to have taken inspiration from classic fairy tales that were darker and … well, more full of death. But she did it well. There isn’t any overly done, gross scenes in regard to hunting – there are descriptions of course but Spooner doesn’t get graphic with the telling.

There isn’t any sex scenes- thank you so much for that Meagan! – I appreciate a YA novel that has a good romance story without feeling the need to go to that level.

I did feel that this book could have been longer. It might have been a bit slow in pace (not that I minded) but I did feel that just all of a sudden you were at the ending. I’d have liked either a better balance or the book just enough longer that I wasn’t left going (near the end) with a – ‘wait, what?’

Thankfully, this wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me, I’m able to overlook it because she showed us a strong character in Beauty with enviable hunting skills ; a beautiful world set in old Russia ; a Beast that’s trying and Beauty’s sisters were fully rounded characters that, honestly, I’d love to read more of. I’ll add that the book didn’t end where I was going ‘wait, what?’ and that helped a lot, I think. She finished out the story a bit, leaving that bitter taste a bit diluted.

I’ve read that she’s working on a novel titled “Sherwood” and you can bet that I’m going to be reading that one. This novel has definitely made it to my favorite reads for this year. And, if you’re interested, here’s a few other retellings that I’ve read and loved over the years.

Wildwood Dancing  by Juliet Marillier

Beauty by Robin Mckinley

Spindle’s End by Robin Mckinley

~Laura

Do you love retellings? Have any favorites? I’d absolutely love to hear about them!

 

War Torn Heart Book Review

18 Jun

I have another book review for you today! There’s something fun about just reviewing one book in a post. I’m able to expand on what I thought of it, which obviously, talking about books is one of my favorite things.

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War Torn Heart by Allison Wells is set in South Carolina as the rumors of war are starting. Abigail Walker is sixteen and set to enjoy her last summer as more a girl than young woman but then she meets Harvey Nicholas. As a cadet at Celmson College, he’s as far from her world as he could be. But sparks fly and Abigail happily spends her free time with Harvey. As summer progresses, they fall in love.

When the rumors, and then the reality of war, reaches their quiet small town, Abigail is worried that Harvey and her brother are going to go running off into it. And when Pearl Harbor is bombed, that’s exactly what happens. Both young men are eager to protect their loved ones.

Neither of them are prepared for the tragedy and cost of what the war will bring. It will test their love, loyalty and faith. If they let it, they will grow to be men and women of faith and endurance.

But will Abigail be able to hold onto what she knows is right and true in the midst of it all?

~I was so excited about this book. Plus, I mean, look at that cover. Go ahead. Scroll back up and look at it. I’ll wait. Isn’t it just perfection? I love when a cover just hits the nail on the head. I’d never read anything by Wells before, so like I said, I was excited to dive into this war-time coming of age story. 

I did end up enjoying this book, I want to start with that, okay? There were some places in the story that just dragged too much or I felt that the story line was rushed where I would have loved to have more details. I greatly enjoyed seeing Abigail grow up through the trials. She went from a young woman of girl-ish beliefs to a woman that had been through struggles and come out knowing who she was in her faith. The heartbreak in the book was – so- heartbreaking – it – hurt. There were twists and turns that I was impressed with. While the ending did seem a bit abrupt, it was sweet. 

There were some things I didn’t like about it, but mostly they are more of a personal problem that I have when they are in ANY book. The statements that most any young girl will make/think but that, as they grow, they realize just aren’t true. Statements about God, mostly. I would have loved to see Wells work in the fact that Abigail learned how incorrect her assumptions in those areas were.  

Like I started out with, I did end up enjoying this book. Will I read it again? It’s a mix of maybe and probably. It was a sweet story overall and the setting of the war is one that I don’t read a lot of. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers unless an adult has pre-read it for them because there is some mild content that was a bit more than I can recommend for young readers. As well as some aspects of their relationship that while it is real-life accurate, can come across as completely acceptable. (which clearly, I don’t think is.)

While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.

~Laura

*I did receive this free for my personal opinion and review from Ambassador International*

Book Reviews -April 2019

15 May

I can’t believe I’m finally getting this review up. There were just too many good books to share with you from last month to forgo doing this monthly review. I’ve been making it a point – once again – to read more instead of scrolling on my phone or watching Netflix. These 7 books are the result!

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(I know, I know, there are only 5 pictured here, but my dad is borrowing Sons and Soldiers and Fires of Heaven had to go back to the library… what’s a girl to do?)

The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley- When Harry Crewe struggles to settle into the sedate world of the Homelanders, she has no idea that a chance meeting with Corlath, the king of the Hillfolk, will change her life forever.  Check out my full review here 

A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke- Ariana’s life is turned upside down when two rough-looking men take her hostage from the one-room schoolhouse she teaches at. With no explanation, they bundle her through the snowy mountain passes to their hideout. Her fear increases when the boss’s son is set to guard her. Will she ever see her adopted parents again? Will she have the chance to wear her mother’s wedding dress?

~I’m sure I squealed in delight when I found this recently at a used bookstore. I’m not sure what happened to my original copy, so I snatched this up quick. I am a big Oke fan and this is one of my favorites of hers. She didn’t write many westerns (in fact, this might be her only one). I enjoyed the twists and turns in this story, some that even though I’ve read it many times over the years (it’s been several years since I’ve read it last though), I was still surprised by them. Ariana’s faith is well-written through her captivity, which is so important to me. I highly recommend this novel for younger readers on up.

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A Falcon For a Queen by Catherine Gaskin – Suddenly an orphan, Kirsty Howard leaves her home in China and travels to Scotland to visit her grandfather. His home of Cluian is a strange one, utterly different from what she’s used to. Secrets abound in the old house, kept in place by the arrogance of the lonely old man and the two women who run his house. But being the site of one of the world’s finest whiskey distilleries, gives Kirsty an opportunity to carve her own place in the Highlands.

~I was given this book (published 1972) last year and finally decided I just had to read it. I’d never read anything by Gaskin before but now I intend to read a few more. It was intriguing, unexpected and enjoyable. Yes, there was far too much information about distilling whiskey. But in the context of their livelihood, it made sense, you know? It was a rather dry topic though, one that I tended to skip through, to get to the actual story. The STORY though. Sigh of happiness. I had the ending figured all wrong, but readily admit that it was far better, and more satisfying than I had come up with. I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers as it is a darker, aka ‘gothic’ novel. There are only innuendos of a scandalous nature, but Gaskin kept it clean even in that. I fully intend to read it again. If you want a book that will surprise you (and you’re willing to sift through the whiskey aspect), find a copy of this book.

Heart of Wilderness by Janette Oke –  After days of anguished travel, George McMannus arrives to decide what to do with his only grandchild who is suddenly an orphan. He’s not sure just what to do with three year old Kendra Marty, after all, the life of a trapper up in the wilderness isn’t the best place to raise a child. But their hearts connect quickly and George knows that he has to try. He and his granddaughter belong together.

~I hadn’t read this book in years but I fondly remembered it. The fun thing about coming back to books you read as a young teen – early twenties is the different perspective you now have when you read them. Reading of the tragedy that brought young Kendra and ‘Papa Mac’ (as she calls him) together, and better realizing the struggle that he had in caring for her, etc etc through the years. As usual, the faith aspect was well done and both their development was good. I love Oke’s work as it’s a light read but still pulls you into the world and shares nuggets of truth. Highly recommend for teen readers on up.

Sons and Soldiers : The Untold Story of the Jews who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson – This is the story of the German Jews who escaped Germany in the 1930s, grew up in the U.S., joined the Army and became an elite group called the Ritchie Boys.  They were specially trained in interrogation techniques and used their boyhood knowledge of Germany’s language and customs. In small groups, the Ritchie Boys were sent with each major combat unit in Europe, gathering crucial intelligence and interrogating prisoners.

~I couldn’t get a book more different than the previous ones, could I? This one took me a while to get through, but it was written in a way that you wanted and needed to know how the boys made it through the war – and if they connected with their families again. Because of the content, I’d only recommend this for older readers.

At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald, Retold by Dan Larsen – It’s a dreary life in Victorian England but young Diamond is a ray of sunshine for those around him. When he meets the North Wind one night, he goes on an incredible adventure. She takes him over oceans, soaring over cities and even above the clouds. But his life is changed forever when she takes him to the back of the North Wind.

~This was a childhood read that I pulled out of storage after thinking about it for a few months. It was just about as delightful as I remembered, honestly. I enjoyed the lessons that young Diamond learned and the twist at the end! Sigh. I had completely forgotten about it. This is a great book for young readers, actually my edition is from the “Young Readers Christian Library”. 

The Fires of Heaven (book 5 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan – With the seals holding the Great Lord of the Dark in his prison weakening, Rand al’Thor knows he needs to strike a heavy blow at the enemy. But his plans are weakened when his allies are divided and fighting each other. Even the Aes Sedai are caught in a civil war. How can he defeat the Enemy while dealing with all of this, and struggling to maintain his sanity, his identity against the madness that’s coming?

Once again, I got completely sucked into Jordan’s elaborate world. 900 pages starts to go fast when you just can’t put it down. Watching Rand battle for his own sanity while still trying to strategize and scheme with the best of them; seeing Mat fight the pull of ta’averen, and accidentally display his own struggles to not get pulled into the past; all of the girls’ individual struggles to attain their goals —- ahhhhh. The level of plotting that just one of these novels takes has got to be unbelievable. There was a little more… sensual …context in this book that I could have done without. As usual, this is me we’re talking about. 

 

Currently Reading:

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier (yes, I’m reading it again!)

Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters

War Torn Heart by Allison Wells

Write by Karen E. Peterson, Phd

 

To Read: 

Lord of Chaos (book 6 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

 

~Laura

Book Reviews for March 2019

12 Apr

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for at least two weeks. Yikes! So much for getting it written early and scheduling it for spring break, eh? But, all well, ce la vie.

I hope you find something to add to your To-Read pile! And as always, I want to remind you that: while covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.

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Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer- When Will runs away from his Amish community at nineteen, he leaves behind his faith, family, and a pregnant girlfriend. Years later, he returns – with a wife and two sons, and with a very different world view. What he won’t realize for many years is that his new family and life are tainted by sins of the past. And if he ever wants to reconcile with his father, or himself, he must face those head-on.

~I have had this on my shelf for quite a few months (sorry mom) and despite having picked it up several times, I never read it. I’m pleased that I finally did though- it was a different Amish story than I normally read. Part of that was that the main character was a man, and well, just the story itself. I don’t want to spoil anything for you here, but looking back on Levi’s life with him, and seeing the present consequences of it, was heartbreaking and encouraging and just…tinged with sorrow. Cramer really pulls you in with his descriptions of the locations – the Amish countryside, the mobile home the young family lives in, the war, etc. Along with that the characters were well formed – and useful. (I have this thing about useless characters in a novel). All in all, I really enjoyed this story. I don’t know how young of an audience I would recommend for it though as it does deal with some pretty heavy stuff. As always, I suggest you read it yourself before passing it on to someone younger. A book I definitely recommend!

Amish Peace : Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Peace is something that we all strive for – each in our own way. Fisher shares the way that the Amish have found it – by focusing on five different themes of their faith, she shares stories, proverbs and interesting facts about their life. She’s also included questions and thoughts to help you find peace in your own life.

~Thanks to Beverly Lewis (and some other historical fiction authors), I have a mini love for the Amish. While I don’t agree with all of the tenets of their faith, I was still drawn in by this book. Their focus on community, forgiveness and faith is incredible. Fisher shares some great stories to move her point along. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to slow down for a few minutes and think about how they are living their lives.

The Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke  – A separate review of this series will be coming – once I finish the last two books! Suffice it to say, right now, that I adore this series.

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Praying Through Lyme Disease by Rebecca Vandemark – A compilation of prayers and verses that focus on topics that Lyme disease patients deal with daily. A daily reminder that you are not alone.

~First off, I received this book free for my honest review. I wasn’t compensated in any way. I have been following Vandemark for years now. (I’ve also reviewed December Caravan) I greatly appreciated these heartfelt prayers and corresponding scriptures touching on so many of the struggles/emotions that I, as someone who struggles with chronic Lyme, deal with on a daily basis. If you know someone, or are yourself, struggling with Lyme, don’t hesitate, get this book! I anticipate going through it again and again. Did I mention that there are pages to take notes for each prayer? Love it. 

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Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery – When his younger brother is stolen from them, Dym Ingleford promises his dying mother that he’ll never stop looking for him. That promise hasn’t been forgotten when, years later, he rather stumbles upon young Max Eckermann, a German prisoner.  Dym is convinced he’s Anthony. But the years of Nazi ideology have not been lost on the young boy, and convincing him that he’s now home, and safe, is quite the task. (first published 1944)

~Another book that I haven’t read in a few years, although now it will probably get moved to the ‘read-yearly’ list. Savery delivers a delightful, heart rending tale set WWII, which she wrote during the war. DURING THE WAR. That, for me, really made this tale come alive.  But the story itself is so good that I had a hard time putting it down. Max’s flight(s) from the White Priory (the family home), the patience of Dym and the danger of the war all join in a wonderful story. A five star book for me! 

Princess Aline by Richard Harding Davis – Falling for a picture of a Princess, a young American artist sets out across Europe to meet her. When they are finally close enough to speak, to touch, he stands, propriety-bound and too scared to offend such a creature. He does all he can to meet her properly, but will it be enough? (first published 1895)

~ I hadn’t pulled this off of my classic shelves in so many years, I only vaguely remembered it. It was delightful. It’s a light-hearted story that you just don’t want to end. It was fun to follow Carlton as he traveled across Europe, always one step behind Aline. I highly recommend this classic!

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Dear Theo by Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Irving Stone – Vincent and his brother Theo, kept up regular correspondence for years. This collection of Vincent’s letters shows how close they were; his feelings on everyday life, his family and art. (first published 1914)

~I cannot believe it took me eight months to read this book. While on the other hand, I do. It is a hard one to read in a way because he did lead such a difficult life and you already know how it ends… and in such a tragic way. (spoiler: he commits suicide). But reading in his own letters the descriptions of the places he saw – the way he saw his own art – the way he saw colors – it keeps you reaching for it again. Will I ever read it again? I don’t know. But I’m glad that I read it at least once. 

Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee — as I didn’t finish this book before it had to go back to the library, I’m just going to quickly say that what I did read was interesting and I have plans to one day request it again. What I didn’t like was the talk of evolution (how that has any real bearing on the talk of color and how it affects us, is beyond me – I thought the author could have handled that differently. Overall, what I read (the first 1/4 of it?) was interesting.

 

Currently Reading:

Sons And Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald

Eliza by Patricia Campbell

 

To Read:

The Fires of Heaven (book 5 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

Love Finds a Home (#8 of Love Comes Softly series) by Janette Oke

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

 

Coming up in April’s book review: 

Love Takes Wing (book 7 of Love Comes Softly series) by Janette Oke

The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley

A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke

A Falcon For a Queen by Catherine Gaskin

~I am going to say that I’ve got a few trilogy’s to read but I’m waiting until I finish at least one of the series that I’m currently in. Anyone else have this problem?! The nice side effect of that is, that I’m reaching for books that I haven’t read in quite a while (that are mainly quick-reads).

~Laura

What have you been reading?

If you missed it, go check out the Michelli Family Series Review. Also, the City of Tranquil Light Book Review  is a must read as well!

 

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"What good amid these, O me, O life? - Answer: That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse." - Walt Whitman

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