Tag Archives: book reviews

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

FAVORITES BOOKS OF 2019

5 Jan

Because I’ve been so lax in book reviews the past while, I’m going to actually review the books I share with you today. The majority of these favorites are new-reads but I will share some re-reads with you as well at the bottom of the post.

I have a post in the works sharing my reading goals and a personalized reading list for 2020, make sure you don’t miss it!

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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.

~The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander – Accepting her cousin’s invitation to join them in Colorado was an easy decision, but McKenna Ashford’s real reason lay in the haughty attitude of her younger brother. She is determined to get them a fresh start and hopefully, tame his ever growing wild streak. But life in Copper Creek isn’t what she thought it would be. The responsibilities of an unexpected inheritance threaten her resolve to be independent while offering an second chance, if only she can keep it.  U.S. Marshall Wyatt Caradon never expected to be drawn into such a heartbreaking situation – but something about McKenna pulls him back to Copper Creeek and makes him think of leaving behind his years of living on the trail. Can they both trust again though?

~ It is no secret I enjoy this genre, especially when it’s western-based. But Alexander delivered such a refreshing story – filled with obstacles, tender moments, sweet friendships all with a realism that I appreciated. The morals/life lessons within add depth to the story, helping lend weight to the full plot and well-rounded characters. There really can’t be enough good said about this book! I highly recommend this heart-wrenching-and-warming novel. 

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~Hunted by Meagan Spooner – 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. (synopsis from back of the book)

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.

~The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen – Sophie Dupont has been assisting in her father’s studio for years, a shop that is popular with artists as it is near the north Devon coast. When a handsome artist, Wesley Overtree arrives and compliments her not only on her beauty but on her painting as well, Sophie falls hard for him. When he disappears, leaving her in a difficult position, she’s not sure what she’ll do. But then his brother, Captain Stephen Overtree arrives, looking for Wesley to take him home. Finding instead, a young woman suffering from his brother’s recklessness, Stephen offers to marry her in name only. Sophie must decide if she’ll wait for the uncertain chance that Wesley will return or if she’ll trust her future to his brooding brother.

~ I’ve fallen in love with Klassen’s stories. This one did not disappoint in the least. Because of the subject matter, it was a little more…personal than others of hers. But she wrote it well, touching on the topic without being vulgar. I loved both Sophie’s and Stephen’s struggles. And the other twists and turns throughout meant that I was pleasantly surprised at the end. I highly recommend this novel, although not for a younger audience.

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Dark Canyon by Louis L’amour – Having rather fallen in with the Colburn gang when he was young, Gaylord Riley sets out to forge a new life for himself by settling down and building his own homestead. But his plans are complicated by the richest man in town and Riley must accept the help of his outlaw friends to stay alive.

~I found this gem at a used bookstore and instantly snapped it up. Being a L’amour, I knew I had to give it a try.  This book was rather short but it was perfect for a lazy afternoon read – the characters as per the authors’ usual genius, weren’t left bland and half formed but were vibrant in their own selves, leaping off the page. I liked the story of redemption – which is a common theme in his novels – that threaded through the plot. And retirement for outlaws? Yes, that’s a thing here too. If you enjoy westerns, or are thinking of trying the genre, I recommend this one highly! It’s sweet and full of adventure.  *also check out The Finding of Jasper Holt.

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The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden – Elizabeth Black is not only a headmistress of a girls’ school but is also a well-known author of ‘silver-fork novels’ – the respectable novels that women read. Her secret is that she’s also someone else – under the pseudonym Mr. King, she writes Penny Dreadfuls. But when she’s approached by Fletcher Walker in the hopes to find Mr. King, Elizabeth agrees to help just to keep him from finding out her secret identity.

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! There’s so much more to this story than the bit of synopsis above, click the title link to read my full review!

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klaasen – After being disappointed in love, Abigail Foster finds out that their family has lost their London home. An unexpected offer comes for them to live in Pembrooke Park, a manor home that has been abandoned for eighteen years. The handsome curate offers nothing more than a warning to beware of any strangers that might be drawn by the rumors of a secret treasure room inside the mansion. Intrigued and wanting the possible treasure for her own family, Abigail begins to covertly search for the treasure room but isn’t prepared for the startling secrets that she’ll find.

~The intrigue of a lost treasure in the setting of Victorian England was so fun. Abigail wants to help her family but she also longs for her lost love. The new life that she must adjust to at Pembrooke Park is quite different from the one she led in London but she finds herself pleased by the changes and what she’s accomplished. Her family’s opinion isn’t quite so optimistic however. When she does decide to seek the treasure, anonymous notes are left for her, revealing a danger that she hadn’t expected. And that’s when the story gets even more fun! 

 

 

Honourable Mentions:

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner –  With her betrothed dead, Maid Marian is bereft and unsure exactly what she’ll do next. Guy of Gisborne not only wants to become the new Lord of Locksley but her fiance’ as well.  With no one there to stop him, or his harsh command of the people – carrying out the Prince’s absurd laws – Marian stumbles onto a way to help the people. As well as relase the frustration that’s burning inside her. She dons Robin’s hood and accidentally steps into a new identity for herself: Robin Hood

In this retelling, we get to see not just Marian’s side of the story, but Robin’s as well. Filling in gaps and letting us get to know Marian even better, Spooner once again weaves a tale full of adventure, intrigue and romance (major and minor) between her characters. There is a section that is a bit more sensual than I normally read, which is why this book is only an honorable mention. without that, this would absolutely be up there in the Absolute Favorite list.

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The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King – This is the first full length biography of Rogers, it follows his life through interviews, oral histories and archives. It not only focuses on his work life, but his personal and artistic life as well.

~I enjoyed this biography so much as there were so many nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Rogers that I kept reading aloud to my OH, or texting to my mom. His spirit of compassion and caring and giving came through, and for that I thank King for taking the time to make sure that was the case. 

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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.

~ 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.  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.

 

Re-Reads:

Shadowfell Series by Juliet Marillier

Maire by Linda Windsor

Letter Perfect  (California Historical #1) by Cathy Marie Hake

Bittersweet (California Historical #2) by Cathy Marie Hake

 

If you’d like to see my Year in Books according to Goodreads, click here! I enjoy getting to see all of them in one go – can you believe that I read 78 books in 2019?! I’ve decided I’m going to aim for 65 books this year.

And remember, there’s going to be a post up soon sharing what my reading intentions are for this year.

What was one of your favorite reads this past year?

~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

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner Book Review

26 Oct

I love a good fairy tale.

I also love a good fairy tale re-telling. And that’s exactly what this one is. Spooner has a way of taking a classic story and weaving something new out of it – while keeping the spirit of the original tale in tact. If you read my review of Hunted, you already know that I was eager to read more of this author. Well, she did NOT disappoint, you guys! She did it again with this rendition of Robin Hood – but from Maid Marian’s point of view.

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Here’s the synopsis right from the book:

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

 

 

And here are a few of my favorite quotes:

 

“Who are you to say that being a lady, in itself, is not its own kind of war.”

“The soul knew the target. All Marian had to do was welcome the bow to herself, let it become her heart and the arrow her voice, and then step out of the way.”

It’s easy to be a hero when you never look beyond your next battle.”

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Once again, we get to see not just Marian’s side of the story, but Robin’s as well. Filling in gaps and letting us get to know Marian even better, Spooner once again weaves a tale full of adventure, intrigue and romance (major and minor) between her characters. So much was unexpected in this story of the classic tale that I cannot wait to read it again. Honestly, I’ll probably be starting it again today to read before I have to return it to the library next week.

As someone who has always been intrigued about archery (I’d absolutely love to take lessons one day), it was a fun element of the story for me. The side characters were well done as well – even the changes of Little John were good. Her little band of ‘merry men’ and her maid (love her!) who supported her and sought to do what was right.

Now, there was a few paragraphs that I got concerned just how far Spooner was going to take the scene of kissing, but she kept it ‘kosher’ as we say here in my house. There’s also talk of remembering holding the other/kissing/ etc but nothing overtly sexual. If you have a teen, I’d recommend reading it beforehand, just so you know what’s in it. But, otherwise, it’s mild – which is the only way I’ll read it!

Also, there were a few curse words near the end. I remember wondering at her choice to all of a sudden use them when she hadn’t the other 400 pages…

My overall feeling of this book? It’s made it to my Favorite Reads of this Year, just like Hunted did.  I definitely plan on owning it once the price comes down – this was published this year (2019).  The world building was good – whether in the forest, her home, or in Nottingham. There weren’t too many (or too few) characters to keep track of and each main and important side ones were well thought out, in my opinion. As I said, there were enough plot twists that I really didn’t see coming so the ending was a pleasant surprise.

~side note, it’s rare when I read a newly published book so this was kinda cool for me!~

I created a board on Pinterest for archery costumes (this is what happens when you stay up really late after finishing a really good book) if you’re interested, check it out! 

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.

If you’ve got any fairy tale re-tellings to recommend, I’d love to hear them!

~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!

 

May 2019 Book Review

4 Jun

Now, if you’re wondering by my picture — if I really only read three books in May, no, I read more than that. Double that – plus a few I’m still reading – actually. But, some are part of a series, and one you have to wait a little longer for! You’ll be able to tell that I started and am actually still in, a genre read. It’s been fun pairing light, historical fiction novels with the meatier, slower read of Robert Jordan.

~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.~

Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander – Accepting her cousin’s invitation to join them in Colorado was an easy decision, but McKenna Ashford’s real reason lay in the haughty attitude of her younger brother. She is determined to get them a fresh start and hopefully, tame his ever growing wild streak. But life in Copper Creek isn’t what she thought it would be. The responsibilities of an unexpected inheritance threaten her resolve to be independent while offering an second chance, if only she can keep it.  U.S. Marshall Wyatt Caradon never expected to be drawn into such a heartbreaking situation – but something about McKenna pulls him back to Copper Creeek and makes him think of leaving behind his years of living on the trail. Can they both trust again though?

~I don’t know why it took me so long to pull this off of my TBR shelf but it quickly shot up to my historical-fiction-favorites list. It is no secret I enjoy this genre, especially when it’s western-based. But Alexander delivered such a refreshing story – filled with obstacles, tender moments, sweet friendships all with a realism that I appreciated. The morals/life lessons within add depth to the story, helping lend weight to the full plot and well-rounded characters. There really can’t be enough good said about this book! I’m already ready to read it again, honestly. (I can’t though, I’ve far too large of a TBR pile) I highly recommend this heart-wrenching-and-warming novel. 

Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters – When Sonja Parker receives an inheritance from her grandmother, she buys a popular coffee shop in a small town in Wisconsin’s Door County. She eagerly leaves behind her disappointing city life and settles into the new one of business owner and coffee maker. But she quickly learns that there’s more to owning a business than serving up a good cup of coffee – repairs must be made to the building, and to her heart.  Can she make a go of this new business? And can she find her way back to the God that she’s left behind?

~I received this free in exchange for my honest review and I have to tell you, right now, it’s not a great review. I didn’t connect with Libby at all (her actions/thoughts felt more in line with someone much younger). I made it halfway through the book before giving up on it. And that took at least two weeks to get that far on it. BUT! I’m passing it on to my mom to read and then I intend on giving it another shot. 

Letter Perfect  (California Historical #1) by Cathy Marie Hake – Ruth Caldwell has tried hard to live up to the expectations of her mother. But no matter how hard she tries, she always ends up doing or saying just what she shouldn’t. And she unknowingly steps into another scrape when she travels out to the Broken P Ranch. Josh McCain is stunned to learn that Ruth has a legitimate claim to the ranch, the one he was all set to inherit. His future at the ranch suddenly precarious and as ‘accidents’ around this green-eyed beauty turn sinister, Josh has to decide just who he trusts- and loves.

~Hake is now officially one of my favorite authors in her genre. Of course, I’ve read books by her before but this (and the Gooding series below) have cemented her place in the Favorites category. This is a great first book in the series, although it’s a great stand alone novel. I liked Ruth’s inclination to pitch in and help (even if things don’t necessarily go as planned) and how she gets creative to meet her goals. Even though she doesn’t fit in the mold that society has cast her in, she still is herself. The twists this story took were so unexpected that I kept gasping in surprise and shock! I enjoyed getting to know Gavin O’Sullivan and his family as well (he’s a main character in the second book -review next month!). You definitely should read this one if you are in the mood for a make you laugh and cry faith based novel. 

Serendipity (Only in Gooding #5) and That Certain Spark (#4) by Cathy Marie Hake – Apparently I’m reading this series back to front. But I’m okay with that as I’ve read all of them before. You’ll get a series review when I’m done with them. Trust me though, This series is just as much fun as you hope for.

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier – click here for a full review of one of my favorite series! I have to add that I showed considerable restraint by only grabbing the first book from the library but when I went back with the intent to get the second one, it wasn’t there! It was probably for the best though, as I am still making my way through Lord of Chaos…

War Torn Heart by Allison Wells- Click here for a separate review!

 

Currently Reading:

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

Write by Karen E. Peterson, Phd

The Binnies and the Dogs and Cats from Everywhere by Jo Ann Stover

 

To Read:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

and 3 Cathy Marie Hake books I just got from the library =)

As you can see, this has definitely been a month of reading for me! What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

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!

 

Michelli Family Series Review

21 Mar

This series by Kristen Heitzmann is by far the most unique christian romance suspense series that I’ve read.

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Secrets-  When Lance Michelli’s grandmother sends him on a quest to her past, he’s not sure what secrets he’ll uncover. He ends up at a Sonoma villa, recently purchased by Rese Barrett, a toughened young woman whose own secrets will sweep him away if he’s not careful. They clash as she works on fixing the place up and he tries to complete his goal for his grandmother. The unexpected attraction that springs up causes even more complication.

Unforgotten – Lance returns to New York, to his grandmother to tell her what he’s learned about that night long ago at the villa. He’s also brought Rese, who’s hiding her own secrets. But when he tells his grandmother, she won’t listen, instead sending him on another quest. This quest, however, hits closer to home, forcing Lance to choose between the two women.

Echoes – Finchè c’è vita c’è speranza” Where there’s life, there’s hope. Sofie Michelli’s world opens up again when she hears these words. Her years of living in despair and loss are at an end and she’s ready to start again. That comes in the form of the old villa that her brother Lance, and Rese, fixed up. What was once intended as an inn, has become a refuge for the hurting and downtrodden. It takes some time for Rese to adjust to the humbled version of Lance, but this new gift of healing of his leaves her with even more questions. Things get even more complicated when Child Protective Services, Matt Hammond, shows up on their doorstep to investigate the infant left unexpectedly in their care.

This series touches on faith, mental illness, physical healing and SO much more. Some of it was outside of my normal ‘read’ so while I still enjoyed each book, I feel like my favorite was the first. That’s not to say that each book didn’t impart some wisdom as the characters learned and grew. I loved reading about Matt’s journey as he gets to know the residents at the Sonoma villa and deals with his own painful past.

While this series might not be a regular read for me, I can see myself coming back to it simply to fall back in love with the characters, appreciate how Heitzmann wove such a stunning plot that keeps you reading until the last page.

I definitely recommend this series but I would suggest pre-reading it before passing it on to a younger reader. As it deals with heavier things, it might be too much for them.

~Laura

*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.

 

February 2019 Book Reviews

13 Mar

This is a short and sweet book review for February, and then in just a few weeks, there will be another (longer) one for March!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that I set myself a crazy goal – to read The Shadow Rising in just a few weeks. As it’s one thousand pages, it was a hefty goal. Thankfully I realized that I’d read the library due date for it wrong, and I actually had almost a week extra. I did it though, I finished it the night before! If it wasn’t such a great story – so engrossing – there’s no way I would have even attempted it. I read SO MUCH. By the time I finish each one of these books though, I am ready to jump right into the next one.

Also, remember, 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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Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #2) by Theodora Goss – Mary Jekell and the other four members of the Athena Club are enjoying a break after helping Sherlock Holmes solve the WhiteChapel murders. But then Mary receives a telegram from another monstrous girl and they set off across Europe to rescue her. And to stop the Alchemical Society’s evil experiments once and for all.

~This was a random pick-up at the library, although I didn’t realize that it was the second in a series. While it was vastly different from what I am used to, I overall enjoyed it. The story took many plot twists that I didn’t see coming, keeping me guessing as to who was on the girls’ side and who wasn’t. Goss also did something that I’ve never encountered in a novel – one of the characters was writing the story (their adventures) and occasionally, the others would interrupt her telling of it. At first, I felt like it really just stopped the story without adding anything to it but by the end, I liked the extra insights into who they were. Goss pulled off that clever bit of writing, I think. I wouldn’t recommend this to younger readers as there was quite a bit of killing, some insinuations and just overall intensity. 

Maire )Fires of Gleannamara #1) by Linda Windsor – When Maire, queen of Gleannamara, takes Rowan Ap Emrys as hostage -and husband – she doesn’t understand his ways. Or his God. Full review here.

The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time #4) by Robert Jordan- When Min once again enters the White Tower, she sees disturbing images, portending doom. In Tear, the Dragon Reborn debates his next move. The man with the golden eyes is hunted in Two Rivers. The only one who can stand against the rising of the Shadow is the Dragon Reborn. What he does next has to be something no one expects.

~I’ve already told you about my ‘speed read’ through this hefty book . The way that Jordan continues each character’s story without leaving you feeling like one or more are superfluous is incredible. I think that my favorite storyline and character is Perrin although Min’s is intriguing me as well. I can’t wait to get book 5 from the library! 

Medical Medium’s Liver Rescue by Anthony William – Unbeknown to the majority, having an overloaded liver can cause many health problems. With a practical guide and compassionate insight, William shares just how to save our livers and turn around our health

~I have a confession to make. I didn’t read very much of this at all. I hope to get it from the library again this year and read it through. 

I also realized that I haven’t reviewed the Michelli Family series by Kristen Heitzmann like I said I would! It’s on the calendar for next week now though.

Currently Reading: 

Dear Theo by Vincent Van Gogh

Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

Love’s Unending Legacy (Love Comes Softly #5) by Janette Oke

 

To Read:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

Diamond of the Rockies Series by Kristen Heitzmann

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

 

In case you missed it, I reviewed the Sisters of Bethelehem Springs Series last month. To check out what I read in March of last year, click here!

~Laura

A Musing Maverick

"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

Elaine Howlin

Create - Concoct - Originate

See Jayne Run

Navigating with Chronic Illness in a Self Absorbed World

1WriteWay

I AM therefore I Write. Official site of Marie A Bailey, writer, knitter, and stray cat magnet.