Tag Archives: books

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 May 2020

28 May

Sadly, my quest to find a book that just sucks me into its world is still continuing. Well, let me clarify, The Horse and His Boy, Virginia and House at the End of the Moor did the job admirably well, it’s been ever since then that I’m still struggling. (and, transparency here, I adored the book by Griep and had intended to do a separate post but as I loaned the book to my mom before I took pics, I decided to just add it here). I’m enjoying the two classics that I’m reading right now but both are better at little spurts of reading, and I’m really only slogging through one because I REALLY want to have read all of it at least once. Which, this isn’t something I do, normally… Anyhow, that’s a very long and probably confusing introduction!

Virginia: Four Inspiring Stories of Valor, Virtue and Victory by Cathy Marie Hake – In these four short stories, follow a family from the turn of the century to the end of World War I as they battle loss and love, faith and prejudice.

~Now, if you’ve been around SGL for a while, you know that I’m not a big fan of short stories, but as these were all written by Hake, they ended up feeling kind of like a whole novel. (not really b/c they ARE about different people). But I couldn’t even really peg which one was my favorite, each was unique and pull-you-in. Definitely recommend this!

The Prarie Legacy Series by Janette Oke – Follow Clark and Marty’s granddaughter, Virginia, through her teens on up through her adult years. As she struggles to fit in with her friends in school, falling in love, learning sacrifice and faith and then onto marriage, children and the inevitable heartache that accompanies life. Her faith and family bolster her through them, growing her into a woman of strength and godliness.

– I don’t think I’d ever read this series before! I fully expected to recognize it, once I got into it but that never happened! (I’m such a fan of Oke’s that I’m surprised when I run across a book I’ve not read of hers). This series was similar to her Love Comes Softly series but as it is based on their granddaughter, it helps it feel like a continuation. There were aspects of the book that hit so close to home that I had a hard time reading, but that’s what I appreciate about Oke’s books is that she writes what real life looks like – to a point anyway. If you’re looking for a sweet series that teaches life and faith lessons throughout, this is the one to reach for.

Tis Herself by Maureen O’Hara – In a straight-forward tone, the famed beauty and actress talks about her life from girlhood in Ireland to becoming a star in Hollywood. The men that formed her career and tried to destroy it; a disastrous marriage; birth of her daughter; lifelong friendship with ‘Duke’ and so much more. She doesn’t simper away from her mistakes, rather owns up to them and moves on. As so many of her roles in movies, she was a fiesty, strong red-head who fought for what she wanted.

It’s always a little scary starting a book about a favorite actress, so this book sat on my shelf for about a year until I picked it up. I’m glad I read it even though it was a sad story, if you know anything about O’Hara’s life, you know that she had Trials. But the way she writes (this is an autobiography after all) and the things she shares – like her long friendship with John Wayne – keeps you engaged and interested. It was fun getting to read about how Hollywood used to be, and the making of some of her movies that I enjoy. If you’re a fan of her movies and don’t mind reading about heartaches and laughter, give this a try.

The Horse and His Boy (The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis – When young Shasta talks about running away, he’s startled to realize the horse that he’s confided in can Talk. And not only talk, but wants to run away as well! With warhorse Bree helping him, Shasta sets off toward Narnia. Their travels include great adventures and require both of them to move past fear and prejudice.

~In reading other reviews of this book, a big theme of them was ‘racist’ and ‘prejudice’ but I never thought that the whole time I read it. Yes, the Calormen are the slave-owners and terrible people but, I never associated that with Lewis saying all dark-skinned people are such. That aside, this is one of my absolute favorites of the Narnia books. Perhaps it’s because a horse is one of the main characters? For whatever reason, I really truly love reading this. The lessons on Not judging people by what they look like are true for every generation (which is why I probably never have thought of it as racist…) and the truths that Aslan imparts are so so good.

The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep – When a powerful politician threatens to ruin opera singer Maggie Lee’s life, she runs away and lives in anonymity on the edges of the moor. While life is lonely, she knows she’s safe. Until one day, she finds a wounded man and takes him in to care for him. But this man isn’t who he seems to be either. Escaped convict, Oliver Ward, is out to set the wrongs in his past right – little does he expect to find the same jewels that got him convicted in the very house that he’s now staying in. Both Oliver and Maggie decide to try and set things right by returning the jewels, clearing his name and, in the midst of all that, keeping Maggie’s identity a secret.

– I got this as a birthday present and LOVED it. I’d never read anything by Griep before but I do want to give some of her other books a try now! The twists and turns in this mystery were good- so much so that I had a hard time putting it down once I’d picked it up! As well as one time that I got so worried about what was going to happen to Maggie that I Couldn’t pick it up for a day or so – ha! I just loved Oliver as he tries to get his life back and yet is eaten up so with hatred and revenge. So superficial but you’ve got to check out the Cover! It’s simply lovely. But really, just get this book, you won’t regret it! This became a Top Favorite for 2020

Montana Marshalls series by Susan May Warren – Follow the Marshall siblings as each have to face their fears and doubts along the way as they have to choose between who they think they are and who they want to be. Love comes calling for each of them- Knox, Tate, Wyatt, Ford and Ruby Jane- but will they be able to survive long enough to reach for it?

I won this series as ebooks as a giveaway and was quite excited as I’ve enjoyed most of Warren’s novels. I enjoy series that focuses on siblings (looking at you, The O’Malley Series), so eagerly started Knox (book 1). I’ve made it through most of the books but am really struggling to finish this series. Which makes me sad. I’ve enjoyed the adventure aspect of each one, and have found some favorites among the main and side characters. I’ll try to be brief on why this series hasn’t hit it off with me: Warren’s style seems to have changed and it’s a little too… millenial (?) for me; there’s more intense kissing than I think is necessary – especially when the people barely know each other/aren’t married; lack of remorse for intimacy out of wedlock for one couple. Now, that last one might change as I’ve not finished the book. All in all, I’m not sure I’ll finish the series, if I do, I might skip forward (something else completely unheard of for me).

Currently Reading:

Pillar of Fire by J.H. Ingraham

She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard

To-Read:

Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

the next Narnia book

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

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

Did you find any books to add to your To-Read pile? I’d love to know which ones! And if you have read any of the ones that I wasn’t that crazy about, did you love them? Share that too!!

~Laura

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

My Library Book Haul

24 Jan

I decided that it might be fun to share with you the stack of books that I picked up from the library earlier this week.

 

librarybookhaul

Due to a large stack of TBR’s that I already own, I hadn’t planned on going to the library for quite some time. But, since I’m in the middle of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini and of course I had to get the next (and last!) book of the series. Which meant going onto the library website. Which meant that I requested several more books than just that one.

I tried, really I did, to just get Inheritance.

Fast forward to when I actually went to the library… and ended up in the little book sale corner and found this book that is the origin story of Diego De La Vega  aka Zorro, by Isabel Allende . *I don’t know anything more about this book other than what it says on the back cover, so if you have read it, I would definitely love to hear what you thought about it!* I couldn’t resist it, or the three Disney VHS tapes that were 25 cents each.

Anyhow, I’ll give you a quick rundown as to what made me pick these particular books – and indeed, I’ve already read a few of them.  Click on the titles to go to Goodreads and read what they’re about.

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 book, Jennifer, is a short story with one of the siblings as the main character. If I remember correctly, Henderson wrote it due to her fans begging for it.

The Witness by Dee Henderson – I’m telling you, I’m feeling another Henderson reading spree coming on. I can’t believe that I’d never read this before. It was another good suspense story with characters that I would absolutely love to see in more books – although I can’t find any evidence that it’s part of a series.

The Bridge to Belle Islandby Julie Klassen – I have recently fallen in love with several of Klassen’s novels and wanted to try another one. The reviews on Goodreads for this weren’t the most positive but I decided it would be worth a try

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill – a friend recently recommended this to me and come on, it’s set in the 1920s in Chicago. How can I not give it a chance?

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girlby Theodora Goss – Now, you might remember my review of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewomanwhich is book 2 of this series…that makes this one the 3rd book and I’ve never read the first one. I know, I’m terrible. Once again, this was a random pick-up, and I’m kinda curious to see how the story continues.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – as I said above, this is the 4th (and final) in the Inheritance Cycle. This thing is a beast, I tell you, a beast. I’m a couple hundred pages in and it’s just as good as I expected. I’m learning that J.R.R. Tolkien’s words are quite true :

“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”

 

And just for fun, I’ll tell you what I’m currently reading:

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams – The Early Years 1903-1940 by Gary Giddins

Tate (Montana Marshalls #2) by Susan May Warren (ebook)

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

 

To Read:

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

The books by Goss, Klassen or Morrill

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed this quick post on what I picked up on at the library! It’s a bit different from usual but, that’s what makes it fun! (hopefully anyway!)

Watch for a health update coming up next week!

~Laura

 

My List of To-Read books for 2020

13 Jan

After scrolling through several articles on ‘must-read-books’ on Pinterest, I decided to put one together for myself for this coming year. I’ve focused on five different areas/genres as well as making sure that I either own them or am able to get them from the library. Yes, I will inevitably buy books throughout the year but it won’t be to read what I’ve put on this list. I’ll also add, that there’s only 25 books here and there is no doubt I’ll read more than double that. But, this is a place to start – a focus, if you will.

As I read them, I intend on coming back here and marking them – how I’m not sure yet? – so that I know just where I’m at with this list by the end of the year.

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Faith and Personal Growth

Biographies:

Writing Related:

Fiction:

Potential Re-Reads:

I’ve also created a Pinterest board full of reading challenges, go check it out if you’re thinking of starting one, there are several to choose from! There’s even ones that are based by country (so cool). But I’ve just decided on doing this one:

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(I got this from The Inky Bookworm)

These are the pages that I gathered some of these book suggestions from, go check them out and see what else you can add to your To-Read list!

Creative Home Keeper

More Radiance

4 Hats & Frugal

Have you ever done a Reading Challenge? What books are you planning on reading this year?

*you can find me on Instagram or on Facebook *

~Laura

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. 

a falcon for a queen

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

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