Tag Archives: books

March 2021 Book Reviews

14 May

Once again, it’s been far too long since I got any sort of post here on SGL. But, at last, I have finished the book reviews for what I read in March. It was rather a stellar month for reading exceptional books, let me tell you. Let’s get right to it!

Redwall by Brian Jacques- At Redwall Abbey, everything is peaceful and the inhabitants prepare to celebrate the Summer of the Late Rose. But what they don’t know yet is that Cluny the Scourge is nearing their valley. Cluny is a vicious warlord, a one-eyed rat who wishes to kill all in his path. He sets plans to kill the peaceful animals and take ownership of Redwall.

~I had never read this nor barely even heard of it, and am so glad that I picked a copy up when I found it at a thrift store. It turns out that my husband read the whole series as a kid and loved it. I quickly understood why as I was whisked into the world of the Abbey- Martin, Bartholomew and the others. Cluny and his army. The owl. Oh, just the whole of it. It was so good and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation #1) by Tamera Alexander – Being the widow of a man who was shot as a traitor to the south leaves Olivia Aberdeen without many options in Nashville. She has been shunned by proper society. But she is relieved to accept the invitation by ‘Aunt’ Elizabeth Harding to be housekeeper at Belle Meade Plantation. When she arrives and finds out from Confederate General William Giles Harding why he agreed to her coming, she is disillusioned and worried. This was not to be the safe haven that she had hoped it would be. But another newcomer to Belle Meade draws her interest, a young man that, although he is from the South, seems anything but a Southern gentleman. Ridley Cooper, branded a traitor and dreaming of learning the ‘gift’ that Bob Green, Belle Meade’s horse trainer and former slave, has with horses, enters Belle Meade with a host of secrets. One of them being that while he was born in the South, he fought for the North. As he battles demons within himself, both of them must deal with fears of betrayal.

~Why did this sit on my shelf for a few years before I ever read it? I’ll never know. I was quickly drawn into the story and was HELD there for the whole thing. I really liked Ridley and Uncle Bob. As well as Olivia and her struggle to overcome not only her long-held fears but the social stagnation that suddenly happens to her. A great book – highly recommend! 

Mary Poppins 80th Collection Edition by P.L. Travers – Travel to Cherry Tree Lane on the east wind and join in on all the adventures that the Banks children go on when Mary Poppins arrives to be their nanny.

~Forgive the super short synopsis but I feel like most people have a general idea of who Mary Poppins is. I had never read any of the stories about the ‘magical’ nanny, my only experience was Disney’s rendition of her with Julie Andrews. I did enjoy getting to see how Travers wrote the character and all the crazy adventures she led the children on. But, I will say, I didn’t end up adoring her, nor the whole of the book. There were adventures that I had fun reading but on the whole, (please don’t hate me for saying this), I rather still prefer Disney’s version of who Mary Poppins is. I am glad I read it though, and think it’s worth anyone who is interested in at least trying it. I will add that getting to know Poppins’ relatives makes it worth it.

Home Work: A Memoir of my Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews – This being her second memoir, she focuses on her years in Hollywood, as an up and coming actress. The highs and lows of working with the giants of cinema at the time as well as balancing her personal life.

~I enjoyed the portion that I read of this. I honestly read maybe a quarter of it but realized that as interesting as it was, there were other books that I would rather be reading. So, I opted to be done with it. But, Andrew’s writing style is engrossing and the stories she shares are interesting. I mainly wanted to read it because of learning about her experiences filming both Mary Poppins and Sound of Music.

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman- In Goredd, the peace between humans and dragons these past forty years has done little to ease the suspicions between them. The dragons have created a way to form themselves into human shape, and their abilities in mathematics are unmatched. The anniversary of the treaty is approaching and tensions run high. Seraphina Dombegh is a new member of court when a member of the royal family is murdered. With sufficient reason to hide from both sides, she is nevertheless caught up in the investigation with the perceptive captain of the guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. As things grow more dangerous, she struggles to hid her secret that could mean her very life, if it is found out.

This gets five stars and I do not do 5 star ratings very often! I was completely enamored with this book. I knew nothing about it when I started – but man, Hartman did an amazing job weaving a story together with dragons in a whole new way. I really liked Kiggs’ character development, as well as Seraphina herself. The only things I feel like I should mention: the word ‘bastard’ is used throughout but in the instance of being a child born out of wedlock, not as a derogatory name. There is a very subtle instance of a possible relationship between two men, but it’s so subtle that I probably wouldn’t have even caught it if I hadn’t looked up the term that Hartman used for it. I am eagerly awaiting reading the sequel.

Dr Fate Vol. 1 The Blood Price by Paul Levitz (from goodreads:) In modern-day Brooklyn, Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, has called up a great flood in order to cleanse the world. If left unchecked, his magic has the power to wash all of humanity away. To turn the rising tide and save mankind, Nabu the Wise, the mystical helmet of Fate, must choose a new champion from among Earth’s greatest heroes—instead, he settles on Khalid “Kent” Nassour, Egyptian-American first-year med student. Unfortunately for the inexperienced and overwhelmed Khalid, instructions for his new abilities can’t be found in any of his textbooks. Unless he can learn to harness the ancient power of Nabu, Anubis will claim everything the new Doctor Fate holds dear, including his family, his girlfriend and the world as he knows it. Yes, the Doctor is in…way over his head.

~sometimes, the goodreads synopsis is just too good. Whoever wrote this one, nailed it. Confession time: this was my first comic book. Not to read of course, there have been a few over the years. But to own. And it is, naturally, about Dr. Fate. (marrying a nerd has had its advantages in getting exposed to some really cool superhero characters). This is a modern retelling of Dr. Fate’s origin and I liked it. I really appreciated that they worked in a (full page) spread of him in his original outfit. (insert girlish squealing). The storyline kept me interested and the artwork was incredible.

What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

Jan and Feb 2021 Book Reviews

25 Mar

Well, it’s been a minute since I last posted, hasn’t it? As you can tell by the title, I’ve decided to lump the book reviews in two months today. Hopefully I can then get caught up and do March’s book reviews in the next week or so. Let’s begin, shall we?

Photo by Mahendra Kumar on Unsplash

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – English orphan, Maia is sent to live with her distant relatives who own a rubber plantation on the Amazon. Excited to explore the new world of sunshine, bright flowers and butterflies, she is surprised to encounter her cousins who douse the house with bug killer and won’t let her leave their compound. But Maia can’t be cooped up forever and she becomes involved in a mystery about an inheritance, a reluctant actor and a giant sloth

~ This is a children’s story so well written that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fell in love with Maia and her governess, Miss Minton. I highly recommend it to pass on to young readers as well! It was such fun and getting to read about the Amazon just added to the delight.

A Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schaub – when Eve’s eyes were opened to how sugar is hidden in just about everything (bacon, dressings, baby food, etc), she challenged her husband and two daughters to going a whole year without sugar. As they traversed the rocky road through holidays, birthdays and vacations, she learned what the real cost of such sugar consumption is- obesity, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease among other issues. Eve talks about what it’s like for an average American family to kick the sugar habit.

~ Every now and then I love to read food memoirs and this was a good one. I appreciated Schaub’s easy to understand explanations about sugar byproducts, and her honesty about the challenges of cutting sugar out of their diets. As someone who has had to cut out all processed sugars out of my own diet, I identified with a lot of what she talks about. It also motivated me to keep looking at the ingredient lists of anything I buy – which can get wearying after a few years but it’s Worth it. Highly recommend, whether you’re wanting a good kick in the pants to minimize your sugar intake or just a good memoir to laugh and groan along with.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin – We all know that habits are the key to change but Rubin wondered – how do we change our habits? She gives practical advice and theories – that she tested on herself and those around her- mixed with humor and research, on how to improve our lives by intentionally creating habits that help us lead the life we want.

~ This book was so inspirational. I’m tempted to buy it (I got it from the library to read) and actually give some of her ideas a try. This book was such an easy read and kept me turning the pages. (I even stopped reading the novel I was in at the time, it’s that good). I highly recommend!

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes – Raised on stories of the magic of the past and high seas adventures, Lucy Clairmont grew up to be a marine archaeologist. She’s not seen her childhood friend, Dashel, for years. But when tragedy strikes, it’s his knowledge as a forensic astronomer that will help her unravel the mystery that she finds in her childhood home. Somehow, it’s linked with a story two hundred years old- of childhood love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. And so, Lucy and Dashel journey to an estate on the East Sussex coast, where they find a community of gentle souls and long-lost secrets where they both just might find healing.

~ Deep breath, you guys. This novel was Incredible. It immediately went onto my Favorites of 2021 list. I adore when an author can carry two different timelines through the story and weave them so seamlessly together. This was my first novel of Dykes by the way, and I was thoroughly enchanted with her writing style. I wanted to shake Lucy a few times as she let fear or assumptions dictate her actions- but don’t we all do that at times? And really, if you can write marine archaeology into a book, I am probably going to be a fan. If you’re wanting a novel that you just can’t put down, give this one a try! I already can’t wait to read it again.

My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York, 1941 by Mary Pope Osborne – This diary follows the adventures and trials of young Madeline. Her and her mother live in a boardinghouse on Long Island while her father serves on an aircraft carrier on the Pacific Coast. When her and her friend find a German U-boat on the coast, they form “Kids Fight for Freedom” to do their own part in the home front war effort.

~ This is a part of the ‘Dear America’ series. I have read a few, mostly when I was a young teen, and enjoyed them. This was no exception, even if it was written a little simply and I would have loved more details on certain things. But, this is written as a diary, not a novel, so it makes complete sense as to its level. I appreciated the growth of Madeline throughout the story as she goes through good and bad times during the war. Also, it’s a little known fact that a German U-boat was found on the coast in New York. I definitely recommend this for younger (and older) readers.

Books coming up in the next review:

Redwall by Brian Jacques

To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

and more!

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear!

What I Read at Christmas Time and Beyond

21 Dec

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have some favorites for certain seasons. Let’s be honest, mainly for winter. I have Winter reads.

During my cleaning out of my library the past few years, this list has gotten shorter, which means that when I was gathering all the books for this photo/post, I spent plenty of time searching for ones that I’ve gotten rid of. Why do I tell you these things? Because I like to feel that I’m not alone in my forgetfulness and book adoration. (Even as I started working on this post again, I realized that I’d forgotten two more books! Up I popped to go grab them.)

An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County by Beth Wiseman – Forgiveness is on the horizon – or is it? – for several people in Lancaster County. Facing some of their deepest fears at Christmastime has the potential to change their lives.

~ A good way to describe these are Hallmark movies set in an Amish community – and that’s not a bad thing. They deal with different struggles, but all 3 stories tie in with each other. They may be a bit cliched but sometimes that’s what you want. It only takes me a few days to read all of them, they are quick, fun reads for anyone. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – If Ebenezer Scrooge could have cancelled Christmas, he would have. But on one cold Christmas Eve, he is visited by his late business partner, who warns him to change his ways before he too has the same fate. Scrooge is visited by three Spirits who show him what has been, what is, and what will be.

~This hardback copy also has : The Cricket on the Hearth, The Chimes, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

~How Wonderful A Christmas Carol is, truly. I enjoy it every year. I’m partway thru The Chimes and it’s intriguing as well.

Wildwood Dancing -by Juliet Marillier – Jenica lives with her father and sisters in the Transylvania woods, in Piscul Draculi – a castle that hides a portal to the Other Kingdom. Every month, with her sisters and pet frog, on the Full Moon, they go through the portal and dance the night away. But at home, in their world, everything is changing, and soon, events will bring their two worlds together and change everything. Forbidden love – Unswerving anger over an act of betrayal – an enchanted frog – and the ultimate test of trust.

~I’ve been thinking about this book for over a month now but love starting it on January 1st..We’ll see if I can make it that long.

The Cricket on the Hearth and Other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens – This Dover Thrift Edition has, aside from the story on the title, The Holly Tree and The Haunted House.

~Had I remembered my hardback edition had short stories as well, I don’t know that I would have picked this up this fall. But, I’m looking forward to reading the two extra in this. So while this isn’t one that I go back to year after year, I anticipate doing so with at least some of these short stories!

Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury – All of Alcott’s short Christmas stories and novellas have been compiled in this lovely treasury. Full of love, hope, sorrow, redemption, strength, joy and goodness, these stories will enchant you.

~Last year I read a few of these short stories and was enchanted. Alcott’s writing is just so wonderful, how she weaves such lessons through her tales.

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman – A compelling love story between a young Irish girl, Katherine Mary O’Fallon, new to the Canadian wild, and Sergeant Mike Flannigan of the Canadian Mounted police.

~This is a yearly – winter read for me. The wilderness and those occupying it – the animals, peoples and nature itself – are described so vividly, it’s a delight. The heartbreak that occurs will tear your heart out just as surely as you’ll rejoice when good things happen. If this book isn’t considered a classic, I’m not sure why. Read it, you’ll be glad you did. 

Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy – When singer Annette Talbot shows up, with trouble following close on her heels, Elijah Walker has to decide if she’s telling the truth or lying. Like his ex- fiancee. Despite himself, he’s drawn to her – and just when he decides to trust her, he finds out she’s a wanted woman. Will he find out the truth before he loses Annie forever?

~ This was my second time reading this sweet romantic mystery. I liked how Connealy dealt with Elijah’s struggle to forgive himself and Annette’s mis-guided belief in ‘bearing her cross’. Faith is central to this novel, and it’s done very well. It’s a great Christmas-time western read.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge – this book was first published in 1865. This story takes place in early nineteenth-century Holland. The description of Holland is fascinating, including some Dutch words which aspects always make me enjoy a book more. There are two connecting story lines – Poor Hans dreams of winning the Silver Skates in an ice-skating race while we also see the lives of other Dutch boys whose families are a little more well-off than Hans’.

~I believe I’ve only read this once but am excited to enter into Dodge’s world again. I remember just being enchanted with the Dutch villages and some of the characters. If you’re worried about how much she describes Holland (a valid fear from what I remember), there’s also a junior edition that I’m assuming cuts some of that out. I have both versions and haven’t decided which one I’ll read this year. Probably the unabridged, because that’s how I do things.

how sweet is this picture?

What are your Winter Reads?

~Laura

Book Reviews- Oct/Nov

14 Dec

Two months of book reviews in one today! I guess it’s just not in me these days to be consistent on my blogging. No matter how much I want to be. I’ve not only shared some novels but I’ve also linked a few reviews below that I shared previously as well as research books for my own novels. I hope you’ll find something to add to your TBR. Happy Reading!

Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson –

Kingdom above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

After reading it, I had to buy my own copy

Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier – Even though working as a lady’s companion is a step up for her, it’s still a small and dismal world to be a part of. So when the heroine of Rebecca meets and subsequently gets an unexpected proposal from Max de Winter, she accepts. She’s quickly swept into a world that she has no experience with. Max takes her home to his estate -overwhelming and set in its ways – Manderley and the staff that comes with it. The memory of Rebecca is kept alive by Mrs. Danvers, Max is haunted by the memory of his late wife and becomes taciturn and our heroine is caught in the middle.

~Over the past few years I have been getting told that I simply must read this book. When I saw that Enchanted Book Club was reading it a few months ago, I decided it was the time to give it a shot and was able to borrow a copy from a friend. And I’m so glad that I did. There were times that I did not enjoy what was happening in the story – why was Max so cold all of a sudden? Why was Frank Crawley so nice and yet seemingly so disliked by Mrs. Danvers? What was Mrs. Danver’s problem anyway? What changed Max so much when they got to Manderely? etc. The Questions were numerous. But they just made me keep reading, needing desperately to know the answers. The unexpected reveals in this story just blew me away. I didn’t see them coming. I did really love seeing the new Mrs. De Winter gain self confidence as the story went on, as she learned more about what was truly going on at Manderley. The writing style was incredible, I’m interested in reading other books by Du Marier now. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers, due to the intensity of the storyline.

the copy on the left was a gift from my 9th birthday!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – We follow the March sisters as they grow up in New England during the Civil War. Feminine and proper Meg, tomboy Jo, spoiled Amy and tender, sickly Beth each go through their highs and lows. Young neighbor Laurie joins in many of their adventures.

~It had been a few years since I read this classic story and I have to admit that I forgot so much of what happened (that isn’t typically in the movies). I liked seeing how Amy grew and matured; Beth’s faith despite everything; Meg’s learning how to be a good, Godly wife and Jo’s independence and realizing love can come, despite your intentions to avoid it. Can readily recommend this for younger readers, the life lessons throughout are just wonderful, for any age.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott – Years later, Jo now has boys of her own, as well as a dozen orphaned boys filling her informal school. And she couldn’t be happier, she loves each one of them and strives to help them grow in all the important ways. But boys will still be boys and they get into trouble and many an adventure.

~ This was only the second time I’ve read Little Men! I think I can honestly say that I enjoyed it even more than I did Little Women. The scrapes the the boys get into are just so interesting and you really root for them when they make the right choices. I highly recommend this for anyone, especially younger readers as it’s so fun and the life lessons are just as good as in Little Women.

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan Severa – Through photographs and writings, we are shown how poorer Americans could wear the current fashions within a year. And how fashion equality really rose in people’s minds as the years progressed. Through ready-made clothing and other inventions, the fashion industry changed the average American’s style.

~I got this book as research for the novels I’m writing and while I only focused on the years that were pertinent to my stories, I highly enjoyed (and took copious notes) it. The detail that Severa goes into is so great for historical information that I would love to own this eventually.

20th Century Fashion 1900-1920 Linen and Lace by Sue Mee – As part of a series that covers how fashion changed – from the tea gown to sportswear- it covers eight ‘looks’ as well as other information about the time period.

~This book was interesting but it wasn’t as in depth as I was wanting. It had some great information though!

Police Procedure and Investigation- a Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland – With this guide, you can get your facts about the inner workings of police departments straight instead of ending up like so many television shows that get so much of it wrong.

~This is yet another book for research, and that I’d love to own eventually. I didn’t need very much information from it but ended up flipping through several chapters just out of pure curiosity. Lofland gives it to you straight and detailed. A very good reference book.

Currently Reading:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

To Read:

Christmas/Winter books (watch for an upcoming post on that!)

What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

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

 

Little Blossoms for Jesus

• Enjoying the old-fashioned & beautiful • • Thankful for grace • Growing in faith • • Learning life • Loving people •

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Elaine Howlin

lost in the pages of books

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Navigating with Chronic Illness in a Self Absorbed World