Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Tales from Ivy Hill, #1)The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

By Julie Klassen
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Rating 4.5 Stars

Summary: On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood--along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.
Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family's inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell's owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.
Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband's legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband's brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around. 

My Thoughts:

Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. She could have her own sub category on this blog because of how many of her books I have read. This start of a series - a first for her. Unlike a majority of Christian writers seem to crank out trilogies like there is no tomorrow, capitalizing on their characters to keep us coming back for more - Klassen usually ties everything up in one book. I'm not complaining about this series approach. There are stories at in Ivy Hill and I'm excited to see how they fold out.

This approach also allows for the slow and steady pace which fits in perfectly with the setting. I didn't feel like it was dragging, it was merely taking its time and letting us enjoy the journey of Jane and Thora. The story unfolds gently, but with twists that I wasn't expecting, but with character growth that felt real. No one changed with a single revelation, they grow and change with minor set back the way we all do on our own little journeys.  (I hate it when books try to have someone change like a switch going off. Yes, I have those sparks of inspiration where I'm going to be a better person and make my bed every day, meal prep and go to the gym 3 times a week. But we all know that within a week I'm back to where I was but perhaps with the bed made 2 times a week) 

As usual, I fell in love with the characters - not all of them, I still don't know how I feel about Patrick and I don't think I would mind if he fell off the map. But Jane and Thora, Mercy and Rachel are all women I wanted to spend more time with. Each woman is strong in her own right and are all showing different facets of femininity. That perhaps is one of the greatest strengths of Klassen's characters I don't feel like these women are overly stereotyped or one dimensional. They are human and we get to see their strengths and weaknesses and grow closer to all of them.  

Overall if you like Christian Fiction that isn't too preachy, gentle stories that are reminiscent of Gaskell and Austen this is one I would recommend. I'm very excited to read the next book in the series.

Thank you Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Philospher's Flight - Guys and Gals, you have to read this!

The Philosopher's Flight

The Philosopher’s Flight
By: Tom Miller
Genre: Fantasy, Revisionist History
Rating: 5 stars

Reader Advisory: For my more gentle readers, this does have many instances of four letter language and sexual encounters

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women. 

Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.

My Thoughts:

I read this book too early. I can’t believe that the sequel isn’t coming out until next year! Faster please Mr. Miller!

I rarely win things in my life. This is one of the things that I won from a Goodreads Drawing and I’m supremely glad that I did. The cover art is wonderful and fits in with the period of the piece and I loved the revisionist/alternative history this story presents. This of course is a free and honest review – thank you goodreads for giving me the chance to read this.

Ok, now that disclaimers are over:

This was fascinating. I feel sorry for my coworkers because I started it during a quiet moment at work (should I have been reading…probably not but it was the end of the day and I was tired of dealing with the ins and outs of account maintenance) and after the prologue I was already telling me reading buddies “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!”

What a wonderful concept, to have a sort of magic, it of course is science/alchemy, that allows you to fly, to transport, make things grow or to utterly destroy. Then take that one step further from our views of the world by making it a power that typically only women can wield. Sure, there are men who can do it with a bit of success, but the true power lies with the ladies. This sets up a lot of politics that is an interesting contrast to the world at the time (this takes place at the beginning of the 20th century) and can be a study in contrasts with certain cultures and industries that are around even until today. And because it’s looked at through a lens that is so incredibly alien to what we see today it is made that much more striking.

Robert does not have an easy go of it at Radcliffe. He faces harassment, misandry and all sorts of terrible actions done to him simply because he is a man who has the nerve to enter into a woman’s world. The Radcliffe women are an eclectic bunch. Robert though lucks out into finding some other fliers who instantly take him under their proverbial wing, and while it doesn’t stop the attacks on his person and his progress, he does have friends who stand up for him. It was a good School type of book, these are young students who are coming into their powers as sigilists and who are still growing up themselves. 

With all that going on there is also the Trencher movement that has become more active and more deadly. Trenchers are the Anti-Philosophers. A group that wants women back where they belong and to know they have full control again. (I imagine it’s hard to put a woman down in a world where she could, with almost no effort at all dissolve your bones where you stand so that you die in a puddle of your own organs) This group has been pressing for more and more Anti-Philosopher Legislation at DC, has been doing random lynching’s of women and their families. Robert’s mother has been known to pick of more than one Trencher in her time and Robert needs to determine how he is going to face the political battles of his parents generation that are now a part of his own.

And there is a lovely and, in my opinion, real story of a relationship that blooms between him and Danielle Hardin. A heroine transporter who had saved the lives of countless men at war overseas. She is also African American and not at all what one would imagine a leading lady to look like nor act like. I loved them. Their story wasn’t first and foremost in the plot. It wasn’t the end goal, it simply happened, and the story was richer for it.

This just recently came out. I recommend it highly. It presents an interesting look at class warfare, gender warfare and the next book I am fairly certain will be looking into the actions taken in war and their consequences.

Read it, tell me what you thought. Let’s chat about it because I thought there is much that can be discussed.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)The Bear and the Nightingale
By: Katherine Arden
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind--she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed--this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales. 

My Thoughts:
I have been lucking out with this round of Reader's Choice books at my library. I have loved all of the ones I have read thus far and each has been vastly different. So good on you Salt Lake County Librarians! Keep the good recommendations coming.

Oh what a wondrous fairy tale. Perfect to bring out on a cold winter night and take yourself to far away places. I often imagine myself reading books to my future children at night, and this is definitely going to be one of those. 

My experience with Russian literature is not extensive, the 3 Russian pieces that all American’s seem to read – War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Crime and Punishment are the extent of my actual Russian exposure. But that was enough to make me love it. The cadence of the stories, the blend of the Christian, the Pagan and the Human, and he rich sentence structure (yes it was translated and I know that language itself is lost in the translation but there is just this feel in Russian writings that I don’t really find anywhere else)

I found this here. Yes the author is from the US, but she did spend time in Russia and studying Russian literature and at least to me it is reflected beautifully here. I loved the power and depth of the characters. I love how other worldly it felt. I want to learn more about Vasilisa  and her powers. And I’m very excited that we will get to do so.

She is so incredibly strong, yet also fragile. Fiercely loyal to her family, but also to the truth she knows to exist. She trusts herself and will not be swayed by the insistence of others, yet she balances her fierce spirit with a respect for the beliefs and lives of others. She is a character I wouldn’t want to sip coffee with, she is that fairy tale heroine who you look upto but could never touch. She is a wood-sprite, with a spirit part of me wishes to have and a freedom that I think everyone secretly or not desires. There is dignity and power to her, she isn’t immortal, the danger she faces is real Highlight for spoiler: and I never assumed that she would end up surviving the whole book. (Yes, I know there are sequels, but when Death is one of your characters really anything is possible)

And can we look at the Priest for a minute. He is such a complex mess of human follies. He has many talents, his painting and is voice are a siren’s call – there is magic in him that simply isn’t viewed as such. He is set on a path of grandeur while young and thrown from it without any say in the matter. He is prideful rather than pious, he is so far from the God he professes to serve that it is no wonder how he ended up.

I need friends to read this! I want to talk about it. To go over the characters, the story, the themes. To speak of bravery, loyalty - to self and to family, and of owning your destiny. Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. It is for those who are finally old enough to read fairy tales again, those who like the feel of Russia but don’t necessarily want to spend the eternity it takes to read War & Peace and for those who want a story with a strong female character that isn’t bogged down by romance.

Once you have read it, let me know – we can go out for a hot chocolate and discuss. I can’t wait to chat with you.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Gregor the Overlander Series

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Gregor the Overlander Series
By: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Rating: 4 stars


When Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats--but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.

Gregor wants no part in this conflict, but again and again, he and his family are drawn into the Underland. Gregor must find his place in the frightening prophecies he encounters, the strength to protect his family, and the courage to defend against an army of giant rats.

My Thoughts:

I have been listening to this series for the past month or so while doing some overtime at work (the reader is great one of my favorites) and I gotta admit, this isn't the kind of book I should have been listening to. I would be IM'ing my co-workers with "ARE YOU SERIOUS?" or "Baddie is gone!" or "If this person doesn't die soon I am going to lose it." I have always been an emotional reader so bringing books into the workplace has always been a risk, but this was a very fun one to take.

These books were recommended to me by a friend years ago. She worked with 6th graders and helping them read and this series is right in that ball park. Suzanne Collins is much more widely known for her Hunger Games novels, but in all honesty I loved these ones so much more. They help young children explore themes of prejudice - like with Gregor's acceptance of Twitchtip in book 2, of how far should one go to win a war (book 3 on basically), the need for self control - Gregor and his Rager abilities and, of course, the importance of family. They do read more juvenile with some of the lessons being hit a little bit over the head (book 4 veers straight into knock-you-over-the-head Holocaust allegory) but they are good lessons to explore. I feel like Collins conveyed these themes much better with this series than she did with Hunger Games. I liked Gregor much more than Katniss and there was no stupid love triangles...because the kids are 12.

I have fallen in love with the strength of the various characters - everyone needs a Mrs. Cormacy in their lives, Boots is the little sister/niece/cousin who we all grew up with, and who wouldn't want a huge bat like Aires who could fly you around.  I found this to be a fun series, it is one that I will have on my shelves when I have children/nieces&nephews/god-children because it is a fun adventure with lots of growth mixed in.

Thank you Suzanne for this marvelous adventure. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Name Unknown

A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England, #1)A Name Unknown 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Shame Nation

34006774Shame Nation
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is a book everyone needs to read. The title perfectly fits the world we are currently living in. Our society has changed from guilt to shame - much like the Salem Witch Hunts, we see perceived wrongdoing and vehemently attack - and the internet is the perfect place for that to happen. Sue and Melissa do a brilliant job of bringing empathy back into the game. They show the humans behind the meme's and the real consequences for what happens when someone is "cyberlynched."

They explore the many different ways that the internet has been abused - every thing from revenge porn, to the destruction of lives because of one wrong tweet. They also give advice for ways to keep yourself as safe as possible, while also demonstrating that really there is only so much you can do to protect yourself from the wrath of the web.

Reading this has made me think deeply about what I post, like and share. No longer do I want to take pictures of people who are living their lives but for some reason something that they are doing either makes me laugh or offends me - I don't know their life and I shouldn't be spreading it. When I post or comment is it something that could be hurting the person in the picture. Could I be tacitly contributing to the cyber-bullying that we are trying so hard to eradicate?

The end of the book goes over several lessons learned that anyone can start applying in order to protect themselves and to help others. I honestly don't believe that humanity is terrible as a whole, but we do have to consciously work to remember that we are good and this is a book that can make that easier to do.

I don't often say go out and read this book, but this is one I find to be relevant to the world we live in and most likely will demand my children read when they are old enough to be posting regularly. It's amazing, go read it.

**This galley was given to me in exchange for an honest review.**

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Buried Secrets

30838426Buried Secrets
By: Rachel Good
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Three years after the accident that almost claimed her life, Emma Esh has recovered physically but has no memory of the year before the accident. When she moves to a new community to help her sister Lydia and brother-in-law, Caleb, prepare for the birth of twins, she falls for their neighbor Samuel.

My Thoughts:

I have always been a fan of Amish fiction though sometimes they can be written too preach or too sweet. Not so with Buried Secrets. Good explored the path of recovery from past trauma. Emma's battle with anxiety and her fears was commendable and well done.

I didn't realize that this was a sequel when I picked it up, which I think actually added to my experience. Like Emma I had no inkling of what happened during her lost year and was waiting along with her for either for something to trigger her memory, or someone in her family explaining what was going on. The suspense was not overly done where I wanted to just get to the end to figure it out already, but when it did I was prepared for it and didn't feel like it was being added just for shock value.

I enjoyed reading this and would highly recommend it. 

**I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill By Julie Klassen Genre: Christian Historical Fiction Rating 4.5 Stars Summary:  On a rise overlooking the W...