Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Draper's Daughter

The Draper's DaughterThe Draper's Daughter

By: Ellin Carsta
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Cologne, 1351: Elisabeth and Stephen Hardenstein are twins, but they could not be more different. While Elisabeth is inspired by the family business, absorbing everything her father shows her about the cloth trade, Stephen enjoys a leisurely life and pays little attention to their father’s teachings. Elisabeth recognizes her true vocation as a tradeswoman, and though the odds are stacked against her, she pursues her passion.
When the twins’ father suffers a tragic stroke, the tables turn. Suddenly Stephen is interested in running the draper’s shop his father left behind, and he takes the lead in managing the family business. But Elisabeth can’t sit idly by and watch as he makes bad decisions and accumulates debts. Stephen pushes her to marry as soon as possible, even proposing a suitor, but Elisabeth has her own ideas about matters of the heart. Are her talents in the art of negotiation enough to win her both the job of her dreams and the man she truly loves?
My Thoughts:
I just finished this amazing novel and am on a total girl power high! This isn't the first German novel translated into English I have read, and each time I do it makes me want to learn to at least read the language even more. I love German novels and story telling.

Carsta does a great job of pulling me into 1300's Germany - the details of the terrible pogroms, the plague that still goes around, the medieval views of depression and women's place - they all combine to set the tone for Carsta's story in Cologne. Elizabeth is amazing. She is strong, she is kind, she tries over and over and keeps getting set back. (I feel sorry for my coworkers as they watch me read. They could tell there were times when I just wanted to yell at Elizabeth "Don't do the thing, that is a bad thing, don't do the thing!" But they are great sports and only teased me about it a little bit.) She deals with misogyny, with slut-shaming, with actual physical assault to her person, but she comes through. She comes through wiser for it. I want to be Elizabeth when I grow up.

Another point I loved - the interplay between Christian and Jew, especially in a business setting was great to see. We are in a world of rising tensions between any groups who are viewed as "other" and more often need to emphasize there is more that pulls us together than tears us apart. This was true between business women centuries ago and it is true between all of us today. Part of me wishes that more was spent in their relationship (and maybe there was in the German version...I really need to learn to read this language!) but I am content with the glimpse that we got.

The only bit that I wish was different **Spoilers, click and highlight between the asterisks to read** was that she ended up with her Notary at the end of the novel. Let her stick with her mantra of looking to the future rather than pining for the past. She could have continued on with her business, known that she would always have amazing contracts (typically skewed to her favor) and a husband who was her business equal. I would have loved to have that move forward rather than going back to Raphael her girlhood love. ***Spoilers over

All in all I love it. I think this is a book I could come back to - it's definitely one I have on my "to read in German when I learn how" shelf and I will be finding more to read from this author. Also, something practical I took away from this - get things in writing, always get things in writing. Anyway, go give it a try, I bet you'll enjoy it.

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hour 20

I'm losing steam, I'm not going to lie, I don't think I am going to make it through this year.

My brother will be speaking in church tomorrow...today at 9 AM and I'm not sure if I can stay awake for it...

I will see if I can get another hour out of it.

Just finished Cloaked by Alex Flinn, now I'm looking around to figure out what I want my next book to be. When it comes to my TBR list it's obnoxiously long, impossibly long. So when it comes to Readathon days I simply surround myself with too many books so that no matter what mood I'm in I will find something that I want to read.

I'll let you know once I figure out my next bit of reading :)

read stop motion GIF by A. L. Crego
So many books to choose from! And they all are calling my name!

Heading into hour 17

So this Readathon is killing me this year. I'm exhausted and have fallen asleep more than a few times. But I have liked my choices thus far.
1. The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo - It was one that intreagued me for a long time, sadly I just wasn't feeling it. Quick read, and I bet in a different mood it might strike my fancy.

2. Willpower Doesn't Work by Benjamin Hardy - loved it, might have been the wrong day for this one...I gotta admit all I wanted to do for a while was clean my room, through out all of my extra accumulation of things and stop reading...

WHICH I DID NOT DO! It is Readathon day! We must hold strong! We are going to keep going!

keep going dragons' den GIF by CBC

3. The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Kalssen - This one killed me. Persuasion is the best of Austen's novels - I will fight you over this and I will win because it is simply the best one hands down no battle. So any book that references or builds off of that amazing piece of literature makes me happy and I instantly find swoon worthy. Gah, it's the best and deserves it's full review at a later date.

For Now, back to the Readathon!

reading read GIF

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dewey's 24 hour Readathon! Going into hour 3

Hour 3 has started. I was definitely up way too late last night as I had tickets to the Avengers with my family there was no way I was getting to bed early.

I was off to a rocky start, I didn't get going until 6:30 :/ But I have finished one book and am listening to another while I am writing this.

Hour 3 Stats:
Books Read: 1
Pages Completed: 235
Snacks: Just water, way too early to break into the snacks. So I will be sitting, reading and drinking my morning tea. :)

My internet is cutting out really badly right now...I will have check back in a couple hours from now.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Refuge Assured

A Refuge AssuredA Refuge Assured

By: Jocelyn Green
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Vivienne Rivard fled revolutionary France and seeks a new life for herself and a boy in her care, who some say is the Dauphin. But America is far from safe, as militiaman Liam Delaney knows. He proudly served in the American Revolution but is less sure of his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Drawn together, will Liam and Vivienne find the peace they long for?

My Thoughts:
I have never read a book about the French refugees that fled to America during the revolution. Nor have I at all read (or studied) the Whisky Rebellion. To have a book containing both worlds was delightful. 

This is my first experience with Jocelyn Green and I don't plan on it being my last.

I do feel like this book is character driven, which is always my preference. Vivienne is amazing. She is strong - having to have nursed her mother until her death, secure her escape from the bloody regime and get to Pennsylvania and then learn a whole new way of living - gah! I wish I was able to do it with even half of her grace and determination. She knows who she is, she knows her worth and she knows and values work. But she is also proud - she doesn't forgive easily, she isn't always happy with everyone and felt real to me.

While it did take me a couple of chapters to get into the story once there I was hooked and didn't want to go back to work. (I typically spend my lunch break reading...this is a risky venture.) When looking at the comparisons between the French and American revolutions I was intrigued by the twist she brought to it. With so much of the Whisky Rebellion at the front and seeing the idea of freedom for all being changed to freedom "from" all. No taxes, no rule of law, if I don't want to do it, then i shouldn't have to and I must rebel. It was interesting to explore the themes of rule of law balancing with the personal rights/freedoms of the people. (Side note: It was fun to see Hamilton being name dropped, one of my favorites and I liked him before it was cool...)

The details of the world were amazing. Green's writing is vivid in its descriptions and moves at a nice pace. In particularly the way the romance between Liam and Vivienne worked out. It was a gradual build and the friendship grew along with the romantic feelings.  And it was simply lovely.

I most definitely have put the rest of her other books on my to-read list.

Thank you Netgalley for a copy of this book for review.

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.

The Draper's Daughter

The Draper's Daughter By: Ellin Carsta Genre: Historical Fiction Rating: 4 Stars Summary: Cologne, 1351: Elisabeth and ...