Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Tuesday: Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck ClubJoy Luck Club
by: Amy Tan
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
The Joy Luck Club explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.


My Thoughts: 
I called this a classic even though it is pretty contemporary mainly because I believe that it is a book that will be read for generations. Amy Tan has a wonderful way with words and knows the human character and holds great insight to human relationships.

I didn't come across this until half-way through my junior year of college (last week). I somehow made it through school without being assigned to read this. It makes me sad that I wasn't able to read this sooner. It is a wonderfully written novel. I love the structure, the style and the stories. Lots of books focus on a plot, on moving the story along to one final climax and happy resolution. Well in this case it felt a lot more like it was focused on getting to know the characters and their lives rather than on getting through a story. 
It showed so many complex relationships between mothers and daughters and more importantly went back to reveal what caused these women to be this way. 

I loved this novel and would highly recommend it to any reader man or woman.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Misc. Monday Before the Scarlet Dawn

Before the Scarlet DawnBefore the Scarlet Dawn
by: Rita Gerlach
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life. Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts and to build Hayward's legacy. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.


My Thoughts:
That plot looks exactly like my cup of tea doesn't it? Well it wasn't. This was a novel in which I lost my trust in the narrator and in the protagonist. Eliza seems to have the blind devotion to a man who really isn't the best choice for her.  (If I were to tell you why it would be a pretty big spoiler, even for me so you would just have to read it to see why.) It is this blind devotion which makes me question her as a character, if put in her same situation almost any other sane woman would definitely have reacted differently. She is also described as spirited in nature...I don't see it. She obeys her husband in all things some of which are of a questionable nature (once again read the book if you want to know what).  What redeemed it and kept me reading was the fact that it wasn't your typical marriage plot novel. It started with a wedding and then went to attempt to explore it from there. Also Fiona was a wonderful supporting character, she is everything anyone could want in a nanny.
Many thanks to Abingdon Press for giving me a free copy for review.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Historical Thursday - The Guardian Duke

The Guardian Duke: A Forgotten Castles NovelThe Guardian Duke
By: Jamie Carie
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3.5 Stars


Summary From Goodreads:

The Guardian Duke is award-winning novelist Jamie Carie’s most exciting story yet, a uniquely arranged Regency-era romantic adventure where hero and heroine know each other through written letters but have yet to meet.
Gabriel, the Duke of St. Easton, is ordered by the King to take guardianship over Lady Alexandria Featherstone whose parents are presumed dead after failing to return from a high profile treasure hunt. But Alexandria ignores this royal reassignment, believing her parents are still alive and duly following clues that may lead to their whereabouts. Gabriel, pressured by what are actually the King’s ulterior motives, pursues her across windswept England and the rolling green hills of Ireland but is always one step behind.
My Thoughts:

Well this ending was the very definition of cliff-hanger. I just finished the book and was saddened to see how long of a wait it is until the next one. I loved Alex as a heroine. She is the headstrong, idiotic young adult who forgets that everything doesn't go according to plan and gets into some fun scrapes because of this. 

Now that is not to say that the book is perfect. There is one aspect of it which I find so confusing and which I am praying will be better explained - the Dukes odd and sudden deafness. (you find that out right away so no worries on spoilers). Also I was a little unconvinced that this Duke could fall in love after a few letters (Hey it's Christian Romance, it's supposed to happen so once again, no worries, I'm not really giving anything away.)
I loved the secondary characters, each one had a loving and lovable personality and I think this series will (once it is resolved, and not until then!) be a very good one.


Thank you to B&H Publishing Group for giving me a copy for review.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

BOOK GIVEAWAY!!

Pearl in the SandSo I am hosting my first ever book giveaway.  You may remember how much I loved the book Pearl In The Sand. (check the link for my review) Well I now have the chance to give it away!! Just enter below and I will announce the winner on Monday the 23rd!! Please leave your email in the comment so I can contact the winner!






Friday, January 13, 2012

Fluffy Friday - The Wonder of Your Love

The Wonder of Your Love (A Land of Canaan Series #2)The Wonder of Your Love
By: Beth Wiseman
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 stars


Summary From Goodreads:

Settling in to her new life in Canaan, Colorado, Katie Ann Stoltzfus gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. The boy's father - her estranged husband - died before their son is born. Despite his infidelities, Ivan was her one true love. She mourns his loss, vows never to trust another man, and resolves to fill the role of both mother and father to her son.
Then Eli Detweiler arrives in Canaan from Middlefield, Ohio, to attend his niece's wedding. He's been raising his kids alone in Middlefield since his wife's death fifteen years ago. Now each child is married, so Eli looks forward to living a less-structured life-and eating shoofly pie for breakfast every morning. There's no one to care for except himself.
When a meddling-but good-hearted-Englisch woman plays matchmaker for Katie Ann and Eli, they find themselves facing an unexpected, hopeful future…brought together by God's wondrous love.
My Thoughts:
This is a very nicely done novel on portraying a different aspect of the Amish lifestyle. It explores the fact that those of other faiths and backgrounds all experience the same challenges. Now I jumped into the series half-way through, and while this novel doesn't entirely work as a stand-alone, it does give enough explanations that you aren't super confused the whole time.
In the previous novel, Seek Me with All Your Heart, Katie Ann deals with the knowledge of her husband cheating on her. In this novel she deals with the aftermath, both with other people and within herself. I loved the fact that Wiseman chose to break away from the basic wedding plot which most novels seem to have and try to focus on other issues.
I loved Martha. She is the type of woman I hope to be when I am old. She has attitude and a kind heart which she tries her best to hide. I love the twist that her personal plot took in the story and am excited to see how it will play out.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for letting me read this book for review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

YA Wednesday - The Healer's Apprentice


The Healer's ApprenticeThe Healer's Apprentice
By: Melanie Dickerson
Genre: Christian Romance, YA
Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Two Hearts. One Hope.Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her---a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill.When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.


My Thoughts:


This is my second Dickerson novel and I must say I enjoyed this one a lot more than the last one. I liked all of the characters, not just the main ones. I also thoroughly enjoyed the idea of retelling the story of Sleeping Beauty. It is one that I feel is over looked. 
I really liked Rose and her constant struggle to do what was right. Rather then just go along with what would be most beneficial for her in the long run, she stuck to her standards and did so in an admirable way not an over-zealous kind of way. I also loved her dog, everyone needs a good guard dog in their life.
From a literary standpoint, I really liked how she played with foreshadowing. It was done in such a way that it wasn't too obvious but if you know your literary devices you know that it's there.
I liked the way that the romance chose to develop rather than suddenly be there (too many authors just have love-at-first-sight types of things, and there really is no such thing as that in my opinion) it added more reality to the story as a whole.
I think this is a wonderfully done debut novel and hope that in her next ones her talents will strengthen rather than diminish.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Misc. Monday - Hour Before the Dawn

The Hour before DawnThe Hour Before the Dawn
by: Penelope Wilcock
Genre: Christian
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Abbot John is undergoing deep, emotional shock after learning of the rape of his sister and murder of his mother; Father William is discovering his own vulnerability; and there, immersed in the daily routine of simple tasks, the brothers undertake the greatest task of nurturing the grace of God in their souls.


"The world is always darkest the hour before the dawn." Many of us have either heard or read this particular saying and it is from this that the title is taken from and it is a very fitting title for the story. It is a story which the author explores the varying paths of grief and the only way to truly come out of it. 

This is the fifth book of the series but can be read with minimal confusion on its own. It follows Abbot John and William, first as they travel to visit John's sister after her attack and then later as they go in search of Brother Oswald, one of Father Williams brothers from his old order. It is upon finding Brother Oswald that the path to happiness could finally be taken (you have to read the book if you want to find out why.)

As someone whose only knowledge of monasteries came from watching Sound of Music it was very nice to have it all spelled out so nicely both in the book and with extra explanations afterwards. Wilcock seems to have done real research into this topic and tells her story with ease.  It is a deep book and one which shows how God can lead individuals to a place of healing. as explained in one of my favorite quotes of the novel:

"God is the Creator who goes about making us and remaking us even when our hearts are broken and our lives are shattered. He searches for every shard of who we once were and makes something new of all those pieces and His love."

In all honesty I probably won't go back and read the rest of the books in the series, but I don't regret spending my time in reading this. Thank you to Crossway Books for giving me a book for review.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Historical Thursday - How Do I Love Thee?

How Do I Love Thee? (Ladies of History, book #4)How Do I Love Thee
By: Nancy Moser
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5 stars

Summary From Goodreads:
She dreams of love for others but never for herself...
Elizabeth Barrett is a published poet--and a virtual prisoner in her own home. Blind family loyalty ties her to a tyrannical father who forbids any of his children to marry. Bedridden by chronic illness, she has resigned herself to simply existing. That is, until the letter arrives...
"I love your verses with all my heart," writes Robert Browning, an admiring fellow poet. As friendly correspondence gives way to something more, Elizabeth discovers that Robert's love is not for her poetry alone. Might God grant her more than mere existence? And will she risk defying her father in pursuit of true happiness?
My Thoughts:
To be honest, I read the first 200 pages or so but then skimmed the rest. I didn't like Ba. She was spineless and listened to others more than herself. Now I understand that this was a historical novel and we were sticking with facts here, but Moser could have at least given real reasons as to why Ba was so submissive to her father and why she was scared to go outside.  I thought this novel was going to focus more on the relationship between the two poets but it took so long to get going and was so slow, I asked myself several times why I was reading it.
Once the romantic part FINALLY started it was ok, but since most of that was letters written by the poets I am not giving all too much credit to the author.

I did like all of the sonnets included throughout and was appreciative of the historical facts in the back but overall, I was glad when I finally finished it and could put it down. It will be a very long time before I pick up a Moser novel again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

YA Wednesday - Ophelia

OpheliaOphelia
by: Lisa Klein
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 Stars


Summary from Goodreads:
He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.
        In this reimagining of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen's most trusted lady-in-waiting.  Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia's happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.



My Thoughts:
This is a wonderful story. It goes into a character of Shakespeare's Hamlet to try and explain her madness. Klein does an excellent job of bringing that world to life. She creates a plausible and wonderful situation. I love the complexity she adds to a character who has been cast as a minor and insane character by the world. AND I love that she understands that she isn't Shakespeare and doesn't try to make herself seem that way. She takes the plot that we know and then makes it her own. The story begins before Shakespeare starts his story and ends years afterward making it solidly its own work.

Ophelia herself is a strong character who has faults enough to be human, yet is someone who is easy to sympathize with. I love all of the herb-lore she has in this book and how she puts it to good use. 

This was a wonderful read, written with a fast pace and with a compelling plot line it is a book well worth reading