Showing posts with label 4 stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4 stars. Show all posts

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Reads - Save Me


Save MeSave Me

By: Kristyn Kusek Lewis
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
Daphne Mitchell has always believed in cause and effect, right and wrong, good and bad. The good: her dream job as a doctor; Owen, her childhood sweetheart and now husband; the beautiful farmhouse they're restoring together. In fact, most of her life has been good--until the day Owen comes home early from work to tell her he's fallen head over heels for someone else.

Unable to hate him, but also equally incapable of moving forward, Daphne's life hangs in limbo until the day Owen's new girlfriend sustains near-fatal injuries in a car accident. As Daphne becomes a pillar of support for the devastated Owen, and realizes that reconciliation may lie within her grasp, she has to find out whether forgiveness is possible and decide which path is the right one for her.

My Thoughts:
"You can never know the truth about anyone's marriage, including your own" -Nora Ephron

That was a great quote to set the book rolling. Daphne is coming home from a business trip - something routine, she plans for her husbands birthday dinner, only to come home to the announcement that he has fallen in love with someone else. 

This was enough of a draw to get me involved. Not because of the physical messiness that was potential here. But because Lewis did her best to go through all of the various shades of emotional turmoil that this kind of event - which sadly is all too common - could cause.  Owen easily could be written off as the bad guy and this turn into another one of those books of woman independence, finding yourself outside of your relationships, and whatnot which are very prevalent in today's culture. But Lewis did far more than that.

She explored where relationships come from, what they need to thrive and how and when is the time to draw the line. Owen was far from the bad guy. He wasn't excused for his actions. But it seemed to be a case of life rather than something where you can suddenly point fingers and everything is black and white.

I was surprised by it's ending. And am still not quite sure how I feel about it. But it was definitely one that left me thinking. 

This novel explores fidelity, love and what is needed to keep a marriage going and I recommend it. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

YA Wednesday - Princess of Thorns


Princess of ThornsPrincess of Thorns

By; Stacey Jay
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
With the kindom at the mercy of soul-stealing ogres, the next generation of Sleeping Beauty  is in for a fight that no amount of fairy blessings could prepare them for. 

Given fairy blessings from her mother, Princess Aurora has been given the tools needed to end the reign of her evil step mother. Given superior fighting abilities, mercy and bravery Ror has everything necessary. But all magic comes with a price and Ror was also cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as her brother, she goes out to save the kingdom, in the process finding the cursed Prince Niklaas who joins her in her quest to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago. 

My Thoughts:
Well, this was a sequel that I had never thought about. This takes what happens after "Happily Ever After" to a whole new meaning.  It also shows how not all blessings are blessings and even things which seem like curses can be to our benefit.

Princess Ror is impetuous, cunning and loyal to a fault. She loves her brother and would do anything to save him from the ogres who hold him captive. This requires raising an army, staging a revolt and killing the ogre queen all before the end of summer. She is a princess who sometimes is impossible to like. She pushes away others ideas, can't seem to see any other path than what is before her and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

In short she is a teenager -  a very driven teenager, I'll give you that but a teenager none the less. She knows what is best even if it hurts pretty much everyone around her in the process. And with this hubris, she is going to need her growing up moment and that is a painful, but almost beautiful thing to watch.

I love fairy-tales, always have, and I found this blend of a young woman who seemed to come out of Divergent''s 'dauntless' group an interesting fit. She actually did remind me of Tris, in how Ror tried to push out every spark of mercy she could to achieve her ends. (That was why I really didn't like Divergent. I didn't feel like there was any redemption for Tris...) But it was Ror's ending which redeemed her and which made the book a great read.

I liked the weaving narrators - of seeing the ogre's thoughts and motivations. Of seeing the sudden realization of Ror when it all comes coming to pieces around her and her determination to build back up.

If you like fairy-tales and remakes, or strong female leads (WITHOUT LOVE TRIANGLES!!! YAY!!!) then give this a shot. You will enjoy it.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Read - All Other Nights


All Other NightsAll Other Nights

By: Dara Horn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
"How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War, it is a question his commanders have already answered for him - on Passover, 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle in New Orleans, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After this harrowing mission, Jacob is recruited to pursue another enemy agent, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn't to murder the spy, but to marry her." Based on real personalities such as Judah Benjamin, the Confederacy's Jewish secretary of state and spymaster, and on historical facts and events ranging from an African American spy network to the dramatic self-destruction of the city of Richmond, All Other Nights is a story of men and women driven to the limits of loyalty and betrayal. It is also a parable of the rift in America that lingers a century and a half later: between those who value family and tradition first, and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

My thoughts:
I listened to this one rather than reading it - but it was a great way to pass time in the car as I drove around on errands and heading to and from my classes.

This was an aspect of history that I had never even thought of - spies in the Civil War. And then to get even more detailed let's take it up a notch with Jewish spies in the Civil War. This topic was wonderfully researched and chosen in my mind. The attention to details, to how the lines moved back and forth, adding in the Jewish culture - so often over looked in the finaces and weaving in characters such as Judah Benjamin and Edwin Booth made the listening experience so enjoyable.

Jacob was hard to listen to sometimes - I just wanted him to grow a spine, to say no. To refuse to kill his uncle or to have more strength than to play with the heart of a girl, even if she was a confederate spy. I wanted him to stand up to his commanding officers and make them realize what all they were asking of him. But the beauty of the book is that Jacob wanted the same things of himself.He was horrified to see how easily he did it himself.  It was an example of  how flawed a character can be and yet we still root for him. Because in him we find ourselves.

There were some amazingly cringe-worthy moments of antisemitism in there too. But it was accurately reflecting sentiments of the time. I am amazed at how far we have come. Not because of where we are now, but because of how bad the world used to be. 

For those who are wanting a Civil War novel (it is most definitely a novel) with a thrilling plot which keeps going until the end I would highly recommend All Other Nights.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Friday Fun - The Movement of the Stars


The Movement of Stars: A NovelThe Movement of Stars: A Novel

By: Amy Brill
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
It is 1845, and Hannah Gardner Price has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman’s path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. But up on the rooftop each night, Hannah pursues a very different—and elusive—goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark, something unheard of for a woman.

And then she meets Isaac Martin, a young, dark-skinned whaler from the Azores who, like herself, has ambitions beyond his expected station in life. Drawn to his intellectual curiosity and honest manner, Hannah agrees to take Isaac on as a student. but when their shared interest in the stars develops into something deeper, Hannah’s standing in the community begins to unravel, challenging her most fundamental beliefs about work and love, and ultimately changing the course of her life forever.

My Thoughts:
I loved this book. It was a slower pace than what I have been reading lately and I thoroughly enjoyed the change. I thought it would be a nice novel - historical, charting how Hannah became an astronomer and whatnot. What I didn't expect was that the book would explore the difficulties of racial issues, reconciling the faith of your fathers with your personal belief system, and gender equality.

All of these subjects - which are still relevant to our time - were covered without coming across as didactic. Hannah was a great lens through which to view the time because in her pursuit for truth she didn't seem to have the ability to see the importance of color, gender or belief. She simply went quietly in search of truth. I loved how she was able to stand up for her beliefs, declare what was in her heart - but still love those who believed differently than she did. 

Hannah is a strong, flawed and complete character and I loved to read on her story and go with her through her journey. It was a wonderful read. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Must Read Monday - Chateau of Secrets


Chateau of SecretsChateau of Secrets

By: Melanie Dobson

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Summary:
A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past. Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.

But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.

A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover…

My Thoughts:
I love that cover, so I made it a little bigger - doesn't it just look gorgeous to you?

So I read this in one sitting as the internet had gone out and someone had to watch the house while the cable guy took a while to fix it. But it was a very pleasant way to spend a Friday. I was reminded a little of the work of Kate Morton (The Distant Hours, Forgotten Garden and others are all amazing) In that it was a book alternating the story lines from the past and present trying to help families figure out their pasts. It was great to read about France during the occupation, and I feel like because of the book All the Light We Cannot See (I'm currently reading it, review to come) it is a part of history that many people are interested in. 

It discussed the ideas of who are the good guys and the bad guys? And is it still possible to be a good person when circumstances force you into doing things you would rather not?

I found it charming and sweet, with characters who were well written and fleshed out. I loved the growth of both Gisèle and Chloe. However I wasn't entirely content with Chloe's ending. Spoiler*** I wouldn't have had her end up in another relationship so soon after a break up, please just let her move to France and start that home for orphans like her dad wanted, No need for a relationship!!!***Spoiler done.

It was a good novel and one that I think could be good for book clubs to spark up some discussion and debate. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Historical Thursday: The Legend of Sheba

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a QueenThe Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen


By: Tosca Lee
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:

 In the tenth century BC, the new Queen of Sheba has inherited her father’s throne and all its riches at great personal cost. Her realm stretches west across the Red Sea into land wealthy in gold, frankincense, and spices. But now new alliances to the North threaten the trade routes that are the lifeblood of her nation. Solomon, the brash new king of Israel famous for his wealth and wisdom, will not be denied the tribute of the world—or of Sheba’s queen. With tensions ready to erupt within her own borders and the future of her nation at stake, the one woman who can match wits with Solomon undertakes the journey of a lifetime in a daring bid to test and win the king. But neither ruler has anticipated the clash of agendas, gods, and passion that threatens to ignite—and ruin—them both. An explosive retelling of the legendary king and queen and the nations that shaped history.

My thoughts:

This was really well done. Thoughtfully researched and crafted. There was much description and help to make the world come alive. Technically speaking I loved it. It was an enjoyable read.

She was so fun to get to know - witty, powerful and easy to empathize with - I loved her. And her relationship that developed with Solomon rich deep and complex. This goes far beyond what the Bible ever gave us. I loved being transported to Saba and to Jerusalem. 

It would have got 5 stars had there not be as much sexual content (no worries nothing explicit, but still it's there) and coming from a purely Christian background and not knowing that there were in fact, other accounts of the Queen of Sheba, it was a little hard to swallow her relationship with Solomon. But as I read the historical background at the end of the book everything tied together and it was good. I just wish I had read that part first so that I could have enjoyed the whole thing.

All in all I would say it was good, and if you like historical fiction, it is a great read!

I received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Friday, September 19, 2014

Just for Fun Friday - The System

The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football

The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football


By: Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Genre: Non-fiction, Sports
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
COLLEGE FOOTBALL has never been more popular—or more chaotic. Millions fill 100,000-seat stadiums every Saturday; tens of millions more watch on television every weekend. The 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama had a viewership of 26.4 million people, second only to the Super Bowl. Billions of dollars from television deals now flow into the game; the average budget for a top-ten team is $80 million; top coaches make more than $3 million a year; the highest paid, more than $5 million.
     Celebrated investigative journalists Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian were granted unprecedented access during the 2012 season to programs at the highest levels across the country at a time of convulsive change in college football. Through dogged reporting, they explored every nook and cranny of this high-powered machine, and reveal how it operates from the inside out. The result: the system through the eyes of athletic directors and coaches, high-flying boosters and high-profile TV stars, five-star recruits and tireless NCAA investigators and the kids on whom the whole vast enterprise depends.
My Thoughts:
First off -- warning, this book uses the language of the locker room - meaning not for all ages and it has some graphic scenes.
Ok that is out of the way. I really wasn't sure how I would like this book when I was given it to read - I mean it is about football. You see the books I read...is football a part of that? Not at all. However, I loved it. I attend a little school, football is here but it is NOTHING like what goes on in the real NCAA football.
This book captured all of the different aspects, ones that are completely forgotten yet still hold crucial parts. The tutors, athletic directors and even the hostesses and janitors. It was amazing to get a closer look at what is going on in the college football scene. I loved it and was really excited to do this homework assignment.
Now would especially be a good time - with all of the NFL drama that is playing out off the field it would be good to take a good look at the program which develops them into who they are. I would most definitely recommend this for those who are wanting to understand more about the biggest and most notable part of our college culture. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Kitchen Daughter


The Kitchen DaughterThe Kitchen Daughter

By: Jael McHenry
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summery:
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them

My Thoughts:
I loved, loved, loved the point of view character here. She doesn't have a disorder, she has a personality. It was great to read a book from a person with mild Aspergers  Syndrome. And I also liked how the beginning of the chapters had recipes from the story. (Some of them worked I tried and they made me happy.) Now, the book does have a lot of food references but the story really does focus on how Ginny grows and learns to cope after the death of her parents. One thing I really love is the relationship between her and her housekeeper. She is like a second mother who teaches Ginny how to grow beyond her difficulties. 

I think that this book, while it isn't a total foodie book, is a great one to read. It deals with grief and all of its different forms and beautifully describes life after death.

Monday, July 30, 2012

School of Essential Ingredients


The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients

By: Erica Bauermeister 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian's Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students' lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian's food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another.

My Thoughts:
I read this for the first time about 3 years ago and the story has stuck with me.  The language  is wonderful to read and rich and decadent like some of the dishes the students create. Each chapter focuses on a different member of the class, how they got to be there and the wonderful healing power which good food can offer.  Each character relates to different people, a mother who has lost her identity, a teenager who is still trying to figure out who they are and a man who is trying to get over the loss of his wife.

Overall I think it is a great first piece and foodie and non-foodie alike would enjoy it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Attachments


AttachmentsAttachments

By: Rainbow Rowell
Genre:Romance
Rating: 4 (excessive language kept it from 5 stars)
Parental Guidance suggested for hard language


Summary:
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.

My Thoughts:
It has been a long time since I have finished a book and just wanted to yell to the world (or at least type to them) that they must read it! But this book had me texting friends to get going on it before I was even done. 
Now, it is fluffy, (I have seen it described as "it's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" said of course in a Despicable Me voice)  and the email gimmick has been done before and failed miserably, but it is witty fluff that was very nicely done. Beth and Jennifer have these hilarious conversations that had me giggling through the whole thing, even though currently this is quite a painful thing for me to do (wisdom teeth..blech). That really is what made this story so wonderful for me, yes it was fun to see Lincoln go from this sad, empty life to a fun, fulfilling one, but it was the true friendship between the two women that have me loving it and setting it apart from other romances I have read.

Now is it somewhat creepy and stalkerish that he was reading their email? Well, in a word kinda... it is his job and the way it's portrayed doesn't have him come across as all that bad. He is a relatable guy who is dealing with the awkward position he's been put in.

There were a couple of curves at the end which were really quite nice. At one point I wasn't sure if it was going to end the way all romances end and I feel like I would have been satisfied if it hadn't. It was just written that well.

I feel like this is one of the few books I've read that will appeal equally to both men and women. It is a fun, quirky, lovable read - one that I will probably return to.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Historical Thursday - The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker: A NovelThe Dressmaker: A Novel

By: Kate Alcott
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
Tess Collins wants more from her life than to be a maid in England, so when she is given the chance to cross over to America on the Titanic as the personal maid of the Lady Duff Gordon she jumps at the chance. Once on board thought she catches the eye of two men. One a Chicago millionaire and the other a sailor seemingly like the village boys she is trying to escape. On the fourth night of her journey however disaster strikes.
 
Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to her employers questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky. 
 
On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Tess eventually must choose who to believe and who to trust.


My Comments:
Let me first say, I have never been much of a Titanic nut. I have never seen the movie and have never really had much interest in the story beyond Thomas Hardy's poem "Convergence of the Twain." So I came into this basically a blank slate. And I loved it. I loved her telling of everything from the decadence of the boat to the opulance of turn-of-the-century New York City. 

There are two very strong female leads, Pinky, a reporter who is trying to be the next Nelly Bly (for those of you who don't know who she is please check here, because she is really cool) and Tess who may be British by birth but she is American in almost every other aspect. Both of these women are hard working and will take what chances are offered them. I thought that Alcott did a great job with both of them and was fine that the narrative was split between the two.

There were a few questions that I wished were answered, a couple of character questions that I wish had been resolved. However on the whole I loved how the plot focused on the Senate hearings rather than the sinking itself. 

This was a great read and I recommend it highly to people who want to see what that world was like and want some insights into the Titanic.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Misc. Monday - The Messenger

The Messenger The Messenger

By: Siri Mitchell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith 


...until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?


Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith. 



My Thoughts:
I love Siri Mitchell, as is evident by the fact that I have already read and reviewed two of her books A Constant Heart and She Walks In Beauty. This is the fourth book book of hers that I have read and I loved it. She has a habit of taking historical eras which are very popular to write about and finding an angle which hasn't been looked at. The idea of being a pacifist in wartime has always been a difficulty and in the Revolutionary War which had a "for us or against us" mentality it becomes much more difficult.

Having such dynamic characters as Jeremiah and Hannah really helped to make this story what it was. From the timid, obedient child, Hannah becomes a woman in her own right with her own believes both political and spiritual.

With two different points of view I expected to get confused at first with the switching between back and forth. Mitchell is quite good at this though and made for very smooth transitions.

If you love historical fiction and haven't read any of her books this would definitely be a great place to start. I love her and can't wait for new books from her.

Thank you Bethany House Publishing who gave me this book in exchange for an honest review. 



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Historical Thursday - Sixteen Brides


Sixteen BridesSixteen Brides

by: Stephanie Grace Whitson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
When 16 women go west searching for land they realize that they have been tricked and are instead being taken west as prospective brides. Well, six women of that group won't settle for that and they decide to go off and start up a claim of their own.

My thoughts:
One point of view is good, Three is difficult but manageable, anything more than that is ridiculous. I almost had to make a chart determining which woman came from where and which man was interested in them. It was so confusing that I spent a lot of the first half just figuring out characters names. Once that all got sorted out however I loved what I was reading.
Each one of these women were very strong characters in her own right and were a joy to read. I like how Whitson was able to create so many variations of womanhood. From a southern belle, a northern woman and her mama and a spitfire red-head all different kinds were shown. 
The men in the novel were all nice as well but it was the women of the novel who really made it for me.

If you have the patience to figure out which woman is which I would highly recommend this novel! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Historical Thursday - The Maid and the Crown

The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of ArcThe Maid and the Crown
By: Nancy Goldstone
Genre: Biography
Rating: 4 stars


Summary:
Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages. Caught in the complex dynastic battle of the Hundred Years War, Yolande championed the dauphin's cause against the forces of England and Burgundy, drawing on her savvy, her statecraft, and her intimate network of spies. But the enemy seemed invincible. Just as French hopes dimmed, an astonishingly courageous young woman named Joan of Arc arrived from the farthest recesses of the kingdom, claiming she carried a divine message-a message that would change the course of history and ultimately lead to the coronation of Charles VII and the triumph of France.


My Thoughts:
This is the first real biography that I have ever read and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I thought I was getting myself into another historical fiction novel, however, when discovering that this was in fact a biography I wasn't at all disappointed. This was quite interesting for me to learn about a time in history which my experience comes from watching Wishbone or other such kids shows which depict Joan of Arc. I loved learning about Yolande as well. She was a really powerful figure and knew how to best wield that power.

I found Goldstone to have a sense of humor in her writing that occasionally made me chuckle to myself. On the whole it was neither boring nor dry. There were parts that I was able to skip though when I felt like I was getting bogged down with story. Also I was wondering why it took so long to end after Joan was martyred. This was because Goldstone not only showed how the war ended (I skipped that part) but also how Joan's name was restored. I had no idea that the French didn't really like her either after she died so I am very happy that we view her as a heroine now rather than a heretic.

If you are looking for a biography of this time or just want to improve your knowledge in general this is a quick way to do it. (It was a nice SHORT read)

Thanks to Netgalley and Viking Publishing for giving me a chance to read this for review!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Misc. Monday - The Replacement Wife

The Replacement Wife.
By: Eileen Goudge
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
 

Summary from Goodreads:
Camille Harte, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone. 

But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming. 

At once deeply felt and witty, The Replacement Wife is an unforgettable story of love and family, and a refreshing look at the unexpected paths that lead us to our own happy endings. 



My Thoughts:

Caution to conservative readers: lots of strong language and some sex.


I really liked this story. I thought the author did a really good job at portraying a marriage and all that it could go through when facing something like this. It also made me think about what I would do if I had 6 months or so to live. Thankfully as I don't have a husband and kids my choices could be a little more selfish. 


I thought Goudge did a great job with all of her characters I somehow loved Angie in spite of what was going on plotwise, and that was something that really was necessary.Spoiler, Highlight to see what is written If you have a mistress as a point of view character in a story you really have to like her otherwise you will skip most of what she is saying. SSpoiler done.


I did like the way the plot twisted and turned making a few different problems - cancer, cheating, and divorce all be focused on in one novel. I think this was a great book. And really heartwarming in how all of it was dealt with. 


The only thing that is keeping me from giving this five stars is the language and sex which I generally just skipped over. I loved it otherwise.


Thanks to Open Road Media for giving me a copy for review.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just For Fun Fridays - Anything

AnythingAnything
By: Michael Baron
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary
What if you got a chance to change the past? Would you take it?  This chance presents itself to Ken a week before his wedding to Melissa, the absolute love of his life. Going back and seeing her past, he is given the chance to erase her worst memory - make it so it never even happened. But doing so could change the present so completely that they would never have met. Should he take the chance? Would you?

My Thoughts:
It has been a few months since I have read a love story this well done. It shows not only the power of love but also the effects one person can have on multiple lives. The changes that occur for Ken throughout the novel are really interesting and got me thinking as to what changes I would have in my life had I made a few different choices.

Ken is a wonderful narrator for the story and keeps it moving at a nice pace. It is written in simple and classic prose very reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks. The supporting characters, of Stephon, Kate and Paul were all wonderful as well.

Overall I found it a very satisfying and quick read.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me a copy for review.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fantasy Friday - Stardust

StardustStardust
by Neil Gaiman
Genre - Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie--where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.


My Thoughts:
This was a story which I read a long time after being introduced to the movie of the same title. I loved the movie and I love the British writing style so I was expecting this to be hit out of the park.


I wasn't disappointed.


There just seems to be a different writing style in Britain. It is filled with quips and quibbles and so many sarcastic remarks and wonderful one liners that I usually end up snickering throughout the entire novel. Now, since we have established that I am an Anglophile, let me tell you what I liked about the book in general.


I liked the ending in this book better. It differed drastically mainly because books don't have to have huge battle scenes in order to feel climatic. (That is as much of a spoiler as I will give you) I also liked the star so much (in both book and movie) here she was grumpy she was whiny and she was human. I liked how it this was a fairy tale only for adults. (And by the way, it IS for adults. Not for a younger audience unless you cut out about a page or so in the beginning.) 


This was great, a quick read to help me wind down during midterms. 


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.

Shame Nation

Shame Nation Genre: Non-Fiction Rating: 4 Stars Summary My Thoughts: This is a book everyone needs to read. The title perfectly fits ...