Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

Thora Bell was born, raised, and brought up her family in the coaching inn The Bell- only to see her son die suddenly and pass the family business on to his gentlewoman wife, Jane Bell- who has seemingly never taken in interest in the inn. Jane is forced to take in interest however when she finds that her husband has left a massive loan on the books- and the bank is long past being repaid! With their livelihood, past memories, and future security on the line Jane and Thora must find a way to work together and to bring the inn back to its former glory and pay off the debt before they are left with nothing!

Two women from two very different backgrounds and lives are the highlights of The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill! I cannot remember anytime recently seeing or reading a book where the two main characters were women of different generations and I loved seeing it here!

Thora is a working woman and always has been. She is steeped and invested in her family business and known for her knowledgeable running of the inn and for her sharply honest tongue. Jane is born to a life of privilege that lies far in the past with both of her parents dead and her family home being left in ruins. She is not accustomed to the life she’s been thrust into since her husband’s passing but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have the mind for it, or the strong will to survive! Together Thora and Jane make an unlikely pair, but a pair that works together the harder the circumstances that surround them become!

Something I thought was really interesting about this book was the look it gave to women working in the Regency era. This isn’t a book that is puffed up on a whirlwind romance in the halls of Bath’s best balls; it is an honest look at the working class of the countryside. Women are and always have been the backbone of farm and country industry. It was neat to learn about the strong connections of how woman and business in these small towns are truly dependent on each other and work to help each other.

Another thing I liked about this book is that it isn’t primarily a romance novel. There is certainly no end of potential suitors for both of the woman in this book but it never overtakes and overshadows the main conflict of the inn’s future. Both storylines complement each other but they do not fight each other for the spotlight. With this being the first installment of Klassen’s first series I was also rather delighted that this book felt like returning to the BBC’s Cranford and getting bits and pieces of all the lives of everyone in the village! I will look forward to the story continuing to unfold and for more to be revealed about all of the characters as the series progresses!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone- even those that have never tried a Regency set book before! I was very happy reading this and am looking forward to the end of the year when the next installment will be released!

Final Rating: 5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: The Loyal Heart

I was really excited to get into The Loyal Heart as I had enjoyed Shelley Shepard Gray’s short story that was a part of the book “Among the Fair Magnolias”. It’s not every day anymore that you get a western theme novel so I was excited to see this story set in Texas! 

This story has a really intriguing premise, Robert Truax, former Confederate Officer and war prisoner has some to Galveston to check in on the widow of his former comrade and to make sure she is comfortable and secure. What he finds when he arrives at Maranda Markham’s home turned boarding house is that everything is far from okay. Maranda is in a deep depression, her home threatened by her mother-in-law, and worse of all her husband, Philip’s, name dragged through the mud after being branded a traitor after his death.

Robert wants to honor the promise he made to Philip and the other men in his company to watch out for and care for each other after the war but he hardly knows where to start after discovering the position Maranda is in! As he begins to remedy the situation she is in he finds himself in danger of losing his heart- something that was never part of the mission!

I thought this was a nice story from start to finish. However- It really didn’t draw me in or delight me the way that the previous stories of the author that I have read and that surprised me and rather disappointed me. The story moves both quickly in the development of the characters feelings for each other, and slowly, in the way that the plot progresses. Something that was really frustrating was the repeating of information over and over again. I really don’t feel like once a detail has been revealed and explored that it’s necessary to repeat it again a few paragraphs of chapters later. Readers are intelligent and want to be pushed to explore, not talked down to and a number of times I kinda felt that way.

I would say give this book a go if you are looking for a light vacation read that doesn’t take a lot of time or concentration! 

Final Rating: 3 

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Come with Me

I have really enjoyed going through this new devotional! In Susanne Eller’s “Come With Me” she focuses us into the disciples and to see who they really are, what they did, and how we can learn from them- and Jesus! Each chapter is dedicated to a single disciple and walks you through what we know, or maybe don’t know about each of them and draws out a lot of truth that took me time to digest.

The format of each chapter is laid out really nicely and has special quotes to jump out at you from the text, and header sections that break up the reading if you wanted to read a chapter over more than one day. The end of each chapter has a list of discussion questions that would be great not just for personal use, but for a small group meeting!  There is also a memory Scripture, prayer, and a section that gives you a few ideas on putting things into practice in your life.

Something that I really appreciated from the author was her transparency in writing. She shares many personal stories throughout but while sometimes those can bog down a devo book I didn’t feel there here. Rather, I felt like I was in the company of a good friend who was taking time to mentor and disciple me with things she had learned. I highlighted a great deal in this book so I could make sure I could go back and find all of my favorite parts easily!

In the final chapter of the book Eller turns the focus back to you and I as “The Thirteenth Disciple” wrapping up and challenging us to put into practice what we learned and how we will walk with Jesus in our lives.

Final Rating: 4.5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Whenever I run into a book with a setting or premise that I have never heard of or read before I know that book is going to come home with me! When I saw this book, “The Mark of the King” from Jocelyn Green on the bloggers list I knew I was going to be eager to read it!

This story begins in 1719 France where our heroine, midwife Julianne Chevalier, is hard at work attending a birth. Tragedy strikes and Julianne is sentenced to one of France’s most infamous prisons- and forever branded by a fleur de lis marking her as a murderer. When Julianne finds a ticket out of prison and a chance to find her brother she takes it and finds herself in a whirlwind of events that lead to her on a boat to the fledgling Louisiana colony!  

While Julianne thought she was coming to a settled colony she finds instead the swamps of New Orleans, the push and pull of Native Indian wars sponsored by the French and British, and sickness and suffering everywhere, as well as becoming a part of soldiers and settlers alike who are forced to fight the land at every turn just to live- and still there is no definite sign of her brother. Fighting many of her own personal and professional struggles, and deep personal tragedies Julianne seeks underneath it all to find redemption from the past that marks her.   

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the book but I was really intrigued and surprised at every turn in this book- and there are many twists and turns the author always kept me on the edge of my seat! I loved the author’s writing style and how she expressed the characters and described the scenes!  

Readers should be given slight caution that there are two or three scenes of a stronger nature in this book. They did not damper my enjoyment of the book but it may startle more sensitive readers and may be skipped over with little trouble if desired.

Though it took me a while between busy days and nights to find time to read I was very glad that I kept going with this book! I very much enjoyed it and learned a lot too about the history of Louisiana. I think it’s great when a book is able to weave a great story and help you to learn something too! In the end I enjoyed seeing Julianna find that God’s grace covers all and we are all able to start again with Him at our side.

Final Rating: 5 

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: The Confessions of X

When this book first came in my mailbox I was convinced that it was a book that I couldn’t like on a topic I wasn’t interested in reading about. And so it sat around on my bookshelf for quite some time as I read through other review copies on my list. When I finally got myself in the mood to sit and read this I was very surprised about it indeed.

This book takes you to a very long time ago, to the ancient Carthaginian world of Augustine, the great Christian theologian. The story is told from the eyes of his concubine, a woman whose name is lost to history but whose impact was strongly felt on the life of the man she considered her husband.
From the very first the language in this book sucked me in, it is stunningly beautiful and lyrical and has a loneliness and hunger to it that compels the listener to hear her and know her story. The world in which the woman lives is nothing like our own- and yet her story is so familiar in the storytelling world. It is one of falling in love with someone not of her own class but being loved in return and dearly cherished. It is one of the journey of life and the struggle of living side by side with someone on a journey they don’t know the end of.  It is one of being ripped apart when the odds can no longer pretend they are in your favor.

The woman’s story is told in the strong brush strokes of a hard and sometimes harsh life. There is childbirth, and death, life and love painted in strongly worded descriptions. And there are also the soft stirrings of her own heart as she seeks to understand the world around her and follows alongside of Augustine and is a part of his philosophical work.  

I was very struck by all of this story and several times found myself in tears. I could spend a lot more words here trying to explain the details of this story but I think it would only cloud the issue. While I don’t agree with all the events that take place in this story I could not help but be moved by it all the same. This book doesn’t really fit into a box that I can neatly check as being good or bad. The writing is amazing. The story that is told is amazing. But it is also one that pushes me out of my comfort zone. The writer’s notes at the back of the book help to clear up some of the historical perspective and context and I did find that very helpful in understanding this book.

In the end, I would recommend this book to someone who was looking for something very different from the standard Christian fiction fare. I would not recommend it for younger teen readers, I think there is too much in here that needs an older eye to discern. But I’ll tell you that if you do read it, it will change you, and that I guess is what all books are meant to do.

Final Rating: 4

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: Fading Starlight

Have you ever wanted to run away from your life? Have you ever had a personal and professional disaster so large that you couldn’t ever imagine recovering from it? Well welcome to Lauren Summers life. Hollywood and the fashion industry are savage and unforgiving when it comes to ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and when the brightest ‘innocent’ starlet of the moment suffers such a humiliation as she receives an award the backfire Lauren receives as the gown’s designer ends in the stunning silence of a two line text message as her boss fires her minutes later.

Blackballed from designing again in respectable circles Lauren finds a little job making costumes for a private high school’s theatre company and takes up residence in a run-down cottage in a secretive gated community-  and tries to reassemble the remainders of her heart and her dreams.  
Living in the gated community offers privacy, but isn’t without its challenges. The imposing figure of Charlotte Montgomery- a former starlet of another era looms large at the end of the lane. As time goes on it becomes clear to Lauren that Charlotte isn’t just an old woman with a prickly exterior- but is someone who has had her own personal disasters…that she is still running from.   

Can common threads knit them together and bring about healing for them both?

If you are someone who knows me at all you know that I love classic film, and that I love historical costuming! What a treat is was to have the two laid out like a buffet throughout this book! Katherine Cushman paid attention to all the fine details of both the classic era of old Hollywood film, and to its signature luscious couture and created a book that is full of delicious descriptions! It was loads of fun for me to read about the gowns and costumes that Lauren was working on and every detail was vivid making me wish for a fairy godmother to bless me with someone to create such lovely things for me! ;)

Fading Starlight is not all about the dresses though it’s about the people that surround them. Miss Montgomery is a hurting woman with a bitter past that has taken more than her social standing- it took her will for living life and soured her on any who have dared to cross her path.

Lauren herself faces a crossroads as she looks at her own disappointments and decides what to do with the rest of her life. I liked that Lauren was so real in this story. She feels all that she is going through and feels it deeply, but she is also looking to God, and consistently and willingly seeks out the counsel and guidance of her second mother Rhonda’s wisdom. The cast of secondary characters from Lauren’s best friend Chloe, to Miss Montgomery’s housekeeper Frances, to the handy-man Cody are all important and delightful additions to Lauren’s life and story and I couldn’t help but like them!

One little thing that I liked was that this isn’t a romance story. While Chloe does her best to hook Lauren up with Cody and start something brewing Lauren recognizes that her life is in a bit of a shambles right now and is focused on getting herself where she needs to be personally before she begins any romance. I appreciated that perspective.

I highly recommend this book and enjoyed to so much! I will look for other titles from Ms. Cushman in the future! 

Final Rating: 4.5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde

From the moment I began this story I couldn’t bear to put it down for long! Being a great fan of regency novels I was eager to begin Dawn at Emberwilde and to see what author Sarah E. Ladd had to offer- I’ve been looking at her books for a while now and I wanted to know if the insides were as lovely as all the covers! I was not disappointed!

This book follows Isobel Creston, an aspiring schoolteacher who has some up through the ranks in the small girl’s school she and her half-sister Lizzy have found home for many years. Orphaned, Isobel’s main hope and dream is to make a safe and comfortable life for herself and her sister. But their entire lives are turned upside down when relatives magically appear to claim them and invite them to live in their family estate.

Everything is not as it seems at Emberwilde however, the great forest that surrounds the estate is said to be haunted, her cousin is cordial but hiding something and her aunt clearly has her reasons for bringing them there but Isobel can’t figure out why- or get her aunt to answer questions about Isobel’s mother and why she left the family. To complicate matters two gentleman of the county seem to have a growing interest in her- and as Isobel faces the pressures of her aunt to marry and marry quickly- when all she really wants to do is protect her sister from the trappings of the lavish lifestyle that she is quickly becoming used to- and figure out why God has brought them to this place!

All throughout the book I found Isobel a sensible and likeable character that in a gentle way put God and her morals at the forefront of her life. Isobel was not in any way stuffy or un-relatable, she is pictured from the first as someone with a great whimsy and love of nature, someone who was kind and sought the best for those around her.

Lest anyone think that this book is all romance and naught else- never fear! There is a great mystery lurking under the cover of darkness in Emberwilde Forest and Collin Ellison, the local magistrate is keen to get to the bottom of it- his only problem is he keeps running into a certain attractive young lady that has recently arrived on the estate! I liked Collin a great deal and really took a shine to his manner and thinking, and his presence was a welcome addition to any scene!

Overall I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it! I made a great read in between work over the course of a week and I looked forward to that time I could pick it up and enjoy it. I will look forward to enjoying more of Sarah Ladd’s work in the future too!  

Final Rating: 4

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.