Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

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.

Book Review: The Beautiful Pretender

This story is a new retelling of an old, old story. Avelina is a servant and companion to the earl’s daughter, lowly in standing, but very smart and clever on the spur of a moment’s notice as she is always needing to aide and cover up Dorothea’s misdeeds.  

When it’s discovered that Dorothea has run off with one of her father’s knights- just as word comes of the Margrave of Thornbeck holding a search for a bride- a bride that will help ally and strengthen neighboring regions- Avelina has little choice but to obey the earl’s command and take his daughter’s place!

Avelina’s one job if she is to keep her family safe and well cared for is to get into the margrave’s good graces for the sake of her region- but not get herself noticed too much- and certainly not allow herself to fall in love with the margrave!  With a serious of odd and dangerous occurrences keep happening around the castle Avelina however, may be in danger of failing her mission- and falling in love with a man she can never marry!

I read this book over the course of a couple of weeks as I sat in and out of doctor’s appointments and waiting rooms- and boy was I glad to have this book as companion! I really enjoy old themes and stories being retold in new ways and enjoy the medieval time period this book is set in! It’s a nice change of pace from more modern books and settings, and from some of the same-old, same-old historical eras and settings that flood the market today.

I really love reading YA fiction from time to time and usually find that the storylines are more interesting and the plot is more detailed with more twists and turns than your average novel. This is the case of this book by Melanie Dickerson. As in her previous works I found myself drawn right into the story and swept along to enjoy every minute of it! I cannot remember anything that I found objectionable content wise, though if you are sensitive to kissing scenes and talk of attraction there is some of that in the latter portion of the book. I didn’t find this overly or soppily done (as I do in many books) but felt it was in keeping for the situations and relationship point where they take place. Frankly, I was more interested in at last solving the whole of the mystery that is throughout the story, and was glad to see it come to a satisfying conclusion!

I would recommend this book for yourself or for a mid-teen reader that you may know!

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.