Book Reviews

The Perilous Gard: Elizabeth Marie Pope

I don’t know much about Elizabeth Marie Pope, but from the back of the book, it appears she is an English professor (that is, a teacher of English. She is American) who had a heavy interest in Shakespeare. I think she has only written two books, The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring, both of which I loved, though I liked The Perilous Gard a little bit better. I read The Sherwood Ring for school and then after I graduated, I believe, is when I found The Perilous Gard, which I read in one day because I liked the story so much! On to the review.

The time is 1558, during the reign of Queen Mary (Bloody Mary). Katherine Sutton, or Kate, and her sister Alicia are both maids of honor to Princess Elizabeth, the queen’s half-sister. After falling afoul of Queen Mary and her jealous hatred of Elizabeth, Kate is exiled to a castle belonging to a nobleman that the queen favors, a man she can trust, she says, Sir Geoffrey Heron. The castle is called Elvenwood Hall, or according to the locals, the Perilous Gard. Though Kate likes Sir Geoffrey, he acts like a man with a secret sorrow and spends most of his time away from the hall. So Kate is cooped up with only a pompous steward and a fluttery housekeeper to keep her company – until she meets Christopher Heron, Sir Geoffrey’s brother. He lives like a hermit when his brother is away, punishing himself for the disappearance of his niece Cecily. Soon Kate is caught up in a tangle of secrets and talk of Fairy Folk. What is the truth behind Cecily’s disappearance? And who is the lady in green Kate saw in the forest upon her arrival?

This book is lovely in my opinion. I like Kate, she is an awkward but brave heroine, and Christopher is a fun, brave, and reckless hero. I love the romance in this book, not just the “man and woman” romance but the setting of the woods, the house, the fairy folk; it is all very rich and interesting. I enjoy the twists near the end of the book as well. I like the theme of the old songs of the traveling minstrels brought into a more “modern” setting (though perhaps a better word is “realistic”, seeing as how it’s the 1500s). I like the subtle Christian themes of the book, and the ending is so triumphant as well! There is a point in the middle where I can see it possibly getting a bit boring, but I think the dialogue saves it from becoming too much so. I love the way the fairy folk are so literal in their transactions and their words, it makes for some interesting things happening, especially at the end. For those of you that like reading about King Henry and Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, that doesn’t come much into the book, just to let you know. I also really like the illustrations that are in my copy of the book. It is definitely a book that I’m glad I actually bought a physical copy of, and it definitely merits more than one reading in my opinion.

I also love The Sherwood Ring, but that one is a more “fun” and less rich and romantic book. I recommend both. Have you ever read The Perilous Gard? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for me?

Abby

Book Reviews

Beneath Copper Falls: Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a Christian fiction authoress who writes romantic mysteries. She is another random library find as I was searching for something new to read. I have read, I think, three of her books so far. This one, Beneath Copper Falls, is probably my favorite of the three. On to the review!

Dana is a 911 dispatcher, working hard to get people the help they need. But she is in need of help herself; her ex-fiance Garret, who abused her and made her fear for her life, is stalking her. Dana goes back to Rock Harbor, her home town, where her brother Chris and friend Bree Matthews live, in hopes of starting a new life and working as a dispatcher there. Boone Carter’s sister was murdered just before her wedding, and Boone and his cousin Allyson are trying relentlessly to discover her killer. Boone and Dana meet (sparks fly of course) and clues begin to multiply. Will Dana be able to escape from her ex-fiance? Will Boone ever find his sister’s killer? And most importantly, what will their own future together look like?

I’ve read a few of Colleen Coble’s books and enjoyed them. They are Christian romances, basically, and often she does a series set in a certain place. This book is set in Rock Harbor, Michigan. I’ve also read another in the Rock Harbor series called Haven of Swans, which was creepy but had a good mystery. I find this one to be the same. I enjoyed the slow revelation of who the killer was, and I like the little red herring she put in there as well. I think for a Christian romance, it was a well done mystery. The Christian aspect of the book is all right, but perhaps a bit underdone? I’m not sure if that’s the right word. I felt like there were only certain touches of Christianity at times, that made it feel a bit random, like it wasn’t important to the story or even to the characters. Dana randomly wanted to pray for the people she helped on the dispatch, but she never actually took the risk to do it (except earlier in the book which we don’t see). And I know that anyone can be stupid, but I just feel like a Christian would want to know more about a person before getting engaged or even dating. However, I know that there are definite levels of religion for people. This was not a preachy book. I also enjoyed the characters. Dana was a good heroine, though she kind of frustrated me at times (like not pressing charges against her abusive fiance, what?). Boone was a nice hero as well, rugged with a touch of low self-esteem to make him relatable. 🙂 I liked Allyson and Bree as well, they would be fun friends in real life. I was pretty upset when a certain character died, I didn’t think Ms. Coble would actually do that to us! I would have also liked to see more dispatching work, I think that being a police dispatcher would be stressful but fascinating, and I would have liked to see more of that (it was partly the reason I picked up the book). But anyway, it is a pretty good story, entertaining and enjoyable. I think it would be a good book to read on vacation.

Have you read any of Ms. Coble’s books? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for me?

Abby

Book Reviews

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre: Gail Carson Levine

I have loved Gail Carson Levine’s fairytale books for a long time. It started with Ella Enchanted of course, which is a clever adaptation of the Cinderella fairy tale. We also had The Two Princesses of Bamarre, which I also loved! For some reason I got rid of both these books at some point in my childhood, I have no remembrance of why. But anyway, I also enjoyed Fairest (though this one wasn’t my favorite), Ogre Enchanted, A Tale of Two Castles, and most recently The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre. I also like her fairy tale short stories and the Neverland fairy books, though it has been ages since I read those. I even wrote to Ms. Levine at one point and received an exciting postcard back. I probably still have it somewhere. But on to the reviews!

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Princess Addie is afraid of everything: spiders, snake, specters, dragons, and sickness, most especially the Gray Death, a sickness with no known cure that unfailingly kills the one who contracts it. Her sister Princess Meryl, on the other hand, is brave and bold, ready for adventure. She most especially wants to seek out the cure for the Gray Death, hinted at through a prophecy. Addie doesn’t want to let her go, afraid she will lose the only person she feels perfectly safe with. But suddenly she has to find her own bravery, for Meryl herself contracts the Gray Death! Will she be able to summon her courage and find out the cure for herself? Will she be able to do it before Meryl slips away from her forever?

I so enjoyed this book when I was younger! It has twists and turns that delighted me then and still do now. It is shorter than I recall, though, which is probably just a trick of memory. I don’t think this is a retelling of any particular fairy tale (according to Ms. Levine, it started out being a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses but changed as she wrote it). I love the dragon in this, she is cruel and clever and much fun! I also love the romance that Ms. Levine writes, I would describe it as awkward and adorable, which rings true in this as well. I like that she doesn’t let the romance dominate the story, but it is a sweet element in the whole. The ending still rather disappoints me because it is not as happy as I would wish, but I think it is as happy as possible. Sometimes adventure does not end “happily ever after”, there are disappointments and unexpected twists. I also love Drault, the legendary character that appears in the poetry they quote. It really brings the whole culture and society and the fairy tale feeling together. In summary, always have and still do love this book!

 

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

Many years ago, the Latki people conquered the people of Bamarre and forced them to become their servants. As this story opens, Peregrine, nicknamed Perry, is a noblewoman (or rather, girl) in the kingdom of Latki, beloved by her Latki parents, Lady Klausine and Lord Tove, and cared for by her Bamarre servant Annet. What almost no one knows is that Perry was born to Bamarre parents, and Annet is her sister. They were both taken away after her true father stole from the garden of Lady Klausine to feed his children. In revenge, the childless Lady took Perry as her own daughter, and Annet as Perry’s maidservant, and sent away their parents. Only Lady Klausine, Annet, and the servants of the castle know the truth. Lord Tove hates the people of Bamarre passionately, almost not considering them human. After a visit from a fairy, Perry learns the truth and must decide what to do with it. Can she help her true people earn their freedom and escape from the Latki tyranny?

Another book I so enjoy! Sorry for the confusing description, this was a hard one to summarize. This one is a prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, technically, but I would definitely recommend reading this after The Two Princesses of Bamarre. That’s how it was for me (since The Lost Kingdom came out second) and I loved seeing the elements I remembered from the first book pop up in The Lost Kingdom. Basically, as Ms. Levine says, this book describes what happens to create the poetry and legend and history in The Two Princesses. It was so much fun to see the legend set out more fully, and I absolutely loved the character of Perry’s little brother, he was absolutely adorable and delightful! He is a character you’ll recognize from the first book. The romance between Perry and Willem was, again, awkward yet adorable as usual. I loved the little magic artifacts, like the seven-league boots and the tablecloth. This was a Rapunzel retelling, sort of, and I liked the elements from that she added in. The rebellion was very satisfying as well, and the ending is perfectly wonderful; though it is an uncertain ending it is also a very triumphant one. I like the change that Perry went through, from a selfish Latki to a caring, brave and courageous Bamarre. Anyway, it was a fully satisfying prequel.

I own both of these books myself and if you like fairy tales, I think these would be a very good addition to your bookshelf! Have you read these books? What did you think of them? What other recommendations can you share with me?

Abby

Book Reviews

A Light on the Hill; Shelter of the Most High: Connilyn Cossette

I believe I found Connilyn Cossette’s works on the library website, both as ebooks. Sometimes I’ll just go to the site to see what’s available and pick a few that look interesting. A Light on the Hill was one of these, and then I read Shelter of the Most High after I enjoyed Ms. Cosette’s writing style (also she has a very beautiful and interesting last name, though that has nothing to do with writing). Here are my reviews.

 

A Light on the Hill

Moriyah, an Israelite (can’t recall what tribe she is from), was kidnapped as a girl by the Canaanites and taken to Jericho. She was rescued before anything could happen to her, but she bears the brand of the goddess whose slaves are often forced into prostitution, making her an outcast in her city. She is happy with her quiet life, living with her father, cooking and taking care of the house, and visiting with her friends, a blind woman named Ora and small orphan boy named Eitan. But then Moriyah’s father tells her that he has arranged a marriage for her, and her world turns upside down. After some misunderstandings, she meets her betrothed and realizes he doesn’t care for her personally, and worse, his two boys are rude and rowdy. After a horrible accident involving the boys (don’t want to give too many spoilers!), Moriyah must flee to one of the cities of refuge to escape the vengeful fury of her erstwhile betrothed.

This was a pretty good book. I enjoyed the look at the sort of situation that might have come about with the cities of refuge in the Old Testament. I used to be especially confused about who the avenger of blood was. So I really liked the setting of the book. I liked the flight to the city of refuge and the twist at the end. The romance was sweet, and I also liked the fact that though it dealt with subjects like prostitution, there were no graphic scenes. It’s been a little bit, so I don’t remember any big criticisms that I had at the time. I seem to recall thinking the romance was a bit much as far as Moriyah and Darek thinking the other is just perfection, but I think I have that problem with most romances. And obviously there is talk about God in this book as well, since the setting is in Israel. Moriyah has trouble believing that God really loves and is near her after her being branded with an idolatrous symbol, but throughout the book she realizes that He is caring for her. Anyway, this was a good read.

Shelter of the Most High

Sofea is a girl who lives in a village on the island of Sicily with her family. Her father is a pagan high priest, in a religion that does human sacrifice. After being captured by raiders along with her cousin, the only two kept alive by the kindness of a former playmate, they manage to escape. With the help of some Israelite soldiers, they make their way to the city of refuge and into the household of Moriyah, our favorite heroine from the first book, and her adopted son Eitan. Sofea is intrigued by Eitan and they eventually fall in love. But what happens when betrayal and a father still on the watch for revenge come between their love for each other?

This was a good book as well. I enjoyed the story, and seeing what might happen if someone was tempted to leave their city of refuge. I don’t know why, but Sofea wasn’t the most compelling heroine to me. I liked Moriyah in the first book better. But I liked seeing her journey to trusting God and Eitan after growing up in the throes of a pagan religion. It was nice to see Darek, Moriyah and Eitan again in this book as well, and I liked the conclusion (though I know there are more books in this series so perhaps it is not the conclusion?) of the revenge plot from the first book. I did wonder how Sofea and Preza would be rescued from Darek’s brother’s clutches, and that part of the story made me on edge, wondering how they could escape, and berating Eitan mentally for leaving the city. I do enjoy books where the hero/heroine does the very stupidest thing they could do, just to see how the author plans to get them out of this one. Also I liked the fact that there was no graphic scenes, again. I think I like A Light on the Hill just a bit better, but both of these books were fun to read. I may decide to read the others in the series if I can find them somewhere.

Have you read either A Light on the Hill or Shelter of the Most High? What did you think if so? Do you have any other suggestions for me?

Abby

 

Book Reviews

Hostage Lands, Hand of Vengeance: Douglas Bond

Hiya! I recently borrowed these two books from my mom and siblings. They’d read them together and enjoyed them, so I thought I would give them a try as well. Here are my thoughts.

Hostage Lands

Neil Perkins lives in the north of England at his parents’ farm, Hostage Heath. One day as he is driving home from school on his ATV, he discovers a bag of parchments with Latin writing. He takes them to his wacky teacher Miss Klitsa, who is obsessed with the Romans and other peoples, and they uncover a strange and ancient story. A Roman centurion named Marcus and his men are attacked by the Celts after being sent on a suicide mission by a corrupt and power-hungry Tribune. A Roman soldier named Calum, who was also a Celt, helped to save him. After Marcus returns, the Tribune, who is displeased that Marcus still lives, orders him and Calum to go on a spy mission and collect information about the Celts. However, Calum is also interested in telling his own people about the God he had found after seeing martyrs dying in the Roman arenas. Will Marcus be able to finish his mission and keep the Tribune from ordering his death? After his friendship with Calum and witnessing his strong faith, will he even want to?

I definitely enjoyed this story! It seemed realistic while still being interesting. One thing I don’t like about some historical fiction is that it makes me wonder if the story would have or even could have happened. This was a good one. The twist at the end that ties in the name of the farm is clever. I liked the friendship between Marcus and Linus (who is one of his soldier friends) as well as between Marcus and Calum. One thing I didn’t like was the transition between Neil’s world and Marcus’s. While I liked the pretense of having a boy who wasn’t very interested in the Roman world discover these exciting parchments, it just felt a bit clumsy, as if the only reason Neil’s story was there was to showcase the story of Marcus and Calum. Which may be true, but I felt like Douglas Bond could have woven the stories together better. However, I understand that he probably wanted to keep it a bit shorter than that would have been, seeing as it is a book for a younger audience. I did like the part at the end as well when Neil’s dad was also interested in the parchments. It repaired the tension from earlier that we see in their relationship. Anyway, it was a good read and enjoyable story.

Hand of Vengeance

Cynwulf is half Viking, half Saxon (after his mother was raped during a Viking raid) living in a Saxon village. He lives underneath a Viking ship he found and turned into a house with his dog, Chester. He is something of a misfit in the village due to his half-breed status and being left-handed. He has just begun to discover his interest in and perhaps love for Haeddi, who cares for the geese in the village, when her father is found dead in his bed – with Cynwulf’s axe in his head. This was following a quarrel between another suitor for Haeddi’s hand and Haeddi’s father in the clan chief’s hall the night before, where Cynwulf had misplaced his axe. Though he has his logical and clearheaded friend Godwine, a monk, on his side, Cynwulf is hard pressed to prove his innocence. Will he be able to prove he is no murderer? What happens if the murderer strikes again?

Another enjoyable story. I think I liked this one a bit better than Hostage Lands. Though it was no great mystery, I had not figured out the who was the killer by the end, so I was surprised (which I always like). I enjoyed its twists and turns, and I liked the logical conclusions of Godwine, who took the role of detective in this book. I am no detective, so I like the characters in books pointing things out to me and helping me along to uncover the mystery. I liked the romance between Cynwulf and Haeddi. It did seem a bit underdeveloped, perhaps. I like two characters to be friends or to know one another a bit better before a romance, but Haeddi probably had no real chance to get to know Cynwulf, or vice versa, before the events unfolded, since he was something of an outcast. I suppose she knew his hardworking nature and the fact that he was an honorable man, and that was probably as much as you could expect in the days when parents arranged marriages. But I still thought it was a nice and sweet romance. And again, as with Hostage Lands, I felt like it was definitely a possible plot, not far-fetched that something like this could have happened in those long-gone days. I think Douglas Bond also does a good job of adding in the religion as well, it does not feel clumsy or overdone. But I am also a Christian, so perhaps someone who wasn’t would speak better to that.

Two very good reads. I’d recommend both of them. I also had another one called Hammer of the Huguenots, but I have not finished that one yet. I haven’t been quite as interested in that one as the other two.

If you’ve read these or any books by Douglas Bond, what did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for good books?

Abby

Book Reviews

The Splendid and the Vile: Erik Larson

Erik Larson has written some pretty great history books. I have read Dead Wake twice and I like it a lot. It’s about the sinking of the Lusitania and it’s probably one of the most enjoyable history books I have read. I tried The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts by the same author but for some reason I couldn’t get into them. I’m not sure why. So when I requested The Splendid and the Vile, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. But I’m happy to say that I liked it just about as much as Dead Wake. Here is my review.

It opens in May 1940, as the king decides to elect Winston Churchill as prime minister. Churchill feels ready for the job and is excited to begin his campaign against the Germans. Many things happen over the months, both encouraging and hopeless, Dunkirk, lots of bombings, the United States’ non-support, cracking German codes, etc., but Churchill and the British people never give up. At the end of the book, after Pearl Harbor, the United States finally give in and declare war on Japan and Germany, becoming allies with England.

Kind of a short description, but really, there is so much that happens (and hopefully you already know the general storyline) it is hard to really give a good synopsis.

Anyway, Erik is a wonderful writer. I love how he really personalizes the people in history, telling little facts about them and how they themselves as well as others perceived them. He includes many stories from journals and diaries, as well as quotes from people. One neat touch he included with this story was quotes from the Mass-Observation project, which was a social project where many everyday people kept journals recording their everyday life. It gives a good perspective to the book, I think.

I really enjoyed reading about Churchill himself. He seemed quite an interesting character. Usually when I read more about a prominent public figure, I come away with a little less respect than I started with, because I didn’t know about all the bad things they had done as well as the good. I know that humans are all fallible and sinful, but it is always a bit disappointing hearing of the faults of a leader. But I didn’t find that as much with Churchill. He was a bit eccentric (like meeting with his cohorts while he was taking a bath!) but as a whole he seemed like a pretty good man. I do know that an author can show only the stories of a man that would show the bad or the good in him (and I know there are mixed feelings of Churchill in general) but I felt like Erik Larson did a pretty objective job showing how Churchill worked and what he did. I also liked hearing about how heartened most were after his speeches.

I also liked hearing about Jock Colville, one of the prime minster’s secretaries; Max Beaverbrook, Churchill’s friend and Minster of Aircraft Production; Clementine, Churchill’s wife and (I think we could all agree) a strong woman; and his daughter Mary. It was nice hearing all of their perspectives of the war and the events that went on. It almost makes you want to keep a diary so that just in case any big events happen future generations will know what it was like!

This also opened my eyes a bit to how bad the war was, for Britain and many other places. It wasn’t as bad as the German propaganda was reporting, but there was so many bombings and so much destruction and so many deaths it is hard to picture. I think this book really showed the human spirit to hang on even the face of adversity and to always try and make a good thing out of any bad situation, to try and make normalcy out of a horrible thing. I was surprised at the spirit of the British people and how they didn’t give up but kept fighting. It really makes you wonder what you would do in such a situation, and it reminds you as well of the frailty of life, and how one bomb can end life for so many. And all the bombs and destruction described in this book was only one year of a war that spanned six years!

Anyway, I really enjoyed The Splendid and the Vile and it gave me an interesting look into how it was, especially in London, in 1940. There was so much destruction, happiness, horror, and hope. As the title says, so many vile and yet splendid things. I would definitely recommend this book.

Have you read The Splendid and the Vile or any other Erik Larson books? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for me?

Abby

Book Reviews

Where the Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens

I read this book a few months ago (maybe December?) after waiting a bit for it to become available. It is Ms. Owens’ debut novel, and a pretty big success at that for a first novel.

This book switches between two timelines. One is in 1969 (It’s been a while since I read the book so I had to look up these dates on the preview of the ebook on Amazon :), which starts out with a glimpse of a dead man in the swamps of North Carolina below a fire tower. It’s slowly revealed that it is Chase Andrews, the golden boy of the town. The sheriff begins to suspect murder. In the earlier timeline, in 1952, we meet Kya Clark, only about seven, I believe. Her mother leaves the family, walking away from her children with only a blue suitcase in hand, fed up and perhaps even mentally damaged by her husband’s abuse. There are a few other children around, including Kya’s brother Jodie, but they soon leave as well because of their father’s verbal and physical abuse. Kya is left to fend for herself. Her dad stops his drinking and abuse for a while and they get along for a while, but he soon leaves too. Kya has an unsuccessful try at attending school and though she has a few friends, including Jumpin’, a man who owns a gas station, and who she sells fish to, and his wife Mabel, most of the town doesn’t know her and doesn’t want to, thinking instead that she is odd and outcast. A young man named Tate befriends and helps her, but after he goes to college she is alone again until… well, a lot of other things happen but I’m afraid I’ll spoil plot points if I keep going on. She is also a wonderful artist and knows much about the swamp.

It’s been a while since I read this, so forgive any mistakes in the plot or in my thoughts about it. I did like this book a lot, but it was quite sad. Also there was some sexual content and violence, so this is definitely an adult book. However, it is a very good book. I enjoyed the resilience of Kya and her determination to live and make a home for herself. However, it was very sad to see her wish for love and friendship that just kept getting thwarted. Probably Jumpin’ and Mabel were my favorite characters because they were so caring and loving toward Kya. It was interesting to see that since Kya didn’t have morals taught to her, her morals came from the swamp, from the nature around her, which led to certain other events in this book (don’t want to spoil so hopefully that’s not too vague if you have read this). I was also thinking of Tate’s friendship with Kya, it is definitely an encouragement to us to befriend those who may seem odd or outcast instead of judging or leaving them outcast, because we never know what has happened to them to make them the way they are. Especially for Christians, we should realize that all people are worth getting to know and sharing the love of Christ with. However, unlike Tate, we should not abandon them because we think we are getting to be above them. I don’t remember anything else that jumps out as I think back on this story. Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? What are your thoughts on it?

Do you have any other recommendations for me? I always love reading new stories!

Abby

Book Reviews

Mother; The Story of Julia Page; and Sisters: Kathleen Thompson Norris

Today I’ll be talking about the books of Kathleen Thompson Norris. I was first introduced to her with her book Mother and since then I’ve read all the books on her Project Gutenberg page and some on Open Library. I’ve found that generally her books accept a strong moral sense and I believe she was Catholic, as are many of her protagonists. I enjoyed her short stories as well, some of which you can find on Open Library. A lot of her books are long and span a few generations, so sometimes I got a little bored with her books and my attention wandered a bit. But generally I like them a lot and I love her writing style. I will review a few of my favorites here.

The first one I read was Mother. It’s set in the early 1900s, I believe, about a young woman named Margaret in Weston (which I believe is Connecticut) who comes from a large family. She is working as a school teacher, which is dull and tiring to her, when a chance accident brings her in contact with Mrs. Carr-Boldt, a rich socialite. Mrs. Carr-Boldt asks Margaret to become her secretary, and so , with her father and mother’s blessing, she goes to live in New York with Mrs. Carr-Boldt and her family. She becomes disillusioned with her family’s simple country life. It is only when she falls in love and begins thinking of marriage herself that she realizes how much her family, most especially her mother, means to her and what would be lost if things were different.

This is a very sweet story. It is one of Kathleen’s shorter stories. I would say it’s a bit of a social commentary on how vital it is to have your mother in your life, someone who cares for you and helps you grow. She highlights the loving relationship of Margaret’s mother and father, and the way that Mother is involved in every happening in the family. She contrasts that with Harriet Carr-Boldt’s nearly estranged husband, who drinks and spends money wastefully, both wife and husband doing their own thing, and her efficient but distant way of caring for her children.

She also shows how money and wanting “every advantage” for your child is not the only way to raise your children. Julia, Margaret’s sister, thinks that she wants to wait before having kids after being married so that she and her husband will be able to get somewhere in the world. But when she actually gets pregnant, she realizes the love that she already has for her unborn child and it overshadows the illusions of wanting to be rich and socially high up in the world. Love (most especially mother-love) is shown in this book to be the thing that holds families together, and being a mother is held as a high occupation. It’s a very sweet story and makes you want to hug your own mom.

 

Next in my favorites of hers is The Story of Julia Page. It is about a girl named Julia Page but it is quite interesting because it does not start with her story but that of her mother Emeline, who lives with her parents and siblings. Her father is domineering and her mother overworked. She was never helped or trained to go into any useful work, so she eventually goes to work at a millinery shop and meets George Page there. They get married and soon Julia is born. Her father and mother eventually separate, and she and her mother live in an apartment, visiting friends, eating at restaurants, never keeping their apartment tidy and never doing any real work. Julia is interested in going on the stage, and a young man from a family she knows is interested in marrying her someday. But after helping out with some amateur theatricals with a socially high and rich family, the Tolands, she realizes how much more she could be doing with her life and becomes dissatisfied with all she has been doing before. She meets the Tolands’ maiden aunt Miss Anna Toland, a spinster to use the old phrase, who keeps a house for girls to teach them useful works, and becomes Miss Toland’s secretary or right-hand-man. Years go by and Julia is thrown together with the Toland family. She meets Jim Toland, a rich cousin of the family, and they get married. But soon Julia’s past comes back to haunt her, and threatens to separate the couple.

This is a very long book, and it got a little dragging at times with me, because I couldn’t really understand the point until I’d read the book. What I understand as the point is that women should be trained to make a living and do useful work as well as men, also that a woman’s past was more closely scrutinized and she was more shamed if she did anything wrong than a man would be. The respectability of being a woman was much more easily lost than the respectability of a man, because if a woman did something wrong she could never get back her good reputation, whereas if a man did wrong it was chalked up to just being a man, or sowing wild oats. Kathleen highlights how important it is to work hard and get the right start whether as a man or a woman, because once you’ve done something wrong, started in the wrong track, you can never get back your purity again. A wrong deed can never be undone. It’s again a sort of social commentary which was probably more relevant back in the early 1900s than it would be now, but it is still quite interesting to read.

 

I also liked her book Sisters. It is about a family, Mr. Strickland, the father, two sisters, Cherry and Alix, and Anne, the cousin who also lives with them who is like a sister. There is also an old family friend who lives near them, Peter Joyce, who is a bachelor. They live together happily until Martin Lloyd comes to town. He is a mining engineer who is in town visiting his cousin. He catches the eye of all three sisters, but Cherry, the youngest, is the one he sets his eye on. Though her father objects that she is too young, he eventually gives his permission and they get married. She soon discovers that married life is not as wonderful and romantic as she thought it would be. Meanwhile, Anne marries a young lawyer. Alix happily stays at home with her father until his death, when she and Peter, who don’t exactly love each other but are very good friends, get married and settle down. When Cherry comes to visit, unhappy and weary with her own married life, she and Peter are strangely attracted to one another. Things escalate in their clandestine relationship until a tragedy occurs.

This is quite an interesting book. It has a very sad ending, however. It explores the relationship of marriage and married happiness/unhappiness. Alix is a very carefree, cheerful person. She was probably my favorite in the book. She is of the opinion that any marriage can be made happy if the people only work at it, though she is puzzled and uncertain about the unhappiness caused by her own sister’s marriage. Cherry is a child for a lot of the book. She is unhappy about her own marriage, thinks it a mistake and that she was too young when she got married. But by the end of the book she sees that it requires some sacrifice of self to be married. I liked the book a lot, though Peter and Cherry frustrated me and made me mad for a lot of the book, and of course it has a very sad ending. I don’t agree with Alix’s actions at the end of the book, but it was still a fascinating read.

What do you think of Kathleen Norris’ writings, if you’ve read them? Please let me know down below. If you have any other books to recommend, please comment with those as well. I love recommendations!

Abby

Book Reviews

Full Disclosure, Taken, Unspoken, The Truth Seeker: Dee Henderson

I found Dee Henderson’s books recently, from a short story ebook collection I found on my library’s online catalog. Ever since my husband got me a Kindle for our first anniversary, I’ve enjoyed browsing the ebook catalog and choosing any that catch my eye to try. This author was one of those random ones that I liked. Her books are Christian and pretty clean, which I liked. I think they are all mostly stand-alone books, but usually connected to a series, part of the same universe as the others. I’d recommend reading Full Disclosure first rather than Taken or Unspoken because it has the introduction to some characters that show up a lot later. Specific reviews below.

Full Disclosure

This book is about an FBI Special Agent named Paul Falcon and a police officer who is also a sheriff and the MHI (Midwest homicide investigator) named Ann Silver. It opens with Paul trying to track down a lady shooter-for-hire who has killed 30 people. They don’t know her name or what she looks like. Ann comes into Paul’s office, with a case that may be related to his lady shooter. Paul is intrigued by Ann (of course) and he soon contacts her and they begin a relationship. He discovers her secrets and at the same time, they work on solving the identity of the lady shooter and other fun plots twists like that.

This is a good book. It’s not the most engaging book I’ve ever read, but it was very enjoyable to read. It didn’t have any bad language in it that I remember and no intimate scenes. There was discussion of violence but it was done very tastefully and most of it was flashback style, where a character is recounting what happened to them. It is a Christian book, both of the main characters are Christians. They speak about their relationship with God and they speak to God in the book. This is not a thriller, and if you are used to fast-paced and action filled you may find this a bit slow and boring. But if you are looking for a crime read that is not going to bother you afterwards with stuff you wish you hadn’t read, I would definitely recommend Full Disclosure. I really enjoyed the read.

 

Taken

Shannon Bliss was kidnapped at the age of sixteen. She has finally escaped her captors and contacts Matthew Dane, a private investigator, whose own daughter was kidnapped at age eight and recovered at sixteen. Matthew takes Shannon under his wing and helps her to recover. She reconnects with her brother, who is running for governor of Illinois and has been outspokenly hopeful in the search for Shannon, and helps the police uncover the crimes that the people who took her have committed. Ann and Paul Falcon are in this one too! And of course, Matthew starts falling for her and her determinedly independent spirit.

I did like this one, but really, parts of it were slightly boring. Not much actual action happened, there were no chase scenes or shootouts that occurred while we were watching the characters. It was mostly a lot of talking and discussion and investigation. It felt like there was supposed to be a fear and tension (oh no, will her captors try to kill her or take her back?) but it soon became evident that after she left there was never any real danger to her from them. So it felt a bit anticlimactic. However, I still enjoyed the book. I liked the fact that there were two seemingly unrelated crimes and they managed to connect them to each other. I liked seeing Shannon meet her brother again and get comfortable with Matthew. I think I would have like seeing Shannon’s viewpoint some in this book rather than just Matthew’s, but perhaps that would be too complicated. I liked how Matthew and Shannon took it slow with the romance; it felt realistic. I don’t know if wholesome is the right word, but this book was clean and enjoyable, and I felt good after reading it, which is more than I can say about some books.

 

Unspoken

Bryce is a coin seller and owns a shop. He is bored and not sure what to do next, until he meets Charlotte Graham, who has been renovating the storefront next to his. She shows him a large collection of coins that she has to sell (making him, as they say, an offer he can’t refuse) and boredom goes out the window for Bryce. As he learns more about her (partly from Ann and Paul Falcon, yay!), he is more and more intrigued by her hardworking, generous personality. She was kidnapped when she was sixteen, along with her twin sister. While her sister was released quickly, she was held for four years before escaping. She never speaks about her experiences. After her estranged grandfather leaves her a large (and I mean large) fortune, she has to figure out how to manage and organize it. Bryce commits to helping her because he is starting to be attracted to her (we all knew it was coming). Many secrets come out along the way, and Bryce helps her deal with them as well as with her grandfather’s large fortune. They discover love for each other as well as (for Charlotte) rediscovering trust in God.

This was a good book. It talked a little too much about coins for my taste because I’m not at all interested in them, but it was enjoyable thinking about what someone could do with a large amount of money. I liked the God talk, so to speak; it was interesting to explore what sort of faith problems a kidnapping victim might have. The tension regarding a possible undiscovered third kidnapper was interesting, and I like Bryce and Charlotte’s relationship. One thing that was a little meh was that Charlotte and Shannon from Taken were a very similar character in my opinion. There were some differences but overall they seemed a lot the same. However, that could be my fault because I read both books pretty much back-to-back, and they had a slightly similar plot (both were kidnapped). But I still enjoyed this book, and again, there were no problems with objectionable content, which I appreciated.

The Truth Seeker

This one was my favorite of the books I’ve read from Dee. I believe the O’Malley series are the most popular of what she’s written, from what I can tell. This is the third book in the series, which I read first because it was the only ebook in the series available on my library’s site. The others were on hold. Just finished this one today, so it’s pretty fresh to me compared to the others.

Lisa O’Malley is a forensic pathologist. The book opens on her working a house fire where a man died, and she is uneasy with the initial decision that it was an accident. She is a part of a family called the O’Malleys, an adopted family of seven who found each other in a home for foster kids and decided to make each other their brothers and sisters. Quinn is a US Marshall and a rancher in Montana. He is trying to find out who killed his father, and is following up on a lead around where Lisa lives, on a young woman who disappeared around the same time his father was killed. He is good friends with the O’Malleys, even dating some of Lisa’s sisters, but nothing has worked out for him so far. Now he has his sights set on Lisa, perhaps as a friend or perhaps more. Lisa is focused on her work, feels awkward around Quinn, and even resents a little the fact that she comes in third (or fourth) to her other sisters. However, as the case she has been working on intersects with Quinn’s search to find his father’s killer, and a host of secrets unfolds, her trust of him and attraction to him grows, as well as his for her.

This was a very good book, my favorite of the ones I’ve read from Dee. It has much more action and excitement. It is a little more explicit in the description of violence and dead bodies, etc, than the other ones I’ve read, while still not being too gruesome. I enjoyed seeing Quinn and Lisa’s relationship blossom, as well as the close relationships between her and her siblings. I enjoyed the thoughts and discussion of the resurrection. Lisa doesn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, much to the chagrin of her other Christian siblings, because she knows what happens to dead bodies and thinks there is no physical way that they can return from the dead. It was interesting to see her spiritual journey. It really highlighted to me that when someone is called by God to believe, the facts are very important, especially to a logical and scientific mind, but it is faith alone that brings you to belief, the personal trust and hope in God. Someone can know everything about God but still not believe and trust in Him to be saved. It also pointed me toward thoughts of my own death. I am a Christian and believe in the resurrection myself, so it was good to be reminded to live for God since you only have one life and it can be interrupted by death at any time. The ending surprised me a little, which I always like (though I had kind of guessed who the villain was at some point near the end, the full explanation was still a secret to me by the time we got to it). I enjoyed this book and I expect to read more of this series.

I’d like to do more book reviews to help me think more about the books I’m reading. I have a pretty voracious appetite when it comes to stories, so I think it’s good for me to slow down and write about them! Hopefully I will get better at writing reviews as well. Please let me know your thoughts on the books of Dee Henderson if you’ve read them, or you can suggest others that you’ve enjoyed!

Abby

 

 

Uncategorized

Spring

Spring is a subject to which most people give a great deal of thought. I suppose it is because the subject of weather in general is on the minds of the population from force of necessity. One must pay close attention to it, after all, if one wishes to avoid the uncomfortable position of standing in the doorway of a building wondering if the rain will ever let up a bit and wishing they had parked a bit closer. The only problem with trying to predict the weather of course is that it is so hard to predict. How many times have you squinted in the sun, murmuring sheepishly, conspicuous umbrella in hand, “Well, they did say it was going to rain today…”

But we began by speaking of Spring. All the seasons have their share of celebratory and flattering poetry or literature or songs written about them, but I venture to declare that Spring is the best. Summer begins well (for it has Spring at its beginning) but then becomes Very Hot Indeed. Nobody looks their best drenched in sweat, my dear. Autumn is better, but it begins the Death of the Year, which is sad. Besides, it is nowhere near long enough. (It is the same length as Spring, one may object. But who wants to listen to objectors?) Winter can be lovely as well– but for one thing. Everyone enjoys the cold season as long as there is the promise of snow. In the South there is no snow, to which we say, what is the use of the cold then? In the North there is too much snow, to which we say, it is too cold and too much work.

Therefore I propose that Spring is the best season. It comes after the cold of Winter and so it is a great relief to begin with. It is warm and sunny, but cool and breezy so as to avoid being quite too hot. Things begin growing, and we can go out in our gardens and remark upon the flowers coming up and blooming. “I see the daffodils are still in their same old place,” we can say, “And don’t you agree that the tulips were much prettier last year?” We shed our coats and jackets and scarves (of which we were getting quite tired) and put on Spring attire and try to hide the fact that we are actually a bit too cold in this breeze and would like to put on a sweater but it’s Spring now and people might think we–

Ah

Ah

Ah-CHOO

Oh dear. I had forgotten about allergies.

Perhaps Spring isn’t the best season after all.