Books

Summer Reading Goals {what I’m reading right now}

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Hey everyone!

Summer. Sweet summer. When I think of summer I think of books.

Oh yes. Books.

Give me all the books. Let me go out and get more books. Let me sit in the a.c. and read all those books.

Mountains of books!

Ahem.

Worked myself into a book frenzy. Anyways.

I have this habit of starting so many books and then not finishing them for some reason or another. 

To help resolve this issue, I decided to narrow down my list to 5 books I want to work on finishing. I am more or less actively reading these books. And lets face it, I probably won’t finish them all by August but this is a start.

 

My Current Reads This Summer

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1. Fountain Creek Chronicles, by Tamera Alexander

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 689.

  • book #1: Rekindled
  • #2: Revealed
  • #3: Remembered

Why I love it:

This particular series is set in Colorodo Territory (western US) in the mid- to late 1800s. I enjoy this particular time period and westerns have piqued my interest lately.

It’s hard to put into words exactly what I love about these books. Maybe its the fact that the characters are so real, so genuine in their struggles. They are committed to their faith.

The author walks a fine line here with providing just the right amount of detail to make the story flow. I also like her gutsiness to write about topics that not every Christian writer would. And she does it with eloquence and grace.

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2. The Magnolia Story, by Chip & Joanna Gaines

Genre: Biography.

Pages: 184.

Why I love it:

Most people are familiar with the dynamic duo that is Chip and Joanna Gains through their show, Fixer Upper. One of my friends (who is a fan) loaned me this book.

Chip and Joanna have a cute story. Joanna is so…Joanna and Chip is so crazy! I’ve enjoyed reading about the “ages and stages” of their lives…and how they got to be famous!

 

3. The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman

Genre: History/ World War I

Pages: 368.

Why I love it:

This one. This one is very deep and quite detailed. I’ve found I cannot do this book justice by reading it quickly. So, just like the classics I’ve been reading this novel slowly.

The book is based on the true story of Jan and Antonia Żabiński, a Polish couple who manage the Warsaw zoo during the Holocaust. What is so special about them? The synopsis says that “..[they] managed to save over 300 people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages”. Although I haven’t yet reached that point in the story.

I can tell that this book will be heartbreaking and beautiful. It is full of rich detail and I know that it will touch my heart.

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4. The Cranford Novellas, (Girlebooks) by Elizabeth Gaskell

  • Cranford-16 chapters.
  • Mr. Harrison’s Confession-31 chapters.
  • My Lady Ludlow-14 chapters.

 

Genre: Novel

Pages: 134 pages.

Why I love it:

Earlier this year I finished Gaskell’s North and South and I liked it (for the most part).

My thoughts on Gaskell’s works are hard to explain. I like her books, but they can be slow and the characters not as easy to like as say…Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet.

When I read that Cranford was supposed to be her best work, and saw a preview for the BBC series I decided to read it. The show came out in 2007 but apparently I missed the boat haha.

I am currently having some difficulty following the storyline and need to find some sort of spark notes to help me.

I did really enjoy the beginning of the novel. I found it to be quite humerous and entertaining. This book seems much more…easygoing? than other novels of hers.

 

5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Genre: Fantasy.

Pages: 306.

Why I love it:

It’s J.R.R. Tolkien. Need I say more? His writing style is beyond amazing. And it’s no wonder, when he devoted such a large portion of his life to the series.

I don’t read much fantasy at all but I can definitely make time for a little Tolkien ☺

 

Any books on your summer reading list? Now’s the time to knock them out! Stay cool out there! ❄☀🌻🌺

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Books, Celebrated Authors

25 Reasons Why Jane Austen Is Awesome

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“Know your own happiness.

You want nothing but patience-

or give it a more fascinating name,

call it hope.”

-from Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19, by Jane Austen

Oh I have been looking forward to this post for quite some time. This day, today, was the day Jane Austen was born 242 years ago in Steventon, Hampshire, England.

She is one of the most famous, most beloved, and most intelligent writers in all of history.

Most people have heard of her, but maybe don’t really know exactly why she was such a sensation. Why her works are so important.

To be honest, I couldn’t formulate such reasons myself. So I endeavored to read up on her life and write up a few reasons why I think Jane Austen is awesome.

Enjoy, fellow Jane Austen fans!


 

25 Reasons Why Jane Austen Is Awesome

 

 

A. Her Life

 

1. She was a woman disappointed in love.

But she was also a woman who said no to at least one proposal of marriage. Because of lack of love, maybe. But also because it gave her the freedom to write.

 

2. But thwarted love didn’t derail her.

She could have let her disappointed romantic hope lead her into a life of bitterness and depression. Instead, I believe it motivated and inspired her work.

 

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3. She possesed the loyalty of a most beloved sister.

She was best friend to her older sister Cassandra all her life. Her sister lost her fiance to yellow fever and, same as Jane, never married. They had an unshakable bond and I imagine we owe Jane Austen’s novels in part to the encouragement of her sister.

 

4. I suspect her relationships weren’t perfect.

I’m sure her mother must have scolded her at some point. A “Mrs. Bennet style” scolding. Had she married, could she have saved her mother and sister from (supposed) destitution? And yet, she still wrote.

 

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5. Her life wasn’t always easy.

She was human. During the time she lived in Bath (1801-1806), she could write nothing.

 

6. She preferred walking.

She was fond of walking, especially throughout the countryside. I think that this was admirable in an age when physical fitness was not particularly encouraged.

 

“I walk: I prefer walking.”

-from Persuasion, Chapter 19, by Jane Austen

 

B. Her Writing Style

 

1. Her witty descriptions of people make me laugh.

They are so on point. And so ridiculous. But true. 200 years later and we still know silly people, meddling people, etc. Which is what makes them so funny.

 

2. The Palmers, of Sense and Sensibility.

Still hilarious, every time I read. Check out Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton in the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. Guarantee it will make you laugh.

 

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3. A woman ahead of her time.

As most great artists/writers are. Her characters were not appreciated by her critics. I find that hard to believe…what’s not to like about Elizabeth Bennet?

 

4. Her heroines.

She produced strong, intelligent female characters. Elinor Dashwood. Elizabeth Bennet. Fanny Price (strong in her own way). Emma Woodhouse. Catherine Morland. Anne Elliot.

 

5. She urged love over comfort in a time when comfort, money, was highly prized.

 

6. Jane Austen wrote of true love over social duty.

Which we applaud today (mostly). Yet in her time people did not appreciate or understand this way of thinking.

 

7. She wrote what she knew.

She wrote about women. Their thoughts, desires, struggles, conversations, joys and amusements. From this, we get a brilliant picture of the life of a woman in the 18th and early 19th century.

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8. Austen fine-tuned her craft.

Like all great writers, she grew and developed. She took what talent she had and built upon it.

 

9. Her books are relatable.

She infused real-life family issues into her books. This is another big reason why her books are so loved. Ever been ignored and underappreciated like Anne Elliot? Trampled on, like Fanny Price? Been a rock for your family and hid your own struggles like Elinor Dashwood?

 

10. A unique style.

What set her apart as a writer was not what she wrote about but how she wrote it. It was her style that made her unique. So many people wrote about the same things she did. Yet she stood out. Why? One reason is that she was more concerned with the psychology of her characters, how they thought, than in describing how they looked.

 

C. Her Works

 

1. She had 4 books published in 4 years.

It took her 13+ years to reach this level, but once she started, she never stopped until illness forced her to.

 

2. Sense and Sensibility. (1811)

Two sisters. One ruled by her heart, the other ruled by her mind. Their lack of fortune becomes an element closely tied to the futures with the men they love.

3. Pride and Prejudice. (1813)

Four sisters. Headstrong Lizzy (Elizabeth, the main character) and sweet Jane (the eldest) find love where it is unexpected. Their sisters have their shares of adventures as well. A very happy and balanced story.

4. Mansfield Park. (1814)

This is the story of Fanny, a shy and poor girl who in a sense is adopted by wealthy relatives. She is timid, but in other ways brave. In my eyes, this is Austen’s most complex novel.

5. Emma. (1815)

Emma is the one novel I have not read through completely. I couldn’t like the main character, which is something Jane herself expected from her readers. Emma is somewhat strong-willed and delights in matchmaking…even though she makes a mess of it.

6. Northanger Abbey. (1817)

A satire on the Gothic novel. A story about a girl named Catherine, as she is grows up and finds her true purpose in life.

7. Persuasion. (1817)

Anne’s story of how others can persuade a person which path to take in life and of second chances with past love.

8. Her books have been translated into 35 languages

 

9. She was proud of her novels.

Particularly Pride and Prejudice, which she referred to as “my own darling Child”.

 

Thanks for tuning in to my long Austen-themed post! 😃😃😃

What do you love most about Jane Austen? Which of her works are your favorite, or least favorite?

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Sources:

www.stylist.co.uk

Jane Austen: An Influental Woman

~

www.bbc.com

Why Is Jane Austen Trending 200 Years After Her Death?

~

www.famousauthors.org

Jane Austen

Books, Celebrated Authors

Remembering Louisa May Alcott with Favorite Quotes from “Little Women”

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Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott! She was born 185 years ago *today, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was the second oldest of four daughters. Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth and Abigail were the four girls born to Amos and Abigail Alcott.

Louisa May Alcott wrote quite a few books and short stories in her lifetime. Little Women is the most well known of her works and is followed by the books Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

Her contemporaries were such authors as Charles Dickens (1812-70), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), Alexandre Dumas (1802-70) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81). One of my favorite time periods for literature for sure.

Since I posted an in-depth e-book review on The Courtship of Jo March last week, I thought it would be fun to write up a simpler post full of my favorite quotes from Little Women.

Enjoy!

Favorite Quotes from Little Women

From Part 1 (Chapters 1-23)

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“Meg’s high heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

-from Chapter 3


You don’t look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice.”

-from Chapter 9, Sallie to Meg.


I don’t like fuss and feathers.”

-from Chapter 9, Laurie to Meg.

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You’d have nothing but horses, inkstands and novels in yours,” answered Meg petulantly.

Wouldn’t I, though? I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled high with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day.”

-from Chapter 13


From Part 2 (Chapters 24-47)

“By-and-by Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was rainy, and she could not walk. A restless spirit possessed her, and the old feeling came again, not bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully patient wonder why one sister should have all she asked, the other nothing.”

-from Chapter 42

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“The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to imitate every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic condition, with his “sewin-sheen”-a mysterious structure of string, chairs, clothespins, and spools, for wheels to go “wound and wound”; also a basket hung over the back of a chair, in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who, with feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, “Why, Marmar, dat’s my lellywaiter, and me’s trying to pull her up.”

-from Chapter 45 (the antics of John and Meg’s twin children Daisy and Demi).


 

Have you read any books by or about Louisa May Alcott lately? Which novel is your favorite? I’d love to hear about it 😊

~Rachel

*For some reason, WordPress marked my post as 11/30, when I wrote it at 8pm on 11/29, which is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday. Not the 30th.

Books

Book Review: The Courtship of Jo March

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Introduction

In October, I purchased the e-book anniversary edition of The Courtship of Jo March. It was written by Trix Wilkins and released in August of 2017. Before reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t like it when my view of a classic is altered. However, I was looking forward to an alternate ending, one that myself and other readers craved.

In this post, I will share a summary, my initial thoughts, as well as my opinion of the major characters, plot and writing style.

You may encounter some spoilers. Fair warning! 🙂

Summary

From GoodReads:

“It’s the classic story of four sisters we’ve come to love, and yet we can’t help but wonder. Why did Jo refuse Laurie? What might Laurie have done on the European Grand Tour? What became of Jo’s writing, Amy’s art, Laurie’s music? Would a school have existed without Aunt March? And could Beth possibly have been saved?

This re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters – the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been.”

First Thoughts & Background

First off, I loved the cover design on this anniversary edition. And as I started to read, I was impressed with how the book began and how well the characters almost seamlessly resemble their counterparts in Little Women

Characters (Spoilers)

The characters in this novel are very well done. They were consistent, with only a few exceptions. Trix has 100% done her research here and I was impressed.

Jo

Jo and especially Laurie had very consistent and detailed characters. I thought that Jo appeared softer and less brash, even than her adult self in Little Women.

The way Jo behaved in chapter 11 doesn’t sit well with me. Jo came off as very flirtatious, which is not consistent with the Jo I know. Maybe it was too sudden for me as well. The shift from “just friends” to something a little more seemed a bit over the top for me in the way it was expressed.

So Jo’s dress I am kind of in love with. At first I thought red was a scandalous choice, but recently researched it and found that a deep red color was highly fashionable in the 1870s. But was it entirely proper for Laurie to buy her a dress? All the same, I think it is highly romantic.

It made me smile, and think of the scene when Amy and Laurie are picking roses at Valrosa in Nice, France.

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Laurie

Laurie’s character was portrayed very well. I enjoyed seeing more of how he acted around Jo and away from her (and away from Amy as well). His motives, his speeches and everyday activities matched what I knew of him. I loved what Trix has done here to expand upon his character.

Beth

Beth’s story was beautifully done. Certain parts I wasn’t so sure about, but I did so enjoy her story.

Beth approaching Frank at the concert was not something I expected of Beth. That Beth went to the concert at all suprises me, but Beth could sometimes do surprising things. She possesses a quiet strength.

I still wondered at some of her decisions in the book. Beth was not physically a strong person and she was exceedingly shy. I wonder at the wisdom of her decision.

Would Beth have been so brave as to talk to Frank, alone, in a crowded concert? To accept his hand when Jo dissaproves and her family cautions?

Yet I do see that if Beth’s story changes, every one else’s would come apart.

Plot

As a whole, I thought that the story flowed together nicely. However, the sisters, I felt, were married too soon. Within the first few chapters, all but Jo have been married. It seemed almost too rushed and left me with questions about the husbands that weren’t answered until later.

A Favorite Chapter

There is a proposal in Chapter 6, after Laurie’s graduation, just as it is in the original.

I love the way the proposal scene happened. Much, much, so much better. It ended as I anticipated but the wording was much softer and much more satisfying. My heart didn’t feel ripped out of my chest.

Writing Style

I agree with other reviewers on GoodReads who said there was slightly more modernity here than there would have been in the 1870s. However, for me it wasn’t a deal breaker. I thought the particular instances added to the romance of the story.

On my kindle, the e-book was 243 pages long. Some of the chapters were a bit long, which made it a bit difficult for me to finish a chapter in one sitting.

Also of note is the Pride and Prejudice references tucked away in a few places, like pretty flowers hidden in the pages.

I am a huge Austen fan, as some of you probably know 🙂 🙂

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Conclusion

I really enjoyed reading this book and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Regarding rating, I would give this book 4/5 stars.

I had mild problems with only a few parts of the book, such as portions of Jo and Beth’s stories and the longer chapters.

Overall I was impressed with the level of care and detail that is apparent in the way the characters are portrayed. There are many powerful, romantic and humorous moments which made this book an enjoyable read 🙂

~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~

Visit Trix Wilkin’s blog here to read more about her, her book and view purchasing info for The Courtship of Jo March.

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde

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Many thanks to Rachel Poli for her post “How to Write a Book Review That Matters“. Very helpful, Rachel! Thank-you!

Title: Dawn at Emberwilde

Series: Book #2 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels.

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Publication Date: May 10, 2016

Genre: Romance Fiction

*Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐

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As I wrote this review I sipped some hibiscus and ginger tea with nettle and cinnamon. Yummy!

 

Introduction

I decided to place this book on hold at my local library after reading 2 other books by Sarah E. Ladd. (The Heiress of Winterwood and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, both of the Whispers on the Moors series.)

I tried to read The Curiosity Keeper, which was book #1 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels series. I didn’t finish it because the story did not hold my interest. So I wasn’t sure what to think of this second book of the series. But it looked promising. It had that deep, spooky mystery about it that I couldn’t wait to explore.

Plot

The overall plot of this book centers on Miss Isabel Creston. About her past, her strange new life at Emberwilde and the mysterious “Black Forest” that seems to be calling her name. She attempts to unravel her past while planning for her uncertain future. What exactly happened to her mother all those years ago? And who will be the lucky gentleman to whom she can give her heart and hand?

The first 6 chapters I thought were rather slow and I had difficulty getting into the story until talk of the Emberwilde Forest began in chapter 7. Other than that, the book moved at a fairly good pace. Parts of the story I expected and others were a welcome surprise.

I found it a bit odd that Isabel has 2 suitors and yet Colin (or Mr. Galloway) has more limelight. It automatically predisposed me to favor him, so the ending did not suprise me. I saw this as a bit of a weak point in the plot. It was an interesting love triangle but Isabel’s interest in Mr. Bradford did not convince me as he seemed shallow from the start.

“We do not find ourselves in new situations by accident. Oh, no! Remember, with each new dawn to seek guidance, and with each night give gratitude. For there is a divine plan for each of our lives, and a journey, and you have started yours.”

Dawn at Emberwilde, Chapter 7, by Sarah E. Ladd

Characters

I thought the main characters were likeable and believable. There seems to be more depth to Mr. Colin Galloway than to Isabel’s character. Perhaps because of the emotions he secretly has and the details of his past that seem to be absent in Isabel’s life. Isabel doesn’t have a lot of depth, but enough to be likeable. I found I wanted to know more about her past and her parents than the book provided.

Colin was my favorite character but I also liked Mr. Robert McKinney. He had that burly angry Scotsman persona about him that I found funny.

I thought the villians were carefully constructed. It was easy to dislike them and Mrs. Margaret Ellison especially raised my ire. She was oddly likeably dislikeable. Her character was so overbearing and selfish that it was remarkably easy to dislike her from the moment she was introduced.

I did not especially like Lizzie Creston (Isabel’s younger sister) or Miranda. Lizzie I felt was whiny much of the time and often got into trouble. Miranda’s character seemed sly and manipulating. Her character did add interest to the story but I didn’t care for her.

Writing Style

I really love Sarah E. Ladd’s writing style. It isn’t as detailed as Julie Klassen’s writing style, but it isn’t lacking in detail either. There is a good balance of description and conversation. I liked it that the chapters were generally shorter and centered on one character at a time (mostly) instead of going back and forth within the chapter. This made it easier for me to focus on the story.

Conclusion

Overall, I really loved this book. Ladd is quickly becoming one of my favorite Regency romance authors. Although the beginning of the book was slow, the remainder did not disappoint with more than a few mysteries and various interesting challenges for the character(s). I liked some characters more than others, but none of them “spoiled” the book for me. A lovely novel. I look forward to reading the next one in the series.

~Rachel

*After mulling it over, I decided to switch my initial rating of 4 stars to 3. There were parts I loved but a lot of parts that I did not enjoy/had issues with.