August Reflections

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hmm, let me see, what has happened this month? I meant to, but never really got started on a reading challenge that involved inspy awards books for this last round of awards. I honestly don't like having to read a book because it's required of me. I'd much rather read it because I want to read it and because inspiration struck. Some of the reads this month were that way, and that's how I like it. So, no more reading challenges of that ilk, I think.

August Goals

To my absolute amazement, I did read 5 books in August, which was a part of my goal. The rest of it was reading such books as Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist and some other books that I already own, but that did not happen, which is okay since I'm not in a rush to read any of them. I do wish I'd finished reading The Iliad, but that's just going to have to move to my goals for September. Certainly it needs to be finished before I crack the spine of Lorna Doone. On the plus side, I read both Not By Sight and Mind of Her Own, which were on my list of goals. Go me!

Books I Read

Plans for September

Reading Cornelia Funke's Inkdeath with chapter posts along the way

Finishing Homer's The Iliad

Reading a total of 4 other books, not really caring what genre or length

Let us welcome September!
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Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey (2013)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Mockingbirds Sing
Billy Coffey
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

What marks the boundary between a miracle of God and the imagination of a child?

Nine-year-old Leah’s invisible friend seems harmless enough until he aids her in upsetting the tranquility of her new town, a place where her parents desperately hoped she’d finally be able to make friends and fit in. Hidden within a picture she paints for a failed toymaker are numbers that win the toymaker millions. Suddenly, townspeople are divided between those who see Leah as a prophet and those who are afraid of the danger she represents. Caught in the middle is Leah’s agnostic father, who clashes with a powerful town pastor over Leah’s prophecies and what to do about them.

When the imaginary friend’s predictions take an ominous turn and Leah announces that a grave danger looms, doubts arise over the truthfulness of her claims. As a violent storm emerges on the day of the annual carnival, Leah’s family and the town of Mattingly must make a final choice to cling to all they know or embrace the things she believes in that cannot be seen.

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
A little girl is somehow miraculously chosen to give Mattingly a message. Either from God or from some other being, but a definite message, and the town divides on how that message should be received, or even if it should be received.

What really stood out to me while reading this book is that nothing is as it seems in the small town of Mattingly. No one is as they seem. Almost the entire town goes to church and yet that same set of churchgoers turn their backs on an elderly man with an ailing wife when his success goes down the drain. Who does that? I found When Mockingbirds Sing to be an apt description of a society that pretends everything is fine, that everyone loves each other, when in reality there is a ton of backbiting and hatred going on. In other words, this book speaks the truth about the church, in ways many Christians do not eve want to admit. No, I'm not judging, not being harsh, just being honest about what I've seen during my years as a Christian, both in others and in myself. It's not a pretty picture. And this book really strips away the facade of Christianity to reveal the face beneath. We're not perfect, we're ugly and sinful creatures, and yet there is still salvation. The worst thing we can do, as believers, is put forth a false front of perfection and piety when we know, in our heart of hearts, that we coveted our best friend's new car, that we lusted after a sister's husband, or that we slipped down the street to buy a lotto ticket when our church is deadset against gambling.

I don't like pretending that all is well when I know it darn well isn't. And I'd rather have the truth out in the open than have people tiptoe around it as if the truth is an ugly thing to be ignored instead of released. When we confess truth, we conquer sin. It's as simple as that.

The Characters
On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman was the last book I read that left me in a conundrum over how I felt about the characters. I usually either love characters or hate them, so this in-between is an unusual place for me. I didn't quite know what to make of Leah. In fact, sometimes I downright disliked her because she had no sense of societal timing over where and when to say something. Allie, Leah's friend, and Mabel, Barney's wife, I liked throughout the entirety of the book. Apart from them, I never liked someone all the time or disliked them all the time. Reggie the pastor, Barney the toymaker, Jake the sheriff, Allie's parents, Leah's parents, all of them had moments of like and dislike. It made them like real people. Because I don't always like the people I like or dislike the people I dislike, if that makes any sense at all. Very few people are bad all of the time or vice versa. So I felt authenticity in Coffey's character design, in their simplicity of emotion, yet complexity of action and mindset. These people felt real to me, and I appreciate that realism.

The Writing
Now, the writing is flawless. Billy Coffey writes his stories with a unique colloquialism that matches the society he's using. I don't usually read books where accents are written into the dialogue, but it works for Coffey's style. Even Leah with her stutter worked, although I think it did make When Mockingbirds Sing a little bit of a slow read for me because her sentences slowed me down. Still, that's a very minute point in an otherwise excellently penned prose.

Final Thoughts

I'm a little conflicted over this book. While I did like it, there were times when I almost wasn't certain what the author was trying to convey with his story. Maybe it's really just a story and individual people get out of it different things. That wouldn't surprise me if it were so. It's refreshing to read Coffey's work because he sees things differently. This isn't a love story or a genuine drama, but simply a story, almost a folktale. And it's told from the perspective of two little girls, very unusual lead characters in adult fiction. You've gotta love that.

Yes, this book really is unusual in that it deals with the supernatural in a strange way. You don't know whether Leah is lying or telling the truth until the very end, and that's one of the primary reasons I kept reading because I had to know. That alone means Coffey's style works. He never felt preachy, just forthright, letting the reader judge for themselves what he meant in the actions or words of any one individual character.

I will also say that it's nice having another male author joining the Christian fiction genre, because male authors really are few and far between. So while I'm not wholly in love with this book, I think it is one I will remember for quite a long time. And I'm definitely going to read more of Coffey's work. He's almost like the Ray Bradbury of Christian fiction, and for me, that is a very high compliment.
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Movie Review: Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oh my gosh, there are times when I absolutely LOVE Bollywood! It's bright and cheerful and so many gorgeous colors all in one fantastic kaleidoscope!

I would like to make some grand statement that I'm watching every single adaptation ever made of Pride and Prejudice, but no, I just wanted to watch a Bollywood film and I hadn't seen Bride and Prejudice yet.

Let's start with what I loved!

Aishwarya Rai! She is one truly stunning woman, and not just stunning, but talented too. I've seen her in Jodha Akbar, a movie I will undoubtedly save for another post because I love it so much, so she really was the clincher in me wanting to watch this movie. And she did not disappoint!

The musical numbers! Yes, literally, I love musicals, and so that very first musical number at the wedding when the guys are dancing to the girls . . . it just won my heart. Plus, I kind of have a teeny crush on Naveen Andrews even though he played Jafar on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Or maybe because he played Jafar. So that dance he did at the beginning, wooing his version of Jane Bennett, was just adorable!

If only all Mr. Bingleys were like Balraj!
I mean, come on, now. He had so much personality in the small amount of screen time they gave him. I'm really starting to appreciate Naveen and wishing he had more roles in movies I would actually want to watch. But such is the hand of fate, and so I must be satisfied with the few things he's done that I care to watch. Ahhhh, how I must suffer!

Okay, okay, you knew it had to happen. I had to move on to what I wasn't 100% sold on.

Darcy. So, undoubtedly Martin Henderson would have worked as Darcy if not for one thing.

Does anyone have an idea what it is?

It involves a massive miscasting that occurred and one that I looked not for until a certain actor rose up out of the sea and approached Lalita (Elizabeth) because he was transfixed by her musical prowess. Who is it, you ask?

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Classics Club Spin Choice!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Classics Club chose #5 for the spin number, and for me that ends up being Lorna Doone!

Now, about this story.

I love the movie version from 2000 with Aiden Gillen and Richard Coyle. It's the epitome of an epic romance for me, beaten maybe only by Ivanhoe. Except that Lorna ends up with the guy she's destined to be with, unlike poor Rebecca and Ivanhoe.

But it is possible, in fact likely, that Blackmore's story is very different from the film I hold so very dear. This is why I'm halfway dreading reading the book because what if it ruins my opinion of the movie? I've had that happen before and really frustrated myself! So let's pray this isn't going to be a repeat of past experiences.

Ooh, and as a means of inspiring myself to read and finish this book, since I didn't own my own copy, I purchased the one to the left. It's from 1889, and yes in not the best condition, but I love vintage books! And it's even illustrated which is always a plus.

Unless we're talking Edgar Allan Poe. Then illustrations are a definite negatory for me. I'd rather read his stories with absolutely no imagery other than what's in my head. My head usually doesn't come up with quite as gruesome of images as the illustrators.

So, there we have it, Lorna Doone is my Classics Club Spin for September and October!
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Classics Club Spin

Sunday, August 23, 2015

This is an event from the Classics Club! I wasn't going to participate and then figured, why not. At least I would have 2 months in which to read whichever book gets chosen from my list and that is quite doable.

The way this works, I list 20 books from my Classics Club reading list of unreads, and tomorrow the Club admins or whoever they are pick a number randomly and I read whatever book correlates to that number. Get it? Got it. Good!

Moving on to the books.
  1. Bunyan, John: The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) 
  2. Trollope, Anthony: Phineas Finn (1869) 
  3. Dumas, Alexandre: The Man in the Iron Mask (1850) 
  4. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Love of the Last Tycoon (1941) 
  5. Blackmore, Richard Doddridge: Lorna Doone (1869) 
  6. Salinger, J.D.: The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  7. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
  8. Wells, H. G.:The Time Machine (1895) 
  9. Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own (1929) 
  10. Dickens, Charles: Little Dorrit (1857)
  11. Burnett, Frances Hodgson: The Making of a Marchioness (1901)
  12. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick (1851)
  13. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
  14. West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) 
  15. Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Black Arrow (1888) 
  16. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (1859)
  17. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca (1938) 
  18. Bronte, Charlotte: Jane Eyre (1847)
  19. James, Henry: The Wings of the Dove (1902) 
  20. Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness (1899) 

All right, great spinners, spin on! I am ready for thee!!
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Living Behind the Veil with Hannibal

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Despite almost my better judgement, I've continued watching NBC's Hannibal. Now in its 3rd and final season, it's grown more trippy and disconnected as time progresses, which is undoubtedly part of what has lead to its inevitable downfall. The 1st season was inspired, awash with metaphor and allegorical conclusions. Each individual character was unique, and now they feel like cookie-cutter mock-ups of Hannibal himself. The original vision of originality has dissipated until there is very little left of it. At least, until the episode And the Woman Clothed in Sun.

I'll be honest, most of this season has been ho-hum for me, at least until now. Bedelia had the best moments in the entirety of this episode. She began the series cold, impersonal, and somewhat afraid of human touch. The audience felt something of a disconnect from her because they didn't know what she was really thinking or feeling. She was void. Now, at long last, she's given voice to how she views the world around her and how she views herself. It's fascinating to encounter someone so entirely devoid of conscience, but not devoid of empathy. She opens herself up to Will in this episode, finally showing her true colors. It is both a chilling and intriguing moment of clarity and truth, the very first moment of truth Bedelia has shared with anyone.

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Deconstructing an ENTJ

Friday, August 21, 2015

One of the problems with personality typing is that we try and put people into boxes.

But you can't say than an ISFJ will do "this" particular thing every single time because that's what ISFJs do. Why? Because an ISFJ's actions are based off tradition and past experiences. Any tradition. Any past experience. My past experiences are different from every other ISFJ's experiences out there. Our brain patterns may work in similar ways, but my values do not have to be another ISFJ's values. It's the same with any personality type.

Take my newish friend, an ENTJ. I'll call him D to protect his identity just in case he ever finds the time and the motivation to read my blog. Up until meeting D my experience with ENTJs was limited to television and film where they are always the masterminds who usually take over the world irregardless of body count. They're scary. They're single-minded. And they don't give a damn about humanity. But D is not Raymond Reddington from The Blacklist, and I can honestly say, THANK GOODNESS! Because as much as I love Red, he's scary as hell and I would never want to personally make his acquaintance.

If there's one thing I've learned during my developing friendship with D, it's that he does not fit a weird stereotypical mold of how ENTJs should behave. He's not some crazed power-hungry lunatic out to take over the world. Don't get me wrong, he is driven. Almost insatiable in his need for success, so much so that he works 3 jobs in order to buy the camera equipment he needs to be the best professional photographer he can be. If that means he gets 3 hours of sleep a night, so be it.

Did you hear that? That's me screaming in the background.

Yes, his desperation to succeed drives me crazy because it's like I'm watching him kill himself. And I HATE that. If there is one thing I, as an ISFJ, cannot stand it's watching a friend overwork themselves to the brink of destruction and poor health. D has stomach ulcers for goodness' sake, and he's not yet THIRTY.

Ahem, now that I've ranted (and he already knows how I feel about his crammed schedule so he won't be surprised if he reads this), we can move on.

So, yes he has the undeniable drive of an ENTJ.

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Book Review: Prelude for a Lord (Gentlemen Quartet #1) by Camille Elliot

Monday, August 17, 2015

Prelude for a Lord
The Gentlemen Quartet Series
Camille Elliot
Zondervan Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

An awkward young woman. A haunted young man. A forbidden instrument. Can the love of music bring them together . . . or will it tear them apart?

Bath, England—1810

At twenty-eight, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician.

In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady. Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal.

But when a thief’s interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument . . . with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick.

Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul.

Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets . . . just as the thief’s desperation builds to a tragic crescendo . . .

Go to my Historic Fiction page to find all my Christian historic fiction reviews!

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
This tale really is about two people with different griefs and sufferings finding one another. Alethea and Dommick discover they can help one another heal, because each of their sufferings is a private embarrassment to themselves, Dommick especially. How did you treat a man with PTSD in 1810? When the nightmares began after he returned from fighting Bonaparte, what did his family do? They didn't know what else to do with him and so he was labeled the Mad Baron because he did not know how to face the horror he saw in battle. He is a strong man with a fierce countenance and a determined loyalty to his family, but he only views himself as weak because of the nightmares that attack him at any given time. He does not live up to societal expectations and so his entire family's reputation is at risk because of that "weakness."

It's hard living up to the expectations of others, but even harder when those expectations go contrary to our own nature. Alethea loves to play the violin. It is the height of her pleasure, her purest moment of joy, the time when she feels the most liberated. Yet it isn't proper for a young woman in 1810 to play the violin because it requires so much physical movement that draws improper attention to the body.

Alethea must stand firm against the tide of judgement that threatens to wash her away. There is nothing improper in her behavior. She is absolutely proper, just a trifle odd according to societal standards.

It is an exquisite theme of healing and understanding the pain of others.

The Characters
Every single lead character has become family to me. I grieved with Dommick on the most intimate levels, feared for Alethea and Clare's (Dommick's sister) safety, laughed at Lord Ian's antics, and experienced a yearning in my secret soul to know a man like Lord Ravenhurst. Dommick's mother, Alethea's aunt, little obnoxious Margaret who is Alethea's cousin, everyone spoke to me in some way. There isn't a single lead character that I disliked, and that for me is absolutely rare.

But let's start with Alethea. She is like a sister to me because we are like one another. I have felt the same uncertainty she feels because she is just different enough to be socially unacceptable. I love who I am, the interests I have, the views I hold most dear, and the habits I maintain. But I am different from other women in their early 30s and there are times when I quail with fear because I know that I am different and wonder if I should change. The answer, of course, is no. I am who I am, with my strengths and talents, and the Lord loves me for them. Why should I change them? Alethea is the same, with her love of the violin and long energetic walks, and her determination to cling to the things she loves most. Her vision for her future alters after she meets Dommick, of course, but he does not change her. And I love that.

As for Dommick, I adored him. His relationship with Alethea took the entire book to mature. It did not suddenly leap from mild irritation to passionate adoration. It was slow and gentle, just as one would expect to happen with love. He is strong in his protection of his mother and sister, values Lord Ian and Lord Raven as his dearest friends, and finds his way back out of the darkness that threatens to engulf him in this novel. He felt real, authentic, more real than any other male lead I've encountered in this past year. I feel like I know him, the innermost part of his heart and mind, the strengths and the weaknesses. It is a marvelous feeling.

Now on to Lord Ian and Lord Raven. Aww, Lord Ian. Such a foolhardy madcap of the first order, and yet endearing all the same. He is the daredevil, the one who flirts with anything in skirts, and the one who leaps into action. He is charming and fun and crazy, and I like him, but it is already Lord Raven that has captured my heart. It is Lord Raven who supported Dommick during his hardest times. It is Lord Raven who observes and supports quietly, all while fully prepared to unleash his dry wit upon friends and family. He is calm and cool, and yet at the same, full of yearning for something. I even anticipate a conflict between Lord Ian and Lord Raven in regards to Dommick's sister Clare in a future book. Lord Raven keeps his feelings close, unwilling to share them with just anyone, but I sense his attraction to Clare. He may just be too late. He is the ideal Regency hero, somewhat like Mr. Darcy and yet not, if that makes any sense at all.

The Writing
Camille Elliot is masterful at her craft. I would not change a single thing in all of Prelude for a Lord unless it were to draw it out even longer. I wanted to never emerge from her powerful prose. Every time I picked up this book, after 2 or 3 pages, it was like I sank between the covers and was there, in Bath in 1810, knowing and loving these people. Now that is the epitome of powerful writing!

Final Thoughts

I told one of my Goodreads buddies that this book felt like coming home to an old friend I hadn't seen in years. I LOVE it that much! And if you've been following my reviews for awhile, you know that I don't say that unreservedly very often. But I do LOVE THIS BOOK. Every moment captured me in new ways, and I love how I couldn't predict the events as they unfolded. Everything was a surprise, and that enabled me to sink into this story with my entire being.

Thank you, Camille, for this book. For this series! Because I am so far over the moon at knowing you're writing an entire series! You're giving me Lord Ian's story and Lord Raven's story and I suspect even David's story even though he wasn't a character in this particular book. You are marvelous in every respect, and I now have to actually buy Prelude for a Lord because it has become such a huge part of myself!
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Book Review: House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo (2008)

Friday, August 14, 2015

House of Dark Shadows
Dreamhouse Kings Series
Robert Liparulo
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

Dream house . . . or bad dream?

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
This story appears at first glance to be just about a family moving from a huge city to a small town. They buy a house away from town in a very secluded part of the woods where strange things start to happen. Typical horror stuff, except that it's really not. What we have is a family that doesn't keep secrets from one another suddenly keeping secrets. We have two brothers, Xander and younger brother David, suddenly facing things they never imagined they would ever face. And suddenly Dad might not be quite as truthful as they'd always pictured him. It's a cautionary tale about the importance of honesty in any set of relationships.

Yeah, and it's also horror. Not mind-numbingly terrifying, but for someone like me who really doesn't read a lot of this type of stuff, it had me on the edge of my seat, gauging exactly how far I should let the sun set before closing the book for the night. For me at least, that's a sign of a successful story.

The Characters
I've always loved the male perspective in fiction so Xander is a main reason why I so thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, he's a teenager which means his common sense isn't fully formed yet and he makes some pretty glaring errors in judgement. But I love the protectiveness he exhibits towards his younger siblings and the deep-rooted affection he holds for his mother. There's really a lot to like about him, even down to how well he actually handled being uprooted from his friends and plopped down in the middle of nowhere.

As for David, he's a daredevil in the making. Literally. Xander experiences something terrifying and David wants to try it, even if it means he might get hurt or killed. He's crazy like that. But he also needs the assurance and comfort of his older brother's protection. They're a good match as siblings.

For anyone who follows the Myers Briggs personality typing, it's likely that Xander is an ISTP and David an ESTP. Neither minds a little danger but David's the one who'll jump headlong into it without thinking. They're both sharp, think on their feet, and adapt pretty well to their surroundings, Xander especially. Just a non-official, they might be these types, thrown in for fun.

The Writing
There's not much to say here except that I love Liparulo's style. It's a very active style, perfectly suited to teen fiction with lots of slang and a ton of pop culture references from 2008 that would have been relevant to teens of that year, and likely still relevant now. Loved the Supernatural reference, that was just freakin' awesome, dude!

Final Thoughts

Let's just say that I'm at once both drawn to and repulsed by horror. I fool myself into thinking that I don't like to be scared, but I actually do. Which is why I read all of Frank Peretti's Cooper Kids books when I was a teen. I gotta say that House of Dark Shadows is very reminiscent of Peretti, and yes, of Ted Dekker too. He's got that same vibe going on. You know the blood-pulsing, white-knuckle grip on the book type of vibe. It definitely kept me reading and as soon as I finished, I put book #2 in the series, Watcher in the Woods, on hold at my library. Now to just wait for it to come in.

I will say that if you're at all squeamish or hate seeing kids in danger, this might not be a good choice for you. There's very intense moments of violence, danger, and threat happening so definitely a PG13 rating. On the upside, it's definitely Christian teen fiction so no language, but it's definitely not preachy. More like clean teen fiction with a brief mention of church.

On the whole, I loved House of Dark Shadows. It was just what I expected and even more!
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Book Review: Mind of Her Own by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer (2015)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mind of Her Own
Diana Lesire Brandmeyer
Tyndale House Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

Who knew making dinner could change your life? Louisa Copeland certainly didn’t. But when the George Foreman grill falls out of the pantry onto her head, resulting in a bump and a mighty case of amnesia, Louisa’s life takes a turn for the unexpected. Who is this Collin fellow, claiming she is his wife? And whose kids are those? Her name can’t be Louisa. Why, she is the renowned romance writer Jazz Sweet, not a Midwestern mom of three. Struggling to put the pieces together of the life she’s told she had, Louisa/Jazz may realize that some memories are better left alone.

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
What you have here is the story of a woman who's not entirely happy with her life. There are parts of herself, important parts, that she's kept hidden from her family and that have kept her from blossoming into a fully-formed and healthy human being. Fear plays a large role in Louisa's life, and Jazz is almost completely free from that fear.

It's a tantalizing idea. Imagine going to sleep as one person and waking up as someone else, and not in the play-acting sense, but in the I-really-am-this-person sense. Louisa's mind simply can't fight off her desires anymore, her yearning to be this person she keeps trapped inside, that it finally stepped aside and simply let Jazz out.

Really, the theme is about the power of healing, the power of confessing about bad things that have happened to you and being able to move on from them. It's an incredibly moving theme and one that also brought a fracturing family back into alignment, from Collin falling back in love with his wife and her with him, to building relationships with their children. Life is more than just work and the almighty dollar. It's about family and friends and faith.

The Characters
Jazz/Louisa is simply amazing. I liked her as Louisa, loved her as Jazz, and deeply appreciated the melding of the two personalities into one. Jazz is spunky and fun-loving and doesn't care about the little things and all the little rules that make a house so cold and impersonal. Since the book spends most of its time with Jazz, I really felt like I knew her, and even that she and I could be friends. Louisa grieved my heart because of the trauma in her past. She's such a conflicted character and she needed the strength of a Jazz Sweet to help her comes to terms with the bad memories.

As for the hubby, even when I didn't always agree with him, I did always like him, if that makes sense. He has a tender, compassionate heart that just gets overwhelmed by work because he thinks his family needs the big house, the fancy car, and a ton of money to be happy. Really, all they need as each other, and once Louisa has her accident and Collin starts spending more time with the family, he realizes the true importance and value of family. He's a terrific male lead and always endearing. His support of Jazz/Louisa's dream is truly beautiful.

The Writing
Diana Lesire Brandmeyer is gifted. No doubt about it. Her writing is deliciously active. I hardly wanted to put Mind of Her Own down, I enjoyed it so thoroughly. Her characters and setting have a profound ring of truth in that life isn't always perfect and marriage will have its bumps. Yet the sense of humor she uses in her writing makes even the serious plot points easier to handle than a dark, broody novel.

Final Thoughts

I find Ms. Brandmeyer's style to be absolutely genuine and I truly hope she publishes more books in the same vein of Mind of Her Own. I suspect this book will touch many lives, as well it should. It's not every day that you find a book that so deftly handles abuse and memory blockage in such a way that it isn't overly traumatic. I genuinely cared about Jazz/Louisa and Collin and wanted their marriage to work. I wanted to see the family grow close again. I'm not really one for contemporary fiction, but if I could find more like Mind of Her Own than I would read far more of it. This one really is a winner and one of my favorite reads of 2015!

NOTE - I received this book as a complementary copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
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Book Review: Not By Sight by Kate Breslin (2015)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Not by Sight
Kate Breslin
Bethany House Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country's cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she'll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them--or the faith they'll need to maintain hope.

Go to my Historic Fiction page to find all my Christian historic fiction reviews!

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
Unfortunately, I was quite unmoved by the theme, if there was a single identifiable theme apart from romance. Possibly it was the theme of a young woman, Grace, learning that she must go above and beyond mere one time fixes for people and that she needs to guard her tongue more carefully.

In all truth, the plot lagged. A lot. There is action for the first 50 pages or so and then nothing for the following 200 pages apart from Grace learning to bale hay and make friends with women from varying backgrounds and experiences all while either mooning over Jack or yearning to hit him.

It felt like Downton Abbey without actually being Downton Abbey. Even down to a plot line involving Jack that I won't go into here because it would be spoilers. Let's just say that Matthew had a remarkably similar experience in DA.

The theme was truly nothing new, and I found that to be highly disappointing. Where I expected a serious spy drama, that plot element felt thrown in at the last minute. It's bad when I can guess what's going to happen 60 pages before the big reveal actually happens. Which I did, and then it just felt awkward to the story, like trying to force a round peg into a square hole.

The Characters
I disliked Grace almost from the very first. Settled in her own sense of duty, incapable of looking outside her own take on the circumstances of the people around, she behaves in a highly moralizing, very self-righteous attitude throughout the majority of the book. When she wasn't irritating me, she was boring me.

Jack wasn't quite so bad, but I was never completely sold on him either. It seems his emotional capacity consists of either yearning for Grace, doubting her feelings for him, or doubting his own feelings for her. I desperately need my men to be stronger and more than their mere hang-ups over their "feelings" for the love of their life. Surely men are capable of thinking of something other than women.

The girls in a group known as the Women's Forage Corps who helped with the war effort were the most interesting of everyone, but even their backstories were entirely too diverse to be genuine. You have a girl with a starving family, a girl who was a prostitute, a girl who was impregnated by some lord or other and bore an illegitimate child, and then you have Grace, the suffragette/Christian. 

The Writing
The writing was merely average, almost mediocre. There was only one moment in the entire book that really grabbed me, and then we spent the next 150 pages out in the English countryside baling hay and driving his lordship on outings into the country so we could work on their budding romance. The moment got lost when it could have been superb.

Also, one goof that I blame equally on the editor and on the writer, the heroine of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera is named Christine, not Christina.

Final Thoughts

I was expecting a historic spy drama with perhaps a little romance thrown in for atmosphere. After all, the book is touted as being "historical fiction" and not "historical romance" on the back cover. What I got was a clunky romance with just a teensy, weensy bit of spy drama thrown in because they'd promised it on the back cover.

Not by Sight disappointed me, something I always hate to say about any novel. But there it is. I'm sure many readers will love it, but I found it to be one of hundreds of average, ordinary, mediocre Christian historic romances on the market with nothing remarkable to lift it above the rest.

NOTE - I received this book as a complementary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
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Femnista Jul/Aug 2015 - The Middle Ages

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Within this issue of Femnista, you will find articles on Robin Hood, on the epic Kingdom of Heaven, on Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert from Ivanhoe, on Tristan and Isolde, even on The Princess Bride, and more!

It's a delightful collection of musings and ponderings on anything from The Middle Ages, and I thoroughly enjoyed delving into the life choices of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who happens to be one of my favorite literary anti-heroes.

May you enjoy this issue of Femnista!

FREE. Download it here. Or view it online here.

Product of Charity’s Place. (Click to read back issues, movie reviews, etc.)
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