Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One Glorious Ambition

One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix
Jane Kirkpatrick

I knew nothing of Dorothea Dix besides her name; whatever she had done in history was something I don’t remember ever learning about. Yes, her name seemed familiar. But other than that, I had nothing.

One Glorious Ambition introduced me to an interesting woman with a mission: to reform the national care of the mentally ill. Until her work, mental patients were basically kept in prison cells- a bad thing both ways, as they not only were neglected of the care they needed, but they drove the other prisoners insane themselves.

One thing that really interested me about this book was Dorothea’s desire to “keep her femininity.” Even though her life was certainly far from the norm of most 19th century women, she was no rabid feminist, and even though I don’t agree with all of her actions, I do admire many things about her.

Dorothea’s life was very difficult, and sometimes it was depressing. One Glorious Ambition was very educational, but not particularly exciting, and so though I did think the read was worth the while, it’s probably not one I’d read again.

Rating: 7

received this book from the publisher for free in exchange for my honest review.

The Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty
Melanie Dickerson

A daring rescue. A difficult choice. Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie's one chance at freedom---but can she trust another person to keep her safe? Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible---she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else---he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what. When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help---but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them---they must also protect their hearts.

Another Melanie Dickerson book!!! {insert squeal} I love fairy tales. I do. And I love Christian books- but it’s not often those two genres collide. But every once in a while, they do.

And that is cause for celebration.

The Fairest Beauty is (aptly titled) a re-telling of Snow White. I liked it. Not as much as the other two books in this “series”, but very much. My favorite, favorite, bits were where Sophie and Gabe visited the Cottage of the Seven. Mrs. Dickerson’s take on the seven dwarfs was great- I only wish the seven of them were in the book even more!

The only thing I didn’t like so much about this book was the romance part, mainly because I felt Gabe was making excuses for liking Sophie when he knew she was engaged to his brother. Yes, he fought against his feelings at first, but when he realized he was in love with her, he just kind of threw everything out the window and pursued her. Also, there was a lot more kissing in this book than either of the other two. It wasn't "descriptive" kissing, but it was...kind of a lot- so much so that my sister and I were just like, "really?" So that bothered me. But, on the plus side, this had a bit more action than The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter.

I think there’s some perverse reading gene that always makes me interested in secondary characters more than the main ones, because as soon as the reader was introduced to Valten, I wanted to know more about him, and I’m SO happy that Melanie Dickerson’s next fairy tale retelling is about him! I really enjoyed this book, and I’m dearly looking forward to the Cinderella retelling that is set to release sometime this fall!

Rating: 8

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Forsaken Dreams

Forsaken Dreams

Forsaken Dreams
MaryLu Tyndall

Embark on a seafaring adventure in a brand-new series from bestselling author MaryLu Tyndall. After witnessing the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, Colonel Blake Wallace is eager to leave his once precious Southern homeland for the pristine shores of Brazil and the prospect of a new utopian community. Widow Eliza Crawford seeks passage on Wallace’s ship harboring a dirty secret—and a blossoming hope for a fresh start. But will dangers from the sea and from man keep them from the peace and love they long for?

Oh, where do I begin? I’ve read four other books by MaryLu Tyndall, but this one- this one was certainly the best out of all of those of hers I’ve read. I’ve always loved larger-than-normal casts of characters, where intersecting stories combine into one great plot. My own writing tends towards this direction, but I haven’t read a lot of novels like this. I think that’s why I liked this book so much.

Though I liked the main character, Eliza, I admit I’m even more interested by the characters of Angeline and Magnolia. I shake my head, because there are so many characters I want to learn more about! James, especially- half the time I felt he was the only voice of reason, and I kind of wanted to give him a hug and yell, “Thank you!” I wouldn’t think that I’d like Magnolia, but she’s not just a stereotypical spoiled, selfish Southern Belle; there are other sides to her too, and I dearly want to learn more about her! I’m not going to deny that it was strange reading a book with a character –a male character- named Hayden. My name’s so unusual I just never see it used in books. But I promise that’s not the only reason I’m intrigued with his character!

The book does some skipping around near the beginning, but I never found it confusing. I did admit that sometimes it was really annoying the way the passengers treated Eliza, because she was a Yankee. I certainly understand their sentiments and their hatred, especially so soon after the war was over, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that I just wanted to scream, “PLEASE PEOPLE!!! She is not a murderer. It was WAR and her husband killed people. SHE had nothing to do with it!”

I also really liked the spiritual side of this book. It deals with spiritual warfare, a bit subtly, but I have a feeling we’ve only seen the beginning of it in this series. Mr. Graves is super-creepy, and I’m definitely interested in what chaos he brings in the next book.

I had never known that there was an immigration of sorts from the American south after the war. I thought it was interesting, and it certainly was a great idea to write a book series about it. I’m surprised I’ve never read anything about this before.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. My only regret is that I got it as a free e-book. (Yes, my hatred of e-books is only surpassed by my love of reading) so I cannot admire this novel on my shelf and flip through it again. However, I did enjoy this book enough where I’ll probably buy a hard copy of the entire series when the other books come out. I really can’t wait to read more of the Escape to Paradise series!

Rating: 9

Objectionable content: there are a few kisses between various couples on board the ship. A man is wounded; characters have flashbacks of war.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


A.C. Gaughen

I thought this book sounded really interesting. I’m a Robin Hood fan anyway, but I don’t come across many retellings about him and his gang that I feel comfortable reading, so I was pleased to find this one in the YA section of the library. Basically, in this version Will Scarlet is actually a girl, Robin Hood's secretive informant. I thought it sounded intriguing. 

I was really, really, disappointed. I only got through about three chapters before stopping because of the swearing. I understand that bad guys and outlaws usually swear, so if anyone out there tells me that it’s to be expected of this novel and, indeed, would be inaccurate without it, I say: then leave out the word. “Sir Gisbourne swore.” There. It’s “accurate” and we don’t have to read the word. That, my friends, is a perfect compromise. Also, from just the little bit I read, I didn't really like Scarlet. 

Now, I admit I *was* curious to how everything turned out, so I looked in the back of the book and read the last bits. Part of it was kind of cool: *SPOILER* Scarlet is on the run from Sir Guy Gisbourne- she’s actually his betrothed and the name Will Scarlet is just a cover. Her real name? Marion. {insert smile} then…the bad part. To save Robin she actually marries Sir Guy. And then runs away with Robin and the book ends. Me? “Ummm, dear, hate to bring this up but…YOU’RE MARRIED.” *END OF SPOILER* Plus, just in that ending chapter there was an obscene amount of swearing.

This is the first book in a long while that I had to put down because of objectionable content, and it made me kind of sad, especially because I wanted so badly to like it, and I think that this book's premise had the potential where it could have been really great. Sad, sad disappointment. 

Rating: 2

Isle of Shadows

Isle of Shadows
Tracy L. Higley
Thomas Nelson

 Revised and updated from the original, Christy-award finalist Shadow of Colossus.
Enslaved in a World of Money and Power, Tessa Dares to be Free.
Raised as courtesan to wealthy and powerful men, Tessa of Delos serves at the whim of her current patron, the politician Glaucus. After ten years with him, Tessa has abandoned all desire for freedom or love, choosing instead to lock her heart away.
But when Glaucus meets a violent death in his own home, Tessa grasps at a fragile hope. Only she knows of his death. If she can keep it a secret long enough, she can escape.
Tessa throws herself on the mercy of the Greek god Helios, but finds instead unlikely allies in Nikos, a Greek slave, and Simeon, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant. As Simeon introduces her to a God unlike any she has ever known and Nikos begins to stir feelings she had thought long dead, Tessa fights to keep her heart protected.
As an assassination plot comes to light, Tessa must battle for her own freedom—and for those to whom she has begun to open her heart—as forces collide that shatter the island’s peace.
I was a little apprehensive coming to this book, due to what I knew of the Greeks: they, my friends, were incredibly immoral. Like with Garden of Madness, I really appreciate the author’s writing style. She doesn’t downplay the awfulness of the sin around the characters, but she doesn’t elaborate on it. As the main character, Tessa, has an occupation that is basically that of a prostitute, the novel could have been pretty sordid. Thankfully, it was not graphic. We know what Tessa does, but we never see her doing it.

Tessa’s pain was incredible, and I liked how the statue of Colossus mirrored Tessa’s own journey. At the beginning, she is like the statue: a stone and unfeeling image of what she could be. And then, as the statue cracks and tumbles, so does the wall around her heart.

My favorite part was the Passover scene with Simeon and his family; I celebrate Passover myself, so I always enjoy reading about it.

I wouldn’t say I liked Isle of Shadows as much as Garden of Madness, but I did enjoy reading it, and I found it educational about Ancient Greece. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book about the wonders of the ancient world: So Shines the Night, which takes place in Ephesus around the Temple of Artemis.

Rating: 8

Objectionable content: Tessa is a hetaera: basically, a glorified prostitute. Woman are pretty much bought and sold; a man is poisoned; there are some murders. I would recommend this book to at least 16 and up.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Unquiet Bones

The Unquiet Bones
Mel Starr

I’m not overly familiar with historical periods before the 1700s. I admit it. So reading a mystery set in fourteenth century England was bound to be educational.
I think that might have been the problem with this book; it was a little too educational. I am really squeamish. As the protagonist is a surgeon, a few of his surgeries were described and I kind of…skipped over them a little. Ironically, from a forensic perspective such things don’t bother me, but make it medical and my stomach flip-flops.
I did enjoy the book; it some ways it really felt like I was reading the memoirs of a real person. That was also the book’s downfall: the writing style wasn’t spectacular. There were rather a lot of simple sentences that actually detracted from the writing style. Though the overall story was interesting, it did drag a few times getting to the conclusion. I also got the second book in the series from the library, and I wouldn't be averse to reading any more of the series.
On the plus, it was educational about medieval England, and I did learn more about the time and culture.
Rating: 7

Objectionable content: medical procedures are described in detail, as are the remains of a body.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

With Every Letter

With Every Letter
Sarah Sundin

I don’t read a lot of books that take place past the early 1900s, so for me to read a book with a setting any time later than that, it has to be really spectacular. Having read Sarah Sundin’s previous series, I knew that she has a great writing style and, if possible, even better characters. The only thing I don’t really care for about her books it that they are a little romancy for my taste. However, since I knew that With Every Letter is a romance where the characters get to know each other through letters, I figured there couldn’t be too much mushiness involved! J
I did really enjoy this book. Although A Distant Melody is probably my favorite of Mrs. Sundin’s books, With Every Letter is a close second. The romance was sweet (although in the second half I was ready to shake Mellie by the shoulders and shriek “TELL HIM!! TELL HIM WHO YOU ARE!!!”)
Both characters deal with realistic problems that aren’t a lot of times addressed in novels- that is one thing I love about Sarah Sundin’s book’s- they always have a lesson to teach, told in a very accessible (and enjoyable!) way.

Rating: 10

Objectionable content: there are a few kisses at the end; one girl is a known flirt who talks about her many boyfriends. Also, because the story takes place during World War II, there are plenty of (non-graphic) injuries that Mellie and the other flight nurses take care of.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor’s Daughter
Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers

Julie Klassen remains one of my absolute favorite authors, and I sort of have a tradition of getting each of her new books as a Christmas present. This year was no exception, and I was delighted to receive The Tutor’s Daughter this year!

There were several things I really liked about this book. First of all, there were a lot more Christian elements in this novel than there are in most of the author’s books. The characters talked about God a lot more, though it certainly was never preachy. I also really liked the hero of this book, much more than I was ever expecting to! In fact, out of all of this author’s heroes, he was definitely one of my very favorites. I really loved the bit at the end when he gets the letter from his mother.

The only bad thing I have to say about this novel was that even though I really liked the characters, the book itself didn’t quite capture my attention like The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Silent Governess, or The Maid of Fairbourne Hall did. It took me a few chapters to really get into it (although I did like Emma’s flashbacks at the beginning of the book). I liked this book much better than The Girl in the Gatehouse and The Lady of Milkweed Manor, though.

Even though I can’t say it was my absolute favorite of Julie Klassen’s books, there were a lot of things about it that I loved, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read recently. 

Rating: 10

Objectionable Content: There are a few kisses near the end.
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