Revolution of Love

Revolution of Love

Do small things with great love.

2018 Reading Challenge and A Review of the 2017’s Book Reading

Happy 2018!! I hope you have been enjoying a wonderful beginning to the new year. After much celebrating and feasting, I am ready to sit down and review some of my goals for 2018. I signed up for the 2018 Goodread’s Reading Challenge, pledging to read 30 books this year. I will also use the 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge to help me pick books from various categories. I already have a number of books on my TBR list that would fit nicely!

(NOTE: Revolution of Love is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

I purchased these books on my own OR read them for free through Amazon Prime’s Prime Reading OR through my subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service OR from my local library’s Overdrive.)

I am thinking that I will read Gone with Wind for a classic I’ve been meaning to read (although that may also be good for the book with more than 500 pages) and We Were the Lucky Ones for a book recommended by someone with great taste. There are just so many books I want to read and it is hard to choose which ones to read first!

Review of 2017’s Book Reading

Now a review of last year’s challenges. In 2017, I completed the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge.

I also completed my Goodread’s Reading Challenge by completing the 24 books I pledged, plus ten more. Since I never got a chance to finish reviewing the books I read in 2017 before the year end, I’ll review the books I read from July to December below. Maybe you’ll want to add one of these to your 2018 Reading List. 🙂

 


The Lake House

  • Author: Kate Morton
  • Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (June 7, 2016) Originally published in October 2015.

Amazon Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Keeper comes a “moody, suspenseful page-turner” (People, Best Book Pick) filled with mystery and spellbinding secrets.

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

My Thoughts:

It seems like lately many of the books I’ve been reading have two story lines that are intertwined by flashback. It can be interesting but confusing. I sometimes have to jot down notes about characters so I can keep straight who was who. The Lake House followed this same format with flashbacks and two stories. However, there was such intrigue that I had to keep turning the pages to figure out what happened. Although I was pleased overall,  I was also surprised at how neatly all the loose ends were tied, not to mention that a “coincidence” was reminiscent of a Hallmark movie. I hadn’t expected that. But it hasn’t stopped me from adding one of Morton’s other novels The Secret Keepers to my reading list. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Some adult content and language but nothing graphic.)

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The Jane Austen Project

  • Author: Kathleen A. Flynn
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 2, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

London, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. Turned away at a nearby inn, they are forced to travel by coach all night to London. They are not what they seem, but rather colleagues who have come back in time from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters—a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team from the future to “go back,” their mission is by far the most audacious: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common besides the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the continuous convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile the woman she is with the proper lady nineteenth-century society expects her to be. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history intact and exactly as they found it…however heartbreaking that may prove.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge category – “A book in  a genre you usually avoid.” For me, that would be fantasy.

I really, really wanted to love this book and although I liked it, I didn’t love it. I had no problem with the concept of time travel and I found it fascinating to imagine what life was really like during the time of Jane Austen. What bugged me was Rachel’s modern personality and having to read her opinions on sex, birth control and the like. It was not in-your-face or anything but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Besides that, it was enjoyable read, particularly for a category I don’t usually give much time. I rate it 3 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Some adult content but nothing too graphic.)

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The Alice Network

  • Author: Kate Quinn
  • Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge category – “A book recommended by someone with great taste.”

I have mixed feelings about this book. A part of me really enjoyed it and there were sections where I could not turn the pages fast enough. However, I found the story of Eve far more fascinating than Charlotte. When a character acts a certain way or makes certain choices I like to try to understand where they are coming from and what moves them to act in such a way but I was having a hard time with Charlotte, especially with her behavior towards Finn. However, as the story progressed, as she accepted responsibility for “her little problem” and as she tried to reason with Eve and her final decisions I felt myself more sympathetic towards her.

Eve, on the other hand, was interesting from the get go. When you got past the shock of her harsh exterior and foul mouth, you then witnessed her story as a young, innocent girl who was tested through unimaginable circumstances and harrowing situations.

My only other problem with the story is reading it from a Christian worldview. I was torn between wanting to see justice done to the main villain but when does justice become revenge? What acts are justified and what acts are evil in and of themselves, no matter how honorable the intention. It definitely left me pondering afterwards.

With that said, I still really enjoyed the book and was glad that I read it. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Language, adult content and violence, particularly a torture scene.)

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The Husband’s Secret 

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Premium edition (June 27, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…

My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

My Thoughts:

First, I enjoy Moriarty as an author but I must use my reading book journal to keep notes of all the characters and how they tie into one another. Her books often have numerous story lines going on at once and eventually they will collide. This one was not different. It is equally frustrating (at the beginning to keep everyone straight) and intriguing knowing that a big reveal is coming.

Second, she has a hit and miss record with me. I loved Big Little Lies, enjoyed What Alice Forgot and didn’t care for Truly, Madly, Guilty. I have mixed feelings about The Husband’s Secret. I enjoyed the premise of the book and surprisingly, the letter was revealed relatively early in the story. The intrigue came with how the contents affected various characters in the story. I found it interesting to put all the pieces together.

However, the main husband and wife are described as Catholic and the most religious in their group of friends. Well, that statement only works if you consider someone who doesn’t go to church or live the faith at all, a Catholic. It started feeling ridiculous. Is this really what the author thinks about Catholics? I would have made more sense if the characters were agnostics who didn’t follow any faith. Or at least to call them lapsed or simply cultural Catholics. To some, it will not matter at all. To me, it was like nails on a chalkboard.

For that, and an ending that seemed a little contrived, I rate it 3 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Some adult content and bad portrayal of Catholics.)

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A Duty to the Dead: A Bess Crawford Mystery

  • Author: Charles Todd
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 17, 2010)

Amazon Summary:

Charles Todd, author of the resoundingly acclaimed Ian Rutledge crime novels (“One of the best historical series being written today” —Washington Post Book World) debuts an exceptional new protagonist, World War I nurse Bess Crawford, in A Duty to the Dead. A gripping tale of perilous obligations and dark family secrets in the shadows of a nightmarish time of global conflict, A Duty to the Dead is rich in suspense, surprise, and the impeccable period atmosphere that has become a Charles Todd trademark.

My Thoughts:

I was browsing the books available at my library and picked up this story. The thought is a WWI whodunit with a female protagonist sounded intriguing. I really liked the character of Bess, a nurse during WWI, with her combination of heart, spunk and determination. It was refreshing to read a book without any language, sex or material you wouldn’t want your mother to read. The plot was interesting and I didn’t want to put the book down until I figured out what was truly happening. The ending wasn’t earth shattering but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and checked out the next book in the series to continue the adventures of Bess. (See below.)

I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Woman in Cabin 10

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press; Reprint edition (April 11, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge category – “A book with the reputation of being un-put-down-able.”

It seems that whenever I read a modern day mystery, the female lead tends to be alcoholic, an emotional wreck and/or barely keeping it all together. Perhaps it is done on purpose so the characters in the story will not believe them when they cry foul. That seems to be the case of Lo in The Woman in Cabin 10.  There were definite page turning moments and a twisty ending but aspects of the book were a little depressing and I couldn’t get 100% into it. Maybe it was just my mood at the time and I wanted something lighter.

For whatever reason, I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Language and adult content.)

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The Bronte Plot

  • Author: Katherine Reay
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 3, 2015)

Amazon Summary:

When Lucy’s secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble. But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her. Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend, James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother, Helen, hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else. As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom as Helen confronts ghosts from her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of impossible circumstances. Now Lucy must face her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge category – “A book about books or reading.”

I was eager to read this since it was by a favorite author, who often makes reference to beloved literary classics, and it was about one of my all time favorite books, Jane Eyre. Although I did enjoy the book, I still liked Reay’s Lizzie and Jane more. Maybe I had a harder time connecting with Lucy, although I did enjoy how she had to work though the problems in her past, particularly with her father, and forge her own way in life. The setting of the book was interesting and I love how Reay makes reference to so many classic novels and authors and ties it into the story. So although this was not my favorite of Reay’s books, it was still an enjoyable read.

I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: x.)

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

  • Author: RJ Palacio
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)

Amazon Summary:

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge category – “A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’ read yet.”

I needed a complete change of pace in my reading so I picked up a book that had been sitting on my shelf for ages. A librarian friend recommended it to me and the older kids and I was looking forward to reading it but never got around to it. However, when I heard the movie was coming out I wanted to make sure to read the book first. Wonder is an easy read physically but it definitely tugged at the heart strings and I loved it. The story of Auggie was both heart breaking and life affirming. I also enjoyed reading the book from the different viewpoints of various characters. It has many lessons to learn – both as an adult and as a child – with topics ranging from bullying to treating all people (however they look) with kindness and the inherit value of all God’s children, especially in a day and age when abortion is used to rid those deemed as less than perfect.

I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

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Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford #2) by Charles Todd

  • Author: Charles Todd
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reissue edition (August 16, 2011)

Goodreads Summary:

It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife that is pinned to his tunic. While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer, her grief heart-wrenching. And then Bess realizes that she seems familiar. In fact, she’s the woman in the pilot’s photo, but the man she is seeing off is not her husband.

Back on duty in France, Bess discovers a newspaper with a drawing of the woman’s face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard seeking information from anyone who has seen her. For it appears that the woman was murdered on the very day Bess encountered her at the station. Granted leave to speak with Scotland Yard, Bess becomes entangled in the case. Though an arrest is made, she must delve into the depths of her very soul to decide if the police will hang an innocent man or a vicious killer. Exposing the truth is dangerous—and will put her own life on the line.

My Thoughts:

I loved the first Bess Crawford book and was eager to read the second in the series. Although I read some mixed reviews, I wasn’t disappointed. Some may criticize Bess’ knack to find herself in the midst of a murder investigation, I didn’t mind at all. I enjoyed her spirit and tenacity. I had fun unraveling the mystery. And I enjoyed learning more about her parents and Simon along the way. (I am also hoping there is more #teamsimon in book 3, which I am checking out next.)

I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

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With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel

  • Author: Angela Pisel
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; First Edition edition (August 9, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

Angela Pisel’s poignant debut explores the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, and their quest to discover the truth and whether or not love can prevail—even from behind bars.

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever. Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

My Thoughts:

This is not the type of book I would normally pick up but I borrowed a free copy and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. The story is about Grace, a mother of two who is accused of murdering her toddler son. Now on death row, she claims that she is innocent and wants nothing more than to reconcile with her estranged daughter before she dies. It is a story of forgiveness, hope and elements of faith. It was both sad and uplifting.

I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Adult subject matter.)

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  by JK Rowling

  • Author: JK Rowling
  • Length: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic; 1st Edition edition (September 1998)

Amazon Summary:

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

My Thoughts:

There is little to say about Harry Potter that you have not already heard and read before, but it’s safe to say that, like yoga and leggings, people have very strong opinions on both sides. Some feel it is harmless and holds valuable lessons and others find its magical content harmful. (I’ve heard similar thing about the Lord of the Rings books and the Star Wars movies.) I am not here to debate the sides, simply to say that after 20 years of hearing about the stories and having numerous practicing Catholic friends talk about the virtues in the books, I wanted to read them for myself. My verdict, I loved the first and second book in the series. I didn’t like the third as much and was definitely concerned about some things such as Harry’s divination class. As an adult, I enjoyed that the story was filled with adventure, human drama, humor and lessons of love and self-sacrifice. However, I do see the concern about having an impressionable child read the book without guidance. So personally, although I have read them, my boys won’t be reading them anytime soon.

I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Contains magic/ elements of the occult and a few scary sequences (such as the murder of Harry’s parents) for the younger set. I’d only recommend this after you’ve read the book first and feel your child is old enough and mature enough to handle the subject matter and knows the difference between pretend magic and the dangers of “real” magic/occult practices. Otherwise, skip it. There are other great books to read instead.)

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Okay, that’s it for now!Want to share more books? Follow me on Goodreads.

What is a book you want to read this year?

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Book Reviews for 2017 (Part 2): April – June

I am doing the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge (the “reading for fun” version) this year and I pledged on Goodreads to read 24 books in 2017. I am ahead of schedule with 20 books read so far. Here are the books I’ve read in April, May and June.

Lilac Girls

  • Author: Martha Hall Kelly
  • Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 28, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power. The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

My Thoughts:

I have a love for novels set during WWII and I have to admit that sometimes the various storylines are very similar. I found Lilac Girls to be unique because it told the story from three different points of view. Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish teenager working in the underground resistance movement. Herta Oberheuser is a young doctor that unexpectedly finds herself working in a secret medical project at Ravenport, a Nazi concentration camp for women. Caroline Ferriday is an actress and socialite who does what she can to help the people affects by the horrors of the war. Eventually their lives intertwine as the story unfolds.

The book was based on a true story. Caroline and Herta are real people, as well as the Ravenport staff named in the book. Kasia and her sister are based on two sisters who lived through the experiments conducted at Ravensbruck. I was vaguely familiar with the story behind this concentration camp but the book brought the details to life and I was shocked once again by the strength of the human spirit and it’s drive to survive. I also found Herta’s story fascinating because I don’t often read a story from the opposing point of view. I wish the author would have demonstrated how Herta’s attitude changed over the course of time – from being shocked by the duties she was expected to perform to believing that the medical experiments were for the greater good of Germany.  That aside, I enjoyed Lilac Girls, even though it was not always an easy read. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: Some adult content but nothing graphic.)

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Farleigh Field

  • Author: Rhys Bowen
  • Length: 398 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 1, 2017)

Amazon Summary:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility. As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls? Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

My Thoughts:

This book was recently offered in the Kindle First program (which I love) so I was eager to read it. There was the drama of the war, a German spy, Downtonesque estates and a love triangle. All the things you want in a summer novel.

As I mentioned above, I love WWII novels and I usually place them in three categories. The “wow, that was amazing and  I could not put that down!!” category (ie. The Nightingale) and the “that was a different take, I liked it!” category (ie. All the Light We Cannot See) and the “that was enjoyable; I’m glad I read it.” category. (ie. The Summer Before the War.) This book was the third category. It was fun and enjoyable. A pleasant read but not earth shattering.  I give it 3 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: Some adult subject matter regarding sex but brief and not explicit.)

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The Fall of Lord Drayson

  • Author: Rachael Anderson
  • Length: 266 pages
  • Publisher: HEA Publishing (August 29, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

When Colin Cavendish, the new earl of Drayson, informs Lucy Beresford that she and her mother need to vacate the house they’ve called home for the past two years, Lucy is fit to be tied. They have no money, no relations they can turn to for help, and nowhere to go. How dare the earl break the promise his father had made to the Beresfords without so much as a twinge of conscience? Fate plays her hand when Lucy discovers the earl unconscious and injured in the middle of the road. When he awakens with no recollection of who he is, Lucy seizes the opportunity to teach the earl a much-needed lesson in humility and tells him that he is nothing more than a mere servant. Her servant, in fact.  And thus begins the charming tale of a pompous lord and an impetuous young woman, caught together in a web so tangled that it begs the question: Will they ever get out?

My Thoughts:

Rachel Anderson is one of my favorite authors when I am in the mood for a lighthearted, clean romance (such as the Meet Your Match series.) I was eager to read her newer book The Fall of Lord Drayson. Although the book was enjoyable, I didn’t love it as much as her other books only because I really dislike plots where a character is keeping a secret from another character. All through the book I was stressing out because Lucy was keeping up this charade and the longer she kept lying, the more damage it caused. In the end it all worked out but I would have preferred a different route to the happy ending. That said, I did add her second book from this Tanglewood Series to my reading list – The Rise of Miss Notley. 🙂 I rate this 3 out of 5 stars.

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Everything, Everything

  • Author: Nicola Yoon
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (March 7, 2017); Originally published by Delacorte Press (September 1, 2015)

Amazon Summary:

What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face . . . or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken. 

My Thoughts:

I broke one of my movie rules by watching this movie before I had the chance to read the book. However, I made up for it by reading the book afterwards. The visuals in the book – the graphics and mini book reviews definitely added to the story. As YA books go, I really enjoyed this one and did not guess what the plot twist was. I am always a little bummed that the youth in these books can’t enjoy the innocence of young love without sleeping together but at least in this story she is an adult of 18 and not a 14 years old. As I mentioned in my movie review, parts of the Hawaiian trip seemed a little far fetched but it served its purpose in the story and helped Maddy find out the truth. All together it was a sweet story and I was rooting for both Maddy and Ollie. I rate this 4 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: The book touches on topics such as serious illness, alcoholism, abuse and premarital sex but there is nothing graphic.)

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Talking As Fast As I Can

  • Author: Lauren Graham
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 29, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her. Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

My Thoughts:

Although I own the book (which is great for viewing the accompanying photos), I also purchased the audio version because I really love listening to memoirs read by the author. Being a big fan of Gilmore Girls, this book was especially fun to read. There seems to be a lot of Lorelai in Lauren Graham and it makes me like her all the more. She is smart, funny and never short on stories to tell. The tone of the book may be a little quirky, part  memoir, part tongue in check humor and part life lessons but I loved it all, especially her chapters about the Gilmore Girls as well as Old Lady Jackson. If you are a fan of Lauren or Gilmore Girls, I really recommend reading this book. The chapters on GG alone are worth this heart warming and fun read.  I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Bridge Across the Ocean

  • Author: Susan Meissner
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (March 14, 2017)


Amazon Summary:

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark… Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

My Thoughts:

One of the categories of Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge is to choose a book by its cover. I saw this book on the bookshelf at Target and I knew this would be my pick. I loved the blues, the dress, the flowers and the ship. I was also intrigued by the Queen Mary aspect of the story since I remember visiting the ship as a little girl and being a little afraid that it was haunted. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this book dealt with the Queen Mary being haunted, literally. As in one of the main characters saw ghosts. At first I was a little turned off by this but I was so intrigued by the lives of the war brides, I couldn’t put the book down until I found out what happened to them. That part of the story I really loved. The ghostly apparitions were less enjoyable, mostly because the final explanation had me thinking, “Oooooookay.”  So some parts I loved and some parts I could have skipped.  I rate this 3 out of 5 stars. 

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My Cousin Rachel

  • Author: Daphne De Maurier
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Mti edition (April 18, 2017); Originally published in 1951.

Amazon Summary:

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet . . . might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?

My Thoughts:

I read this book at least two decades ago and the current movie made me want to read it again. Luckily, I did not remember most of it so it still seemed new to me. I loved De Maurier’s book Rebecca and this book has the same dark and mysterious intrigue where you aren’t quite sure who to trust. However, as much as I enjoyed the build up, I don’t think it was as good as Rebecca and the ending left me feeling a little underwhelmed.  I rated it 3.75 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: There is some adult subject matter such as murder and obsession but nothing explicit.)

Note: When purchasing from Amazon, make sure you buy the unabridged version.

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Other books I read from the library include:

  • Can You Keep A Secret by Sophie Kinsella  (Kind of fun. Kind of not. Interesting, but improbable premise but I had to finish it to find out how it ended. Had language and secular worldview. 3 out of 5)
  • Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella (I tried another book available in my library from Kinsella. I was hoping it would be better than the previous one I read. I was wrong. I could barely get through it. 2 out of 5 stars.)
  • The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (I actually saw the movie first and enjoyed it more than the book, which was unusual for me.)

There are twelve categories in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge so I’ve tried to read one category a month, along with my other reads. I have six categories down and six more to go!

What are you reading? What do you recommend?

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Book Reviews for 2017 (Part 1): January – March

I am doing the 2017 Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge (the “reading for fun” version) this year and I pledged on Goodreads to read 24 books in 2017. I am on schedule with 9 books so far. Here are the books I’ve read from January to March.

 

The Shoemaker’s Wife

  • Author: Adriana Trigiani
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 1 edition (August 21, 2012)

Amazon Summary:

A breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker’s Wife is replete with the all the page-turning adventure, sumptuous detail, and heart-stopping romance that has made Adriana Trigiani, “one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today).

My Thoughts:

The Shoemaker’s Wife takes place in Northern Italy (and later in America) and follows the life of Enza and Ciro. We meet them as children and follow their separate lives filled with some joys and more than their share of tragedies. At the age of 15, Enza and Ciro meet and they are emotionally bonded by a heartbreaking event in Enza’s life. They share a kiss but they go their separate ways, eventually immigrating to America. I especially loved Enza’s story and how she struggled through many trials but managed to keep her faith and her spirit. With the help of her best friend, she accomplishes her dreams and makes a better life. Eventually, Enza and Ciro cross paths again and at times their “on and off” friendship/ relationship gets frustrating, but eventually they figure it out. The author based the story on her grandparents and I was intrigued with their lives as immigrants since my father-in-law and mother-in-law are also immigrants. There are heart breaking moments and testimonies of love. I really enjoyed reading this book. I rated it 4 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: The book contains some adult subjects and a little language.)

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Lady Maybe

  • Author: Julie Klassen
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (July 7, 2015)

Amazon Summary:

In this novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England… 

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness… Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie. But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy Julie Klassen’s books, although some more than others. I didn’t care for this one as much but that is mostly because I don’t like stories where a character is lying about something and keeps the truth from everyone around them. I’m always stressed waiting for them to come clean before someone finds out their secret and makes things worse. Some of the plot and the love triangle also left me with mixed emotions. Overall, it was okay but not my favorite.   I give it 3 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: The book contains adult subject matter such as adultery and an unwed pregnancy.)

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North and South

  • Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Length: 490 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 3, 2017); Original book published in 1855.

Amazon Summary:

North and South is a wonderful blend of social comment on the dramatic changes in society brought about by the industrial revolution and a compelling love story. Written from the author’s first-hand experience, the novel follows the story of Margaret Hope, the young heroine, in her move from the tranquil setting in rural southern England to the raw and turbulent northern town of Milton. Margaret takes an instant dislike to her new home and its people. She hates the dirt, noise and lack of civilisation. Her distaste extends to handsome and charismatic cotton mill owner John Thornton whom she believes epitomises everything unpleasant about the North. However, as Margaret gradually begins to settle in Milton, she learns about the poverty and workplace struggles. As events conspire to throw Margaret and Thornton together, the two spirited characters have to overcome their repressed physical attraction for one another and conquer prejudices of class and circumstance. The passion and the history embedded in this narrative is as appealing and engrossing today as when it was first published.

My Thoughts:

I’ve watch the Masterpiece version of North and South more times than I care to admit. It’s a favorite “go to” when I am in the mood for a period drama/ romance. However, I had never read the book. I decided to finally remedy that this year. While the gist of the book was familiar there were so many scenes and parts of dialogue  that brought a whole new dimension to a story I already loved. This is definitely a book I will also re-read again in the future. Some of the chapters of the book I read traditionally and some I listened to audibly. If you do get the audio book I recommend this version with Juliet Stevenson as the narrator. She did a brilliant job. I rate this 5 out of 5 stars.

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Orphan Train

  • Author: Christina Baker Kline
  • Length: 278 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (2013)

Amazon Summary:

Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past—and it includes a special PS section for book clubs featuring insights, interviews, and more.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse… As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

My Thoughts:

The book Orphan Train tells the story of two different girls. Young Vivian, an Irish immigrant and orphan who was one of the children aboard the so called “Orphan Trains. Between 1854 and 1929 these orphan trains traveled to various cities on the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest. The lucky orphans were adopted by loving families. The unlucky ones became mistreated servants, sometimes in abusive house. Vivian was one of the unlucky ones suffering many hardships. The book was difficult to read at times as my anger rose at her mistreatment and my heart broke at her anguish. Difficult but worth it.

Vivian shares the book with Molly, a 17-year old troubled girl who is assigned community service that brings her into the life of Vivian, now an elderly woman. I found Molly’s story less compelling and the ending was  unsatisfying (as if a few chapters were missing) but reading about Vivian’s life made the book worth reading. I rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: The book contains adult subject matter including an attempted rape and some language.)

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Truly, Madly, Guilty

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books; First Edition edition (July 26, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

 

My Thoughts:

I loved Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and was eager to read her latest work. I wish I could say that I also loved it but I didn’t. The story seemed to drag and I was constantly waiting for the “big reveal” only to be dangled once again. I didn’t like the characters as much as her other stories and finished it just to mark it off my reading list. I still have hope for her other books, however and will read The Husband’s Secret next. I rate this 3 out of 5 stars. (Parental warning: The book is definitely written from a secular worldview. There is language and much adult subject matter but nothing explicit.)

 

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The Blue Castle

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014); Original book published in 1926.

Amazon Summary:

All her life, Valancy Stirling lived on a quiet little street in an ugly little house and never dared to contradict her domineering mother and her unforgiving aunt. Then she gets a letter―and decides that very day things need to change. For the first time in her life, she does exactly what she wants to and says exactly what she feels.

At first her family thinks she’s gone around the bend. But soon Valancy discovers more surprises and adventure than she ever thought possible. She also finds her one true love and the real-life version of the Blue Castle that she was sure only existed in her dreams…

My Thoughts:

When I hear the name L.M. Montgomery, I automatically think of Anne of Green Gables. I did not realize that she wrote other books until The Blue Castle was chosen by Fountains of Carrots as their next book club read. I started it and frankly, at first, I thought I would have to skip the book. Valancy’s life was so depressing with her uncaring family and her suppressed life that I was getting depressed just reading it. However, there is a turning point in Valancy’s life that pushes her out of her comfort zone and allows her true self to emerge. This is when the story really picks up. The Blue Castle turned out to be a delightful story with the happy ending that I craved. I rated it 4 stars out of 5.

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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

  • Author: Helen Simonson
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (2011)

Amazon Summary:

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

My Thoughts:

This is not normally a book I would pickup but I enjoyed the author’s other book The Summer Before the War so I thought I’d give it a try.  Surprisingly, I was completely drawn into the life of the Major and Mrs. Ali and their unconventional love story. The Major’s dry humor continuously left me smiling and I was rooting for them throughout. (Spoiler alert: My only disappointment was when they broke from “tradition” and slept together before marrying. There are some “traditions” that I don’t like to see broken.) With that said, I still thought the book was lovely and enjoyed reading it. I rated it 4 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: There is some adult matter such as racial attitudes, an unwed mother dealing with the father of her child and a couple sleeping together but nothing explicit.)

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What are you reading? Or what do you recommend?

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How Mr. Knightly Helped Me Find Mr. Right

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Like many women, my love of Jane Austen began in my teen years but it wasn’t until my 20’s that the lessons of her heroines and their leading men started to affect the way I viewed dating in my own life.

A Little Backstory

Back in the 90’s when I was in college and began to date more seriously, I had fallen away from my faith and dated guys without much thought to the type of men they were. If I were to relate to any of Jane Austen’s characters, I would definitely have been Marianne Dashwood dating a string of wrong-for-me Willoughbys. I had a knack for falling in love with man-boys who were poetically trying to “find themselves” and didn’t have any direction in their lives.

In my early twenties, I came back to the faith in a strong way and narrowed the dating pool to Christian men. However, when it came down to getting more serious, our differing faiths always stopped us from continuing the relationships.

During this time, God was also working on my heart at a deeper level. Specifically, I was wondering if I had a religious vocation. Frankly, the thought seemed absurd at first. I was Marianne Dashwood destined for romance and love!

However, after two years of turning my life upside down and seriously discerning, I reached a point of total surrender to God and accepted a call to a religious vocation. It was a time of deep spiritual growth and God wanted my unreserved “Yes.” Ironically, once I reached that point God made it known to me (and my spiritual director) that I was called to the married life.

This put me back into the dating scene, which scared me a little since I hadn’t had the best of luck. I remember my mom making an observation that I always picked guys who needed to be “fixed” and never a guy who motivated me to better myself. She said I needed to find qualities in a man that lifted me up and challenged me to be the best version of myself – a man who was seeking the Kingdom of God and who would work alongside me on our journey of faith. This was exactly what God had been putting on my heart and hearing my mom say the words out loud confirmed it.

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In Steps Mr. Knightly

During this time in the mid to late 90’s, there was a slew of Jane Austen movie adaptations – Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslette, Persuasion with Ciaron Hinds and Amanda Root, and Emma with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong, to name a few. I loved those movies but the 1995 Emma really took hold of my heart.

A part of me didn’t like Mr. Knightly at first because he was so serious and judgmental of Emma. But another part of me admired him because he loved Emma enough to speak freely to her and to call her out when she was behaving badly. He loved her, faults and all, but challenged her to be a better version of herself. I watched the movie and read the book more than once and each time Mr. Knightly’s qualities shone brighter. There was a kindness and compassion in the way he cared for his tenants and rescued Jane Fairfax from her humiliation. He displayed quiet generosity in the way he did little things for his neighbors without fanfare. Plus, his maturity and wisdom allowed him to see beyond the obvious in situations, such as his suspicions of Jane and Frank.

I thought of all these things as I stared at the TV screen and thought – I need to find a Mr. Knightly!

It may sound like a joke, but the thought would not leave me. I was determined to break the cycle of dating the wrong kind of man. I knew I had a weakness for “needing” to be in a relationship even if it was a bad one. I knew I had to start dating with God and my faith in mind. I needed to understand that it was okay to be one my own and wait for the right kind of guy.

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So I sat down at my desk and made a list of all the qualities I should be looking for in a man I dated. I crossed out all the superficial things I loved (like he wore Doc Martens or Converse and listened to alternative music) and instead thought of Godly things that mattered.

All these years later, I still have that list. It reads:

  1. God is #1 in his life.
  2. He is Catholic.
  3. He actually lives his faith and is seeing holiness.
  4. He has a job capable of supporting a family.
  5. He loves his family and respects his parents.
  6. He loves my family and mom likes him.
  7. He loves children and is open to life.
  8. He has a beautiful smile and a sense of humor.
  9. We have things in common to talk about and discuss.
  10. He has traits of Mr. Knightly that will inspire and encourage me to seek greater holiness.

I copied the list onto a piece of paper that I would use as a book marker in my planner. I added a photo of Mr. Knightly from the movie as a reminder to stand firm and not give into the next cute agnostic poet who was out of a job and living in his parent’s basement. I knew I may not find someone with ALL these qualities but I needed to at least start working towards that goal.

How Does the Story End?

I wish I could say that after this revelation I found Mr. Right immediately but I did not. However, every day when I saw my little Mr. Knightly list, I prayed for my future husband. I asked that God strengthen him in his faith and prepare both our hearts for our future marriage. It was difficult, sometimes really difficult, to be patient and to trust in God when I saw no answer in sight, but I persevered.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my future husband (Brian) was in the seminary and he was going through his own vocational discernment. He was praying to God for guidance. He eventually discerned that he was called to marriage and left the seminary to return home. He prayed a nine-day novena to Our Lord asking God to help him in finding his future wife. On the ninth and last day of his novena we happened to “meet” online. (Talk about answered prayer!)

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There began a friendship that was to blossom into love. I had found a man who was unlike any other guy I had ever dated. (My mom still marvels over that!) No man is perfect, but Brian was a perfect match for me – he had the qualities I was looking for and challenged me and inspired me to be a better person. He gave me roots to tame my flightiness. In turn, I challenged him to love and laugh more and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We complimented one another. I had found my version of Mr. Knightly and I’m happy to say that 18 years later he still makes my heart skip a beat.

A Note to My Single Friends

If you find yourself dating the wrong kind of men, maybe it’s time to quiet yourself before God and ask him why. Is there a deeper reason you keep choosing the wrong kind of guys? Do you feel like you don’t deserve anyone better? Do you have the need to be a guy’s savior? Do you need healing from past hurts or bad habits? I’d recommend finding someone to discuss these concerns with you – a priest, a spiritual director, or a friend who is knowledgeable and strong in the faith.

Maybe there is no deeper reason and you just need to be a little more discretionary in who you date. If it will help, make a list! Ask God what qualities you should be looking for in a man – not superficial things like blonde hair and blue eyes or tall, dark and handsome – but the things that matter. Is he a Godly man? Does he take his faith seriously? Is he honest? Does he have integrity or are there red flags? Do you have things in common? Does he inspire you to love God more? These are the kind of qualities that will make a strong foundation for a relationship and eventually a marriage. No man is perfect (and you and I certainly aren’t) but you want someone willing to work towards holiness with you.

Or perhaps, you aren’t dating Mr. Wrong and you know what you are looking for in a man but you still haven’t found Mr. Right. When I was single, I hated when people told me to be patient and wait for God’s timing. It’s easy to say but sometimes it sucks to live it out. I knew I had to trust and be patient but it wasn’t always easy.

However, I found that the waiting was less difficult when I, first, keep myself close to God and worked on my relationship with Christ. Second, when I kept myself busy with life and doing God’s will for me at that moment. Lastly, when I prayed for my future husband. When the heart ache came to me I offered it up to God for my future husband and whatever struggles he was going through at that moment. This helped keep hope in my heart, knowing that my prayers could help him even though we were separated at this time.

As someone who felt like the least likely to find true love, I say wholeheartedly, don’t lose hope. God is capable of doing amazing things when you follow His path and trust his timing.

PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, GoodReads, Letterboxd, or Spotify, 😉

PPS – Disclaimer: “Revolution of Love.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.”

In other words, if you click on my affiliated links and make a purchase, I get a small compensation that goes towards keeping the blog online. Big hugs to those who click and help support the blog! xoxo 🙂

 

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Book Reviews and the 2017 Reading Challenge

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This post has been sitting in my draft folder for over a month and since it is the last day of January, I feel like it was finally time to sit down and get it done! 😉

I never posted the books I read the last couple months of 2016, so I’ll do that here. Then I’ll share about my reading goals for 2017.

 

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What Alice Forgot

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • Length: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)

Amazon Summary:

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…

My Thoughts:

I first heard of Liane Moriarty when I read her book Big, Little Lies. I was so completely engrossed with it that I picked up What Alice Forgot for a plane ride. While I did not love it as much as the first book I read, Moriarty still managed to keep me guessing and wondering and not wanting to put the book down until I figured out what would happen next. It was intriguing to see how a couple could go from being madly in love to being so different and hating each other in a mere decade. I was wary of how the book would end but I was pleased by the way the story was wrapped up. I rated it 3.5 stars out of 5. (Parental warning: The book is definitely written within a secular worldview. There is language and adult subject matter but nothing explicit.)

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Stick in the Mud Meets Spontaneity

 

  • Author: Rachel Anderson
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HEA Publishing (June 12, 2015)

Amazon Summary:

Home for the summer, Samantha Kinsey is ready to step into her role as pseudo-nanny for her two favorite charges. But when she realizes she’ll be playing chauffeur more than playmate, her summer outlook quickly turns from fun to bleak. That is, until she meets Colton McCoy–a genuine, hard-working cowboy, who’s as set in his ways as he is handsome. Although he claims he doesn’t need any spontaneity in his life, Sam’s determined to help him find it. But she’ll soon discover that cowboys are about as easy to change as wild mustangs. 

Stick in the Mud Meets Spontaneity is about an adaptable girl and a not so adaptable guy. It’s about learning to accept people for who they are and realizing that sometimes who they are is exactly who they should be.

My Thoughts:

This is the third installment of Anderson’s Meet Your Match series. I enjoyed books one and two more but this was still a fun and quick read. Like a Hallmark movie, this is something you would read when you want a sweet romance without too much drama or questionable material. It is perfect when you need a nice distraction to warm the heart. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • Author: Betty Smith
  • Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 30, 2006); Original book published in 1943.

Amazon Summary:

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

My Thoughts:

I’ve watch the movie version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a number of times and often wanted to pick up the book and read it. I’m glad I finally did because it has definitely made my top ten favorite books list. While there is sadness to the story and within the trials the characters have to endure, it is treated with such honest emotion, you can’t help but be touched by its simple beauty. The characters are never portrayed as back and white but, like people we know in real life, they have good qualities and weaknesses. Smith masterfully explores universal emotions that touch the human heart. It is no wonder that this book has stood the test of time and still remains a favorite to so many readers today. I rate this 5 out of 5 stars. (Parental note: There is some adult subject matter.)

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The Christmas Shoes

  • Author: Donna VanLiere
  • Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; Reissue edition (November 9, 2001)

Amazon Summary:

Sometimes, the things that can change your life will cross your path in one instant-and then, in a fleeting moment, they’re gone. But if you open your eyes, and watch carefully, you will believe….

Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself. Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer. But Nathan and his family are building a simple yet full life, and struggling to hold onto every moment they have together. A chance meeting on Christmas Even brings Robert and Nathan together-he is shopping for a family he hardly knows and Nathan is shopping for a mother he is soon to lose. In this one encounter, their lives are forever altered as Robert learns an important lesson: sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of serendipity, a tale of our shared humanity, and of how a power greater than ourselves can shape, and even save, our lives.

My Thoughts:

To complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge  I needed a book I owned but hadn’t read yet so I looked through my book shelves and found this book I bought at a garage sale. I thought it would be the perfect short read during the Christmas holidays. I was vaguely familiar with the plot but forgot that a main character was sick in the book. So while I was supposed to be wrapping Christmas presents, I instead was crying my eyes out over a mom fighting cancer. (Cancer is one of my tear triggers.) However, there was still a lesson to be learned and a happier ending to one of the storylines so I was pleased that I read it. I rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Completing the 2016 Reading Challenge

One of my goals for 2016 was to watch less TV and read more. I pledged on Goodreads to read 12 books in 2016 and I smashed that number by reading 30 books. Yay!

I also completed the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. Here are the books I read for each category.

Starting the 2016 Reading Challenge

I am doing the 2017  Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge this year and I pledged on Goodreads to read 24 books in 2017.

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There are two challenge categories to choose from and I will be doing the “Just for Fun” one.

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If I finish that and am feeling ambitious, I may tackle some of the “Reading for Growth” categories as well.

Now I just need to make a list of the books I want to read this year. I have a few in mind but I’d love your suggestions as well! 🙂

What you you be reading this year? Or what do you recommend?

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PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, GoodReads, Letterboxd, or Spotify, 😉

PPS – Disclaimer: “Revolution of Love.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.”

In other words, if you click on my affiliated links and make a purchase, I get a small compensation that goes towards keeping the blog online. Big hugs to those who click and help support the blog! xoxo 🙂

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