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February Reading Roundup

Erm . . . better late than never, right? 😆

I find it hard to blog when I’m not feeling well. Unfortunately, that kind of gives you an inkling into what my March has been like. Ahh . . . such is life with chronic health issues.

So, let’s see . . . in February I finished 8 more books, bringing my total for January and February up to 13. 

First off was ‘Love Finds You In Liberty, Indiana’. This is part of a series of stand-alone novels called the ‘Love Finds You’ series. Each of these inspirational fiction novels ‘showcases’ a city in the U.S. which has an unusual name. ‘Liberty’ was an intriguing book set at the time of the Underground Railroad. Anna Brent and her father are ‘conductors’ on the ‘railroad’. Anna feels that as a Quaker, she must help every soul who is in trouble, and she feels God’s hand upon her, calling her to this dangerous work. Unfortunately, she often feels alone, as, obviously, her efforts to help slaves escape to freedom in Canada must be kept secret. When that secret is threatened, she wonders if she can trust Daniel Stanton, a man who is outspoken in his abolitionist views. I really enjoyed reading about Anna and her desire to do what God wants her to do. I also enjoyed the way the friendship developed between Anna and Daniel. I have enjoyed the few ‘Love Finds You’ books I’ve been able to read so far, and this was no exception. (four stars)

I remember reading some of the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ series when I was a girl, and decided to re-read them again starting last year. I’m wondering now if I ever read more than the last one of the series, because I honestly don’t remember the first ones! 😆 At any rate, the second book I finished in February was ‘The First Four Years’, which finished out the series. It was a quick read (I finished it in a day), but I really enjoyed reading about Laura and Almanzo’s first years of marriage. All in all, it was a pleasant journey back to the early days of American pioneering, and this series will be one I will likely return to and read again and again. (four stars)

One of my favourite Christian authors is Karen Kingsbury. I find her writing style just envelopes me and her characters are so real you at times want to shake your head in exasperation at them, or just give them a big hug. ‘Take Three’ is the third book in her ‘Above the Line’ series, which chronicles the journey of two Christian filmmakers who are on a mission to bring faith back into the lives of the general American populace through inspirational movies. In this book, one of the producers makes a choice that ultimately takes him in a different direction than making films, and the other finds miraculous guidance in going forward without the partner he thought would be by his side for the entire journey. The book also tells about the lives of the families and friends of the producers, and starts to wrap up a few of the story lines introduced in ‘Take One’ and ‘Take Two’. I’m excited to read ‘Take Four’ and see what ends up happening in the end! (four stars)

One of my dearest friends, knowing of my interest in the ‘Twilight’ series, recommended that I read a book called ‘Beautiful Creatures’ by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which is the story of Ethan, a mortal boy, who meets and falls in love with Lena, a Caster girl. ‘Beautiful Chaos’ is the 3rd novel in the ‘Caster Chronicles’, and tells of how Ethan, Lena and their friends try to repair a ‘broken world’ that was created in events in the 2nd novel (‘Beautiful Darkness’). I’ve really enjoyed these novels. They are a supernatural fantasy set in the deep South, and have a definite Southern Gothic feel to them. I wish I could say more without spoiling the novels for those who have not yet read them, but I will say this much . . . the ending left me breathless and stunned. (four stars)

I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and believe that God has called prophets to lead His people in this day and age, just as He did in Biblical times. One of those prophets was Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008). President Hinckley led the Church from 1995, until his death in 2008, and until her death in 2004, his wife Marjorie Pay Hinckley was always by his side. I cannot think of anyone who didn’t adore Sister Hinckley. She was a small, smiling, grandmotherly type woman, who always had a gracious word for everyone. When a friend of mine reviewed her book ‘Letters’, I knew it was something I wanted to read for myself, and I am so glad I did. My impressions of Sister Hinckley were of a gracious woman, one who found joy in life, but was content to be in the background. From her letters, I learned that my impressions were correct, and yet I learned so much more. Her personality really shone through in her writing, and I found myself smiling and laughing at her humour and use of words like ‘swell’ (let me tell you, that did NOT sound like the Sister Hinckley I was familiar with, but did it ever endear her more to me!) and such. If you want to get a more complete glimpse into the life and personality of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, I HIGHLY recommend this book! 🙂 (five stars)

Part of my belief in God and in His plan for His children includes my belief that God’s words are to be treasured. Because of that belief, I have adopted a plan of daily Scripture study. I enjoy reading these ‘letters from Home’ as it were, and no matter how many times I finish a book of Scripture, I always find new things or gentle reminders of what I need to be doing in my life. I finished ‘The Pearl of Great Price’ in February. This book ‘fleshes out’ some of the experiences of Abraham and Moses that are recorded in the Old Testament. I appreciate having this additional record of 2 of the great prophets of the Old Testament, because I believe it only clarifies and reinforces what we learn in the Old Testament writings. I am so grateful for the Scriptures and for the knowledge they bring me of a loving Father in Heaven who has a plan for the happiness of His children. (five stars)

As mentioned in my previous book roundup, I really enjoy a good Amish fiction novel. I have always been fascinated by the Plain life, and really respect them for their efforts in trying to live the Biblical injunction to be ‘in the world, but not of the world’.  ‘An Amish Gathering’ is a collection of 3 novellas, detailing the lives of 3 young women in one Amish settlement, who are trying to do what God wants them to do, and how each of them comes to find love in her life. ‘A Change of Heart’ talks about Leah, who is admittedly not good at doing anything that a good Amish wife is ‘supposed’ to do. She feels called to write stories that will help people understand God’s love for them, and hopefully draw them towards faith in Him. Leah struggles with what she feels she ‘should’ do and what she feels God WANTS her to do, and despairs of ever finding a man who will accept her for who she really is. ‘A Place of His Own’ talks about Amanda, whose childhood best friend, Josiah, has suddenly returned after 10 years away from the community. Amanda is a ‘fixer’ and is troubled to see Josiah’s broken heart, but soon realises that there are some things that only God can fix. In ‘When Winter Comes’, we read about Rebecca, who is mourning the death of her twin sister in an accident that happened 5 years prior, and Ben, the young man who has loved Rebecca since they were children, and continues to wait for her to find peace and healing. Both Rebecca and Ben need to learn that healing comes in God’s time, and that forgiveness, especially the ability to forgive oneself is a gift to be highly prized. (three stars)

The last book I finished in February was another choice for the Fans of Amish Fiction book club. ‘A Wedding Quilt for Ella’ is not a typical mostly-lighthearted read. Within pages of the beginning, Ella’s fiance is taken from her unexpectedly, and she feels her life start to spiral out of control. As the troubles mount in their close-knit community, Ella must figure out for herself what it means to trust God’s will, and realise that even in the midst of difficulties, God still does love her. Ella begins to find healing in reaching out to others in their sorrows, and in making plans to move forward with her life the way she believes her departed Aden would have wanted. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. (three stars)

2012 book count for January-February ~ 13/75

January Reading Roundup

I’m going to take a page from Beth’s blog and start doing monthly roundup posts, detailing at least what I read and stitched during the previous month.

In January, I completed 5 books. I’ve set a goal for myself to read 75 books this year, so I think I need to up my pace, though I finished half of a book I had to return to the library, as there were holds on it, and read 95% of a book in January, but didn’t finish until yesterday, so it will have to be counted for February’s finishes.

The first book I finished in 2012 was ‘Snowflake Bride’ by Jillian Hart, the fourth book in her ‘Buttons and Bobbins’ series. The series chronicles the friendships and love stories of 7 girls in 1880s Montana. ‘Snowflake Bride’ is Ruby’s story, and it’s my favourite of the series so far. I really related with Ruby, as a shy girl, who often doesn’t feel like she deserves to be loved. Ruby is also a crocheter, like me, and the name of the book refers to the crocheted snowflakes she makes for her friends’ Christmas gifts. Because Ruby’s family is poor, and work is hard to find, she seeks employment as a maid with one of the wealthiest families in the area. Lorenzo, the family’s son, knew Ruby from school, and has been drawn to her kindness and compassion. As Lorenzo and Ruby come to know each other better through more constant interaction, they must face difficult choices if they are to find out God’s plan for their lives. (four stars)

The second book I finished was Ally Condie’s ‘Crossed’, the second book in her dystopian ‘Matched’ trilogy. In this book, Cassia, who has already started questioning what the Society wants her to do with her life, goes on a journey to find the young man she loves, Ky. The book alternates from the points of view of Cassia and Ky, as they try to find their way back to each other. Each one must also decide if they want to return to the Society, or if they are willing to risk joining the Rising and fight against the Society for a chance to choose what they will do with their lives. I enjoyed ‘hearing’ Ky’s point of view, and it helped me understand the motivation behind some of his choices. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the storyline. (four stars)

‘The Healing’ by Wanda Brunstetter is the second book in the ‘Kentucky Brothers’ series. This book tells the story of Samuel Fisher, a widower who decides to move to the Kentucky Amish community where his brother lives in hopes that the memories of his deceased wife will stop haunting him. He hires Esther Beiler to watch his children while he is working, and as Samuel heals from the loss of his precious Elsie, he finds himself drawn to Esther. Misunderstandings and jealousies arise and both Samuel and Esther must open their hearts to see God’s hand at work in their lives. (three stars)

I was so excited when it was announced that the Church would be publishing a book on the history and work of Relief Society. ‘Daughters In My Kingdom’ did not disappoint! As I made my way through the chapters, a sense of awe, and joy captured my heart at the very fact that I am a member of a society that has blessed the lives of so many. I felt inspired to try my best to live up to the examples of the righteous women of Relief Society who have gone before me. I will be reading this over and over again, to remind myself of what my Father wants me to do. (five stars)

I belong to a group of Amish fiction lovers over on GoodReads, and each month, two books are chosen for the group to read together. January’s ‘Amish’ choice was ‘Hannah’s Journey’ by Anna Schmidt. Most books in the ‘Amish fiction’ genre are set exclusively in the Amish community itself.  This book was set primarily amongst a circus community in the late 1920s. Hannah’s son, Caleb, has run away with the circus that wealthy Levi Harmon owns, and Hannah turns to Levi for help in bringing her son home to their Amish community. Levi suggests that Hannah come with him to meet up with his circus train so that she can find Caleb and bring him home, and as Hannah makes her journey to find her son, she finds unexpected friendships along the way, including one that will change the life of her and her son forever. As mentioned earlier, this book is a departure from the norm in Amish fiction, but I enjoyed it and will be reading more of Anna Schmidt’s work.  (three stars)

2012 book count ~ 5/75 

Kelly’s Chance

I never know what to write as a ‘synopsis’ of a book that I’m reviewing. I always worry that I’m either sharing too much of the plot line, or not enough. So, I made an executive decision: from now on, I’ll just copy what’s on the back of the book . . . 😀

‘Life for Kelly McGregor is a daily drudge of driving her overbearing father’s mules along Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Canal. She dreams of one day owning an art gallery where her own drawings and paintings are on display. But these dreams don’t include marriage . . . not after seeing what her father has done to her mother. How then can Mike Cooper, a general store owner, make her realize he is different from her father and wants to support her artistic talent? Will Kelly learn that dreams can walk hand in hand with a love created by God?’ (‘Kelly’s Chance’ by Wanda Brunstetter)

Wanda Brunstetter is known for her inspirational novels about the Amish. I have really enjoyed those books, which was why I chose to read ‘Kelly’s Chance’. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed.

The book was good . . . but it wasn’t of the calibre I’ve come to expect from Wanda Brunstetter. The storyline felt too slow in places, and too rushed in others, and the characterisations weren’t as strong in ‘Kelly’s Chance’ as they are in her other books.

That said, it was a good read, and I will continue on with the ‘Brides of Lehigh Canal’ series.

3 of 5 stars

2011 Page Count ~ 2269

PS ~ don’t forget to vote in the poll below! 🙂

A House Divided

I’ve been in a book club for almost 6 years now (it will be 6 years in July). I’ve really enjoyed the chance to read books that I normally might not have chosen to read, and the friendships forged through the sharing of thoughts and ideas will last a lifetime! 🙂

Before I joined this lovely group of ladies, they had been together as a book club for a while. One of the gals has been so organised as to write down each of the books that the club has read since she joined (a month or so after its inception). She emailed me the list, and I’ve been on a quest to read as many of the books on the list that I haven’t already read as possible.

One of those books was Pearl S. Buck’s ‘The Good Earth’. It was a book that I’d always intended to read, but never gotten around to. I finally read it last year and enjoyed it.  Imagine my surprise though, when I discovered that it was the first in a trilogy!

‘A House Divided’ is the last book in the trilogy (the second book being called ‘Sons’). It chronicles the young adult years (from 19-26) of the grandson of Wang Lung, who was the focus of ‘The Good Earth’.

Yuan feels trapped between the differing mindsets of 2 very different generations. He feels honour-bound to obey his father, who is very much a traditionalist, yet feels drawn to the cries of freedom he hears from those who are his contemporaries.

Repulsed by the fact that his father wants to force him into marriage, Yuan eventually sides with the other young people in the midst of the revolution in China. But, as he spends 6 years abroad, and then returns home to his people, Yuan comes to realise that there needs to be a bridge built between the old traditions, and the new freedoms in order to truly bring peace to himself and his family.

The ‘Good Earth’ trilogy is very good. I really enjoyed reading what happened to Wang Lung and his descendants. That said, I did find that I needed a break during the middle of ‘A House Divided’ (see previous post), simply because the subject matter and writing are a bit heavier than the tone of most books written now.

3 of 5 stars

2011 Page Count ~ 2051

PS ~ stay tuned for a progress report on the SOSC tomorrow night! 🙂  Hopefully there will be pictures! 😉

Prom & Prejudice

Have you ever been reading a book, and you were enjoying it, but just needed a break? Right now, I’m in the middle of “A House Divided”, the 3rd book in  the “Good Earth” trilogy. I’m enjoying the book, but let’s face it, sometimes Pearl S. Buck can be a little ‘heavy’.

So, I needed a quick, ‘fluffy’ read as a break from the Buck. (Does that sound as funny as I think it does?)

“Prom & Prejudice” by Elizabeth Eulberg fit the bill perfectly.  As the title suggests, this is a retelling of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice”, but with a modernised prep school twist.

Lizzie Bennet is a scholarship (read not wealthy) student at Longbourn Academy. Her best friend, Jane, is crushing on Charles Bingley (an A-lister at nearby Pemberley Academy), and of course Jane invites Lizzie along for the ride, where she meets Charles’ friend Will Darcy, who for all appearances, has decided that all scholarship students are scum.  Humour ensues, yadda yadda yadda . . .

Since I’m very familiar with the “Pride and Prejudice” storyline, this was a quick, easy and delightful read . . . the perfect KitKat break!  😉

3 stars

2011 Page Count ~ 1698

Three Cups of Tea

This was the book club pick for January.  It’s been on my list of books to-read for a while, so I’m really glad I had the chance to read it finally! 🙂

This book tells the story of Greg Mortenson, a former mountain climber who now is head of the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan to provide a secular education to children (especially girls) who might otherwise not have that opportunity.

I had heard of Mortenson’s work before, and was intrigued while reading the story of how the CAI came to be.  It was amazing to me to see the humility and willingness to learn that Greg had amongst the people in northern Pakistan . . . especially that he paid so close attention to the words of the leader of Korphe, Haji Ali.

The book was hard to get into at first, and the last few chapters kind of dragged a bit.  The middle was my favourite part . . . this is one of those stories that reads like an adventure novel, when it is, in actuality, completely non-fiction!

A friend of mine told me that she had read the second part of Mortenson’s story (“Stones Into Schools”) and enjoyed it much better than “Three Cups” . . . perhaps because in “Stones”, Mortenson does not use a co-author.  Either way, I’m excited to explore more into the life and work of this remarkable man! 🙂

4 stars

2011 Page Count ~ 1467

Even Now/Ever After

I’m reviewing 2 books today . . . the 2 books in Karen Kingsbury’s “Lost Love” series.

The first book in the series, “Even Now”, tells the story of Shane and Lauren, teenagers whose friendship grows into love at a young age.  An unexpected pregnancy leaves their parents sure that something must be done to protect the reputations and hearts of their son and daughter, and Shane and Lauren are forced to separate.    The book also tells of their daughter, Emily, and her search for the parents she never knew.

In “Ever After”, Emily (now a college student), meets a young soldier named Justin who turns her world upside down.  Their love for each other, built on faith in God, is a bright light, not only in their own lives, but in the lives of those around them.  Shane and Lauren, whose political differences have drawn them apart yet again, must learn that sacrifice requires true love and that true love cannot exist without sacrifice.

I really enjoyed both these books, as I enjoy all of Kingsbury’s novels.  The characters she creates are so real that sometimes I just want to give them a hug, or wring their neck (depending on how annoying their behaviour is!) 😆  Though Shane, Lauren and Emily were the three main characters in each book, I enjoyed Emily most as a character.  I thought Kingsbury’s portrayal of Emily as a young woman of real faith was spot-on.

I’m a big fan of Christian fiction, and Karen Kingsbury is one of my favourite authors in this genre . . . “Even Now” and “Ever After” are really good books! (4 stars each!)

2011 Page Count ~ 1467 (including a yet to be reviewed book)

PS ~ read the post below and vote in my polls if you’ve not done so already!  polls will ‘close’ tomorrow evening 🙂