July 26, 2016

Review: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Several blogging friends have been telling me for years that I really needed to read this one, they were so right! I had determined that 2016 was the year it would happen, so yay for sticking to my resolution. Because Valancy's story is SO wonderful! :)

The biggest reason I loved this book was Valancy herself. She starts out completely stifled and lost. Her sense of self is pretty much nonexistent, and while she's somewhat self-aware of this fact, she also doesn't know how to change it. Until some devastating news decides her on a new course. I loved her internal dialogues! She's quite funny and smart actually, she's just let fear take over her life and keep that side of her from shining out. As she quietly (mostly) starts making choices in spite of her fears and begins finding her brave, her beautiful heart finally becomes apparent to others. I also loved how she came to know herself better by actively choosing to do something big for someone else. And that leads to new friendships and experiences. She makes a few mistakes, she has so much to learn you know, but always has her imagination to fall back on. Her "blue castle", as she calls it, starts out as just a perfect ideal in her head and ends up becoming very real.

Valancy's journey is populated with several people, most notably her horrible and stiff family, as well as Roaring Abel, his daughter Cecilia, and of course Barney Snaith. Oh what can be said about the notorious Barney Snaith! (I was greatly amused by the fact that he's always referred to by both his first and last names.) Known for doing everything horrible imaginable, true or not, he's quite mysterious and intriguing. So naturally, Valancy is intrigued. (Hamlette pictured him as Michael Fassbender and I find that easy to go along with. :) While we may figure out where their friendship is headed, the actual events to get there happen most unexpectedly. For this is Valancy's story, and while Barney becomes a part of it, her path is so much more than romance. (Although the romance bits are certainly very sweet and adorable!)

Letting go of fear and finding your brave is never easy (certainly not in real life!), so Valancy has several ups and downs. But she pushes on, determined to actually live her life and not let it just happen to her. Which is the ultimate lesson from this story. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured! And if a wonderful little book such as this makes it more enjoyable, then that's just even better. Read this one, friends! Move it up your TBRs, dive in, and be prepared for happiness! :)

And everyone knew that he was an escaped convict and a defaulting bank clerk and a murderer in hiding and an infidel and an illegitimate son of old Roaring Abel Gay and the father of Roaring Abel's illegitimate grandchild and a counterfeiter and a forger and a few other awful things. But still Valancy didn't believe he was bad. Nobody with a smile like that could be bad, no matter what he had done.

"Oh, but you know we're all dead," said Valancy, "the whole Stirling clan. Some of us are buried and some aren't--yet. That is the only difference."

"A plate of apples, an open fire, and 'a jolly goode booke' are a fair substitute for heaven."

July 25, 2016

Review: The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

This book, y'all. This book has my heart! Why? Because Charlie. Oh my stars, how I fell for that man! I was SO not prepared for him to worm his way to the very depths of my heart and refuse to ever come out again! I don't know that I can accurately describe with words for you to understand what is so very special about him. I think you just have to meet him and then you'll know. Oh then you'll know, friends! :) His heart is one of the tenderest and purest of any male protagonist I've ever met. While Ella may notice his looks first (who wouldn't?! ;), it's his heart that captures all her attention. And mine!

Do you have any authors who you've seen nothing but lovely reviews for their books, you even own a couple of said books, yet you've not actually read one? Sounds crazy, right? I cannot explain why on earth this particular story was the first I've ever read by Ms. Bischof, but believe me, I plan to pick up her others as soon as I possibly can! Because if this beautiful story is proof of her amazing talent with the pen, then I can only imagine that her other books are wonderful as well. And I think you should do the same. Charlie is so worth meeting, friends! He truly is.

But you need to meet Ella too! And Holland. And Regina. Each character is so vividly described and even the side characters add much to the story! Plus I confess that I'm particularly fond of the setting, considering it's an area I know very well. Virginia is the home of my heart, as I grew up there, and getting a taste of what it must have been like during the Victorian era is fun! As for the circus itself, this is my first time reading about that life. I remember a few things I learned at some point in my past, like the sideshows that were involved, but I'd never truly imagined what those people's lives must have been like. I hurt for them as much as I loved them. And I absolutely loved the way they were their own little family. When you live and work with people for years and years, it makes sense that you'd create strong bonds between you. Bonds that would never go away, no matter the time or distance. Bonds that sustained you through all the hard that inevitably comes in life. Bonds that meant you could truly be yourself with each other, open up and be vulnerable together.

That's what I feel like Ms. Bischof did with this story. The characters so tentatively opened up and were vulnerable to me. They showed the tender sides of their hearts, as if waiting to see what I would do, and then proceeded to gently sweep me into their fold, never to let go. The beauty in what they shared became powerful lessons not to be forgotten! As the hours and days after finishing this story proved, for I still cannot let go. These characters, Charlie especially, have became part of me now. They're in my head, my heart, and there they will stay.

Fellow reader friends, I can only encourage you to read this one! From the first quiet, yet indelibly real and haunting meeting of Ella and Charlie in chapter one, to the final pages where hope reigns no matter the circumstances, this story may capture your heart as it did mine. And I'll never be the same.

From head to toe she was perfect and there wasn't a single part of her that was less than.

"But there is a part of you that isn't whole."
When she blinked quickly, he reached out and nearly pressed his fingers to where her heart lived. "It grieves me to think of why that is and I can't go another minute without telling you that there is a God. And He loves you so much. He aches for you. He can be a jealous God, and at times even angry. I believe..." with his whole heart... "that He is both of those on your behalf."

July 18, 2016

Mailbox Monday :: Edition the Second

Do you remember long ago when I participated in this meme for the first (and only) time? You probably don't. It was pretty insignificant really. But! As I went book shopping this weekend, I found a couple beauties and decided now would be the perfect time to join in again! I mean, who doesn't love to add books to their towering TBRs or just admire beautiful covers?

{For any and all info about this meme, please click here.}

So let's get to the pretties...

Firstly, I admit to buying this one purely because of that gorgeous cover! The colors are even more amazing in real life, for the record. :) But it also happens to be the final book of a series that has been on my radar for a few years. I've been impatiently waiting for this one to come out so I could read the series. Y'all know how I much prefer reading an entire series in one fell swoop! Thus, I decided the best option was to purchase the last book first. Great plan, right? Makes perfect sense? ;) Still, perfect sense or not, I am very pleased to have this sitting on my bookshelf in all it's prettiness.

I know a certain someone (*ahem* Emma) is going to be thrilled to see Yankee Stranger in that picture! I have it on my TBR because of her. And you don't know how excited I was to find that copy. The book isn't in print anymore, so this was a huge (and happy!) surprise! :) I already own a copy of The Scorpio Races, but I love that book so much I could not leave it at the store! Perhaps I should have a giveaway for it? (Would anyone actually be interested?) And A Grief Observed seemed appropriate for my life right now. I've always enjoyed C.S. Lewis' books, but I've never read this one.

So! What books have you bought recently?

July 15, 2016

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-Two

More reviews! Yay! (I hope.) Anyhoo, still doing a bit of catch up, so here goes. :)

All Who Dream by Nicole Deese
This was just a really fun story! Although the beginning took a little bit to smooth out for me, I'm glad I hung in there. Angie and Jackson have pretty great chemistry and the two of them just have this heightened awareness of the other at all times. I loved all their banter and the way they affected each other. But I especially loved the way Jackson befriended Angie's son, Cody. He knew how important Cody is to her and is so very gentle and wonderful. Plus they both have things from their pasts that must be dealt with. All this combined made for a sweet story that made me smile. :)

Secrets of Sunbeams by Valerie Comer
The romance moves a tad bit quick in this one, but that doesn't mean it's not still pretty adorable. Because it is! Eden and Jacob rub each other the wrong way when they first meet, but it's not long before they're unable to deny their attraction. Both tend to be pretty stubborn though, so they find their way together through trial and error. And apologies. I did love Pansy the goat a great deal! She certainly added some adventure and humor to the story. Overall a cute and fluffy read for when you just need something short and sweet.

From Winter's Ashes by Amy Leigh Simpson
I vacillated between really enjoying this book and skimming really quickly through other parts. I loved the romance bits! While it moved a bit quick, it helped tremendously that Joss and Finn had a past and had known one another for several years. There was definite undeniable chemistry going on whenever those two were in close proximity! Much to my delight. :) But the rest of the story kind of lagged for me. The mystery is sufficiently mysterious and does have several edge-of-your-seat moments, but somehow it never pulled me in completely. Not really sure why. Still, I did enjoy reading this one overall.

Gentle Like the Rain by JoAnn Durgin
I loved this! Isabella and Sidney completely captivated me from their first encounter and I laughed my way through each subsequent debate. They click immediately, even though they try and deny it, and their witticisms just flew around constantly when they were near the other. But I also really appreciated the gentle way they treated each other once they realized their attraction was mutual. They were kind in the face of both of their pasts and gave each other the space to make the right choices for themselves. Plus they were just hilarious, did I mention that? ;) Definitely one I'm glad to have on my shelf for rereading purposes!

Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon
Adventure and romance on the high seas! What more could a reader ask for, right? ;) This is simply a fun story. Taking place both in history and in modern times, Ms. Monzon handles the transitions pretty well (although we always seemed to change POV right after a major cliffhanger! Humph. ;) Both storylines are pretty engrossing, but I have to say I was more invested in Summer and Trent than I was in Isabella. Although Summer and Trent's romance moves rather rapidly, so I was glad that certain parts were handled carefully, yet not swept under the rug. Also Isabella and Summer, both, have a lot to learn, and as the story progressed I thoroughly enjoyed watching as they stumbled around making mistakes, yet always willing to grow from them. I really enjoyed this and look forward to seeing what Ms. Monzon will write next.


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