June 19, 2017

Review: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

After thoroughly enjoying Jody Hedlund's An Uncertain Choice trilogy, as well as Newton and Polly, I knew I'd want to try more of her stories. And once again I was not disappointed! As a reader who used to devour historical novels but has become drawn to contemporaries more often of late, it takes an exceptional author to get me back in the genre again. Let me just say that Ms. Hedlund is definitely exceptional! :) The characters, the setting, it drew me in and left me with all the feels by the final pages.

I grew rather fond of Elise as her journey progressed. She's had such a rough life and I admired her strength to keep going in spite of everything. I cannot imagine the sheer determination required of those who lived back then, the squalor and painful, hard work that they endured every single day. Makes me glad to live in modern times, for sure! I loved watching Elise create this new little family around her once she arrives out west. Especially how her friendship with Fanny grows slowly, but surely.

And then there's Thornton! I admit to getting a little thrill every time his name was on the page, just because it reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell's John Thornton. (swoon ;) This Thornton is fairly swoonworthy as well, he and Elise certainly have great chemistry! Yet I was glad that they were both given a nice dose of reality in the initial stages of their romance because they needed it. But never let it be said that I didn't enjoy their adorableness together! For all their differences, they truly did complement each other very nicely.

I was easily swept up into these characters lives and was more than happy to stay there as long as possible! I do have to say that the ending felt slightly abrupt to me though. I figure that's mostly for setup to get me interested in book two and it worked! So while it kind of bothered me, I can easily forgive it. And anticipate the months until the next book comes out! :)

**I received a complimentary copy via Bethany House. All opinions expressed are my own.

"Was that the way it was with God too? When she was hurting and crushed by the weight of heartache, was God there holding on to her hand, telling her He'd never let her go?"

"The only sound that rose in the night was the lonely whistle of the train preparing to leave. Without her."

"How about if we forget about eating sandwiches and just start with the pie?"

"She was stuck into unbreakable patterns in so many ways. So many people of her class were and had so little hope of change."

June 6, 2017

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-Eight

I'm trying to keep up with all my reading a little better this year, as in attempting to write my review in the not too distant aftermath of reading a book. So! That means I have more mini reviews for y'all! :)

True to You by Becky Wade
I don't know how Ms. Wade does it, but she excels at writing romances that make me swoon! John has some serious and oh-so-sizzling chemistry with Nora. And Nora herself is a bookworm librarian who loves period dramas! Perfect combination in my book. :) I loved their interactions, and how totally gone over him Nora was. It was pretty much love at first sight for her, and while John took a bit more time (silly man!), their genuine friendship was a wonderful build up to their eventual romance. They simply complemented each other, in spite of all the ways they were so vastly different. And the plot twist near the end was completely unexpected! (In a good way.) As was how very anxious I am to read the other two sisters' stories now. Aaahhh, I dislike waiting! ;)

Yet I also have to mention that, for as much as I love this story, I have a few quibbles with it as well. The main one being a particular plot point. After all the angst Nora feels in the beginning due to what had happened to her in the past, I was disappointed that she essentially does the same thing to someone else. I do realize it wasn't intentional on her part, but I just wasn't a fan of the fact that she ends up helping hurt someone else the same way she was hurt, unintentionally or not. I will say that Ms. Wade does handle the situation very nicely overall, so that helps. Quibbles and all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it!

Model Misfit by Holly Smale
I love Harriet Manners! I mean, how can you not? She's a bit clumsy, a lot insecure, fabulously geeky, and all around awesome! Her adventures never fail to make me grin. And her knowledge of all things random is the BEST. I love how she spouts off all these odd facts to everyone around her. Yet it's not just her intelligence that endears her to me, it's how she learns and grows through the story. She has much to learn about life and much to enjoy at the same time! And she is constantly working her way through the myriad of characters surrounding her, some becoming the best of friends and some not so much, especially in this book. I'm not sure whether Japan was really ready for Harriet, nor that she was ready for it, but there she goes anyway. Through everything that happens, she never loses her inherent "Harriet-ness", for which I am grateful! I love her to pieces, faults and all, and cannot wait to read about more of her adventures in the next few books. Harriet Manners for the win! :)

My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Sophie Kinsella writes very addictive stories! Catchy and fun, I pick them up and can't put them down until I'm finished. While I admit that it took a bit before I decided I liked Katie herself, once she leaves the city behind, I quickly found myself swept up into her life. She doesn't always make the right choices, but is smart enough to figure out ways to make the best of them. Once Demeter enters her life again, the fun really begins! I simultaneously laughed and cringed my way through Katie's antics, and the friendship that slowly springs up between the two is wonderful to watch.

The romance bits were cute and funny as well. I wasn't sure about our hero for a while, but he gradually tugged me over to his side, and he and Katie's chemistry was rather nicely complementary to the rest of the story. They moved a bit more quickly than I had anticipated, but overall I liked watching them figure each other out and grow closer. This isn't a perfect story by any means, but has just the right amount of sweet and serious, coupled with several laugh out loud moments. Very enjoyable!

June 5, 2017

How I Feel About Audiobooks

So I occasionally (read: like only four times in the last five years) have participated in Booking Through Thursday. (And yes, I DO realize this is a Monday.) I happened to notice this question from a couple years ago and my mind started spinning! :)

I’m guessing most of you like reading (or why would you be here), how do you feel about audio books?

For me, “reading” means using my eyes, not my ears. As much as I acknowledge their usefulness while doing chores or using your hands, I only ever use audiobooks for the rare long drive–listening, no matter how pleasant, is not READING, yet people persist in telling me they like to read and that audio books are their favorites. Am I the only one to feel that’s just not the same thing?
I admit that when I finally got around to trying audiobooks a few years ago, I never even considered whether I should count the book as actually read or not. I just counted it and went on! But then I periodically started noticing fellow bloggers talking about how they counted them as books read or they didn't and all the reasons why or why not. So thinking about it more in depth, I have officially come to this conclusion:

Whichever way I read the story makes no difference to me, I'm still counting it on my list of Books I've Read.

Now! I should clarify that both sides have lots of great reasons for why they count them or why they don't. And I even agree with lots of those reasons! But my personal reasoning is simply this, audiobooks consist of having someone else read the story to you, no different than when I was a child and my mother read to me before bedtime. Perhaps I didn't physically have book in hand and my eyes reading the actual words, yet I still know the story. I know exactly what happened and who did what and said what. In fact, I have figured out that by listening to a story versus reading it, I can sometimes gain a deeper appreciation for it.

Take, for example, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I listened to the audio before I read the book and the narrators did such a fantastic job that I fell in love with the story immediately. I figure I would've loved the story regardless, but the experience of hearing the different voices and accents make the story more pleasurable than just me reading it in my head (where I can't do justice to those lovely accents, for the record!). I would say the same thing about The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien. The actual books intimidated me, so I thought listening might be easier and it was!

I read this post that stated it was more a question of how you define "reading" and I think the writer has a point. All that being said, I am, by no means, saying that my opinion is Right or Correct. It's just my opinion and there you have it.

The most important thing of all is that stories are taken in, providing a sense of connection in the reader, and thoroughly enjoyed! Regardless of how it's consumed. :)

June 3, 2017

Percy and Books

Percy does not like it when I read a book.
He puts his face over the top of it, and moans. 
He rolls his eyes, sometimes he sneezes. 
The sun is up, he says, and the wind is down. 
The tide is out, and the neighbor’s dogs are playing. 
But Percy, I say, Ideas! The elegance of language!
The insights, the funniness, the beautiful stories 
that rise and fall and turn into strength, or courage. 
Books? says Percy. I ate one once, and it was enough. Let’s go.

~ Mary Oliver


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