Sunday, January 29, 2012

Library Loot: Jan 29

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Today I exercised restraint and only got one book from the church library. I wasn’t going to get anything but then stopped to look if they had something on Ephesians since that is what my small group is studying at the moment. I found:
  • Looking up when you feel down by Gene A. Gets (Regal Books, 1985)
From the church library last week I still have:
  • Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson (Multnomah Publishers, 2002)
  • Forever After by Deborah Raney (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
And from the church library before that I still have:
  • The Trophy Chase Trilogy: The Legend of the Firefish; The Hand that bears the Sword; and The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House Publishers, 2007, 2007, 2008)
  • Gods & Kings: a novel by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, 2005)
  • Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley (B&H Publishing Group, 2008)
  • The Healers Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan, 2010) (a great book but I just haven’t written the review for it yet, hopefully this week…)
  • Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies’ Table by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis (Doubleday Religion, 2010) (I checked this out ages ago and just haven’t gotten around to it, I am thankful for renewals)
And from the public library I have:
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009) (again, haven’t written the review yet)
  • Chalice by RobinMcKinley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008) (written the review, just haven’t returned it yet)
  • Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011)
  • Hawksmaid : the untold story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian by Kathryn Lasky (Harper, 2010)
  • Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, 2011) (which I had better read soon because there’s a waiting list and it’s due in a week)
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (first published in book form in 1881) (Again I am very grateful for renewals! Should I admit that I’ve renewed this nine times and haven’t opened it since November? Last summer my sister and I decided we should read more of the BBC Top 100 books and this was one I checked out. But am obviously having trouble picking up again…)
  • The Amaranth enchantment by Julie Berry (Bloomsbury, 2009)
  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the making of the modern Middle East by Michael B. Oren (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Tiger Trap: America’s secret spy war with China by David Wise (Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
  • The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Harper Collins, 2009)
And from a friend I’m borrowing:
  • Just between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson, 2009)
What do you have checked out from the library? Which books do you keep renewing?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chalice by Robin McKinley

Chalice by Robin McKinley. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008. 263p. (978-0-399-24676-0)

This was a very interesting book. I wasn’t sure how I liked it during the first chapter or so. It took awhile to get used to reading some of the character’s names as names. For example, Chalice is the name of one of the main characters. Next to the Master she is the second most important person in Willowlands and in the ruling council, the Circle. Some of the other Circle members have names that take getting used to without the ‘the’ in front – Oakstaff, Clearseer.

Chalice by Robin McKinley tells the story of Mirasol who became Chalice when the old Chalice died along with the Master. Normally the next Chalice would have been apprenticed but that had not happed so Mirasol had to figure out everything for herself with the help of books and an intuition that seemed to grow inside of her.

The former Master had not taken care of the demesne nor had he listened to the earthlines (the land itself is a “living being”). To make matters worse he had left no heir and had banished his brother to become an Elemental priest of fire. Due to the unusual circumstances the Fire priests had allowed the brother to return, a rare occurrence and a difficult process since the Elemental priests took on the qualities of their element. When the new master returned and Chalice offered him the welcome cup, heat raged from his bare hand and when his hand “only barely, fleetingly glanced” off of her hand, she was severely burnt.

The people are uneasy due to the strangeness of the new Master and because of the accident. And soon a threat comes to Willowland from beyond its borders. Chalice knows that the Master, the Circle and herself need to work together to heal the land, calm the earthlines and prevent even greater disruptions.

Writing this book review taught me a new word. Throughout the book McKinley refers to the land as the demesne and I wasn’t sure if that was a made up word and if not what it really meant. Well, while writing this I decided to look it up. It’s a real word and here’s the definition (according to
     de·mesne   [dih-meyn, -meen]  noun
  1. possession of land as one's own: land held in demesne.
  2. an estate or part of an estate occupied and controlled by, and worked for the exclusive use of, the owner.
  3. land belonging to and adjoining a manor house; estate.
  4. the dominion or territory of a sovereign or state; domain.
  5. a district; region.

I enjoyed this story. Robin McKinley, a Newberry award winning author, has written several retellings of fairytales and I was expecting this to be one, but it isn’t. It’s very unique – especially how Chalice’s honey and honeybees played a part, and kept me wondering how the story would end.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another blogger's book contest

Last week I posted my book review of Veiled Rose, a terrific book that I highly recommend. Tonight I was catching up on my blog reading and discovered that Anne Elisabeth Stengl is running a contest this week and the prize is her next book, Moonblood which is coming out in April.  Wouldn't you love to win a copy? I know I would! I'm still working on my caption for the unicorn. That's right! You have to write a caption/description of the unicorn she has pictured. So head on over to her blog and start up your imagination.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble

Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble. Thomas Nelson, 2011. 333pg. (978-1-59554-269-4)

Eden and Clay Larson got married after they met in Hawaii and she got pregnant. It was a rocky marriage from the beginning and when their baby girl was kidnapped and then assumed dead Eden couldn’t handle it anymore and filed for divorce. Five years later Eden has become a Christian and is dating a man she met at church, she knows he’s about to propose but still hasn’t summoned up the courage to tell him about her divorce and baby girl. And then Clay walks into the restaurant and tells her they are still married because he never signed the papers and he tells her he may have found their little girl. Someone sent him a postcard of five smiling little girls at the Bluebird Ranch and a note on the back, “Your daughter misses you. You’d better hurry if you want to see her.”

In order to find out which girl in the photo is theirs, Eden agrees to pose as his happily married wife so they can get a job at the Bluebird Ranch, a foster-care transition ranch. But it’s not as simple as getting DNA samples from the girls and waiting for the results. There’s her mom who abandoned her to be dealt with, a drug lord, disappearing and reappearing pickup trucks, burning sheds, children to be loved and disciplined, and a husband to fall in love with.

I didn’t like this book as well as Colleen Coble’s other books in the series, Lonestar Secrets, Lonestar Sanctuary and Lonestar Homecoming. (Though you don’t have to read them as a series, they stand alone very well, and you don’t really realize it’s a series although the characters from the first ones appear in the later ones.) It just doesn’t seem natural that Eden would at the drop of a hat go with Clay and that the couple who hired them as dorm parents proceeds as if nothing wrong happened when Clay and Eden confess their ulterior motives and marital troubles. And all the plot twists regarding Eden’s mother and father seem a bit farfetched.

After reading the other Lonestar books I guess I was expecting a bit more or something a little different from Lonestar Angel. It’s still a fun and enjoyable read. (And don't worry, I'll get around to writing a review for the other books in the near future.)

Steamy notice: Eden and Clay are technically still married and they share a bed. A couple of kisses are shared and it’s implied that they have sex once. I’m actually writing this book review a week or two after reading the book and couldn’t really remember anything other than knowing there were some kisses. Abbie’s review of the book at Abbie’s Reading Corner reminded me of the rest.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. 344p. (978-0-618-959716)

The full title is Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollection, in Four Parts. As the subtitle suggests this book is written from the perspective of Princess Ben whose goal in writing the book is to “provide the most accurate chronology” of her life and to correct “the erroneous legends and embroidered falsehoods that to this day expand, heady as yeast, across the land.” And thus it begins.

Princess Ben’s life dramatically changes when her mom and uncle (who is the king) both die and her father mysteriously disappears without a trace and cannot be found. Queen Sophia, Ben’s strict, unpleasant aunt, takes her into the palace and tries to teach her how to be a proper princess. Montagne is a small kingdom protected by very high mountains from the kingdom of Drachensbett (Dragon’s bed), a powerful foe who has tried to conquer Montagne, and for the sake of the throne Princess Ben needs to find a prince or other nobleman willing to marry her. Unfortunately, her manners are sorely lacking, she can’t dance and she loves rich foods and sweets a bit too much. In desperation Queen Sophia locks Ben into a high tower each night both as punishment for her unwillingness to learn and to prevent anyone from slipping her treats. One night Ben makes a startling discovery and her life is once again significantly altered.

Catherine Gilbert Murdock does an amazing job weaving in bits and pieces of other fairy tales. For instance, Ben meets a peasant boy leading a cow and since she is in need of a mount offers to trade the cow for a handful of green glass bits. When he asks if they’re magic she nodded and “wincing, uttered the first lie that entered my head: “They’re beans.” P “Can I have them all?” he begged. P “Of course.” …What became of him, I do not know, but to this day I think of him with gratitude.” Do you recognize what story that scene takes place in? Parts of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White, and references to many other less well known fairy tales are woven into the story.

Princess Ben is written for young adults, but the vocabulary Catherine Gilbert Murdock uses is not often found in YA fiction. I had to look up a definition once or twice. Sometimes the story gets a bit wordy and there are way too many synonyms or inserted comments, but the story is told from Ben’s perspective and she inserts her observations and opinions whenever she wants to.

A clean fun read that is not too quick. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more books by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake. Bethany House, 2010. 352p. (978-0-7642-0321-3)

Maggie Rose is just 21, but she looks after and feeds about a dozen old men she calls uncles although only one is really related. The tiny town of Carver’s Holler, Arkansas is a dying town that lost all of its womenfolk and children (except Maggie) to a cholera epidemic (the men were off helping with a church construction project). It still has a train station though, which is fortunate for Todd Valmer whose mother had a stroke on the train. Maggie is a well-respected healer in that area and Todd is advised to take his mother there. Although at first he doesn’t want to accept that a woman healer is as good or better than a doctor, he does admit that “the young gal was what Ma called a touch of serendipity – something unexpected that brought gladness or thanksgiving.” (pg 36)

A Texas farmer, Todd has his hands full enough running a farm during a drought and knows that he can’t take care of his half paralyzed and bitter mother. So with the blessing of Maggie’s uncle he proposes to her and they get married. The rest of the story is how they adjust to married life living in a one room cabin with a cranky mother-in-law and how the three of them work out their cultural differences and traditions – she’s from rural Arkansas while the Valmers are German and they are now living in Texas.

This is the second book I’ve read by Cathy Marie Hake. I did enjoy Serendipity for the most part – I’ve always enjoyed marriage of convenience stories, but I wasn’t drawn into the time period and the ending was very rushed. The story is supposed to take place in 1893 but it felt more like modern characters plopped in a setting where horse drawn wagons are the norm and there are no ovens. Sometimes it felt like there were electric lights in the barn because of how well they could see each other or things in the barn and the stalls – no mention was ever made of lamps. But maybe it had lots of windows?

The characters are very interesting and Mrs. Hake does a great job weaving into the story events that shaped the character of Todd, Maggie and his mother. Although it’s never clearly stated how Maggie is able to have such a huge amount of patience with her mother-in-law.

I enjoyed it while reading it and didn’t want to put it down (but then I never like putting a book down) but was left feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end and felt as though something were missing. If you enjoy marriage of convenience stories or stories about spunky girls and aren’t too picky about the historical feel you may find this an enjoyable read.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Bethany House, 2011. 394p. Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood, #2 (978-0-7642-0782-2)

I loved this book. It’s fantastic! So much adventure and mystery, a myriad of strange and powerful creatures, happenings in the seen and unseen world, and plenty of love, hate, loyalty and betrayal. The plot is intricate, the characters interesting and the author has an amazing imagination!

This is book two in the series and I’d encourage you to read the first book, Heartless, before reading Veiled Rose as the stories overlap and share a few characters. It’s not essential but helps fill in the story a bit. The first is very enjoyable and just as imaginative and rich a tale as this one.

The summer he was eleven Leo was sent to Hill House under the care of his aunt. He was a privileged boy of noble birth who thought the hills and mountains surrounding Hill House far more alluring than his studies. The servants and village folk spoke in worried tones about a monster than lived in the region and Leo decided he would spend his summer searching for and then fighting the monster. Instead he finds Rose Red. A strange girl clothed in rags and wrapped in veils, who is amazingly strong for one so little, and who knows the hills and mountains (and their secrets) like a taxi cab driver knows his city.

Leo and Rose Red have great fun together playing in a stream, wandering the forest and pretending to hunt the monster. But there are forces fighting to guide their steps that they are unaware of that summer. When Leo returns to Hill House several summers later and then takes Rose Red under his care as a servant (her father had died) a very real dragon appears, forcing them to each hunt and fight the monster on their own. But at what cost?

At the end an excerpt from the next book Moonblood is given and it promises to tell more about Rose Red. It comes out in April 2012 and I can’t wait! Plus I just discovered Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog and can’t wait to explore it. Though if you don’t want to spoil Veiled Rose, I’d suggest you don’t read the A-Z blog series she started this month as a run up to the release of book three, but her Dragon Tuesday posts from Oct-Dec last year are quite fun and informative.

Loved these books! They are clean as a shiny new whistle. No “adult” scenes or bad language. The writing is excellent (usually I can whip through a book in no time, but the story is so complex that it takes me a bit longer, which is nice), the setting well developed and described and the characters fascinating. Highly recommend it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray. Avon Inspire, 2008. 223p. Sisters of the Heart Series, #1 (978-0-06-147445-3)

This was a late Christmas present from my best friend (yay for unexpected packages!). It’s a quick fun read. I don’t usually pick up books about the Amish but I did enjoy this one.

When Anna was young her mom took her to an Amish bed and breakfast for a weekend together to learn to quilt. Katie’s family runs the B&B and the two girls hit it off, writing to each other and Anna usually visited once or twice a year.

By age 24 Anna’s life has been marked by indecision and flightiness – she went to several colleges, but never graduated, has had many boyfriends and can’t stick with a job. When Anna needs to get away from her abusive and controlling boyfriend, Rob, who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives, Anna runs to Katie’s and hides there. The Brenneman’s take her in and with a ready will she helps Katie and Mrs. Brenneman with the household chores. Only Henry, Katie’s older brother, is a bit wary about having an “Englisher” amongst them. But after Anna and Henry get to know each other a bit, they see past the assumptions they have formed and a special friendship begins to form. Yet he’s Amish and she’s not and one or the other will have to change if anything will happen between them.

Towards the end Katie’s friendship with Anna seemed to change a bit which wasn’t explained very well. But the second book in the series (Wanted) is about Katie and the two preview chapters at the end of Hidden help explain a little about what Katie was thinking and feeling. I also really liked Anna’s friend Julia who played an important part in helping Anna decide what she should do about Henry, and I hope the Shelley Shepard Gray decides to write a story about her as well.

I enjoyed the story, it seemed plausible, most of the characters were well developed, and when Bible verses were quoted or prayers said it seemed very natural and wasn’t preachy at all.

The supporting characters, Anna’s parents, and the Brenneman’s were less well developed. Anna’s mom, Meredith seemed to go from being a poor parent, to trusting God that Anna was safe, to not trusting or listening to God when she knew Anna was alright. Which I suppose leaning on God in times of trouble and then ignoring Him when all seems well is a human tendency, but in Meredith if felt as if she were two different people. Mr. Brenneman is brought into the story only when there’s an important decision to make, and while Mrs. Brenneman is in there a bit more it’s usually to give wise council to Anna, Henry and Katie or to assign chores.

It’s a fun, clean read; if you enjoy stories about the Amish you might enjoy this one – though it doesn’t give a whole lot of details or information about their life.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie DickersonThe Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
Zondervan, 2011 272p

This is the second book by Melanie Dickerson that I’ve read. I loved the first one and have been looking forward to The Merchant’s Daughter. When I read The Healer’s Apprentice I was not expecting a retelling of a fairy tale so it was late in the book that I noticed that it was Sleeping Beauty-esque. With this one it’s quite obvious that it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The author sticks fairly close to the most common retellings of the tale, but adds a couple plot adaptations and additions which I absolutely loved.

It was fun seeing how she used bits and pieces of the Disney movie in her plot. For example, Mistress Eustacia is a warm, caring, wise cook and housekeeper – exactly what Mrs. Pott would be in human form. The names also have ties to the traditional and Disney names: Annabel (Belle or Beauty) and Ranulf le Wyse (Ranulf, which has its origins in Germanic and Scandinavia, means ‘raven wolf’ or ‘wolf-like advice – depending on which website you use). Prior to becoming the new lord of Glynval he had been scarred and slightly maimed by a wolf when coming to the aid of a servant girl. One eye had also been scratched out by the wolf.    

As I’m writing this, the line “there must be more than this provincial life” keeps running through my head. And Annabel does long for more than life in the village as the impoverished youngest daughter of a deceased merchant father and lazy mother. She longs to enter a convent so that she can have the opportunity to read the Bible and to escape Bailiff Tom who wants to marry her. But due to her mother and brother’s laziness and the recent death of her father the family has accrued a large amount of debt, Annabel chooses to become and indentured servant for three years to the new lord to pay off the debt. Mistress Eustacia plays matchmaker and keeps arranging for Annabel to be near or serve Ranulf. And the rest is history. But with several fun plot twists that you’ll just have to read for yourself. 

I loved this book and if you enjoy retellings of fairy tales and Christian fiction than chances are you’ll enjoy The Merchant’s Daughter.

Go read it! Wake County; Find it at a library near you; Buy it from CBD

P.S. Have you ever listened to any of the Beauty & Beast songs in French? They're quite fun! Here's the song that was running through my head (except it was in English, not French):

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


When I was little I couldn’t pronounce my name so I called myself Rina (pronounced reena). My mom taught my best friend and me how to read when we were about 5. Patricia caught on much more quickly than I and I became discouraged. I remember one night crying as my mom tucked me into bed and worrying that I’d never be able to read as well as Patricia. Well, I love to read and have for many years. I could have saved myself and my mom some worry those many years ago.

When I was 14, I read over 250 books (for a total of more than 47,000 pages) – a personal record. My love of books and reading inspired me to get my master’s in library science when I grew up. But now I’m an unemployed librarian with too much time on my hands. So I’ve decided to share some of the many books I read and have read.

If you like history, romance (specifically Christian romance) or inspirational fiction, a bit of adventure and mystery, fairy tales and an occasional non-fiction book then chances are you’ll find something to add to your to-read-list.

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