Monday, September 14, 2015

Inkdeath (Cornelia Funke) - Chapters 1 - 5

I finally got around to starting Inkdeath. Whew. There are always so many books that need reading, especially those that have been loaned to me, and I was beginning to fear that I wouldn't get to Inkdeath this month which would have greatly depressed me. But the time has come, as the Walrus said, and so let us begin. I've never written about individual chapters before so don't be surprised if it takes me a few posts to find my stride.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Like There's No Tomorrow by Camille Eide

Like There's No Tomorrow
Camille Eide
Ashberry Lane Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

 What if loving means letting go?

Scottish widower Ian MacLean is plagued by a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, and an ache for something he’ll never have again. His only hope for freedom is to bring his grannie's sister home from America. But first, he'll have to convince her lovely companion, Emily, to let her go.

Emily Chapman devotes herself to foster youth and her beloved Aunt Grace. Caring for others quiets a secret fear she holds close to her heart. But when Ian appears, wanting to whisk Grace off to Scotland, everything Emily needs to protect—including her heart—is at risk.

Set in central Oregon’s high desert and the lowlands of Scotland, Like There’s No Tomorrow is an amusing yet heart-tugging love story about two kind, single caretakers, two quirky, old Scottish sisters bent on reuniting, and too many agendas. It’s a tale of family, fiery furnaces, falling in love, faith, and the gift of each new day.

 My Official Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
It's always hard to let people go, even when it's best for them. In Emily's case, she loves her Aunt Grace with every fiber of her being, to the point where it's hard for her to imagine a life without her. But what if Grace's place isn't in Oregon, but back home, in Scotland, with her sister Maggie?

For Ian, his letting go involves something quite different. Stagnating hatred and grief have crippled him emotionally for years due to a personal loss, and it's impacted his relationship with God, the God he once loved deeply and who took away his anger before. Ian must discover that some things, like his faith, are worth fighting for while others, like his bitterness, must be turned over to God.

I love this theme, the idea of releasing control into bigger, more capable Hands than our own. Loving doesn't always mean keeping, and the sooner we learn that the better. And then with Ian, he must release his anger in order to become whole again, to trust again. And I especially love how prayer plays such a huge factor in Ian's healing. Not prayer for himself, but a prayer of blessing for the person he hates. That type of prayer brings about healing every time.

The Characters
I thought I would struggle with Emily because she deliberately holds back information from her Aunt Grace. But I couldn't dislike her because I can see her point of view. When you want to protect people, the last thing you want to do is tell them something that could potentially lead to their harm, like elderly Aunt Grace making a trip to Scotland in her frail condition. So Emily hides information, all out of the sincere belief that she's protecting others, but she does reach the point of giving God the reins and it all works out for the best. She learns to trust, and I love that.

Ian I liked from the first, partly because he's Scottish, but also because he's a gentleman, through and through. He's considerate of the people around him, loves his family, and when he and Emily fall in love, he doesn't do it by halves. Plus, he's constructive in his anger. I would say that he manages the "be angry and sin not" instruction pretty well.

Ahhhh, the sisters. Grace and Maggie (the sister who Ian takes care of) are quite the pair. Both of them struggle with mental frailty, and Maggie's going blind to boot, but they're stronger together. I love that. It reminds me of my sister and our relationship and how I always feel that we're stronger together rather than apart. Grace and Maggie have it down. And while Maggie is far spunkier than Grace, she did a little bit of learning of her own this story, very important learning. Sometimes it's harder to accept help than to give it, and she finds that out.

The Writing
I do believe Camille Eide has a gift with character development. Her story is about real people with real problems and fears, and yet all of the characters felt relatable in some way. I could like each of them for their own strengths, because those strengths far outweighed any weaknesses. Yep, there's romance and gushing and all of that good stuff, but it's tastefully written and tender rather than coarse. Ms. Eide has a good handle on how far is just far enough with the physical attraction thing.Well done.

Final Thoughts

I don't read a lot of contemporary writing, frankly because I like historic fiction better, but Like There's No Tomorrow impressed me more than I thought possible. Problems aren't all wrapped up and solved with a neat little bow like most novels I read. Some things don't go away, but this book is a good reminder that we can't simply stop living because we're afraid that something might happen. God doesn't want His children to live their lives in fear and timidity and I cheered when Emily finally moved past her own fear and started considering her future.

Like There's No Tomorrow is a terrific read, and I'm forever indebted to the friend who loaned it to me, and also slightly envious because she knows the author online. Lucky lady!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Remembering Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien
January 3rd, 1892 - September 2nd, 1973

My relationship with Tolkien began with a hobbit, one Bilbo Baggins by name. I was fourteen, browsing the shelves of my local library, and plucked an Alan Lee illustrated copy of The Hobbit from its space. My life is forever changed. Such a wide range of possibilities opened up, an entire new world of wonders. This lead to a glorious span of 4 years as The Lord of the Rings films were released where I eat, slept, and breathed everything Tolkien. Those years are long gone now, but my affection for this man and his stories will never fade.

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist

A Bride in the Bargain
Deeanne Gist
Bethany House Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

In 1860s Seattle, a man with a wife could secure himself 640 acres of timberland. But because of his wife's untimely death, Joe Denton finds himself about to lose half of his claim. Still in mourning, his best solution is to buy one of those Mercer girls arriving from the East. A woman he'll marry in name but keep around mostly as a cook.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Asa Mercer's girls is an escape from the griefs of her past. She's not supposed to be a bride, though, just a cook for the girls. But when they land, she's handed to Joe Denton and the two find themselves in a knotty situation. She refuses to wed him and he's about to lose his land. With only a few months left, can Joe convince this provoking--but beguiling--easterner to be his bride?

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
Joe Denton needs a wife in order to keep from losing half of his land and Anna Ivey wants to start a new life away from all the mistakes of her past.

Along her journey, Anna does discover that she actually wasn't responsible for the death of her father while he served in the Civil War, nor did she make her brother run away to join the Union, or her mother to give up hope. She is not God and so she cannot possibly take responsibility for another person's actions.

Joe learns that it is just possible something else matters more than the land he loves so much.

Okay, there's the theme. I was really hoping for something more than just basic stuff, but really, this is it. Oh well.

The Characters
It took awhile, but I did finally reach the point of liking Anna. Not loving her, but at least liking her. She has a great capacity for compassion and loves to take care of others, a trait that I understand. However, she is incredibly foolish in her beliefs about other people and her beliefs about herself. She felt entirely too self-centered for her own good, making decisions for other people that she really didn't have a right to make. I also don't know why in the world she was assuming Joe only wanted to marry her because of  the land. Um, no, anyone reading could tell he wanted her.

And that's Joe's problem. All I got out of him is that he loved his land and lusted after Anna. His behavior towards her was entirely inappropriate most of the time, and way too gratuitous for a Christian romance. I felt myself inwardly cringing at times because of how he looked at her, or touched her, or kissed her. It felt . . . invasive. And yes, very crude.

And then you have the local doctor who helps both Joe and Anna. Doc Maynard would have been likeable. He's the founder of Seattle, got the ball rolling as it were, attends church with his lovely wife, is very fond of Anna and Joe. And he started the first whorehouse in Seattle. Which I'm sure he must have since he's an actual historical figure. Why even mention that? It feels like we're simply excusing that part of his life simply because he goes to church. I could not excuse him and so, frankly, even when he's doing "good" things for other people as a healer, I still couldn't let myself like him because I knew he brought prostitutes into Seattle. Such a fine, upstanding Christian man.

The Writing
While Deeanne Gist is an excellent writer, I just didn't like this book. I also feel it wasn't her best effort. A few of the plot points felt entirely too convenient, and overall it just felt rushed without anything of real long-lasting value added to the story.

Final Thoughts

This book really disappointed me. Just like in Fair Play, the lead characters were too focused on sins of the flesh. Faith of any kind was an after-thought. Oh, Anna prayed, but it was never in a "God, please lead my path, give me Your instruction, guide me to where You would have me go." No, it was never like that, it was always "God, give me strength as I tell him this." She never asked God for wisdom or anything, just prayed for strength to carry out her own choices. The only real spiritual advice she received was from Doc Maynard and you already know how I feel about him.

I'm finding that Deeanne Gist's books are really hit-or-miss with me. When she adds waaaaaaay too much sexual innuendo and heated looks and heat pooling in the back of stomachs, then I immediately start to lose interest. I'm not reading a trashy paperback, but a Christian romance. There needs to be a distinction and she doesn't quite make it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Top Ten Literary Characters You Didn't Click With

So I've actually altered the name a little to be just literary characters because I really wanted to just blog about it on Bookshelves and not on Musings. It's part of a Top Ten Tuesdays theme and I found it on You, Me, and a Cup of Tea!

Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games
He was entirely too reckless for me to fully like, he was partially responsible for the death of a character I loved, and I was always a Peeta fan, so oh well.

Farid in Inkheart
I didn't mind him in Inkheart, but as the series of books progressed, he got stranger, his possessive love towards Meggie and his very weird obsession with Dustfinger really threw me off. Inkdeath made me happy on many levels, one of them being that Meggie choosing a much, much healthier match.

Sirius Black in The Harry Potter Series
He was a bad influence, a bully, and I didn't like him. In fact, his behavior, which I found deplorable, made me much more a Snape fan than I would have been otherwise.

Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility
I actually feel bad about this one because I know that I should connect to him and I even like Alan Rickman. But I never click with Brandon, he was just sort of there, and that was it. He was nice and all that, but I felt like there should have been something else, something more. Plus, I never saw it working out between him and Marianne and I still hold to that belief. If there were ever a sequel written, I'm sure they would have been miserable.

Mary Poppins in, well, Mary Poppins
I feel good about adding her to this list because I'm talking about the literary character, not Julie Andrews who pretty much everybody loves, and rightly so. Mary Poppins in the book is self-centered, vain, and just all around unpleasant. It was quite an eye-opener and no mistake.

Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings
And when I say Galadriel, I really do mean both book and film. It's not that I ever disliked her, but I never fully understood her either, her motivations or her intent. We just never clicked, and she's one of the very few characters Tolkien wrote where I feel this disconnect. I even connect to Tom Bombadil!

 Thomas in The Maze Runner
I've read the first two books in the series and LOVE the movie. I don't know how such a bland lead character could suddenly have depth, but I suspect Dylan O'Brien had much to do with it. All of the male characters in the book felt much the same, reacting the same, speaking the same, etc. Thomas at least should have stood out from the rest, but he just didn't for me. The movie really helped!

Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes
And by Mycroft, I mean the character in the actual stories as written by Arthur Conan Doyle. None of the film adaptations that move him out of his time or change his personality. Mycroft and Sherlock are at once similar and dissimilar. I dislike Mycroft's lack of action. Yes, he's brilliant, but what use is that brilliance if he spends most of his time sitting in his gentleman's club? Sherlock at least gets out, solves crimes, and saves people's lives. He's active whereas Mycroft is passive and I'm less inclined to like passive characters unless I'm given a very good reason for doing so.

Young Caspian in Prince Caspian
I felt a complete and total disconnect from Caspian in his first book. I don't know if it was because he was a child, or simply the circumstances of the book, but Prince Caspian is one of my least favorite Narnian novels. As soon as Caspian grew up and started his Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I loved him. But he just didn't work in Prince Caspian for me.

Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre
Now, to be fair, I've only read half of this novel, and I was barely twenty when I did so. My perspective may have changed since then. But he seemed so arrogant and cold, and I could not stand his nickname for Jane, always calling her Janet. I don't mind him in film adaptations, sometimes even loving him like with Toby Stephens, so it's something about the way he's written in the novel that doesn't sit right with me. I'm planning to fully read it next year so my opinion may change, hopefully.

Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...