Friday, May 18, 2018

Sense & Sensibility Read-Along | Discussion 2



Welcome to the second discussion of the Sense & Sensibility read-along! If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Volume II. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Sense & Sensibility read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

Onward!

~ ~ ~

Sense & Sensibility: Volume II

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes

  • "She wept for him, more than for herself." [I love Elinor's heart here!]
  • "I was young once, but I never was very handsome—worse luck for me. However I got a very good husband, and I don't know what the greatest beauty can do more."
  • "Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation to the house, was with them almost every day; he came to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor."
  • "Elinor drew near, but without saying a word; and seating herself on the bed, took her hand, kissed her affectionately several times, and then gave way to a burst of tears, which at first was scarcely less violent than Marianne's." [Such a loving, sisterly bond they share!]
  • "Elinor, affected by his relation, and still more by his distress, could not speak. He saw her concern, and coming to her, took her hand, pressed it, and kissed it with grateful respect."
  • "She felt the loss of Willoughby's character yet more heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart."
  • "It was a matter of great consolation to her, that what brought evil to herself would bring good to her sister."
  • "Elinor was much more hurt by Marianne's warmth, than she had been by what produced it; but Colonel Brandon's eyes, as they were fixed on Marianne, declared that he noticed only what was amiable in it, the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point."
  • "I really believe, he has the most delicate conscience in the world; the most scrupulous in performing every engagement, however minute, and however it may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, of any body I ever saw." [If only you knew how much, Marianne...]
  • "Because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify." 

General Impressions

This volume brings the cast to London, with all its hope and all its sorrows. We discover Willoughby's true character (so awful and odious!), as well as that of many others (I wrote "ugh" in the margin several times for Lucy and once for Robert).

I'm still torn about our heroes. Edward has barely stepped onto the page, and he still seems cowed by outside forces. But I suppose the way he shines the brightest is in his contrast to the darkness of Willoughby's character; if nothing else, he doesn't take his commitments lightly, nor does he act on selfish or impulsive whims.

And as for Colonel Brandon, as much as I don't want to agree with Mr. Dashwood, it's hard not to think that some sort of romance could blossom between him and Elinor. She's the one he interacts with the most of the two sisters; he obviously appreciates her tender heart and her graciousness to him. I'm not really sure what draws him to Marianne beyond her looks and his compassionate nature, although I suppose he's mentioned his preference for passion and liveliness. And I loved the moments at the dinner party with the Ferrarses when he noticed Marianne, appreciating her love for her sister and being concerned about her tears.

Elinor and Marianne are such thoughtful sisters—Elinor weeping with Marianne, and Marianne rejoicing with Elinor (even though she isn't aware yet of why it would be better to weep with her). While Edward is not the kind of man Marianne would fall in love with, she loves him as a brother for her sister's sake, and her affection for him is the sweetest.

I won't say much about Willoughby... I'm just glad he's out of the picture, and I feel sorry for his wife (and certainly Marianne and Eliza). He acted so abominably in so many ways!

Lucy is grating on my nerves. Just...ugh! I do want to sympathize with her in some ways; obviously, she feels insecure in Edward's affections and wants to cling to their engagement. But her utter selfishness and unkindness in the way she treats Elinor (and even Edward, really) is simply awful. She's so focused on herself and securing her own place, rather than showing compassion toward Elinor or love toward Edward. I admire the way Elinor navigates all this with dignity and grace, even if she sometimes gets fed up with Lucy's shenanigans.

As much as Mrs. Jennings can be a bit too pushy and not really understanding, I do like her, and I wish Marianne would try a little harder to see Mrs. Jennings's good intentions. But Fanny...and her husband...and Mrs. Ferrars...and Robert...yikes! These characters are not a good combination. So much selfishness!

I miss the beauty of the countryside and the warmth of Barton Cottage. I think I'm about as ready for Elinor and Marianne to leave London as they are. :)

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which hero holds the most appeal for you so far, Edward or Colonel Brandon? What draws you to his character?

2. Which scene in Volume II tugged on your emotions the most, either positively or negatively? (Was it Willoughby's letter? Colonel Brandon's revelation? Edward's arrival? Or some other moment?)

3. Imagine yourself in Elinor's shoes for this trip to London. Do you think you would have responded the same or differently to Marianne's situation and Lucy's company?

Join us next Friday for our third and final discussion! 
(Volume III)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

After Blog Tour + Book Giveaway


I've read two stories by Savannah Jezowski so far: When Ravens Fall and "Wither" in the Five Enchanted Roses anthology (my review). Her writing is awesome, and "Wither" ended up being my favorite story out of that collection! While I'm not reviewing After today, I still wanted to share about Savannah's latest release. :) Enjoy...and don't miss your chance to win a copy of the book!

About the Book

“Some people might say that there are worse fates than death. In some worlds, perhaps that may well be the case. But in mine, it would be a lie. There is no greater horror than that which comes after death.”

On the streets of an ancient city, with creepers wandering at will and a mysterious assassin leaving corpses all over Pandorum, a young Spook with a dark secret will do anything to keep his brothers safe, even from forces that threaten to tear them apart from within. While others are searching for impossible cures from outlawed Spinners, Conrad Ellis III does not believe in fairy tales and miracles. But when he discovers a strange girl with shrouded ties to the Assassin, Eli is forced to leave the streets he loves and travel into the very heart of Pandorum in order to save a member of his family. With his health failing and the danger escalating, there is no escaping the inevitable truth.

Today, he may hunt creepers. Tomorrow, he just might be one.


About the Author

Savannah Jezowski lives in a drafty farmhouse in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor, a wee warrior princess, and two English Springer Spaniels. She is the author of When Ravens Fall and The Neverway Chronicles. Her work has been published in Ray Gun Revival, Mindflights and in the student publication of Fountains at Pensacola Christian College. She is also a featured author in Five Enchanted Roses from Rooglewood Press and Mythical Doorways from Fellowship of Fantasy. She likes books, faeries, writing hats and having tea with her imaginary friends.


Book Giveaway

Explore the world of After by entering for a chance to win a signed paperback from the author! (US only.)

Click HERE to enter!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 14th
Tuesday, May 15th
Wednesday, May 16th
Thursday, May 17th
Friday, May 18th
Saturday May 19th
Monday, May 21st

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

People and a Place to Cheer For and Cherish | Review of Sons of Blackbird Mountain



About the Book (from Thomas Nelson)

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Available July 3, 2018!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Joanne Bischof excels at creating vivid atmospheres for her stories, and the setting, scenery, and emotions in Sons of Blackbird Mountain are rich and beautiful. I loved getting to know Aven, the three Norgaard brothers, their housekeeper, and the characters who either waltz gently or march harshly in and out of the orchards. There is a sweetness to most of the interactions, and you can't help but love the characters—hardships, weaknesses, and all.

I absolutely adore autumn and apple orchards and fresh apple cider; I have such fond memories from childhood of enjoying these things. So it makes this story extra delightful to experience the season of harvest with the characters, to read depictions of the trees, the names of the apples, and the joy of that first sip of apple cider.

But mixed in with the innocent moments are difficult struggles with fear, lust, uncertainty, and addiction to hard cider. None of the characters are spared from the painful realities of life and the hate or selfishness of others. I appreciated reading about the sacrifice, the tested faith, and the wrestling with sin and sorrow.

Toward the end, I did feel like a few big events seemed to happen rather close together; it felt like a lot of emotional upheaval for the main characters to face all at once. I wonder if a little bit more time between things might have been warranted...but I suppose life sometimes works that way in both the things we choose and the ones we can't foresee.

I also would have liked a bit deeper of a glimpse into Haakon's character earlier in the story, as Thor really steals the spotlight from the beginning. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. :) His character is compelling, charming, and intriguing, and readers will love following his journey, as I did.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is another fresh and heartfelt historical novel from an incredible author, and she's brought together people and a place to cheer for and cherish.

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson through NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*

My Reviews of Other Joanne Bischof Books...
Be Still My Soul {Cadence of Grace, Book 1}
Though My Heart Is Torn {Cadence of Grace, Book 2}
This Quiet Sky {YA historical novella}

Friday, May 11, 2018

Sense & Sensibility Read-Along | Discussion 1



Welcome to the first discussion of the Sense & Sensibility read-along! I'm excited to be reading this book with you, and I'm eager to hear your thoughts. :) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss Volume I. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Sense & Sensibility read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check whenever you're ready.

Let's dive in!

~ ~ ~

Sense & Sensibility: Volume I

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes

  • "It is enough;" said she, "to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies every thing amiable. I love him already." [LOL]
  • "At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so."
  • "Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion."
  • "I am afraid," replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety."
  • "She dispersed her tears to smile on him, and in her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment."
  • "It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves." [LOL]
  • "My loose cash would certainly be employed in improving my collection of music and books."
  • "What! you thought nobody could dance because a certain person that shall be nameless is gone!"

General Impressions

It's so fun to be engaged in another Jane Austen novel! So far, I'm really enjoying this one. I confess I have the actors from the 1995 adaptation (Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and others) in my head; I believe that's the only movie version I've seen so far, and the acting was wonderful! It's easy to match the personalities between the movie and book.

One thing stands out to me as "better" in the movie (at least from what I've read in the book so far), and that's Margaret's role. The youngest sister seems barely present or even necessary to the story in the novel, but in the movie, I think she plays a really cute role. I guess it's because we can actually "see" her on screen, whereas she's hardly there on the pages. But I love the sort of brother-sister relationship she and Edward have in the movie. :)

Anyway, I should focus on the book!

I love how Marianne and Elinor really seem to get each other, even if they don't often agree and their methods/thoughts clash. Their sisterly bond is evident in how they care for each other's feelings and future happiness.

The Dashwoods' new home and the surrounding countryside sound lovely! Even though the company they're forced to keep is rather pushy and boisterous, I think it's nice that they've been so thoroughly welcomed and aren't ostracized.

As for the rest of the characters we've met so far... I liked Edward's first impressions, but I wish he were bolder, and what we're learning of him from Lucy (as much as she can be trusted to be honest about) doesn't paint him in a great light. He seems sweet, even in his interactions with the whole family, but his dour attitude, lack of ambition, and secrecy aren't always appealing.

What to say about Willoughby? It's hard to put aside what I know about him from the movie, but I can say that I don't like his careless ways toward others. He seems a bit like Frank Churchill (from Emma) in that regard, and he's encouraging an unkind, disrespectful side of Marianne. Also, the abrupt way he left the Dashwoods (with no real excuses) hardly seems promising.

Colonel Brandon hasn't revealed much of himself to readers, although I do love how (in contrast to Willoughby) it's noted that he cares about the feelings of others. He's perceptive and thoughtful, and even though he's been "rejected" by Marianne so far, he's not spiteful.

I'm eager to read more about the brewing drama, although I feel so bad for Elinor after her discussion with Lucy at the end of Volume I. I don't know if Lucy necessarily understands Elinor's feelings for Edward...but in any event, she's definitely behaving in a self-absorbed and melodramatic way, and I wish she would leave poor Elinor alone. Granted, if there really is an engagement and feelings on Lucy's part, I can understand her wanting to make clear her claims to Edward. But still...she's being very unkind about it, going on and on as she does, even if she's not intending to be unkind and doesn't realize the extent of Elinor's attachment.

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. So far, do you relate more to Elinor or Marianne? Do you find it more important to act properly and rationally, or do you prefer to speak your mind and express your true emotions?

2. Imagine you're invited to tea at Barton Park and have to make conversation with Sir and Lady Middleton and Mrs. Jennings. What would you talk about? How would you survive the afternoon? :) (Feel free to round out the imaginary occasion with other guests of your choosing, like Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, or the Miss Steeles.)

3. How would you respond to Lucy's revelations at the end of Volume I if you were Elinor? Would you keep Lucy's secret from everyone? Would you continue to remain "friends" with Lucy?

Join us next Friday for our second discussion! 
(Volume II)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover


Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is "Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover." I love the cooler colors (green, blue, and purple), and purple has been a favorite of mine since I was young. :) I'm going to feature several purple books I enjoyed and several purple books I'm looking forward to reading...

Purple Books I Enjoyed


#1: Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof (my review)

#2: Windchaser by Krissi Dallas (my review)

#3: Recalled by Cambria Hebert (my fave read of 2013, and one of my faves of all time!)

#4: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (my review)

Purple Books on My TBR


#5 The Crown by Kiera Cass (Not 100% sure I'll read this one... I don't know if this series is quite for me. But that cover!! So gorgeous. And I'm wondering if I'll prefer the setup for these last two books as compared to the first three, of which I only fully read one.)

#6 Under a Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller (I won this book on Goodreads...back in 2013. Eep! Still looking forward to reading it, though!)

#7 You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith (I read a couple of her books and really enjoyed them. So, I ended up with several more on my TBR that I haven't quite gotten into yet. Maybe the mood will strike again!)

#8 The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (Another book that's been on my TBR for about five years. But it does look good!)


#9 Ellie and the Prince by J.M. Stengl (This one and its novella prequel are on my Kindle, and I can't wait to read them! I really enjoyed The Little Siren, an ebook you can get for free when you sign up for the author's e-newsletter.)


#10 A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier (I recently found out about this one as an audiobook through the author's e-newsletter, and when Audible sent me a free credit out of the blue, I chose this book. The cover and title are so delightful, and I'm excited to listen to this audiobook!)

* * *

What's your favorite color?
Which books on your shelf 
feature your favorite color on the cover?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Danger and Drama Mixed into an Elegant Read | Review of Born of Persuasion



About the Book (from Tyndale)

The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

While I'm tragically late to reviewing this first book in the Price of Privilege series, I can tell you that it was worth finally reading and savoring! I love that the author's bio claims her blending of Austen and Bronte, because she does such an excellent job of it. The witty observations of humanity and sometimes outlandish characters and dialogue point to Jane Austen's style...but there are heavy echoes of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester throughout the story and setting.

Not to fear, though, as Born of Persuasion is still entirely unique! While Mr. Macy reminded me of Mr. Rochester at times (and was bothersome in some of the same ways), these characters are very much their own, full of complexities and inner conflicts. And goodness, the turns this plot takes! Toward the end, it's one awful revelation and danger after the other. While it feels a bit cyclical at times, it's still a thrilling chase that sends pages flying and leaves burning questions all over the place.

Based on the ending of this first book, I'm guessing this series should be read all together and in order if you want the full scoop and best experience. Still, on its own, this first installment offers a great mystery, moral food for thought, and subtle but encouraging character growth in Julia, the heroine. There is hope...but also a whole lot of uncertainty and potential pitfalls ahead.

Fantastic writing for those who love danger and drama mixed into a historically elegant read, Born of Persuasion is fascinating, and I look forward to diving into its sequel, Mark of Distinction.

*With thanks to the author and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Enough Questions & Twists to Set a Good Pace | Review of The Captured Bride



About the Book (from Barbour Publishing)

A war-torn countryside is no place for a lady.

Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause. . .to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.

Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he is offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he is the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.

Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?

Available June 1, 2018!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Loyalties seem to lie all over the map, especially for the hero of The Captured Bride, Elias Dubois. And with all the intrigue and imminent dangers, Michelle Griep has created another engaging historical novel!

I enjoyed getting to know the main characters of this story and following their mission of transporting gold to another fort. Secrets abound (along with a double cross or two), and there are enough questions and twists to set a good pace. Elias and Mercy make an effective team (when not stepping on each other's toes), while the romantic tension between them keeps things interesting.

I admit I didn't feel as drawn in emotionally as I was with Griep's time-travel romances, but it might just be the timing for me. I remember loving the mystery of those stories...but the historicals I've read have certainly been enjoyable too! And the backdrop of this story coupled with the unique personalities, skills, and occupations of the hero and heroine are right up my reading alley.

This is a great addition to the Daughters of the Mayflower series with its historical premise, well-paced plot, and lessons on faith and trust.

*With thanks to Barbour Publishing through NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book.*

Learn more about this brand-new series...


Read my review of the first book in the series...