reading books then & now

31527F6E-4D80-4417-B79C-38E6F7F51364There aren’t enough days in the years to read all the books that I wish I could. To enjoy them and then read them again, and again, and again to absorb them. So many books, so little time.

I recently was rereading A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich. An older book, I read it when I was a teenager and it didn’t really stick with me. Reading it now, though, as a mother of three- it stuck.

This is the way with books, I think. As we grow and learn and live, they change with us. Whether they are more or less applicable depends, but the pieces of your soul which they stick to can shift. It’s a beautiful, wondrous thing.

But I wonder, if because there are so many books and so little time, if we all take the time we do have to do this with the books that matter. To reread them, learn from them, understand them better. If we are only reading the new, new, new… if we only read books that are meant for younger readers when we are older or older readers when we are younger, are we benefitting from all the reading?

Yes, I would say. Don’t worry.

We always benefit from reading, but I think if we took more time we could benefit even more. Books help us through things, remind us of others, and help us escape. Every book has a different purpose.

If I hadn’t reread A LANTERN IN HER HAND, I would have missed the heartache of Abbie Deal. When I was younger I was more distracted by the idea of her not chasing her dreams and the fact that the book was very wordy and descriptive (less dialogue). Now, though, I understand and appreciate her sacrifice more than can be explained.

Rereading the HARRY POTTER books, for instance, or THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, with my oldest son- I am picking up on things that I have missed. (This is moreso with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, because I’ve reread HARRY POTTER far too many times.) But each time, the books change for the good and the bad.

I think this proves the (subjective) quality of books. If they stand the test of time, change and yet mean something extraordinary to the reader, they are well worth the time to reread.

What do you think? Do you have any books you have reread that changed with time, or ones you hope/plan to reread?

Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

flame in the mist by renee ahdieh, a review

IMG_9142If you’ve read my reviews of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, you know I’m a big Renee Ahdieh fan. Her use of history and periods of time, with a fantastical twist, are beautifully done to the point that I’m not always sure I’m ready a version of fantasy. She weaves her worlds and characters in a way that suck you in immediately, so I was more than excited when I found out she was writing another series.

I finished Flame In The Mist in a mere 32 hours, and I’ll forever be grateful for that because it was right before my new little man came into the world. Here’s the Goodreads description:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I loved this book because it threw me for a few loops I wasn’t expecting, something her previous duology did as well. Mariko was a very strong character, and initially I thought her love interest might be someone who it didn’t turn out to be. I loved how torn she was between her blood-relatives and, in the end, a new found family.

If you loved Renee Ahdieh’s previous works, I highly recommend this new read. An interest in Japanese culture is also a plus, as this weaves in some very beautiful peaces of dress, food, honor, and more.

Go read it!

 

 

blue tide review & giveaway!

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Jenna-Lynne Duncan’s new book, BLUE TIDE– released January 9 (next Monday)! While I am honestly not usually a solely romance fan, this book had so much more to offer than swooning over the pirates. Here is what Goodreads has to say about it:

Seventeen-year-old refugee Lux plots her escape from the island where her family is stranded, denying that her home was lost in the Floods. Lux is determined to get her old life back by any means possible. But before her feet even leave the sand, she’s taken hostage by a vengeance-driven pirate nearly as young as she is.

Her capture is the key to his freedom…

Captain Draven’s scarf veils more than his face. Underneath, he struggles between morality and survival. When Lux sees deeper into his motivations, she’s torn. She can commit mutiny to escape to a home that may no longer exist, or she can try to help Draven escape the clutches of the person responsible for the deaths of half the world. Staying would mean entrusting her life to a pirate. Helping Draven would mean losing her heart to one.

I am not offering any spoilers, but this book did a wonderful job of pulling me in right off the bat. With the Middle Eastern influence and dystopian background underlying it all, I could not back away until I was done (which I luckily had a sick day to do just that!).

While there were some moments that made me roll my eyes every now and again at Lux, the MC, I loved the supporting characters that were a part of her life. I wished for more of Lilou, Ahmend, and Leif– so perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to get a second book? The ending left me aching for more Draven as well, but I won’t say more than that!

One last thing I really wanted more of was the history of the floods. While Armodeous seemed to elaborate on some of this, I wanted more details of what happened during the catastrophe that brought all the characters to where they were when we met them. I wanted to feel the disaster as much as I felt the pain Lux associated with the loss of her previous life.

That being said, if you don’t follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter, now is the time! I am hosting a GIVEAWAY for this very book- a copy of BLUE TIDE (digital or paperback) that will be ordered/sent your way on its release day of JANUARY 9th! To enter, check out my other pages for more details.

Good luck, and happy reading!

 

trackback thursday: birth of the american civil rights movement

rosa_parks_bookingOn December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of the bus.

Because she sat down and refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, Parks was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring blacks to relinquish seats to whites when the bus was full. African Americans were also supposed to sit at the back of the bus, which Parks refused to do.

Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott, by African Americans and others involved in the Civil Rights Movement, of the Montgomery bus system. It also led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

Parks and her husband were active in the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). While working as a tailor’s assistant, Mrs. Parks served as chapter secretary. Later, she advised the NAACP Youth Council. Denied the right to vote on at least two occasions because of her race, Rosa Parks also worked with the Voters League to prepare blacks to register to vote.

Rosa Parks became known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” honored with awards around the world.

 

the rose & the dagger book review

img_0975The Rose & The Dagger is Renne Ahdieh sequel to The Wrath & The Dawn. I went through this book as quickly as I did the first, though I must admit there were slower places in this one, where the first one kept me intrigued and desiring more and more.

Not saying this one didn’t do that, juuuust saying that there were a few places that we were in character’s heads for a little too long for my taste. More action would have been nice to break it up a bit, though I understand why the thoughts were necessary.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about it:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

I loved the new characters we got to see in this book, as well as the old. Being introduced to Shazi’s sister was a definite plus for me, since I have two sisters of my own and understood the struggle Shazi had with that relationship and the secrets she had to protect.

However, with new characters meant that I was taken away from my two favorites for longer periods. While it was necessary to the story, and it helped tie some loose ends, I thought that there could be a little more between Shazi and Khalid to help bring their relationship even more to life in this second book.

Over all, Ahdieh did her story justice, and I was sucked in the second book as quickly as I was with the first. I would recommend these books to anyone who loves One Thousand and One Nights. I’m really looking forward to Ahdieh’s next project, which is said to focus around the legend of Mulan.

trackback thursday: the mountain meadows massacre

mountain meadows massacreIn September of 1857, a wagon train that originated of families mostly from Arkansas, was held under siege for four days until they were lead to their deaths.

These emigrants were headed to California, and consisted of a few wealthy cattle and horse herders, as well as others looking for a better life out West.

When they traveled through Utah, at the time under the “theocratic” ruling, if you will, of Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormons), they were refused supplies in Salt Lake City and Cedar City due to the Mormons suspecting them or taking part in the murders of some of their church members back East, including their late leader/prophet Joseph Smith.

On the first day, the settlers were attacked at Mountain Meadows, Utah by the local Indians, but when they were lead to their deaths it was under the direction of the local Mormon Militia.

The Mormons rode in under a white flag, offered the settlers help to escape the siege of the Native Americans, and had them march on as though leading them back to Cedar City. The settlers were then attacked by Mormons disguised as the Native Americans, so as to skirt away from blame. Around 120 settlers were killed, leaving only children under the age of seven alive.

There were around 17 survivors.

This massacre has been under debate since it happened. The LDS of the time first claimed innocence. Brigham Young did an “investigation,” which was then blamed on the local Native Americans. But upon further investigation and pushing from the national government, Brigham Young and the Saints sought to blame it on Major John Lee, the one who supposedly lead the attack under no orders from anyone higher ranked.

This post could be incredibly long, for this massacre is the setting for my YA historical fiction novel. So, I’ll just sum it up. But you can visit the Mountain Meadows Association site as well as read witness reports from all those years ago if you are interested.

After completing my novel and preparing to query, I got to visit the massacre site in December 2014. I was mixed with emotions of excitement and heartbreak. For somewhere so beautiful to be ever tainted by these innocent Westward travelers was haunting.

mountain meadows selfie

The massacre itself happened on September 11, 1857.

trackback thursday: burning of D.C. in 1814

classroom_1812-02On August 24, 1814, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington, D.C., and set fire to many public buildings– including the White House, the Capitol, and other U.S. government facilities.

The Burning of Washington was an attack during the War of 1812, between British forces and the USA. The attack was partially a “tit for tat” response to America’s destruction of Port Dover in Upper Canada. (This is when American troops went to destroy grain and mills that were used to provide flour for British soldiers on the Niagara Peninsula.)

This is the only time in history that Washington, D.C. has been occupied by a foreign force.

Less than a day after the attack, a heavy rainstorm put out the remaining fires. After this heavy storm (which also provided a tornado that went through D.C.), British troops retreated to their ships– which were also damaged. This allowed Americans to regain control, making the occupation of Washington last somewhere around 26 hours.

History Buster:

This is where the story of First Lady Dolley Madison comes into play. It circulated (and still does) that she saved the portrait of President Washington from the flames, cutting it from the frame that held it to the wall.

BUT

Paul Jennings, President James Madison’s personal slave, published his memoir in 1865 (after purchasing his freedom from none other than Mrs. Madison), and said it was not Mrs. Madison who saved the painting! She would have, apparently, needed a ladder and other tools to accomplish this– and he said there was not time for her to do it. Who were the saviors of this famous art?

According to Jennings, it was John Suse (the French doorkeeper) and Magraw (the president’s gardner).

In 2009, President Obama held a ceremony to recognize Jennings for his bravery and assistance in saving the painting and other valuables from the fire. Several of his descendants attended, and even took a family portrait in front of the very painting.

 

Have you ever visited The White House? I have actually never been to Washington (D.C.).  I say “actually” because I’ve been a crazy amount of places, (stateside) but D.C. is still on my bucket list!

 

“between shades of gray” book review

imageI previously read Salt to the Sea and decided I needed more Ruta Sepetys in my life. I feel behind the times this year, catching up on so much YA that I missed out on in the last couple of years. But this book…oh, this book.

While I enjoyed from salt to the seaBetween Shades of Gray is more my style. With only one POV and Lina as the narrator– I connected with it so much more.

Here is the Goodreads description:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

When I read Ruta Sepetys’ books, I feel as though I’m being plunged into areas of history I previously had no knowledge of. I suppose when we learn things ins school, or even on our own time, we focus so much on what is closest to us. With WWII, I am very aware of the American part, and more of Britain and the Western European front than anything else. But Ruta Sepetys has introduced me to something I hadn’t thought of in so long, and that is what happened to so many others.

This book pulled on my heart and opened my eyes to Lena’s world. I wanted, more than anything while reading, to see her drawings. While Septeys describes everything so vividly, I kept hoping to flip the page and find an illustration. I know that many times this is the beauty of novels, that we can see without seeing, but this was an exception where I wanted it in front of me so badly. I wanted to see the pain in her charcoals, and her twisted views like Munch.

I want to call this book beautiful, but in fact the images that come to mind are anything but your standard “beautiful.” They are heart breaking, and stomach churning, and mind blowing– as they should be.

If you have yet to read this book, or any of Ruta Septeys books, might I suggest changing that– especially if you are a lover of YA historical fiction.

 

book review: the wrath & the dawn

imageThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is one of my favorite books that I have read thus far. Based on A Thousand and One Nights, the story of Scheherazade. It was one that I could not put down, and now all I want to do is life my self-inflicted-book-buying-ban to get the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger.

The Wrath & The Dawn was released in May of last year, and the sequel was released in April of this year.

Here is what Goodreads has to say:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

 

When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, was one of my favorite books. It was also based on Scheherazade, but was from the perspective of a young girl who was taken into the story-tellers confidence to fuel her with more stories to share with the Sultan so she may continue to live.

The Wrath & The Dawn was like the story went even further for me, only better. Being able to see from the perspective of many characters, and get to know Khalid and Shahrzad in an entirely new light, I literally could not put down the book.

Another thing that it did was make me desperate for the food and colors of this Arabian world that Ahdieh created. With the descriptions of costumes, foods, surroundings, and traditions– I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into it, and Ahdieh did an amazing job of providing me with enough to fuel my imagination in technicolor.

There were a few parts of the story that I found myself questioning the tale, but then I felt like a ‘traditionalist’ and wanting all the stories of One Thousand and One Nights to come to life, not just the love story between Khalid and Shahrzad. With a killer cliff-hanger ending, I can’t imagine how readers who bought this book when it was first released felt without having the sequel ready at their finger-tips. I’m already itching as it is because I didn’t buy the two together at the same time!

This book gets 5/5 for me. Shahrzad, Jalal, Khalid, Despina– all the characters in this story have a voice of their own that makes a reader love (and sometimes dislike) them. If you haven’t read it (and I already feel late to the game), you must. And heed my warning: buy The Rose & The Dagger at the same time so you don’t end up like I am right now.