Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading: Wings of the Nightingale Series

In my last post, I reviewed Sarah Sundin’s With Every Letter.  Since this is only book one in her Wings of the Nightingale series, today I am going to share with you what is next in her series.

I love the cover art for On Distant Shores

This book will be out in July August 2013, and I can’t wait!

This book will follow Lt. Georgie Taylor, who we met in the first book, and Sgt. John “Hutch” Hutchinson.  Georgie has a boyfriend back home and Hutch has a fiancé, so I am curious to see what happens in this book.
. . . .
The third book will follow Lt. Kay Jobson and Lt. Roger Cooper.  I don’t know the title, and as far as I know, the cover art has not been released.  It is only speculation, but I think this book will be released in 2014.  It’s release is set for August 2014.

Well, I’m excited about these books, and I just wanted to share my anticipation for them with you!

What books are you looking forward to reading?

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Review: With Every Letter

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin
Revell, 2012

Summary:
Flight nurse Lt. Mellie Blake is a hesitant participant in the anonymous letter-writing campaign to officers in another unit.  Lt. Tom MacGilliver is the engineer who receives her letter and is excited at the chance to be his true self under the guise of anonymity.  As they exchange letters, Mellie and Tom become close friends and confidants of one another.  Will they ever meet, or will their relationship be forever limited to anonymous letters?

My Thoughts:
Wow. Where do I begin?  And what can I say without revealing too much?  Let me just say, this review has been difficult for me to write (I think I’ve written a total of 5 drafts) because I loved the book so much and there is so much I want to say!

So, shall we begin?

Professionally competent but socially awkward Mellie has always been different.  With an unconventional upbringing and an exotic appearance, Mellie never learned how to make friends, so she has been lonely for most of her life.  Throughout the novel, Mellie struggles with her insecurities.

Tom is an engineer with aspirations to build, but his father’s notorious reputation precedes him wherever he goes.  He doesn’t want to be anything like his father, so he creates a façade of happiness.   His façade is more harmful than helpful, as Tom struggles to be a leader that his men respect and follow.

What I most loved about Tom was that he has a passion for building. His desire is “to build bridges all over the world, bring people together, help people explore new places” (182).  I found this to be an endearing part of his character.

Tom and Mellie exchange letters which encourage and help one another.  They are supportive of each other and build each other up. I really enjoyed watching Tom and Mellie’s relationship grow through their letters.

Although Mellie struggles socially (making friends), and Tom struggles professionally (being a leader), they both ultimately have these problems because they are guarded.  Because of their pasts, both of them have put up a wall in order to protect themselves from rejection.  Will they have the courage to step outside of themselves and be open with other people?  Will their mistakes help them realize their own imperfections and motivate them to change, or will they hide in fear after messing up?

With all that said, I really enjoyed taking my time reading this book.  Normally I read pretty fast, but I wanted to read this book slowly so I could really get to know the characters. Mellie and Tom were complex characters who struggled with different things in their lives.  By the end of the book, they have been through a lot which has caused them to grow both individually and in their relationship.  I must also say that the supporting characters were enjoyable, and I liked seeing how each character affected Mellie and Tom and either aided or challenged their growth.

So, the question I leave you with is this: Will Tom and Mellie have the courage to reveal their identities to one another?  Or will fear prevent them from having their happy ending?

Rating: 5 stars

With Every Letter is book one in the Wings of the Nightingale series. It is a must-read!

Review: The Defining Decade

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD
Twelve (Hachette Book Group), 2012

I don’t normally read non-fiction books, but this is relevant to anyone in their twenties, including myself.  The Defining Decade outlines why our twenties are an important time in our lives.  What we do in our twenties will determine the rest of our lives.  Now is the time to think about the future.

In her book, Dr. Jay talks about the different areas of life, including work, love, and the brain and the body.  While all of the information is useful and informative, I want to share with you the points that stood out to me most.

1.  “Take the job with the most capital.” (13)
When you have two (or more) opportunities, it is always wise to take the job that will be more beneficial to you in the long run.  If you can either get a job at the local fast-food restaurant or at a respected company that can start your career, the choice is obvious: you take the job that can start your career.  Especially after graduation, it is important not to flounder at little jobs instead of getting your career started.  As Dr. Jay writes, these jobs “signal to future employers a period of lostness” (11).  This can hurt you.  Don’t avoid a real job after graduation.

2.  “Make yourself interesting. Make yourself relevant.” (31)
Weak ties are people we have met, but don’t know well. Many times, they can help us and are willing to do so.  All we have to do is ask a favor.  The connections we have will only be beneficial to us if we use them.  But, in order to use your connections, you must make yourself interesting and relevant to your weak ties.

3.  “Twentysomethings who don’t feel anxious and incompetent at work are usually overconfident or underemployed.” (147)
Basically, it’s okay to feel anxious and incompetent at work.  After graduation, the workplace is a new and foreign environment that you are thrust into.  Of course you are going to feel anxious and incompetent.  It’s normal.  As you learn and gain experience, then you will gain confidence in your abilities to get the job done.

Rating: 5 stars

This book really made me think about my life and what direction I am going.  Everyone is going to take away something different from this book because it covers a lot of important topics and everyone is in a different place in their life.  If you are in your twenties, I definitely recommend that you read this book.

What did you take away from this book?

Review: Matched

Matched by Ally Condie
Dutton Books (Penguin Group), 2010

Summary:
Cassia Reyes lives in the Society, where Officials decide everything for you.  She believes that the Officials know best and will give her the perfect life.  On the night of her Matching, she is matched with her best friend, Xander Carrow.  But, when a mistake occurs, and Ky Markham’s face appears on her screen for a moment, she begins to question everything.

My Thoughts:
I’ve seen this book around for awhile now, so I finally decided to pick it up and see what it’s all about.  There are similarities to The Hunger Games, which is what drew me to this book, so of course I am going to compare the two.  Whereas Katniss was a character who was strong from the beginning and always despised the Capitol, in Matched, Cassia initially thinks the Officials are good.  Her growth is subtle throughout the book, and at the end she has become strong and thinks for herself.

The Society determines what food you eat, what your job will be, who you will marry, and when you will die. Everything is decided for you.  Your life is not your own.  I find this to be very disturbing, but Cassia thinks that the Society is ideal and she is excited to be Matched with the person she will marry.

Her doubt about the Officials stems from her confusion on who her Match is, who she is meant to be with.  She is conflicted in whether she should be with Xander or Ky.  When she saw Ky’s face by accident, this is the first time in her life that she realizes that her life is not set in stone according to what the Society tells her.  The Officials make all the decisions, but what if she had choices and made her own decisions about her life?

This curiosity to understand what is really going on and be able to have control over her own life intensifies as the story progresses.  We watch Cassia evolve from someone who blindly trusts the Officials to someone who is aware of the lies and darkness of the Officials and chooses to challenge their power.

I found this book and the plot to be intriguing, and I am interested to see what will happen in the next book.  Although it is no Hunger Games, this is a good book.  This is the first book in the Matched Trilogy Series.

Rating: 3 stars

So, what are your thoughts on the Society?

Click here to read my review of Crossed, the second book in the series.

Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

So, I’ve been looking around for new books that might be interesting, and I came across a list of 10 Fun Books Every Woman Should Read in Her Twenties. I thought to myself, “well, I’m in my twenties”, so I decided to pick one.

Which brings me to our book:

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
The Dial Press, 2001

Summary:
Rebecca Bloomwood is a conundrum.  She is a journalist at Successful Savings, a financial magazine, yet in her personal life, Becky can’t stop shopping.  With overdue VISA bills (and lets be honest, several other bills), Becky has accumulated significant debt.  As she tries to cut back and get things in order, will she be able to resist the latest styles in the shop windows?

My Thoughts:
This is a fun, quick read in which I often found myself quietly laughing at the antics of Rebecca.  She has such a distinct, witty voice which is very entertaining to read.  She processes things with her humorous internal banter, and then she comes up with some fantastic, far-fetched scenario that is completely ridiculous, but amusing, nonetheless.

I loved the irony of her working at a financial magazine, yet her personal finances are out of control.  She ignores her bills, and then to make herself feel better about the debt she’s in, she goes out and buys something for herself.  Just something small…

And then she rationalizes her purchases as “investments”.

Her colorful imagination and blind optimism will keep you glued to the page to see what she does next.

In the end, this is  a story about growing up and becoming a mature, responsible adult.  Rebecca has to face reality, just like all of us eventually have to.  This story shows us not to ignore our finances (or whatever you are scared of).  Rather, by facing the real world, only then do we truly grow up.

Just a word of warning: this book does occasionally use offensive words.  It’s not too often, but I just wanted to give you a heads up.

Rating: 4 stars

What are your thoughts on Rebecca Bloomwood and her shopping habits?  Will you be reading this book?

Review: To Win Her Heart

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House, 2011

Summary:
Eden Spencer is the librarian in the small town of Spencer, Texas in 1887. She is a self-declared spinster who has decided not to marry, and she especially detests violence.  Enter Levi Grant, the new blacksmith in town.  Just released from jail, Levi has turned a new leaf in his life and has turned away from his ugly past.  When Levi isn’t forthcoming with his past, will he push Eden away?

My Thoughts:
PROS: What I liked most about the book was how the main characters relied on God for strength and direction in their lives. When Eden is feeling conflicted, she turns to God with this prayer:

“Dear God, I don’t want my fear to be a barrier to the blessing you are trying to bestow.  Cast out my fear, and help me to trust in your perfect love.  But also grant me a full measure of wisdom.  Do not let me be led astray by my own desires.  If it is not your will that I pursue a relationship with Levi, I pray that you will stop me.  Make your message so clear that I cannot argue it away.  Protect me, Lord, and show me the way I should go” (116).

I thought this was a really honest prayer; similar even to a prayer I have prayed in my personal life.  The author made faith a central part of her book, both by creating characters who loved God and by sprinkling Scripture throughout the novel.

CONS: I felt like there was a lot of foreshadowing in this book, and I could easily see where it was going. When I read a book, I prefer for the foreshadowing to be subtle, so I don’t immediately figure it out.  This felt a bit obvious.  Also, I unfortunately did not feel invested in the story or the characters.

This book was a quick read, with a simple plot line.  Although this was not one of my favorite books, I found that the book had a wholesome message about seeking God first.

Rating: 3 stars

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below!

Review: Love’s Reckoning

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz
Revell, 2012

Summary:
Love’s Reckoning begins in 1784 when Silas Ballantyne arrives in York County, Pennsylvania, to finish his apprenticeship with Liege Lee.  Silas is a strong, driven, God-fearing man who plans to go west after his apprenticeship.  Little does he know, Liege intends for Silas to marry one of his daughters: Elspeth, the cruel elder sister,or Eden, the gentle and loving sister.

My Thoughts:
This book had a slow pace, yet it was appropriate for the progression of the storyline.  Eden and Silas gradually get to know one another and come to care for each other. Neither of them intended for this to happen, for they each have their own plans for the future.  This changes things for the both of them.

I enjoyed watching Silas and Eden’s relationship develop and how their love for one another grew.  My favorite scene was of them dancing alone in the barn.  Silas was practicing his fiddle in preparation for the upcoming ball, and Eden showed him the dances.  Then, he stops playing his fiddle to dance with her, and whispers in her ear, “You need no music, Eden. You need only me- and I you” (128).
Isn’t that just lovely?

Now, brace yourselves.

In the last 140 pages or so, so many things happened.  I was completely surprised at the turn of events.  At one point I was even talking to the book, unable to hold in my shock.

In all honesty, these plot twists really upset me in the beginning.  I didn’t understand why the author was doing this to my beloved characters.  I had so many emotions! I was unhappy that the book took this turn.  BUT, with that said, I could not stop reading.  I had to know what was going to happen!  This is the sign of a good author- even though they may frustrate you, it makes you read faster because you have to know what happened.  Also, I realize that there has to be conflict in order for a book to move forward and be interesting.  That said, I think I can accept what happened because it advanced the plot.

As these events unfold, shocking secrets are revealed and new ones are kept hidden.  Will the secret left untold tear Silas and Eden apart forever?  How can they move forward after all that has happened?

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I did feel there were a few things that either didn’t get resolved or are in need of further explanation.  I won’t go into detail, for I don’t want to give away too much.  However, this is the first book in the series, so I assume Ms. Frantz will be shedding light on things that are still shrouded in mystery.  I can’t wait to read the next installment of The Ballantyne Legacy!

Rating: 4 stars

This is book one in The Ballantyne Legacy.  The second book in the series, Love’s Awakening, will be released September 2013.

Will you be reading The Ballantyne Legacy series?

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin
Revell, 2010

I am really excited because today I am sharing my first book review! What makes this even more special is that this book is currently my favorite.  When I first read this book a few months ago, I loved it.  I still do.  I feel like I can really connect with the characters in this book.  After reading it, I quickly went on to read the next two books in Sarah Sundin’s Wings of Glory series.  She is now one of my favorite authors!

Now, let’s talk about the book.

Summary:
A Distant Melody follows the journeys of Allie Miller and Walt Novak during World War II.  Allie is in an unhappy relationship, and Walt is tongue-tied around single women.  They meet at a mutual friend’s wedding and quickly become friends.  Allie and Walt share a love for music and God.  When they part ways, they promise to write, as Walt is flying planes in the war, and Allie goes home to a life she is not content with.

My thoughts:
I have so much to say, but again I must say I loved this book.  It was a wonderful story of two people who meet and quickly become important to one another.  Allie and Walt meet on a train and have a somewhat awkward conversation before realizing they are both headed to the same place.

During their conversation, Walt says, “I guess silence is a truthful solution to a dilemma” (21).
This later becomes a subtle theme throughout the novel.  Is silence really truthful? What if silence just perpetuates a lie?

After a week together, Walt and Allie correspond through letters and become close friends and confidants of one another.  As the story progresses, they lead separate lives, in which they each tell lies that cause problems for themselves and each other.  Will they be able to tell the truth?  Will they decide to work through the lies and forgive? Will they obey God?

The theme of obedience to God is central to the characters’ development.  Will they change their ways and do what God asks of them? When we meet Allie, she is not content with how things are in her life, but she is not doing much about it.  As the story progresses, Allie becomes stronger and takes action in her life.  Instead of letting things happen to her, she takes control of her life.  Walt’s character development was also exciting to watch.  After making a mistake, we watch as what he has done eats away at him.  He deals with guilt, punishment, and the need to accept forgiveness.  These characters are beautiful people who grow and mature by the end of the book.  I find myself wishing I knew Allie. I feel like she would be a wonderful friend.

Rating: 5 stars

This is book one in the Wings of Glory series.  Go check it out!

What do you think?  Are you going to read the book?