Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Ballantine Books, 2013

Summary:
Franny has six months left before her self-imposed deadline to become an actress in New York City.  As she struggles through the ups and downs of making a name for herself and figuring out her life, Franny learns what is important to her.  As she grows up in this city of bright lights and big dreams, will she accomplish what she came for, or will her dreams forever be unrealized?

My Thoughts:
First of all, let’s start with the author, Lauren Graham.  I love her!  She is best known for her roles in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, both of which are shows that I happen to love.  She is so funny and interesting, and I am thrilled that she wrote a book.

Moving on to the book, at first I was not really feeling it, but a few chapters in and I was hooked.  This book has the same wit and humor that you see in the characters Lauren Graham portrays on television.  If you liked the fun back-and-forth between Lorelai and Rory in Gilmore Girls, you will enjoy this book.

Franny’s thinking process is another part of the book I enjoyed.  She goes off on these tangents all the time, which is both amusing and entertaining.  It is quite interesting to see where her thought process takes her.

Throughout the book, Franny learns from the mistakes she makes and slowly figures out the changes she needs to make in order to be successful and make good decisions.  I appreciated that Franny was able to maintain her spunk and personality throughout the book as she became wiser and learned from the mistakes she made.  Her voice was consistent as her character developed in both her career and her relationships.

At the heart of this book is a story about reaching for your dreams and trying to make them a reality, but at the same time, never quite knowing if it will happen.  Will Franny succeed in her pursuit of her dream?

Rating: 3 stars

 

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Review: A Noble Groom

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House, 2013

Summary:
Annalisa Werner is in the midst of troubles.  Not only does she have a small child and a baby on the way, but she is struggling to save the family farm, and now her husband has died.  Who will her new husband be?  And will she be able to save the farm?

Enter Carl Richards, former schoolteacher, at least that’s what he says.  He arrives in Michigan and offers to help Annalisa with her farm until her new husband shows up.  As Carl and Annalisa get to know each other, will his secret create barriers Carl didn’t anticipate?

My Thoughts:
First, I must comment on the cover.  I think it is a perfect representation of Carl.  It completely captures his personality- charming, funny, playful, kind.  There is also a sense of cockiness about him, but at the same time there is a vulnerability in his character.  He is such a wonderful character, and it is not often that I see a cover that so closely resembles how I imagine a character.

Carl is keeping a secret about his past, and as time goes by, it becomes harder for Carl to hide the truth.  In the beginning, Carl is someone who feels entitled and important.  But, as the story progresses, Carl learns the value of hard work. Living in Michigan gives him a new perspective which both humbles him and gives him a deep appreciation and understanding of what life is like for people who must work long hours of labor.

Annalisa has lived a rough, difficult life.  The only light in her life is her daughter, Gretchen.  When Carl arrives, Annalisa is guarded and hesitates to trust Carl.  He is so different from the other men in her life, and she doesn’t know how to respond to him.  She becomes a strong, confident woman and grows bolder in making decisions for herself instead of letting other people make decisions for her.

As Annalisa and Carl spend more time together, they slowly begin to open up to one another and share their pasts.  As they face many hardships together, their relationship grows stronger.  There are many hills and valleys along the way, and it appears that some valleys may be too deep and too difficult to work through. Can they ever truly open up their hearts to one another and find love?

Favorite Secondary Character: Annalisa’s daughter, Gretchen was my favorite character.  She is two years old and completely adorable.  Gretchen gives love freely and without reservation.  Her love is pure and simple, and the joy and excitement she expressed when seeing Carl brings a smile to your face.  And the way she adores her puppy and holds him all the time is precious.

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska

Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss
Summerside Press, 2013

Summary:
Ginny Marshall is finally getting what she has always wanted- the chance to become a recording artist.  But, just as she gets the contract she has been waiting for, she feels the desire to run away– to her ex-fiancé, Brett.

Even though it has been two years, Brett still thinks about Ginny often.  After they broke up, he moved back to Alaska, where he lives in a beautiful place and is surrounded by a tight-knit community.  What will Brett think when he sees Ginny in his hometown after all their time apart?

My Thoughts:
Ginny walks through life with a damaged heart.  As a child, her mom gave her up, and Ginny has moved from foster home to foster home her whole life.  This has caused her to put up a wall in order to protect herself from loving anyone that may walk out of her life at any moment.  Because of her abandonment, she has a hard time opening her heart and trusting people.

Brett is strong and sees Ginny for who she really is.  He knows about her past and his greatest desire is to be there for her and help her heal.  But, “He had thought his love would be enough to unlock her heart and to help her chip away at the walls she’d built, brick by brick, pain by pain. He’d been wrong. It hadn’t been enough.  He hadn’t been enough” (26).

Will things be different if they give their relationship a second chance?

I loved the town of Glacier Bay.  The setting seemed to take on a life of its own.  Also, the people of Glacier Bay were lovely, warm, and inviting.  It sounds like a wonderful community to be a part of.

My favorite character had to be Grandma Ethel.  She was so cute when she would sneak around, trying to get her grandson and Ginny to reconcile.  She was a sweet character, and you could tell that she cared deeply for Ginny and Brett and their future.

I thought the letters that Ginny reads throughout the novel were an intriguing way for Ginny to come to terms with her past and her relationships.  Although they were an interesting aspect to the story, I found that these letters were a large majority of the book, a story within a story, if you will.  This is perfectly fine, but I would have enjoyed reading more about Ginny and Brett.

I did enjoy this story, however, I felt that something was lacking. I had a hard time understanding the characters’ motivations and behavior at certain points in the book because there needed to be more back story for both Ginny and Brett.  You do learn more about their past, which helps explain the present state of their relationship, but there needed to be more information to flesh everything out, in my opinion.  I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters as well as I wanted to.

Overall, this book was an enjoyable read.  It makes me want to visit Alaska someday!

Rating: 3 stars

The Classics Club

I have decided to join The Classics Club.  The goal of this club is to read at least 50 books in a maximum of 5 years.  Below you can see the classics I have chosen to read over the next 5 years.

*This list is subject to change.

Start Date: June 17, 2013
End Date: June 17, 2013
Completed: 0/50

Alcott, Louisa May- Little Men
Alcott, Louisa May- Little Women
Austen, Jane- Emma
Austen, Jane- Sense and Sensibility
Baum, L. Frank- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Bronte, Anne- Agnes Grey
Bronte, Emily- Wuthering Heights
Burnett, Frances Hodgson- The Secret Garden
Burroughs, Edgar Rice- Tarzan of the Apes
Defoe, Daniel- Moll Flanders
Dickens, Charles- Bleak House
Dickens, Charles- Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles- Little Dorrit
Dickens, Charles- Oliver Twist
Dostoevsky, Fyodor- Crime and Punishment
Dumas, Alexandre- The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas Alexandre- The Man in the Iron Mask
Dumas, Alexandre- The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George- Middlemarch
Fitzgerald, F. Scott- The Beautiful and the Damned
Fitzgerald, F. Scott- This Side of Paradise
Forster, E. M.- A Room With a View
Gaskell, Elizabeth- Cranford
Gaskell, Elizabeth- North and South
Gaskell, Elizabeth- Wives and Daughters
Hardy, Thomas- Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Heller, Joseph- Catch-22
Hemingway, Ernest- A Farewell to Arms
Hugo, Victor- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Kerouac, Jack- On the Road
Lewis, C. S.- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia- One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman- Moby Dick
Mitchell, Margaret- Gone With the Wind
Montgomery, L. M.- Anne of Green Gables
Nabokov, Vladimir- Lolita
Orczy, Baroness- The Scarlet Pimpernel
Plath, Sylvia- The Bell Jar
Salinger, J. D.- Catcher in the Rye
Salinger, J.D.- Franny and Zooey
Steinbeck, John- East of Eden
Steinbeck, John- Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John- The Grapes of Wrath
Tan, Amy- The Joy Luck Club
Thackeray, William Makepeace- Vanity Fair
Tolstoy, Leo- Anna Karenina
Twain, Mark- The Prince and the Pauper
Wharton, Edith- The Age of Innocence
Wilde, Oscar- The Importance of Being Earnest
Wilde, Oscar- The Picture of Dorian Gray

To keep up with my progress, check The Classics Club page, here.

Review: Once Upon a Prince


Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck
Zondervan, 2013

Summary:
Susanna Truitt has a plan- marry her Marine boyfriend of 12 years.  But, when Adam breaks up with her instead of proposing, Susanna’s plan crumbles around her.  Without a plan, what can she expect for her future?

Prince Nathaniel’s life has been set in place since before he was born.  But, when he meets Susanna under the Lover’s Oak one day, his heart wants to take him in a different direction.  Will he follow in the steps of his ancestors, or forge a new path?

My Thoughts:
With a premise of an ordinary girl falling in love with a prince, it is easy to see how this story might feel a bit contrived or impossible.  However, that is not the case.  This novel was a pleasant read that was down-to-earth and felt very real.  The issues the characters faced were complicated and relevant.

Susanna is a planner; she has her whole life planned out exactly how she wants things to go.  But, plans don’t always work.  One by one, things in her life get taken away from her as God teaches her a lesson that she desperately needs to learn.  Through it all, Susanna was strong and had faith in God to show her what his plan for her was.  She had to learn how to surrender her life to God’s will.

Nathaniel had the opposite problem.  His life was planned out for him and there is no way out.  He wishes that he could be free and do whatever he wished with his life, but he is the Crown Prince.  He has responsibilities to uphold and is bound by duty.  He just has a hard time seeing it as God’s plan for his life when the plan was set in place by man, by his ancestors.

Watching these characters grow throughout the novel was interesting and insightful.  They faced difficult struggles, but they also were rooted in God, which balanced Susanna and Nathaniel as characters.  I also found that each character was given enough background in order to be interesting, but not so much that it bogged down the flow of the book.  In addition, I also enjoyed their interaction with one another.

Not only did I love the main characters, but I also really enjoyed the secondary characters.  All of the characters were well-rounded and had so much heart.  In particular, I thought Aurora, Avery, and Gracie were special.

This story is infused with warmth and authenticity.  The characters were real and genuine, and you could feel their hearts as they learned to surrender to God’s plan for their lives.  At the heart of this story is the theme to let go of control and let God lead your life.

This is one of those rare, wonderful books that you don’t ever want to end.  It will be in my heart for a long time.  This book makes you feel warm, happy, and content.  How wonderful!

Rating: 5 stars

In a world full of books and the difficulty of making the right choices on what to read, this book is a gem.  This book caught me by surprise in the best way.  I loved it from beginning to end.  It is one not to miss.

I will leave you with the lovely Note from the Author:

“Finding Lover’s Oak during my research was a bit of serendipity- a piece of the Gospel message hidden amid the story. Jesus is the Tree of Life, the “Lover’s Oak” of our hearts. The Cross is often called “the tree”. It was on a tree that Jesus died for love. For you and me. If we have Jesus, we don’t need a Lover’s Oak in Brunswick, Georgia. We have unending love in our hearts. We have the Tree of Life. Reach out for him.”

Review: Love Amid the Ashes

Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews
Revell, 2011

Summary:
In this novel of Biblical fiction, Dinah, daughter of Jacob, is commanded to travel to Job’s household and marry his son.  But, when Job’s world falls around him, Dinah commits to helping Job in any way she can.

My Thoughts:

“Your life is like that beautiful, shattered pot.  It has just been broken open, and the lovely scent that’s been inside your heart is about to be shared” (18).

Thus begins the story of Dinah, as she learns to work through the pain she has endured in her life.  Earlier in her life, Dinah experienced troubles that have been a burden to her ever since.  She struggles with pain, hurt, and shame.  But, although she faces her own shame and the ridicule and disgust of others, Dinah is also a strong, beautiful woman of character.

As Job’s life falls apart and everything is taken from him, Dinah watches his example of how to deal with pain and grief.  His suffering is great and extends for a long period of time.  However, in the midst of his suffering, Job knew that God was in control.

“Though his world had been shattered, he knew God remained steadfast” (139).

Dinah learns from Job as he suffers through his own afflictions.  There is beauty in our brokenness.

This book teaches a strong message that we are all broken in some way, but God can use that for his glory.

Although the message of this book is powerful and sound, I had one major problem with the book.  I did not feel pulled into the story.  It was a slow read that didn’t capture my attention.  The plot was interesting, but it seemed to drag on and on for far too long.

Rating: 2 stars

An Interview with Author Laura Frantz: Part 2

As you know, I recently graduated!  In my Bible class, the focus was learning about how we can use work and calling to glorify God with our lives.  One assignment we had was to interview someone who is currently working in a job similar to something I want to do, and ask them about how they see their vocation as God’s calling in their life.  I aspire to work in publishing one day, so I decided to reach out to author, Laura Frantz.  She is the author of four historical fiction books.  I chose to ask Ms. Frantz for an interview because I read one of her books around the time the assignment was given.   I fell in love with Courting Morrow Little, and then I promptly looked up her website and Facebook page.  I was so excited to see how much Ms. Frantz interacts with her readers- and it isn’t just a “thanks for stopping by and commenting”.  No, Ms. Frantz replies to her readers with such kind, thoughtful words.  After reading her blog and seeing her interacting with readers, I knew I had to ask her for an interview- if anyone would be kind enough to take time out of their day for me, I knew she would do it.    As you may have guessed, she agreed, and I have been so blessed by her thoughtful answers to all my questions.

I am going to share with you some of the interview.  This is part 2 of a 2-part series. Enjoy!
To read Part 1, click here.

(Ms. Frantz’s responses are in purple.)

On your About page on your website, you said: “It was never a desire of mine to be published. I simply love to write for the sheer joy of writing- and that was enough.  But as Proverbs 16:9 says, ‘The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.’”  I think this speaks a lot to the fact that God takes the things that bring us joy and uses them in a way that can edify others.  Would you say your vocation is more a result of God’s prompting or from your own passion to write, or both?

Both. I knew from a very young age that writing was something I was passionate about and something I made time for above everything else. I believe your joy is your calling, or should be. I was a teacher, a waitress, a social worker, and other things but they left me feeling bored and lifeless. Writing makes me feel alive and free and is so comfortable yet challenging I feel hard-wired to do it. I think I will die doing it – or hope so!

When did you first know you were called to write novels for the public? I’m wondering what prompted your change of heart from not desiring to be published- did something happen in your life that made it clear to you that writing was meant to be more than something you enjoyed doing for yourself?

My brother is a pastor/missionary in Spain (and in Ecuador 20 years prior to that). He watched my closet writing habits for 40 years and challenged me to use any gift I had for the benefit of others and not just myself. He helped me see that writing can be a selfish thing if not surrendered to the Lord and used for His purposes. Writing can even become an idol. Since I believe God gifts us with writing or music or the ability to preach or teach, it is our responsibility to honor that gift in His time and as He wills. 

Are there any trials or challenges you have faced in your life that you have overcome with God’s help? How has your personal life influenced/affected your writing?

There are recurring themes in my novels about home, forgiveness, and fathers/families that are very important to me but that I don’t write about intentionally. My father left our family when I was 12 and this broke my heart. He had an affair and divorced my mother after 20 years of marriage. Then when I was in high school we moved from Kentucky to Ohio and later I married and moved to Washington State. I’ve had to learn all about letting go and forgiveness through these challenges. I’m still learning. So it seems natural that whatever is most on our minds and hearts spills out onto the page.

How has being a published author impacted your relationship with Christ?  In what ways have you seen God make himself present in your career?

God has made himself known to me far more since surrendering my writing to Him than ever before. He opened the door to my first novel being published. At the time I had no agent, no writing contacts, had never been to a writing conference, had no online presence, etc. Nothing! And he put me in touch with my editor at Revell who took me without anything but a simple book and then offered me a 3 book contract. I’ve also seen Him encourage me when I’m most discouraged and tired and think I can’t go another step in publishing. He is always, always faithful. And very creative and practical and personal. 

How has pursuing what God has called you to do, strengthened your faith?  How has it challenged you faith?

I think God called me to publishing later in life because He knew I didn’t have the spiritual muscles to stand up under the pressure any sooner.

Again I quote Beth Moore who says in JAMES MERCY TRIUMPHS: “A person has hardly begun to have a real fight on her hands until she starts serving in her full-throttle giftedness and effectiveness. She who proves a threat earns an enemy you can bet will do everything He can to make her sorry.”

Publishing has revealed to me my sin nature in ways I never imagined. I can truly say that I was blind to many of my weaknesses and fleshly ways before my first book went to print. When I became published I suddenly was thrust into this arena of competitiveness and pride, doubt and discouragement, etc. I’ve had to rely on the Lord’s strength instead of my own in ways I never imagined previously.

What do you enjoy the most about being an author?  What part of your vocation has been the most meaningful to you?

I love hearing how the spiritual message has touched them or issues in the books have raised hard questions in their lives and enabled them to make a change. I’m also very moved by the fact that my books are read at the bedsides of those who are dying and that people find comfort in them. 

How important is it to you to incorporate your faith and Christian themes in your novels?  How do you do this effectively, balancing the extremes of being too subtle or too preachy?

That’s a very hard, but good, question. I sometimes wish I wove in a stronger spiritual message so am always surprised when readers feel the spiritual element really stood out and spoke to them in special ways. I can’t imagine writing a novel without a faith element. It’s as much a part of me as breathing.


(Click book covers to purchase books at Barnes and Noble.)

To learn more about Laura Frantz check out her blog/journal and her Facebook page.

Also, look for her newest book, which will be released this September!

Thank you, Laura, for sharing with me and my readers!  I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from Laura; I know I did!