Without a Summer

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette KowalWithout a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal is the third book in the series and my favorite. After recovering from their adventure in Belgium, Jane and Vincent accept a commission in London and bring Jane’s sister Melody along in the hope of finding her an eligible husband.

They enter a London filled with unrest for as the spring months creep by, the snow continues to fall. The extensive winter weather is unfairly blamed on the coldmongers, glamourists who concentrate the practice with cooling things. Riots break out by the Luddites as well who have lost their weaving jobs to new, mechanized looms. Jane finds herself becoming increasingly suspicious of their employer’s son and worries ever the more when Melody seems to be making an attachment to her.

Throw in Vincent’s family whom he has not spoken to in years, and one has a very interesting book to read.

You are unique and wonderful and–and a thousand other hackneyed things. You are my Muse.

I loved this one much more than the other two. I think it was because I got to learn more about Vincent and how he came to be the way he is. His personality wasn’t nonexistent like in the first book or pretty deplorable like in the second. I thought the plot was a little more interesting. It definitely kept me reading.

I do enjoy Mary Robinette Kowal’s writing as well as at some times it was quite cheeky. The characters, Melody included, were much more rounded, and the plot was more intriguing. Wonderful!

Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette KowalGlamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey so if you have not read that one yet, it might be wiser not to read this review as it might contain spoilers. This novel picks up not long after Jane and Vincent are wed and follows them as they travel for their honeymoon to Binché, Belgium where Vincent’s good friend and fellow glamourist, M. Chastain, lives.

Once there, their honeymoon is anything but. Jane finds herself in a situation where she is unable to perform glamour and fears that her husband’s persistent absences and shortness with her are signs that he does not love her without her glamour ability. When Jane discovers the real reason for his actions, she learns that they are not safe with Napoleon on the march.

This was a nice sequel. I enjoyed getting to delve a little deeper into Vincent’s character even if I didn’t particularly like him in the first half of the story. I didn’t think he treated Jane well at all, no matter what secrets he was keeping from her. I did enjoy Jane’s growth as a character. The author put her in an interesting situation, and I liked watching Jane figure out how she would handle it.

I do enjoy the author’s writing. She able to seamlessly weave in just the right amount of humor to alleviate some of the more serious situations so that things do not become too heavy.

This is an extremely quick and easy read for those who want something a little lighter when just the right amount of magic mixed in!

Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal is Jane Austen-esque book with a little magic twisted throughout. Jane Ellsworth is practically a spinster at eight-and-twenty and lives in the shadow of her younger sister’s beauty. The only thing Jane believes she has going for her is her music and knowledge of glamour, the art of twisting the ether into tableaux. She delights in bringing life to paintings, rooms, and her music.

Jane finds herself at odds with her sister Melody who is not always the most sensitive with her comments. As a result, Jane finds herself becoming close friends with Miss Elizabeth Dunkirk and firmly in the sights of her brother Mr. Dunkirk. While Jane finds her feelings for Mr. Dunkirk growing deeper, she is not sure if he can look past her too sharp nose to the woman she is beneath.

And let us not forget the mysterious and sullen Mr. Vincent, a famous glamourist who has been hired by the Ellsworths’ neighbors to create a grand glamural. Mr. Vincent and Jane seem to bump heads at every meeting, and Jane can not understand what she has done to so offend the man.

I thought this was a nice light read. I wish I would have gotten a little more out of Mr. Vincent by the end of the novel. I felt his character was somewhat flatter than I would have liked. I liked the play of glamour throughout the novel. It added a nice hint of whimsy to the story and was something I much needed!

The Best and Worst of Assigned Reading

I was organizing my bookshelves yesterday and came across a lot of books I had to read back in high school. I saw those I remembered fondly and those I wish I had never been forced to read. There really was a mix, and it seemed every year brought at least one book I couldn’t stand to read. I thought I’d share some of the standouts, both the good and the bad.

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee DivakaruniMy favorite book was Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I read this one freshman year as a summer reading book and have loved it ever since. I think I liked it so much because it is the kind of book I would have picked up from the bookstore to read on my own. The characters were deep, and the plot was engaging. This was definitely a great choice. I would caution you not to read the sequel as I feel it takes away from this one too much. You don’t want the magic of this book ruined for you in any way.Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

Another book I enjoyed was Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor. It was one of those books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise so I was glad I had to junior year. It was one of those strange yet interesting books that had me thinking. And learning about all the subtext and everything made it that much more interesting.

Beloved by Toni MorrisonThe absolute worst book I was forced to read was Beloved by Toni Morrison. I still shudder every time I think about this book or see it on my shelf (I really should take it off because I’m never going to read it again). I couldn’t even tell you what it was about except that I couldn’t stand it. It was torture to read.Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Another terrible book I had to read but ended up being glad I had was Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I had to read this before junior year as a discussion book. I couldn’t stand the main character which made for a long read. I was however grateful I read this as it was the book I ended up writing an essay about on the AP Lit exam. It was the only book that I remembered well enough that fit the question. I scored well enough to get out of Freshman Comp in college so I was thankful.

So there they are, the best and the worst. Did you have any books you absolutely loved or ones you cannot even stand the sight of you had to read in high school or college for that matter? I want to know!

A Tailor-Made Bride

A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen WitemeyerA Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer was a very cute read. Hannah Richards is a dressmaker and has just been given her own shop in Texas from a wealthy patron. She travels to Texas to open her shop, hoping to attract a lot of business with her well-tailored and flattering clothes. What she didn’t expect was J.T. Tucker.

J.T. owns the livery across the street from Hannah’s store and wants as little to do with her as possible. Not only did she now occupy the store he has been trying to buy for years, but she’s a dressmaker. She makes clothes to stroke the vanities of women. Unfortunately for J.T. he is constantly finding himself around her and is slowly discovering that she might be different than she thought she was.

This was a very cute book with strong characters. It focuses a lot on determination and overcoming prejudices. Hannah is a lovely character who works hard and puts her trust in God. J.T. starts off incredibly bitter, but his struggle to stay from Hannah was fun to read. This was a very fast read, and I found myself drawn into the story, wanting to read until the end. I got this in ebook form and read it while working out, but found myself at home reading it too just because I wanted to know what would happen next! This book was well-written, and the characters were well-formed. This is definitely a fun and great read!

Paper Roses

Paper Roses by Amanda CabotPaper Roses by Amanda Cabot begins with Sarah Dobbs journeying from Philadelphia to San Antonio with her little sister Thea to marry Austin Canfield, the man who has wooed her with his prosaic letters. She not only accepted his offer of marriage because of the beautiful words he wrote her but because she needed to escape the gossip and recrimination she has faced back East.

When Austin’s brother, Clay is the one to greet her, Sarah knows that something is not right. And it isn’t because Austin is dead. Sarah knows she can’t go back East. Not after what happened. She has to find a way to survive in this new town and provide a home for her sister.

Clay doesn’t know what to do with Sarah. He never wanted her or her sister to come in the first place. Clay is stuck working his father’s ranch, something he can’t wait to leave behind. But he can’t do that until he has gotten revenge for his brother’s murder.

This was a book about the importance of forgiveness. Both Sarah and Clay carry around a deep hurt and have turned that into anger at those who have caused them this pain. In doing so, they are not only hurting themselves but preventing anything from happening between them.

Both Sarah and Clay were very strong people with real problems. They had to deal with a lot and did it well. Their struggles were real and their approach was incredibly human. It took time and support to help them heal their wounds. This book had mystery and love and adventure. The supporting characters were well developed and added greatly to the story. I loved the faith woven throughout this book. It had the perfect presence without being too overwhelming. This was a beautiful story and one I heartily recommend.

The Wild Rose

The Wild Rose by Jennifer DonnellyThe Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is the third and final book in her series about the Finnigan family, following The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose. This is the story of the youngest Finnigan, Seamus, known as Seamie. His story will Willa Aldan actually starts in the end of The Winter Rose where a terrible accident on Kilimanjaro leaves Willa without a leg and a desire never to see Seamie ever again.

The book follows them as they are separated and meet over and over again. Willa has a huge chip on her shoulder which she gained the instant she lost her leg. She has fallen into great despair knowing that she’ll never be able to climb a mountain again. Seamus moves on with his life, marrying a woman to forget Willa.

This was a really hard book for me to rate and review. I loved the first books so much that I had very high expectations and was let down in an extreme way. Neither Seamie nor Willa were characters I had any respect for. They obviously loved each and, as such, went and slept with everyone else and turned to drugs. They were incredibly selfish and didn’t care that they ruined countless lives. Their remorse didn’t even feel real to me.

This was even more disappointing because I really loved Willa and Seamie in The Winter Rose. I feel as if Jennifer Donnelly pretty much ruined them for me. What I did enjoy about this book was the updates on the main characters from the previous two books. It was nice to see glimpses into their present lives.

So what do you think? Did you read this book? Any of the others?

Faith’s Reward

Faith's Reward by Tammy BarleyFaith’s Reward by Tammy Barley concludes the journey of Jess and Jake Bennett and is just as good as the first two novels. Jess is expecting their first child after months of trying, but her life has not gotten any easier. Their cattle they fought so hard to save threaten to freeze to death, and through trying to save them Jake catches pneumonia. Though winter ends, and spring brings forth much needed rain, their troubles are not over. Southerners are still being threatened, and Jake knows that Jess and their ranch won’t truly be safe until they’re stopped.

Meanwhile, Jess knows that their ranch is on the brink of being lost and decides to hunt down her lost inheritance and sets off on a dangerous journey back to the town where she lost her parents and baby sister to a fire meant to kill her as well.

I love love LOVE! this series! I cannot say too many good things about it! This book was just as amazing as I was expecting. All of the characters are layered, and I was still learning more about Jake and Jess in their third novel. Tammy Barley creates believable situations and turmoil to put her characters through to help them grow. I wish that I could read about them forever! Their lives are so interesting and intriguing. I would recommend this book to everyone and have! I cannot wait to read more by this author in the future!

Hope’s Promise

Hope's Promise by Tammy BarleyHope’s Promise by Tammy Barley is the second book in the Sierra Chronicles following Love’s Rescue. The story of Jess and Jake picks up a few months after the last book left off. They are now happily married and back home on their ranch. Their life is not without problems though. Jake is worried that the life will become too hard for Jess to bear especially since they are in the midst of a terrible drought. He fears that he would not be enough to keep her at the ranch. Jess feels terrible because she believes that their long absence and idea to turn the ranch into a horse farm has jeopardized the ranch Jake has worked so hard to build. She also is in great pain about her seeming inability to conceive the child she so desperately desires.

The ranch is suffering with the drought and the illegal selling of half of their land while men are attacking the Paiute Indians who work and live on the ranch.

I completely devoured this book the moment I had it in my grasp. All the characters, even those secondary to Jess and Jake, are so well developed with such distinct personalities. I love the drive everyone has to make the ranch work and to protect the people who have made it their home against the prejudices and hatred of others. Jess and Jake are incredibly strong characters who fit perfectly together. Jake’s patience and gentle manner perfectly balance out Jess’s stubbornness and outgoing personality.

I loved watching their relationship grow as a married couple. I loved how they dealt with the problems with the ranch and their own inner problems. I also love how faith-filled they both are, never despairing for too long because they knew they were protected in God’s hands.

This is an incredibly compelling book and just as good as the first. There are so many twists and turns and unexpected events to keep a reader interested. The characters are wonderful, and you can’t help but fall in love with them, especially Jake! Though you don’t necessarily have to read Love’s Rescue to read this one, you would be missing out on a great book and the first chapter in the story of Jess and Jake.

Love’s Rescue

Love's Rescue by Tammy BarleyI absolutely loved Love’s Rescue by Tammy Barley! The novel takes place during the Civil War which is mostly in the background of the story. Jessica Hale’s family has recently moved to the Nevada Territory to escape the conflicts arising in Kentucky. But Jessica’s brother Ambrose cannot leave his home so easily and goes back to help his hometown’s militia defend his home. When Jessica loses contact with him, she’ll do anything to find him, but finds herself in the middle of an angry mob who believes her to be sympathetic to the Confederacy when she tries to send a telegram in search of her brother whose militia had joined the South.

Jack Bennett, a rancher, steps in and saves her and later “kidnaps” her and brings her to her ranch to keep her safe from those who mean her harm. Jessica who once thought Jake admirable now thinks him despicable and tries everything she can to escape from him and return to her home. But Jake is not so willing to let her go, not when it could mean he would be losing the woman he is slowly falling in love with.
I couldn’t stop reading this from the moment I picked it up. Jessica is fiery and independent. She is also caring and willing to help those around her. Jake is amazing to say the least. He shows nothing but respect for Jessica and “kidnaps” her not for his own pleasure but to keep her safe. He doesn’t let her escape not because he wants to keep her trapped but because he knows the dangers that she would face as a woman on her own.
Jake and Jessica fit together well, and it doesn’t take too long for them to figure it out. Neither, especially Jessica, are willing to admit it to the other. The characters were incredibly realistic and the story flowed seamlessly. Nothing felt contrived, and everything was revealed in a smooth manner. When I finished the last page, all I wanted was to read more and was more than excited to discover that a sequel is in the making. The instant it comes out, I’ll be enjoying it thoroughly I’m sure!
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