Monday, December 17, 2012

Year End Book Reviews

[Words will never be enough to fill the void we feel after Friday's devastating events in Sandy Hook. I happened to be working from home on Friday and spent my day trying to work through tear-filled eyes.  I am still sad and find myself crying in random moments. I cannot imagine the devastation the victims' families, friends, and colleagues are going through right now, and do not want to do them a disservice by trying to articulate that. There is a long road ahead for them, but even when we feel like we cannot possibly get up from a blow like this, Jesus reaches His reassuring hand down and gives us the strength to stand back up. Romans 14:4 says, And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Come, Lord Jesus, come.]

You might remember I posted my 12 in 2012 Reading List way back in January, and I seriously had high hopes I would be able to complete it. Wellllll, about that. I failed Miserably with a capital M. This year brought with it so many things that needed my attention during my free time, that to be honest, I felt guilty whenever I took a little me time and sat down with a book. But I did manage to complete a third of my goal and read four books this year, so here are my thoughts on those books.

An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers

Release Date: March 1998
Pages: 480
Source and Format: Bought; Nook eBook

Summary (From Author's Website)
Book Two in the Mark of the Lion series, An Echo in the Darkness picks up where A Voice in the Wind leaves off. A year has passed and Hadassah has donned veils to protect her identity as well as the scars that now mark her body. Believed dead, Hadassah finds employment helping a doctor in the poor section of the city and develops a knack for healing through the power of her faith. When Julia falls ill, Hadassah is forced to confront another difficult decision: should she return to the Valerian household, risking exposure and death, to help her former tormentor in the Christian tradition? The flame between Hadassah and Marcus is ultimately rekindled, though Marcus continues to search for meaning and faith. Turning away from the opulence of Rome, Marcus is led by a whispering voice from the past into a journey that could set him free from the darkness of his soul. Will he find God and spiritual fulfillment, becoming the man Hadassah knows he can be?

Thoughts on An Echo in the Darkness
Francine Rivers is one of my favorite Christian authors. Her writing comes from a sincere desire for her readers to know a deeper love for the Savior, and she certainly knows how to tell a powerful story. An Echo in the Darkness is the middle book in the Mark of the Lion trilogy, and to be honest it had been quite some time since I read the first book, A Voice in the Wind. I think I had last read it in high school, so it took me a few chapters into An Echo in the Darkness to gather the context clues and figure out what was going on. Hadassah's relationship with God and her selflessness is the one thing I will always remember about this book. Her faith walk was truly an inspiration to read about and one I hope to emulate in my own life. Additionally, Rivers' historical descriptions are beautifully vivid, and while I can never truly know if everything was accurate, I believe this was a very well-researched book. An Echo in the Darkness definitely had a different pace to it than A Voice in the Wind, and at times seemed to drag a little bit, but overall I would recommend this book to any Christian Romance/Historical Fiction fan. 

Memorable Quote
“Jesus has given me eternal life in Him. Let them take my life here, but God holds me in the palm of His hand and no one can take Him from me.”

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Release Date: November 2004
Pages: 672
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take her fate into her own hands.

Thoughts on The Other Boleyn Girl
I read this book while we were on our sailing trip back in May, since reading about The Tudor Court in England is so fitting for a tropical vacation. ;) I was actually introduced to this book back in college when we were talking about the movie coming out with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansen. My friend asked if I had read the books, and I didn't even know the movie was based on a book . Around four years later, here I am finally reading my first Philippa Gregory novel. After reading The Other Boleyn Girl, I'm not sure if I will make it a goal of mine to read all of Gregory's novels, but this did make for an interesting read. No doubt if you have learned anything about Henry VIII, you know his name is synonymous with scandal, and so follows with this novel. Some of the scenes I didn't think were necessary, nor did they have any kind of historical contribution, so that is my main complaint with this book. At the beginning, I also had a hard time sympathizing with Mary Boleyn's character, but one of the redeeming qualities of this book was her gradual character development. I would recommend this novel if you are a fan of the Tudor Court or all things Henry VIII, but otherwise, I would just borrow it from the library.

Memorable Quote
“I would know you anywhere for my true love. Whoever I was and whoever you were, I would know you at once for my true love.”

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Release Date: September 2008
Pages: 326
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love.

Thoughts on The Lucky One
I don't know why I bother to read Nicholas Sparks novels when they are so predictable, but once again I was intrigued to read the book before I saw the movie. It's kind of similar to how bugs are drawn to the light--you just can't help it sometimes. I will say I was not disappointed by this Nicholas Sparks novel, but it will most likely be the last one I read by him. Unless another movie comes out (which inevitably will happen), and the whole I-can't-help-it thing gets me again. I would recommend this if you find yourself in need of a little sappy romance in your life, or if you are fan of Nicholas Sparks' other novels. 

Memorable Quote
“She was struck by the simple truth that sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.”

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

Release Date: February 2011
Pages: 446
Source and Format: Bought; Nook eBook

Summary (From Goodreads)
Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse √Člisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

Thoughts on Madame Tussaud
Let's cut to the chase--I LOVED this book! I was initially drawn to it because of the gorgeous cover, because let's face it, if I lived in France in the 1700s, I would be wearing that gorgeous yellow gown every single day. But what I really loved about this book was how much I learned about the French Revolution and what life was like for the people living through it without feeling like I was reading a history book. Marie was a fascinating character, and her connection with the royal family made my understanding of the Revolution from the aristocratic side so much more dynamic. I know that this is historical fiction and not to be considered fact, but I've read many reviews praising Moran for her commitment to historical accuracy, and after reading just one of her novels, I would have to agree. I loved how she incorporated maps, epigraphs, and a glossary at the end to make for a well-rounded experience, but I would have to say those things are hard to enjoy with an eBook, so I would recommend getting the paperback for that reason. My only disappointment with the book is the timing of the ending, which I thought was rather abrupt. As I read through the epilogue, I would have liked to see more details of Marie's life in England in the actual novel. I would highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction or anything related to the French Revolution. I am excited to dive into another one of Moran's novels soon! 

Memorable Quote
“But we are all sorry when loss comes for us. The test of our character comes not in how many tears we shed, but in how we act after those tears have dried.”

What books have you read this year? I am all ears for recommendations as I put together my 2013 Reading List. Be on the lookout for that in January!

2 comments:

  1. Nice summary, Lesley Anne. Like you, my reading aspirations frequently exceed the time I have. I have read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Lucky One and agree with your comments. Your review of Madame Tussaud make me want to read that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Sarah! I definitely recommend Madame Tussaud. You will love it! Maybe Santa will have it waiting for you under the tree this year. ;) Hope you have a very Merry Christmas as well!

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