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review 2019-01-10 10:33
The Orphan's Wish - Melanie Dickerson

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break. Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune. Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

In this re-imagining of the classic tale Aladdin, Dickerson takes Aladdin out of his original setting and moves him to Hagenheim, Germany in the 1400s, where he finds a place of sorts with the Duke of Hagenheim's family. Aladdin, orphaned at a young age, is taken in by the priest of Hagenheim Cathedral. Through this connection, Aladdin meets Lady Kirstyn, the duke's daughter. Both little children at the time, Aladdin comes to her rescue one day during a game where he thinks she is being bullied. Moved by his attention to her, Kirstyn befriends him and the two fast become constant companions. 

 

Fast forward a few years, and Aladdin now works as the duke's steward while also being Kirstyn's best friend, indulging in her many privileged whims. While he cares for Kirstyn, Aladdin does find enough of a sense of fulfillment from his current life situation. He explains to Kirstyn that he does not wish to be seen merely as a lowly servant his entire life, but instead wants to make something of himself, find success (and hopefully wealth) on his own terms. He breaks it to her that he intends to leave town to find his fortune. Rather than being encouraging and understanding, Kirstyn falls into a whiny fit and makes it all about her, only focusing on how this change will affect HER and HER wants. (Trust me, you'll be begging for a Jasmine return during this ridiculous pout fest). As kindly as possible, in so many words Aladdin tells her she'll just have to get over it because his mind is made up.

 

He goes off, finds work apprenticing with a merchant in Lüneberg, a neighboring town. Aladdin moves in with the merchant's family and is soon doing quite well for himself. He proves to have quite the business & finance acumen, inspiring the merchant to suggest Aladdin one day being his successor. For years, Aladdin had silently been throwing around the dream of one day marrying Kirstyn but previously had felt that to be impossible, with their difference in class stations. But should he do well with this business, it may be an opportunity after all! The thought drives his dedication to only work harder.

 

All is going very nicely until Aladdin gets word that Kirstyn has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. From there, everything else is dropped, so beginning Aladdin's efforts to bring his maybe-one-day-wife back home to safety. 

 

Ohhh, the issues I had with this book. First off, the quiet but annoyingly present whitewashing of one of my favorite childhood fables. Good lord, could this have been made any more white-bread boring?! I've been working my way through Dickerson's Hagenheim series --- the whole series meant to be re-imaginings of classic stories --- and while some of them have been just okay, some have been really enjoyable. So while I had my doubts about this one, I gave her the benefit of the doubt since the one I read before this, about a landlocked Little Mermaid, was actually a lot of fun (even though, again, I had my doubts about that one, taking a mermaid out of the water... but Dickerson made that one work, surprisingly!).

 

Let me just say, I'm not hating on the German setting itself. I married into a German family, clearly I'm down with the culture :-) But Germany in the context of ALADDIN -- an ARABIAN fable --- nah, didn't work for me. All the magic, allure, sand, desert winds, mystical stories ... all gone here. Instead, Dickerson gives us a whiny, spoiled brat of a female lead, her family all-around serving a heaping helping of white saviour complex,  and pretty much all the non-white characters have been made servants or criminals. Aladdin falls in love with Kirstyn in all her blonde-haired, blue-eyed glory. Later on, when the merchant's daughter develops an interest in him, Dickerson writes of how Aladdin finds her "pretty" with her dark hair and small mouth, but not nearly as beautiful as Kirstyn with her "pale blond hair, full lips and large blue eyes". YAWN. Aladdin has had his traditionally Muslim beliefs canceled and is now preaching the importance of strict Christian morals. There is virtually NO trace of the original story except for the use of the names Aladdin and Abu (Abu here is a small homeless child Aladdin looks after). Maybe, if you really stretch, you could liken Kirstyn's kidnapping to the time Jafar tried to keep Jasmine captive... but that's about it.

 

Beyond that, let's talk about the writing itself:

 

* Historical "say what now?" moments:  IE. Dickerson writes, regarding Kirstyn, "She was only sixteen and marriage seemed like something far in the future." Marriage at 16 far-fetched in the 1400s? Where if you took good care of yourself, you MAYBE made it to 40?! LOL 

 

* The dialogue in general: UGH, SO MELODRAMATIC. Reminded me of silent film emoting. Not every moment of the day is that *OMG* *SWOON* *SCOWL* *GASP*

 

* All around boring or head-knock-into-wall inducing characters: IE. Anna to her violent boyfriend: "You promise not to hit me again?"... proceeds to believe him... *eyeroll*

 

* The same few sentiments are repeated over and over again to convince the reader that Kirstyn and Aladdin are totally headed for forever love: Mainly, 1) They love long walks in the woods and 2) They of course understand each other better than anyone else in the world. Problem is, they spend the majority of the book spending ZERO time together, sooo... 

 

Lastly, while I understand this book is published through a Christian publisher (so some religious elements are to be expected at some point), here the religious undertones were not well done (as to feel natural to the story's enviroment / set up), instead coming off much too forced. The ending scenes are especially heavy-handed.

 

I'll continue on with the series installments, but this one was a definite disappointment.

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2019-01-06 09:59
A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz
A Bound Heart - Laura Frantz

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning--together. Laura Frantz's prose sparkles with authenticity and deep feeling as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in Colonial America.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up together on the Isle of Kerrera, Scotland. Now it's the year of 1752 and Magnus is laird of Kerrera Castle while Lark is the castle beekeeper, herbalist and manager of the castle stillroom. When Magnus's young wife, Isla, suffers her 6th miscarriage, he goes to Lark requesting something that will not only bring his wife physical comfort while her body mends but also something to help her successfully bring a child to term. Lark certainly has elixirs for pain management, but getting a pregnancy to stick? That's trickier. She seeks counsel from her grandmother, who trained her in the ways of medicinal plants. Lark's grandmother vaguely remembers something that may work, but she's struggling to recall the full recipe. 

 

When Lark's cousin goes into labor (this is a baby-making lovin' place, people!) Lark rushes to assist. Upon her return to Kerrera Castle, she finds the place in an uproar. Castle staff tell a wild story about Lady Isla apparently going mad from something, running off, her body later discovered at the bottom of a cliff. To Lark's shock and horror, fingers point to her as the culprit, even though several voices come to her defense, noting that she wasn't even in the area when all this went down!

 

It's for naught though... she's the herbalist, and it's suspected that Isla's sudden burst of madness was due to an overdose... but Lark hadn't given her anything yet, so how can that be? At least, nothing that would cause that kind of reaction in a person. What really went down? Lark's guess: Isla, having previously showed signs of depression, turned suicidal. Her parents, not wanting to deal with any social stigma attached to suicide, looked to have a scapegoat to save face for the family name. Lark was the easiest target. 

 

After a short joke of a trial, Isla is found guilty of manslaughter. Rather than the death penalty, she is sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies (Virginia, specifically) for the duration of 3 years. Placed on a womens' transport ship, she gets word that two Kerrera locals are on the mens' transport: Laird Magnus (charged with wearing a kilt, of all things) and Lark's pirate friend, Rory MacPherson (charged with smuggling goods).

 

Magnus uses his connections to pull some strings and have Lark moved to the mens' ship, so that she may serve as the ship's herbalist / botanist. Immediately, Lark's beauty grabs the attention of every man on board, though Rory finds himself unable to shake the sailor's superstition of women on a ship being bad luck. {Considering the events that later unfold, he may have been onto something!}

 

Magnus has his work cut out for him, protecting Lark from the ship's lust-filled men, the main one to watch being Surgeon Alick Blackburn. Magnus and Lark now both being convicted criminals -- guilty or not -- brings them back more on equal footing, as far as societal ranking goes. Lark's family name, MacDougall, was once one of great prestige but later fell out of favor and "time and misfortune turned them common". In recent years, Magnus's family line had taken hard hits as well -- father killed in battle, mother and sister dead from pox, Magnus's wife's struggles with pregnacy... and now she's gone... with Magnus headed to the New World, people may give an impressed nod to his former titled self, but it'll mean little else beyond that outside his homeland. Besides, Magnus hears rumors that he may be sent to a Jamaican estate to serve out his sentence, not Virginia with Lark. Can he manage to find a way to stay with her? If not, can he convince her to wait for his return?

 

Though I have a few other of Frantz's books on my TBR shelf, this is the first of hers I've now read. Inspired by the story of some of Frantz's own ancestors, A Bound Heart lacked a lot of heart IMO. It's not a bad story by any means, but all the 5 star ratings I'm already seeing for it (being offically released just a few days ago) strike me as awfully generous. Frantz has a solidly enjoyable writing style, the novel definitely shows the woman is dedicated to research! The novel is detail-rich, but almost to a fault, as the plot is very slow-going. 

 

Now typically I don't hate a slow-burn novel if a steady increase or layering in plot complications or character histories can be seen. I'm all about being invested in fictional worlds! Unfortunately, this one fell a tad short for me in that department and I found myself not only not attached to the characters but I think at one point I believe I literally fell asleep mid-read. There are little bursts of action here and there but they are SUPER brief. The rest of the story seems to be just general conversing, lots and lots of conversations going down while characters (and readers) wait for their lives to turn eventful. That said, I will say the pace of things noticeably picks up once our primary characters board the transport ships. 

 

The romances -- or the suggestion of pairings, anyway -- tickled me about as much as flat soda. The only character that really struck my interest was Lark's smuggler friend, Captain Rory. He appeared pretty personable in the beginning of the novel, but boy, did he end up showing his true colors towards the end! Trevor grew on me a bit, but he seemed like the type who'd want to pin down Lark's strong, independent nature. As far as Magnus and Lark, there's a sweet friendship there to be admired but the reader isn't really given enough of a backstory between them to really feel much for them beyond that. 

 

The glossary for Scottish terminology provided at the beginning of the book was helpful. While I was already familiar with some of the terms, there were a few in there that I'd never heard used before. Also a nice touch, the quotes from famous poets, novelists and philosophers that Frantz uses to foreshadow each chapter's events. She found some particularly great quotes to reference! 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell Books kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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review 2018-12-24 20:07
Have you ever picked up a book because you kept seeing its cover everywhere?
The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale is the first book in the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. This book contains fantasy elements mixed with a Russian folktale influence. The reader follows Vasya, a young Russian girl, who was predestined before her birth for something great and who possesses the old magic. Vasya has the Sight and can see and communicate with the household spirits (chyerti). Her peculiar gifts aren't necessarily seen as a problem (beyond her possible difficulties securing a husband) until her father gets married to the daughter of the Grand Prince of Moscow. Her stepmother is deeply religious and in conjunction with the village's new priest, Konstantin, begins to sway Vasya's father into marrying her off as soon as possible. Konstantin preys on the fears of his congregants and Vasya finds herself a pariah among the very people she wishes to help. [A/N: Konstantin is a creep and anyone who says otherwise is crazy.] There comes a winter which is particularly harsh and the Bear becomes active from the people's fears (which just so happens to be his source of nourishment). It turns out that the tales that Vasya's nurse have told for years upon years seem to be true as she becomes mixed up with the lifelong feud between The Winter King and his brother Morozko (the Bear). The end is rather fuzzily done up but that's to be expected from a book which was created as part of a trilogy. Heavy on religious and mystical elements, this book took me quite a long while to get through even though once I picked it back up I found it deeply interesting. I will most likely read the next in the series (or give it a good attempt) next year. This is a book that would be ideal during the cold winter nights when you have nothing pressing to do and can curl up with a book for hours on end. 6/10

 

The cover from the Australian edition. [Source: Penguin Books Australia] 

 

What's Up Next: The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2018-10-18 14:49
Three Housewarming Gifts That Are Sure to Make a House Feel Like Home

A nice houseplant or a bottle of wine are great housewarming gifts—but let’s be honest—they’re a little predictable.

Moving into a new home is one of those big benchmarks in life and a great housewarming gift should reflect the magnitude of such an event. Buying a home is a momentous occasion, signifying someone’s decision to put down roots, build a new community, and create new meaning in a new space.

At the same time, picking out the perfect gifts for new homeowners is a special and meaningful way to celebrate this moment. It presents an opportunity to think about what qualities or characteristics make the new homeowner or couple unique and how you can contribute to their new space.

There are so many ways to make a new homeowner feel excited about their recently-purchased home with personalized gifts and décor.

Monogrammed Mementos

A monogrammed gift is a great way to add a personal touch to a new home, and the opportunities are fairly endless. Towels, plates, cutting boards, robes—even a picture frame with a beautiful set of initials will add a homey, comfy touch.

Monogrammed gifts are also personable and are sure to impress the hosts of any house party or backyard gathering.

Stenciled States

Did the new homeowner or couple recently move from out-of-state? Or perhaps they met in a different location and put down roots in a new city? If so, or if you want to celebrate pride in the state they’re in now, an item in the shape of a state is a perfect gift for new homeowners. With a versatility that includes both style and function, you can show your gift-giving prowess with a highly-personalized housewarming gift. State cut-outs come in all different designs, from a key-hanger for the front door to a beautifully framed piece of art to a serving tray, a gift with particular geographic meaning is sure to make a statement.

Religious Gifts

For many, a new home is a real blessing. Religious gifts that capture the sentiments of a gracious home make beautiful housewarming gifts. From a simple piece of scripture wall art to meaningful picture frames, give a gift that speaks to the heart.

Finding That Perfect Gift

Finding the ideal gift for a new homeowner can be a little daunting, particularly when you’re going for something that will surprise and delight while also adding practical value and a personal touch.

Thinking about where the new homeowner comes from, where the new couple lives now, their favorite activities, or their unique characteristics and attributes can help transform that initial houseplant into a lovely, personalized gift a new homeowner is sure to love for years to come. Any thoughtful, personalized gift, no matter the size, will help make a new house feel like home.

About DEMDACO

Since 1997, DEMDACO has offered unique, handcrafted, personalized gifts for every occasion. For your home to your retail space and from birthday gifts to fashion and art, DEMDACO offers a one-stop shopping experience for thoughtful gifts for every occasion. They are committed to the notion that business is not just a financial endeavor, but first and foremost a human endeavor.

Find gifts for every occasion at Demdaco.com



Original Source: https://goo.gl/AwqMgM

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review 2018-10-13 22:51
Once Upon A Farm (memoir) by Rory Feek
Once Upon A Farm - Rory Feek

Raising their four-year-old daughter, Indiana, alone, after Joey’s passing, Rory Feek digs deeper into the soil of his life and the unusual choices he and his wife, Joey, made together and the ones he’s making now to lead his family into the future. Now two years after Joey’s passing, as Rory takes their four-year-old daughter Indiana’s hand and walks forward into an unknown future, he takes readers on his incredible journey from heartbreak to hope and, ultimately, the kind of healing that comes only through faith. A raw and vulnerable look deeper into Rory’s heart, Once Upon a Farm is filled with powerful stories of love, life, and hope and the insights that one extraordinary, ordinary man in bib overalls has gleamed along the way. As opposed to homesteading, this is instead a book on "lifesteading" as Rory learns to cultivate faith, love, and fatherhood on a small farm while doing everything, at times, but farming. With frequent stories of his and Joey’s years together, and how those guide his life today, Rory unpacks just what it means to be open to new experiences.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Two years after the death of his wife and the close of his first memoir, This Life I Live, songwriter and "gentleman farmer" Rory Feek gives readers an update on where his life is today as a single father raising daughter Indiana, now four years old. 

 

The format here is a little different to his first book, much more loosely structured. Still, it works. Feek shares even more details of his life with Joey as well as pivotal moments in his life before and after her. Some of the big ones being around daily lessons he's taking in raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, and the moment his middle daughter came out as a lesbian and the less than admirable initial reaction he had to the news. 

 

Rory explains that while Joey was a master at traditional homesteading, his life experiences lead him to believe his personal strengths lie more in the idea of something he terms "lifesteading", or "growing love and life and hope in the place where you are planted." This struck me as simply implementing the French proverb "Bloom where you are planted" as a way of life... nonetheless, a cool way to go about living!

 

Image result for bloom where you are planted

 

Lifesteading is about planting yourself in the soil where you live and growing a life you can be proud of. A love that will last. And a hope that even death cannot shake. Like tending a garden filled with vegetables, it too requires preparing the heart's soil and planting the right seeds at the right time and watering them and keeping the weeds of this life and the bombardment of the culture from choking out what you're trying to grow. For us, the harvest has been plentiful. Beyond our wildest imaginations. Dreams that seemed impossible in years past materialized right before our eyes. That doesn't mean there hasn't been disappointments and surprises. Some a lot of people already know about, and some I share in the pages that fill this book. But just because something different than you had imagined has grown doesn't mean that it isn't beautiful. It is. 

 

Through this process, Feek chronicles his experiences and shares them with readers as a way to show others how to maybe find the extraordinary magic woven within moments and places of seemingly ordinary days. Once Upon A Farm also provides Feek a platform where he can give thanks to friends and family (by sharing their heartwarming stories) who have been so instrumental in his various joys and successes. 

 

We also get to see a little more into Feek's creative side, such as the time he enlisted a friend to help turn a former Girls Gone Wild bus into Rory's new touring bus. The story Rory is inspired to write, from the POV of the bus, is weirdly simultaneously hilarious and melancholy. 

 

 

Image result for our very own 2005 movie poster

Related image

*In this book, Rory mentions that the dog featured in 

Our Very Own (and on the poster) was actually

Joey's dog, Rufus. There's a whole story behind how Joey

trained him to ride on the roof like that.

 

 

 

The format of the book features short chapters, so the book as a whole has potential to be a good supplemental piece for daily devotionals. Feek's stories here are all about embracing the now, including who you are in the moment. His own examples: how he is unapologetic about his favorite color being white (*Yes, he points out, the trouble with this has been explained to him. Repeatedly. He doesn't care.) and his favorite day of the week being Monday. 

 

While the first memoir was more about just getting the framework of his life story out there, this one had a much more inspirational vibe to it. Feek's stories here do push for the idea of embracing the now, but he also encourages readers to make peace with their past as well, even our less rosy moments. Lessons we take from mistakes or even all out failures can show us how to move forward and teach us how to best love future loves. 

 

my favorite chapter header in the book

 

 

 

A new addition here that wasn't offered in the first book: an eight page insert on gloss paper of full color photographs. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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