Of Bookish Things

Book Review~ Widow’s Heart

Widow's Heart Book Review.png

  Hello, folks! Today we have here a book review of Widow’s Heart by the lovely Willowy Whisper! I’m happy to finally have this review up.  

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. A positive review was not required; all opinions expressed are my own!* 


He only wanted justice.
She only wanted peace.

Gabe Anderson didn’t come to San Belfry to kill. He didn’t even know he’d left a widow until it was too late. But it wasn’t his fault. He had done the only thing he could do, because he had to find those men. He had to uncover their masks. He couldn’t let his brother’s killers go unpunished.

Essie Kincaid didn’t even see it coming. She didn’t know the truth until it was too late, until her husband was dead. Now she’s faced with the wrath of an entire town. She’s an outcast for the second time, and as her world sinks deeper into an abyss of madness, she must fight for the only thing she has left . . . her life.

As the two are thrown together in a devastating plight, it doesn’t make sense for them to fall in love. Too much has happened. Too much lingers between them. Yet as their bruised souls begin to mend together, other forces are already forming to keep them apart. Does their last hope of happiness even stand a chance?


 MY REVIEW

  Historical fiction, particularly Western, isn’t my genre. However, sometimes I find myself enjoying the better works from the category. WIDOW’S HEART is definitely an example of one of those “better works.”
This book follows the story of Gabe Anderson and the recently-widowed Essie Kincaid, and their love story. The thing that caught my eye about this book was that Gabe was the one who killed Essie’s husband, which really got my attention. I decided that a novel with such a good premise had to be worth a shot.
    I was right. 🙂
This book was amazing. Willowy Whisper has a lovely writing style that was so easy to follow, and at the same time had me very absorbed in the story. Besides the originality of whole idea, it was done very nicely, and the romance took its time in developing– which was realistic and made it all the more sweet. Each character could be sympathized with depending on his or her plight, and their more redeeming qualities really gave you something to think about. I think this book reflected the truth about how every person can have even the tiniest mite of goodness in them. Of course, that isn’t always true, but I loved how this story brought out the redemption of several characters.
    Then there was the plot. Oh my, it was intense. Every thread seemed to bring you closer to the truth, until the answer finally whacked you upside the head. I never suspected the ultimate bad guy ’till the end, and I usually have an eye for that sort of thing! *Frustration*
    The characters were awesome. Both Gabe and Essie were admirable protagonists. Gabe was sometimes a bit on the gruffer, harder side, and Essie might have been painfully submissive at other times, but other than that they were both wonderful. The author did a great job highlighting Essie’s doubts about her relationships with Gabe and her late husband, and how Gabe was so very patient with her (and himself as well). The villain was very villainous. Some of the side characters– Sybil, Fletcher, etc.– were also layered and intriguing. I think the most interesting character was probably, in fact, Essie’s dead husband, Walter. He was definitely a bad guy, but he was a really three-dimensional bad guy. ^^
    Now for the content. I don’t have anything really against this book on regards to the content, as I can easily stomach reading violence up to a certain point (don’t try me), and thankfully this book was below that level. Still, there was a lot of shooting and several times when a man is not chivalrous to a lady. I would not recommend it if you dislike violence in Christian fiction. The romance was, of course, clean with only a couple kisses; however there are mentions of adultery and such (disapproval aired). I can’t think of anything else that I would object to in a book.
    All in all, I’d give it a four-star-rating. Not perfect, but good enough that I’ll probably be reading it again.


   
    Yep, that’s all for today! Don’t forget to have yourself a very Merry Christmas!

    And until next time…

    ~ Merie Shen

 

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Of Reflections and Observations, Of Words and Writing

The Real Fairytale: Once upon a Time

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…

Raise your hand if you don’t recognize those words.

   I’m pretty sure none of you have your hands raised. Of course, all of us are familiar with fairytales– we grew up with plenty of Disney and storybook influence. Who doesn’t know what happened when Snow White bit into that poisoned apple, or how long Rapunzel’s hair was? Don’t we all remember the glass slipper that only fit one maiden in all the kingdom? Nowadays, if you tried to read any ordinary fairytale retelling, you’d probably be able to anticipate everything that occurs in the story (unless that retelling is really, really good and you’re so absorbed in it you don’t care that it’s about this time when Prince Charming rides in to save the day). I actually like fairytale retellings, but that’s not the point.

  Now tell me: do you like sweet Disney happily-ever-afters or the grimmer Grimm sort? Would you rather believe that Ariel got to marry her Prince Eric, or are you resigned to the fate Andersen wrote for the little mermaid? Do you or do you not find The Goose Girl morbid, because I kind of do, but oh wait all original fairytales are morbid so never mind.

What’s the point of this post, then? Obviously I can’t bother to familiarize you with fairytales that have been burned into your mind already.

  With these The Real Fairytale posts, I intend to compare what we’ve learned from traditional folklore to what we learn as Christians. I also like poking fun at the wacky holes in most fairytales and retell them in a more satirical way, as KM Shea kind of does on her blog, so yeah. Now you get what this is going to be all about.

  Watch out. Here’s your chance to run.

As you can see, today we won’t be talking about a fairytale. The birth of Jesus Christ is no fairytale. It’s not even a random story in history. People, the birth of Jesus Christ is history. And it’s the most beautiful story that ever existed. Jesus came down to earth for me, to die for my sins, and to conquer death because of his love for me.

  And you.

 Why have any need for fairytales when you have Christ?

  See, everything really is about Him, about His glory. When you write, Who gave you the power to make sentences out of words? For whom do you really write? Maybe you’re an artist. Whose work do you replicate when you make your art? Or Whose work do you base it on? Who is the source of all inspiration and creativity? Who made a joyous occasion over what normally would have been a tragedy?

  He did.

  So we humans do our best to give that glory back to God. We can only do so to the best of our ability, but that’s all He asks for– is us. God gave you Himself last Christmas two thousand years ago. What are you going to give Him this Christmas, two thousand years later?

  Fairytales are very helpful, actually. If you want, you can go and hunt through any story and try to fish out a moral from it. Remember, the theme is not always the moral. You might say Rapunzel had a theme about hair and towers and a mysterious plant. However, is that what the story really is about? Hair? Of course not! Rapunzel is a story about freedom.

   This is the point of these posts. I’ll aim to get at least one fairytale in each month, but I’d also like to have some suggestions over which fairytales and morals to go over. I’ve got the basic fairytales down, obviously, but if you have any ideas for some lesser-known tales or legends, please do tell! And don’t be surprised if I mention stories that aren’t really fairytales, such as the works of Lewis Carroll or L. Frank Baum.

   But until then, always be a happy camper!

  ~ Merie Shen

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Of Bookish Things

Book Review~ Emmeline

 

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Yes. Yes I am doing a book review in December that has nothing to do with Christmas.

But guess what? That’s okay, because after this I only have to review Widow’s Heart by Willowy Whisper before I dedicate everything to Christmas!!

And I don’t even regret it, because Emmeline was wonderful!
(That comes from a girl who still hasn’t read a single Austen book… :O )

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Stellae Books. A positive review was not required. These are my honest thoughts and opinions.*

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What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

MY REVIEW

Before I say anything else in this review, allow me to make it clear that I have never read an Austen book in all me life. Yep, that’s right– this so-called bookworm has no real Jane Austen influence. Well, I still read and enjoyed Emmeline, if that makes you feel any better. 😉

Emmeline Wellington lives in 1930 Depression-age America. The time and setting set a unique spin on the original story (I may not have read Emma, but just how long can a book-lover go in this world without hearing about Austen?) and it was very well done. Emmeline was an interesting character to say the least, and she was woefully clueless at numerous points in the story, but it was still fun reading about the ways she dealt with her father, and the Depression, and Catarina and all that. Fredrick Knight was just plain wonderful, so that’s all I’ll say for him.

This book was ever so realistic and reflective on the troubles of that time in history! The story mainly stayed true to its time, and that’s a relief. Emmeline was a great work of historical Christian fiction.


And that’s today’s book review. I don’t really have anything else to say for now, so yep, that’s it! 😉

Until next time,

~ Merie Shen

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Of Rainy Days, Of Reflections and Observations, Of Words and Writing

Dear Old Santa…

Dear Old Santa

Dear Santa Claus,

Have you ever considered changing your reputation?

I mean, look at the world around you. People usually sing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” just because, but if you really think about it, the song basically explains to us what you do in the 364 days that aren’t Christmas Eve.

Please, for goodness’ sake, leave the 24/7 watch to God. I’m sure He has a better reason for doing it.

Since I’m guessing you know when I’m awake and watch me while I sleep (which, by the way, I think you should totally lay off– it emanates about a zillion bad vibes), you should know just how long I spend every night agonizing over my Christmas gifts.

Oh, right. I don’t.

If you’re as kindhearted and grandfatherly as they say, then right now you should be rollicking in laughter at my letter. On the other hand, grandfatherly old men don’t rollick in laughter, so never mind. 

Anyway, I’m not sure what I want for Christmas. And I have this feeling that writing the letter isn’t going to help make up my mind. So… is it okay, or is it just plain predictable, that I would seriously love a few boxes of physical books. (A few, only a few, okay?) There are so many books with such beautiful covers out there… and I’m forced to read the majority of them on Kindle because I live in China. 😦 Also, the year of 2019 is releasing SO. MANY. GORGEOUS. BOOKS. And, if you please, I like to fill up my bookshelves with good-looking novels. 🙂 

So, that’s about it for now! Please don’t get me a lump of coal; that would be a huge waste of struggling down the chimney and all that. (And also, here’s a question: not everybody lives in a house with a definite chimney. Hardly anybody in Beijing lives in a house, unless they’re superrich which we’re not. And if you’re going to go up instead of down, can I just warn you: we don’t have an elevator. Also, we live on the sixth floor. *Shrugs resignedly*)

Your friend,

~Merie Shen

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Of Art and Wonders, Of Rainy Days, Of Reflections and Observations

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Guyyyys it’s DECEMBER!!!

And you all know what that means! It means holiday magic and hot chocolate and white winter wonderlands and snickerdoodles and blue topaz and holly and creepy fat stalker guys who climb down your chimney and three-week-vacations and best of all, IT MEANS JESUS!
(Actually, every day means Jesus, but… you know what I mean.)

And how does the world celebrate Jesus’ coming to earth these days? With a creepy fat stalker guy who supposedly climbs down your chimney on Christmas Eve to bring you a sack full of either gifts or coal.
Like, how does that sound at all appealing.
Seriously people. They’re saying that basically, in all the days leading up to Christmas, apparently this fat dude living in the North Pole somehow keeps watch on you while you’re sleeping AND when you’re awake. And then on Christmas Eve, he comes thundering in on his jingly-bell sleigh which is pulled by a team of flying reindeer that are led by a particularly odd, big-red-nosed specimen that uses its nose to see through the foggy night.
As I write this post, I’m listening to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and it is NOT sounding at all fun.

Okay. I have gone way off track. We’re not supposed to be talking about old Saint Nicky; we’re supposed to be talking about December.
Besides, it’s not even Christmas yet. It’s not as if every person on the face of the earth is counting down the twenty-five days ’till that time comes.

December, being the last month of the year, has been long awaited and has finally arrived. Since I like traditions, and I like starting traditions even better, today I’m starting a tradition of welcoming each new month with a post about it and its birthstone. 🙂
Which brings us to…

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Found on Pixabay by ArtsyBee!

 

I didn’t mention it before, but November is one of those annoying months that have two birthstones. I highlighted citrine because the other one is precious topaz, and well, that kind of gets confusing when you think of December, which is blue topaz. (Which irks me, because blue topaz isn’t even precious. Like, dudes what is wrong with December why do you insist on treating it like that).

I don’t get why they decided that blue topaz should go for December, since when you think of it your mind tends to wander in the direction of gingerbread houses and cinnamon spice and not down the path of a pleochroic gemstone that can’t seem to choose what color it wants to be. Also, did I mention topaz has like a zillion variants? We’re not going that far, but there is Imperial topaz 🙂  … And it’s the gem for the 23rd marriage anniversary. 😐

But that’s topaz. We’re here to talk about December.
In December, we celebrate what is probably the most popular holiday on the Christian calendar: Christmas! Sadly, society has really lessened the importance and meaning of Christmas. As Christians, we realize that, of course, this holiday is not the celebration of receiving, but rather a celebration of giving, because of He Who gave the greatest gift the world has ever known.
Not to be impressing on anyone or anything. *Thinks of China*

It’s twenty-five days ’till good old Santa comes rolling in, so let’s take that time to remember that still, quiet night, two thousand years ago, when Someone was born for us. We should also take the time to be thankful that the old creep Father Christmas only appears on one night in 365 days. I’m going to post on this blog with all abandon and ignore the fact that I’ve just established a blogging schedule so I can write about the upcoming holidays! (I also have to add some Christmas art to this thing. It’s so boring without a gallery. 😦 )

I’m also actually writing a little Christmas story for this year, which I’d like to share with you once it’s finished and polished. It’s still in the drafting process though, and rather confused (my method of outlining short stories by telling them to my sister has its disadvantages). And now that I think of it, I need to equalize writing and drawing by making some kind of Christmas art piece. Maybe I’ll draw Saint Nicholas in all his stalker-ish glory. 😉

In the meantime, many happy wishes for the holidays to come! When you leave a plate of cookies out for Santa, don’t eat them yourself; and also, beware, there are stalkers on the loose this time of year. *looks at a certain weighty toymaker from Antarctica*

Meanwhile, tell me about your Christmas plans (if you have any you want to share 🙂 )! For instance, what you think of Santa Claus.

No, what you really think of Santa Claus. I’m serious.

Anyway! It’s time to continue prepping around for the end of 2018. 🙂 Anyone excited for this crazy year to be over with, so that we can move on to 2019, which I temporarily dub The Year of Promising Fantasy Books with Beautiful, Heartbreaking Covers? Try to be a happy camper while you wait!

Until then,

~Merie Shen

 

 

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Of Bookish Things

Book Review~ The Coronation

The Coronation Book Review

Hello! Today I’m here for a review of The Coronation, book one of the Tales of Tarsurella series by Olivia Jarmusch. And I can’t wait to get started so I can go on and on about how wonderful this book is so I can hurry up and get this over with. (And by the way, I switched review days to Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays. Heh.)

Do note: I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. 🙂

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 Prince Addison is only several weeks away from inheriting the Kingdom of Tarsurella. The entire Palace is ablaze with excitement, as the Royal Family prepares for the event of a lifetime. Despite the exciting event which is near at hand, Addison and his younger siblings (all seven of them!) must carry on with their daily activities.

Addison’s sisters, Princesses Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, have their struggles with being iconic European starlets of a modern day monarchy. The teen heiresses grace magazine covers, smile for photoshoots, and gracefully glide through important interviews–until a certain American popstar arrives on the scene. Kennetic Energy, the wildly popular band from the United States, is chosen to play at Addison’s Coronation. David Carter, the band’s handsome lead singer, fumbles through awkward moments with Princess Hope–in front of the cameras. When an embarrassing rumor sparks that Princess Hope is dating the young fellow, she is determined to get the band fired from their Royal gig.

Meanwhile, Princess Chasity is dealing with her own fragile affairs of the heart. Her new security guard, Hanson Fletcher, is completely captivating, yet entirely frustrating. She attempts to keep the entrance of her heart firmly protected, while following the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23. But can she be successful in guarding her heart, from her security guard?

MY REVIEW

Before this review gets started… allow me to spend a few seconds to express my adoration for this book very quickly and incomprehensibly.

Okay, now that that’s finished, I can go on to raving in coherent language. 🙂 Because let me tell you, human beings of this planet earth, The Coronation is one of the most awesome books I have read in the year of 2018. And for your information, I have read a lot of awesome books this year. Believe it or not. (2018 has got to be the year where my reading preferences suddenly become clear at last! :))  Big busy royal family life of seven children, set in a fictional country in Europe, God-honoring and realistic…

This book revolves around a family of seven kids, not to mention the side characters/love interests associated with the older ones. I somehow managed to love all seven princes and princesses– I mean they were so real. Their plights were so real– and all the other characters as well. I ship each ship like mad. And can I just compliment Livy on her writing? It’s not easy when you have this many characters in a book, but she handled it perfectly! And how did she handle it? She channeled the power of my secret (now not-so-secret, ha) passion narration style: third-person omniscient. Goodness, people, you do not know how much I appreciate that. And no, the head-hopping did not make me dizzy at all. 🙂

There were a lot of threads going around in the plot of this book– but really, what can you expect from a 460-page novel. Anyway, I enjoyed every moment of it, because it was just plain fun. 🙂 The characters were easy to imagine, and the writing made you feel as if you were there, with them, through everything they were going through, which was quite a lot. This story was intense. And it was so true. Each problem was handled with the right amount of care and weight. There was also plenty of humor to be found in this book, so it’s not dry. I loved the family’s relationships with God, even though more than one of them had pretty rough problems dealing with Him (or in some cases, seem entirely detached from spirituality…). I honestly can’t wait to dive into the next book. And then wait for the third book. But I have only one complaint, people. One measly little complaint.

This is a TRILOGY?!

Like, after only three books we have to say goodbye?!

I just love my life. Well anyway, that’s how all trilogies work so. I guess. We’ll have to deal with that. 😦

So aside from the fact that I’d gladly accept more than three books to this series (but I suppose we’ll have to ignore that for now), this book earns a solid five star rating from me. It is wonderfulness in the form of a novel.

Well, that’s all for today. See ya next time!

Until then,

~Merie Shen

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Of Rainy Days, Of Reflections and Observations

The Light Remains

Good day, people! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving 🙂

I certainly did. On Thanksgiving Day my dad finally came home from Korea and we had a great (but dramatically untraditional in every way imaginable) dinner with just the four of our family. On Friday, our youth group made a delightful Mexican feast together (even though it contained no tacos). Today I have a sore throat and am spending the day reading, writing, and drawing doing homework.

This week I read and bought several books for some pretty awesome deals (sometimes I think I take Black Friday for granted). Also, on Friday, our beloved old papa-hamster died!! He was officially one year old. So I guess we should be calling him an old grandpa-hamster?

Anyway, JiaJiaMian was very near and dear to all of our hearts. He was the last hamster in our family, after his mate, Noodle, and all six of their baby hamsters passed (do not blame us; all those little babies were in the hands of other families!). When he was young, he was very fast and very sneaky and had a penchant for escaping from his cage. Leading up to the days ’till his death, however, he was a very docile and gentle hamster. For the most part. After all, for some reason our cat was morbidly fascinated by him.

So, yes. And so that happened.

Now before I go any further, allow me to assure you that I am perfectly aware that Thanksgiving was two days ago. Nevertheless, today’s post is about… thanksgiving.

That time of year is gone already; I know. But guess what? With Christmas looming around the corner, it gives us all the more reason to remember: Thanksgiving may be over, but the time to give thanks is forever present!

The Lights in the Shadows

Sunlight Calls

 

The birthstone of November is citrine. Citrine is a symbol of, basically, light. Happiness. Joy. It matches its warm yellow hue; it reminds me of the sun. Even its name matches its meaning!

It seems that a lot of people I know have November birthdays. If so, they have citrine as their birthstone, and that’s special. Even so, of course, not only November folks should be happy. As Thanksgiving’s bright warmth lingers and mingles with the oncoming bells of Christmas, we should all remain thankful for everything God has given us. And even when Christmas is past, then the New Year comes along! And after that, Easter! You can’t really ever stop celebrating Jesus if you really think about it 🙂

Thanksgiving is an all-around American holiday. Chinese people don’t eat turkey (except that pretty much everyone, Chinese or American, loves turkey anyway, so why does that matter?). Still, it’s free for the world to observe because autumn is the season of harvest, and after a season of harvest we always give thanks.

… Even if in China, they burn fake paper money.

Well, there’s also the Mid-Autumn Festival, which I personally think should take up the entire spirit of October even though it’s rather early on in the month, because Halloween is no fun. 😦

Anyway. I hope you enjoyed this post! Don’t forget to be thankful no matter what. I definitely have trouble remaining that way through rough times, but the truth is, when you do try you will have beautiful, satisfying results. Thanksgiving is a big part of our lives!

Until next time, always be a happy camper!

~ Merie Shen

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