An Excellent Library

The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/
The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/

The Widows of Braxton County: A Novel

The Widows of Braxton County: A Novel - Jess McConkey Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/
The 30-Day Praise Challenge - Becky Harling A twenty-minute-a-day devotion encouraging readers to spend time praising God.Focus your praise on God’s grace and forgiveness. Lay down every burden of guilt, shame, regret, and self-punishment. Imagine yourself clothed in Christ’s righteous robe.This book was simply not for me. Before picking it up, the reader should know that of the twenty minutes of praise encouraged by this book only includes about five minutes of reading. The rest is supposed to be spent listening to praise music. Let me say now, I’m not really a fan of the genre. Not only that, but I tend to like to spend my daily devotion time away from my computer, so being encouraged to look music videos up on YouTube is kind of counterproductive for people like me who could easily get sucked into checking email or updating a blog whenever opening a browser window.The rest of the devotion tends to follow the same kind of feel-good praise-music vibe as the genre, so if you’re into that sort to thing, this would probably be a great book for you. I did really appreciate the prayer portions, though.

Tender Is the Night

Tender Is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/
Liesl & Po - Kei Acedera, Lauren Oliver Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/
Into the Whirlwind - Elizabeth Camden Mollie Knox must rebuild her family’s watch company after the Great Chicago Fire as two men fight for her affection.The next hours would always be a blur in Mollie’s memory. The water was too cold to stand in for any length of time. Teeth chattering, standing in the water up to her waist, she watched her city burn… By this time tomorrow, the prettiest waterfront in America would be a burned-over wasteland.There are certain times and places in American history that never fail to interest me, and the Great Chicago Fire era is one of those settings. This historical Christian romance really does sweep the reader up into the whirlwind as the main characters battle for their lives, for the businesses that they’ve built, the reputations which they’ve developed, and the people whom they love. There is so much going on in this book, from the historical background of what’s going on in Chicago at the time, to the rise of industrialization and the assembly line, from moral questions about business dealings, to national pride and the pride of veterans. Though a lot is going on throughout, it all weaves together cohesively.I don’t know that I was completely sold on the romance aspect of this book — it was a bit too Gone With the Wind for my tastes, with a back and forth love/hate relationship based on misunderstandings and hurt feelings. By the end, I was rooting for them, but for a long while there, I wondered if the main characters might actually be better off without each other.Overall: Highly recommended for fans of Christian historical romance… well-researched and entertaining
The Boundless - Kenneth Oppel Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Jedi Academy - Jeffrey Brown Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/
Everfound - Neal Shusterman The Afterlights from books one and two head westward, with one side following Mary’s goal of destroying the living world, and the other side trying to stop her.Do you sense some unseen spirit whispering in your ear, announcing the end of everything you know? If you do, then Mary is close by, waiting for you with a loving smile, and her hordes are there as you fall, ready to catch you, and hold you, and keep you. Forever.There are so many reasons to love this series, but now, after re-reading the trilogy again, I think the one that stands out most is how vast and imaginative Everlost is. It’s a world where so many things are possible, following their own warped sense of logic, that you feel like Shusterman could write a hundred books about it, and still there would be more fascinating places, amazing people, and heroic adventures to find. I love the tie-ins to real-world places, things that were destroyed that are now lost in the limbo of Everlost.As the conclusion of the series, this book hits all the right notes. We have resolution for all of the characters. Some have happy endings, some tragic. We’re left with a sense of finality, but also a sense of hope and the feeling that more adventures could still be to come for our heroes, even as they part ways. A completely satisfying end to a completely satisfying series.
Teardrop (Teardrop Trilogy) - Lauren Kate Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story

The Astronaut Wives Club - Lily Koppel This biography shows the extraordinary (and at other times entirely ordinary) lives of the women who stood by their men during the space race of the 1960s.“Standard operating procedure,” Susan called it. All she had to do on launch day was sit back, surrounded by women who knew what she was going through, and watch her husband ride a Saturn V rocket into the unknown on national television.I’ve always found the space race to be one of the most interesting periods of time in American history, so when I saw this book written about the women who watched their husbands vie for a place in a space capsule and be blasted off into the unknown, I knew I was interested, and this book held up to my expectations. Through this book, we get to hear about the everyday lives of these women as they dealt with the loneliness, the constant scrutiny, and high expectations of their husbands’ job. From just squeaking by to instant celebrity status, I loved this story of how this group pulled together for the highs and lows of the space age, experienced on an incredibly personal level.I’ll admit, though, there were too many ‘characters’ to keep straight. I think that focusing on just the initial Mercury Seven would have been a more cohesive book. I would have loved some sort of appendix that listed all of the astronauts and their wives, as well as what missions they were on. I had just gotten somewhat of a grasp on the Mercury Seven when more astronauts (and wives!) were added.
The Outcast: a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter - Jolina Petersheim Pregnant outside of wedlock, Rachel is shunned from her close-knit Old Order Mennonite community, and refuses to tell anyone who the father is, even her twin sister.I almost wish that I could say yes to marriage with Judah King as easily as my sister had said yes to his brother, Tobias. I wish that I could go back and make my choices again. But different choices would mean this accidental child would not be in my arms, and I would not trade him for ten lifetimes of marital ease.For those who enjoy Amish/Mennonite novels, who love a good biblical allusion, and who like books about the power of forgiveness and hope, this book is for you.I can’t say, though, that this was a book for me. Many of the Amish/Old Mennonite/modern Mennonite comparisons were completely lost on me, and I thought you could hardly call this a “modern” retelling when the main characters go out of their way to live outside the modern world.Stylistically, I had a hard time with the dual perspectives in this book. Some chapters are told from Rachel’s point-of-view, but others are told from the somehow-omniscient viewpoint of her deceased father-in-law. It’s all written in present tense, except for a few ‘flashbacks’ of sorts when characters are reminiscing about the past. The constant point of view changes broke up the flow of the story for me.Finally, some of the relationships bothered me. Rachel blames her affair on her father’s lack of love towards her. The twinship of Rachel and Leah is intensified to the point where they are each the most important person in the other’s life (even over spouses or children). The child’s father (who is obvious from page two, though the author skirts around the fact for 2/3 of the book) seems completely incapable of any kind of love; and Rachel’s other love interest plays such a minor role that you find yourself wondering at the end if she is ‘settling’ for him.Overall: Not what I had been hoping for, but probably a fine read for fans of the Amish/Mennonite subgenre.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune - Paul Clark Newell Jr., Bill Dedman Review coming soon at http://excellentlibrary.wordpress.com/

Letters from Skye: A Novel

Letters from Skye - Jessica Brockmole A story of wartime romances told in letters between a reclusive poet and an American ambulance driver in WWI, interspersed with letters from the poet’s daughter to her own WWII-soldier beau.I should have told you, shouldn’t taught you to steel your heart. Taught you that a letter isn’t always just a letter. Words on the page can drench the soul.Romantic novels are, as a general rule, not really my thing. This one will certainly appeal to fans of Lifetime TV movies or Nicholas Sparks, as it is a tale of love found and lost, grieved over, searched for, and finally found once more. It definitely plays on the emotions, asking the question: how far would you go for love? I did find the idea of a novel written entirely in letters to be somewhat unique, and that’s what captured my attention.I think I would have liked it a lot better had the entire premise not been based around a woman cheating on her husband. If she had been single, I might have believed the love story more readily, but even from the very early letters, Elspeth is flirtatious in a way that was disrespectful of her current marriage, leading David on in a way that made me sympathize more with her poor, unloved husband than with the flowery-prosed romantics.
The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success - Jeff Gerke An in-depth look at how to set up the first main part of a novel, introducing the reader to the characters and plot in a way that will keep their interest.With every line, paragraph, and page, the agent or editor is most likely going to kill your book in the morning. It is your task to “stay alive” as long as possible.This book is a fabulous reference tool for making sure that a writer doesn’t metaphorically shoot him/herself in his/her foot within the first fifty pages. It focuses on the problems of telling instead of showing, point-of-view errors, and weak characters, as well as other major no-nos that writers sometimes struggle with in the early pages of a manuscript.Though much of this advice can be found on webpages, in agent interviews, and in a myriad of other publishing resources, the information given here is clear, concise, and directed specifically at these very important first chapters.Overall: Great reference tool for writers!

Currently reading

BZRK Reloaded
Michael Grant