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Saturday, January 23, 2016

My review of Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman

About the book:

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man who will break her spirit. When handsome, good-hearted Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, Gwendolyn spies in him the sort of fellow she could imagine marrying. Yet fate seems determined to keep them apart. Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

My review:

I enjoyed this book. It made me think of a warm and fuzzy Robin Hood themed story (the one made by Disney with the Fox and Hare, etc,) but  with a Christian twist. There is a strong faith element to the novel that makes it clear how our relationship to God must be personal to be effective. I could not agree more. There is also a bit of A Knight's Tale blended in with the knights fighting in tournaments and jousting. It put me in the mood to want to go to a Renaissance Festival, lol!

It was clear the story was tailored by the publisher to fit their typical readership. I'd say this book was rated G overall. There were a few realistic elements that shaped the main female character, like the physical abuse she and her mother suffered at the hands of her father, but it was a very small part of the story. It did fit the mentality of the times -- that women were supposed to be ruled by the men in the family.

I can see how Gwen's childhood and seeing what her mother endured would make her want to train to fight if needed to protect her family from the brutality of her father. I can see her hanging out in trees to get away from it all. I do feel a bit disadvantaged by not having read the first book in the series, which sounds like it had an even stronger Robin Hood theme, including a heroine named Merry. I do believe the story that comes next will be about Rosalind, and if so, it will no doubt tug on heart strings. Overall, this was an enjoyable read.

Chivalrous was published by Bethany House and released in September 2015,

Monday, January 18, 2016

My review of The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

About the book:

A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith, and unrequited love.

It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.

Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen's Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller.

My review:

I have read a number of Philippa's novels and have enjoyed them all. This one starts out with a semi-steamy scene, but then the rest of the book is rated PG. There is intrigue and suspense and the typical divided loyalties of a kingdom that is confused regarding what it believes. I enjoy stories that contrast Mary Tudor with Elizabeth Tudor and I felt like this was a fair portrayal with Elizabeth shown as a bit less noble and more flirtatious and devious than I have read in other books. Queen Mary was just pitiful and so emotionally distraught toward the end. I kind of felt sad for her but at the same time her marriage to the Spanish prince just caused more chaos in the kingdom. She would have been a better queen without him and the encouragement to persecute and burn Protestants. I enjoyed the story told through the eyes of the "fool" who was more like a spy and seer than what I imagined a fool would be like. She had conflicts on so many levels. I did enjoy watching her grow into a young woman and mature through the hardships she endured. I loved the subplot with her and her intended, Daniel. He was a very patient man and at the same time I wasn't sure whether they would end up together or not. I won't post a spoiler, though. She's a fictional character among real historical figures, so the outcome was completely up to the author. I think Philippa resolved things well and tied up the loose ends. It was a busy month for me or I would have finished the book much sooner.

The Queen's Fool was published by Harper Collins and released in 2004.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Letting Go is now for sale as book one in the Healing Hearts series.

Why does this matter? Because I now have my rights back. I can start writing the next book in the series. Whoo hoo! I couldn't do that before. So watch for book 2 (Finding Love) sometime in 2016 - most likely by the end of the year - I am not as amazingly fast as I used to be. That stinks, I know. But I will try my best to produce at least one book this year.


About the book:

Diane is a lawyer who fights for the rights of children placed in foster care. She's determined to give them what she never had -- a functional family. Sometimes that meant adoption and other times it meant sending the children back to reformed biological parents. It was a tough job, but one that helped her sleep at night because she always did what she believed was right. She understood what it felt like to be unwanted, or worse, desired solely because of what she could do for her parents. Unfortunately this dark time from her childhood carried into her adult life. Men wanted her, but their overtures were always motivated by what she could do for them. Better to remain single than be used again.

After hearing glowing reports of her skills in court, Dave hires Diane to help him keep his foster son so he might adopt the child once Joey's parents' rights were terminated. Diane was good in court, but she was so gorgeous it distracted him to the point he considered replacing her several times. But hiring her was one of the best decisions he'd ever made. Too bad they could never be more than friends. He'd never made his deceased wife happy and he didn't want to bank his son's future on another beautiful woman who would eventually leave them. Better to raise his son alone. So why couldn't he get that beautiful attorney out of his mind?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My review of "End of the Fairy Tale" (The Love Games, book 2) by Susan Williams

About the hook:

‘Today you raged at me in a café and I felt myself shut down. It was like being verbally hit over and over again. The whole thing is too hard. It’s not one thing, it’s one hundred. I can’t do this anymore, it’s dragging me under. I want to find the me I used to be. I wish I had never let you back in.’

Are you in love with the idea of who you thought he was, hoping he will return to the man from the beginning? That’s the mistake I made and I lost years of my life because of it.

Unfortunately I was in love with the fairytale man. Not the selfish, neglectful, narcissistic personality he really was. I was in love with the idea of my very own Prince Charming, with me cast as his Cinderella. Throughout the relationship I held on to that romantic fantasy, hoping and praying that he would turn back into my dream man from the beginning. But that’s all it was – a fantasy. He simply read me like a book and acted out the role of who I wanted him to be, at least to begin with. Once his mask came off completely I was to discover that my Prince Charming was about as charming as a saber-toothed tiger...

End of the Fairytale is the second part of the Love Games Series and picks up where Planet Ben left off. It is a day to day journal written over the remainder of my relationship through to the ultimate end and shows my subsequent slide from a strong, confident woman to a traumatized emotional wreck; a person I could barely recognize. By the final final breakup, I was worn out on every level. Yet I have nobody to blame but myself because I am the one who allowed him to suck, or hoover me back in.

If you are aware he is a narcissist but struggling to accept it or let him go, perhaps you’ve broken up and he’s hooked you back in again, then this true story, where I made the mistake of taking Ben back once I was almost free, will help you to see the similarities in your own relationship. In order to fully break the pattern, you need to not only understand the narcissist’s personality traits but also your own. It is not something in you that causes him to constantly criticize, punish and with-hold love, it is something in him. However it is equally your problem because it is something in you that allows him to do it. Told in real time with verbatim journal entries, the End of the Fairytale will reflect your own situation and show you why there can be No Contact and no going back, because the narcissist will never change. 

My review:

I read the first 4/5ths of the book on my kindle and finished the last part with the kindle app reading the book to me while I was driving on a trip. The back and forth emotional struggles the author faced were honest and realistically written, yet a bit tedious to read because she was "going to see him one last time" about a hundred times. Since this is non-fiction, my guess is that the book was made as palatable to the reader as possible, so the real back and forth would probably have been even more difficult to read.

It's very human to keep trying and not give up on someone. How many of us have said, "just one more time and this time I'll make it work" in a relationship that you knew in your gut was going bad early on? The longer you stay in the relationship the harder it is to get out of because you have invested so much time and so much of your heart into this person.  One reason you kept trying is you believed your love would heal the man's broken life and he would turn in the man you know he has the potential to be. Living with the constant disappointment can be very taxing on the heart and the body. The stress of not knowing where you stand can make you physically stick. Every time you make up your mind to say "the end" he warms up and becomes the man you knew he could be, but once he is assured of your commitment, he goes back to the dark side. The author relayed this all very well. Her writing style is very easy to read.

I found the ending a bit funny. To read it with your eyes is one thing, but to here the kindle actually say "done, done, done" a thousand times is crazy sounding. Anyway, I would recommend this book to anyway who feels indecisive and stuck in a relationship that is unhealthy. If nothing else, it will make you feel less insecure and will normalize some of the process for the reader. Also, writing about your angst in a journal is a great way to express your frustration and not hold it in. Then you can go back and remind yourself as to why you were getting out of the bad relationship. That's great advice.

You can get a copy for your kindle HERE.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

My review of Courtesan by Diane Haeger

About the book:

Amid the disapproving gossip of the Court, a royal romance defies all obstacles.

The Court of François I is full of lust, intrigue, and bawdy bon temps—a different world from the quiet country life Diane de Poitiers led with her elderly husband. Now a widow, the elegant Diane is called back to Court, where the King’s obvious interest marks her as an enemy to the King’s favourite, Anne d’Heilly. The Court is soon electrified by rumors of their confrontations. As Anne calls on her most venomous tricks to drive Diane away, Diane finds an ally in the one member of Court with no allegiance to the King’s mistress: his teenage second son, Henri.

Neglected by his father and disliked by his brothers, Prince Henri expects little from his life. But as his friendship with Diane deepens into infatuation and then a romance that scandalizes the Court, the Prince begins to discover hope for a future with Diane. But fate and his father have other plans for Henri—including a political marriage with Catherine de Medici. Despite daunting obstacles, Henri’s devotion to Diane never wanes; their passion becomes one of the most legendary romances in the history of France.

My review:

Haeger's writing style in Courtesan seemed a bit antiquated, but it worked for the story. The novel read like it had an omniscient point of view, but in reality it was mostly head-hopping. Since this book was first published in 1993, and at the time head hopping was fairly common in novels, I'd say no harm, no foul. Haeger's writing was beautiful, in my opinion. Her descriptions were compelling, which I love, because it's a means for me to escape.

It's not a light read, but it's more of an in-depth look at the emotional conflict of the Courtesan (Diane) and the struggles she had in her life because of her love for Henri, the Kind of France. She'd cared for him as a boy, but he'd loved her as a young man. She was quite a bit older than he was when he'd first kissed her. She resisted for many reasons. One fact in particular really bothered her. He was a teenager and she was a grown woman with two adult daughters at the time their relationship became physical. But she was powerless to resist him due to his sincere, heartfelt love for her.

Henri adored her, but due to her age it wasn't a love affair that was easily accepted. Henri fantasized about making her his wife, but his father set him up for a political marriage that he could not refuse as his father was king. His devotion to Diane continued, but she could never be his queen. He was already married to Catherine de Medici and he resisted her in every way possible. Henri was never intended for the throne, but when his brother died shortly after becoming king (in the wake of King Francois's death), everything changed.

Having read the story of Catherine de Medici's life by C.W. Gortner several years ago, all told from his point of view, I found "Courtesan" even more intriguing since the primary point of view in Haeger's book is Diane de Poitiers, and she was the love rival to Catherine, the queen, who in Gortner's book was the primary point of view.

There were a lot of consistencies in their stories since they had to stick with the historical fact that Catherine gave Henri many heirs, but the stories were told from different perspectives. Haeger's book is a heartbreaking story, really, as Catherine doesn't capture her husband's heart even at the end of her husband's life. I found myself pondering what it would be like to live as Catherine and also to live as Diane. These types of conflicts always intrigue me so it takes me longer to read a book with deep characterization.

I thought about the characters so much while reading each novel. All in all, I enjoyed this book. I liked Gortner's writing style better since it is more contemporary writing with no head-hopping, but Haeger also has a beautiful writing style that I found enjoyable as well. Highly recommended for historical romance lovers.

Courtesan  was first published in 1993 and later reprinted in 2006 by Broadway Books.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My review of Planet Ben by Susan Wiiliams

About the book:

Are you tired of lies, broken promises, cheating and emotional game playing? Are you in a relationship so toxic that you're questioning your own sanity, yet can't seem to break away? Have you changed from the happy, confident woman you used to be before you met him, feeling depressed, anxious and insecure? That's my story too. That's life with a narcissist.

We live in a world of narcissism but how do you know if your partner really is a toxic narcissist, or whether you should just give it more time and patience? Here are some clues:

Has he told you how amazing you are, that he’s never felt like this before?
How he feels like with you he has won the lottery?
How his ex’s all want him back but they’re all psychos who hurt him too much?
Has he romanced you with flowers and gifts, behaved like your perfect Prince Charming?
Has he been your dream man in every way, only to suddenly misinterpret something you say and become viciously cold and silent, even to disappear completely for a while?
Has he raged in anger over the smallest thing?
If he hasn’t done so yet, he will.
Be prepared. The minute he knows he has you, he will turn. It’s a cat and mouse game and he is a master at it.
His Prince Charming persona is only a facade; look behind the mask and you will find he is a total fraud.

The Love Games is so titled because a relationship with a narcissist is very much a series of control and mind games cloaked within the name of love. To a narcissist, a relationship is not a partnership but simply a competition to be the best, which he must win at all costs. He is a damaged man who has repeated the same abusive and emotional manipulations with every woman he has been with and if you have played into his game he will do the same to you.

In Planet Ben the reader is taken on my own journey as I enter Ben’s narcissistic world, believing I have met the man of my dreams, only to find out I am caught up in a fairytale nightmare. This book outlines the first year with a narcissist, the romantic beginning, the methods he uses to set the game up and the confusion and bewilderment that sets in as my ideal love begins to change from Mr Nice to Mr Nasty, something that every partner of a narcissist experiences.

After an initial intro on narcissism, the balance of the book is relayed in a diary form which I kept throughout the relationship. You will see my struggle to understand what I am dealing with as the Jeckyll/Hyde character that inevitably manifests within a narcissistic relationship, makes his appearance through day to day examples. You will also witness my denial of how bad things really are, something that often happens to those on the receiving end of emotional abuse as they struggle to cope.

Along with insights into the narcissistic personality, Planet Ben provides suggestions on how to avoid making the same mistakes that I did and outlines the personality traits and patterns of your own that may be keeping you trapped within a narcissist’s toxic game. If you are with a narcissist you will most certainly see your own situation reflected within the pages of this book. 

My review:

This book was easy to read and even easier to relate to on so many levels. The author writes in a very conversational style so you feel like she is talking to you. It is not preachy and reads in some ways like a novel, which is why I finished the book.

I think this is a brave topic and one that will help many women who are mystified by the suddenly switch in their man's personality. The same could be said in the reverse as I am sure many nice guys have fallen for a woman like Ben. The sad truth of the matter is that I have had similar experiences as Susan Williams in my life with different relationships. I didn't have the exact same turmoil, but a few that were similar enough to make me pause and reflect while reading this book.

Like the author, at times I, too, found myself journaling about the confusion I felt as a way of coping with the emotional turmoil I suffered inside. I had to let the pent up emotions out so they wouldn't make me crazy. Trying to discuss your issues with a narcissist is impossible as they have a  way of turning it all around and attacking you instead of looking at themselves and what they could do to change. I have also worn out dear friends with my indecisiveness at times. I've enjoyed this book so much I plan to read the second in the series. I have found it very insightful and well-written. I would highly recommended it even to women in healthy relationships.

This book was published by the author (and impeccably written with no spelling or grammar errors that I noticed) and was released via kindle direct in 2014.
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