A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson

360019■Synopsis (Excerpt from Goodreads)

Born into affluence, Mia Stanley is a winsome socialite with a knack for matchmaking. She’s also a writer for Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, much to the disdain of her family and their society friends. A proper young lady of her social standing isn’t meant to labor in such a way, but Mia has always had a way with words…

When her writing draws her into the world of downtrodden seamen’s wives on Philadelphia’s docks, Mia uncovers a scheme that puts her in harm’s way. But her heart ends up on the line as well…. Has her determination to always make a match driven away the one man whose esteem she covets?

 


I haven’t been able to process my feelings toward this book just yet. I don’t particularly adore this book but it’s not like I HATE it, either. I’m kind of being in the middle, if you like.

This is a typical romance story which sets somewhere in the 19th Century. The protagonist, Mia is born to a wealthy family,  she is a ‘Lady of High Regard. She loves acting as a matchmaker and tries to find his best friend, Garrett a suitable wife.

My first impression on this character setting was:
‘Well, that sounds pretty much like Emma by Jane Austen.’ 
I have never read the book. I have only watched the movie adaptation, but I thought Mia’s character setting is quite similar to the one of Emma from the first moment when I found out what kind of woman Mia is.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t relate to Mia as much. I know she is an amiable, compassionate woman yet she also comes across a feisty, headstrong young woman and her naivety and imprudence really put me off.
I do think it’s really nice and commendable of her to try to save seamen’s wives out of their plight despite knowing she is well out of bounds. Nevertheless, I was almost sick of her repeatedly (again, REPEATEDLY) making stupid, reckless, impetuous decisions.
One minute she pledges to her father that she would seek wise counsel and the next minute she acts recklessly in the heat of passion, blindly believing that she can only solve the problem.

As for the story where two old best friends growing up as a brother and a sister finally recognizes their feelings toward each other, I find it interesting yet a bit predictable and old. It was good that it’s got some suspenseful twists to it, but the pacing -as far as the romance goes – was incredibly slow and a bit irritating.
The number of interruptions really threw me off; whenever either of the main two characters tries to confess their love, the interruption comes. I could tolerate it if it were once or twice, but this many???  It does serve to make it more suspenseful and I did want to know how it would play out, but I was a bit frustrated and wanted to cry, “Come on, you two, forget the propriety and blurt it out already!”
On that point, I think it was successful.

Generally the characters didn’t leave much big of an impact on me, neither do the story line.
Oh, but I love Mia’s father a lot. He is an epitome of words of wisdom. I particularly liked the lesson he gives his reckless daughter Mia, such as:

I fear that if you do not learn moderation and learn to temper your responses, however, that you’ll find yourself sorely misused, if not dead.

Meanwhile she’ll stew and fret over what she’s said and done. It will serve her right.

Those remarks made me laugh out loud – what better sermon could there possibly be? He said exactly what I wanted to say to Mia. I love that man.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this. It didn’t grab me as strongly as I had hoped, but I did enjoy reading their slow budding love and I must admit the repetitive misunderstanding between Mia and Garrett hooked me.

As the setting suggest, the writing is rather formal which is reminiscent of Classic literature, but it’s not so arcane, it’s simple enough to get through.
If you are up for light-hearted, classic-ish romance book, you might enjoy this.

I’ll give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Will You Remember Me? by Amanda Prowse

21570571This book emotionally shattered me; it left me in a complete sobbing mess, I don’t even know how many tears I shed. It’s so sad, poignant, yet amazingly beautiful.

This is a heart-wrenching story of Poppy Day, a wife of Martin and a mother of Peg and Max being diagnosed terminal breast cancer and then trying to live to the fullest, struggling with her sorrow and angst over having to leave the man whom she loves more than anyone else and her kids who she would never trade for the world.

I picked up this book not knowing this is the sixth book in the ‘No Greater Love’ series thus I didn’t get fully invested in the story or the characters until I reached almost halfway through the book.

There were scenes that pulled at my heartstrings here and there in the first half, but the enormity of the grim reality that awaits Poppy didn’t sink in on me as much as I would have liked.

I think I can attributed it to this book being a part of the series; all the characterizations and story-settings must have been done in the previous books, I don’t think there are a lot of explanations on the character dynamics thus it actually took me a while to piece together who and who are connected and their character backgrounds.

Then there came Martin’s outburst; this scene struck me so hard to the core. 

His broke down comes when he finds the thing that’s very important to him taken away from his and Poppy’s special place. He buckles down on his knees and then starts crying… his words, the streak of words that’s coming from his mouth just got me all welled up.

From then, the whole story starts exuding the grim and grave atmosphere as Poppy and Martin try to prepare themselves for the aftermath that will come after Poppy is gone.
At that point, I started to avoid reading this book out in public, which I often do as a bookworm. However, anticipating how sad and heartrending this story was going to be, I just couldn’t. Being a sucker for tear-jerker stories, I didn’t want anyone to see me welling up.

I gobbled down the latter half in two-sittings. It was such a page-turner, I literally couldn’t put it down.
I particularly infuriated and gritted my teeth when I found out there is SOMETHING happening between two characters at Poppy and Martin’s wedding party of all places. I just didn’t see it coming at all thus it hit me like a sledgehammer. I just couldn’t process what I just read.

The ensuing scenes hit me so hard in the feels; it evoked my emotions much more than I thought it would.
I particularly found it really poignant and sad that Poppy has to leave behind their loved ones as young as 32 years old. Her declining health and physical and emotional exhaustion were accurately narrated and it hurt me so bad.

The last several chapters just broke me; the dialogues, the letters, and the obituary.
I just couldn’t hold back my tears, I let it streak down my cheeks. I don’t even remember when was the last time I cried so hard over a book.

I felt this book rather personal from my experience of having lost my father to terminal cancer.
I saw his system shutting down right in front of my eyes; quietly slipping into a coma with his breast rising and falling.
I saw how slow and sluggish his every single movement became as his health deteriorated.
I feel like this book has given me an insight into what could have been his emotional process, having to face death leaving his family and friends behind.

Such emotions that I had from putting myself in Poppy and Martin’s shoes kept washing over me like tidal waves even after I closed the book. If anything, they got stronger now that I saw how it ends.

Personally, I am not 100% happy with the ending. I didn’t like the two (that I mentioned earlier) being together. I guess that’s the only issue that I have about this book.

‘Warning: you will need tissues!’

A warning from the back cover. How well put it is. You’ll definitely need tissues.
A LOT. 

My Bookish Goals for 2017

Hello, dear readers!
I know I’m too late for announcing my bookish goals for 2017, but I’d love to share with you some of my thoughts and intentions, such as what kind of books I want to read in the year 2017.

As far as the number goes, I want to aim for reading 70 books at least this year.
Personally, I think it’s pretty attainable given that I read 76 books in the past 6 months.
I could have set my Goodreads goal for reading 100 books, but I eventually decided against it. While I want to read as many books as I possibly can, I also want to hone my review writing skills by reading other book bloggers’s reviews, so I think it would be wise if I lowered my Goodreads goal to set aside larger chunks of time to do so.
70 books a year works out about 6 books a month and I have already read 14 books this year. I think I can pull off reading 70 books with relative ease if I put my mind to it. (and I do intend to do so.)

Next on my list is to read more diverse books than I did in the past.
Now, I must make it crystal clear that I am a 100 percent mood reader and am quite fastidious about what to read; I rarely pick up books I am not even remotely interested in. To make the matter even more complicated, my mood swings. A LOT. One minute I feel like reading Romance novels and the next minute I care for Historical novels. My interest runs off in all directions at the smallest of things yet I tend to hold fast to my tastes. I don’t particularly relish the idea of reading books I don’t really like.

Non-Fiction generally falls into this category. I would even say that Non-Fiction is the last genre that I would go to; there is something about Non-Fiction that I don’t really care for, I’d rather read Fiction than read Non-Fiction.

Nonetheless, I want to change this. I want to read more of Non-Fiction this year.

Believe it or not, I didn’t used to read a lot of historical novels or horror novels. I would normally go to contemporary novels or romance novels.
But as you can see, I have read several books from both genres and I adore them so much. If anything, I’d now love to read many more Historical novels!

I hope the same thing will happen with Non-Fiction and I will try to read as many of them as possible this year.
Just to show you how willing I actually am, take a look at some of the books I have bought;

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

nonfictions

I found them both on Goodreads and thought; “Oh, that sounds interesting, I might as well try reading them!”
Hopefully, they both turn out to be as good as I expected!

Another thing I’d love to try this year is to follow an author’s complete body of work chronologically.
Now, this bookish goal is inspired by watching this Mementomori video, in which he picks William Faulkner and pledges to read all his books in publication order.
I have yet to decide who to follow, BUT, I am going to (in the near future), or I might tweak the challenge just a little bit and turn it into reading as many historical novels as possible this year.
Now, THAT sounds interesting and attainable.

Speaking of historical novels, take a look at this;

lilac-girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. THIS BEAUTY.

I’d had my eye on this for quite some time because the premise sounds so interesting and I just couldn’t resist buying it. I knew I was way over my budget, but I just couldn’t give up on this one.

Now that I have this baby in my hands, I am so excited to read this. Hope it measures up to my expectations!

What are your reading goals for the year 2017?
Are there any books (particularly Historical Fiction) that you think I should definitely read?
Throw in your comments and let me know! I could really use your input to decide what to read (and what to buy)!

Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you again, very, very soon!
Bye 🙂

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

3688715Another 5 out of 5 stars – although it’s the third time I’ve read this book, it never fails to make me cry in the end.

I don’t think I need to tell you what this book is about, given that it was made into a movie, but this is a historical fiction that touches on the Vel’d’ Hiv’ round-up took place in Paris in July, 1942. Early in the morning, the girl, Sarah Starzynski and her family were round-up and penned in a stadium called Vel’d’ Hiv’ where bicycle events used to be held. After spending a few days in an inhuman condition, they were squeezed onto a train and then subsequently sent to the Auschwitz.

Having read this book three times, I felt I noticed a lot of things that I think I missed in my previous reads. Prior to this re-read, I think my attention was only focused on the atrocity that the roundup had brought on Sarah and her family.
This time, however, I found it interesting and really well-done that the author shed some light on the difference in the attitudes and the perspectives towards the past between the American and the French.
While Julia wants to dig deeper into what actually happened during the roundup and how Sarah’s family ended up, her husband’s family members are indignant at Julia bringing back the past unnecessarily. I thought this contrast was very interesting and added a lot of depth to the story, making it much more compelling and engaging.

I sometimes wondered if it was a bit oversimplified display to depict Julia as an epitome of American people, implying they have a tendency of prying into others’ business and trying to find out the truth against all the backlash and protests from the other side.
I personally didn’t feel comfortable in this depiction, but I reckon the author tried to underscore the fact that there so many people, even in France, who don’t know about the Vel’d’ Hiv, who haven’t even heard of the fact that it was actually the French Police not the German Police that enforced the round-up. Through weaving this story, she must have tried to bring this incident to everyone’s knowledge – so as not to repeat the biggest mistake we humankind have ever made.

The ramification and the consequence what Julia’s conduct has brought to the entire family and Sarah’s son, William, are really well-described. The rejection, the initial rejection – oh, it broke my heart. I felt my heart constricted with pain.

The letter to her brother, Michael on which Sarah scribbled down her true emotions couldn’t be read without tears. I didn’t actually cry, but I was pretty close to. The pain and angst Sarah must have felt, Sarah must have bottled up inside her felt as though it were mine.

I love the writing. Although the wording is pretty simple, it is very atmospheric and has got some calm quality to it which I personally think highlights the cruelty and the pain stemming from the round-up.
I also like how the story develops; initially the story is told in two different time frames and perspectives. One with Julia in 2002 and the other with Sarah in 1942. The story goes back and forth for some time, but the two time frames slowly come together and eventually merge into one as the story develops. It was really well-done.

The author also did an excellent job in depicting how the 1942 roundup changes the lives of many people involving Sarah completely, how the past weighs on everyone not only Sarah, but also Julia and even Sarah’s son, William.
While the whole Sarah thing actually brings an unexpected surprise and delight to Julia, it also breaks her emotionally in many ways and she realizes that she cannot go back to her former self. She cannot go on living the way she used to.
I really felt for her. I felt the pains and sorrows are really well-written. Stunning.

The ending never fails to move me and make me cry;
“She was Sarah. My Sarah.”
These are what pull at my heartstrings, getting my waterworks and making me cry.
The ending never fails to stir my emotions and I just adore it.

This is nothing but a testament to being a good book. A good book can move you however many times you reread it.
This book kind of whetted my appetite for Historical Fiction. I’m totally up for reading many more of historical novels this year.
Highly recommended if you haven’t already, pick up this book and see how this book can move you and affect you. You might be surprised.

Reflection

It has been approximately six months since I launched this book blog back in August, 2016.

Wow, how fast time flies; I still can’t believe six months have passed.
At the same time, I also think it’s been quite a ride. It opened up a whole new world and brought me a lot of delight.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it has always been fun; it has been grueling and debilitating at times.
Being a non-native (I remember writing exactly the same thing somewhere before), it has always been a struggle, literally trial and error for me. I even felt the more I wrote, the crappier my writing got. Crestfallen, I sometimes intentionally let the update slip; I couldn’t bring myself to sit in front of the PC and write a post while I never ceased reading.

Although I launched this book blog as an outlet where I talk about the books I have read and like, as the number of posts increased, I started putting a lot of pressure on myself, thinking that the newer posts need to be better than the previous one, or that I need to avoid using the same phrase over and over like a broken record.
In other words, I started to set my own parameters as to what my posts should be like and how better I should be as time went on. I completely lost sight of the reason why I started this blog; I had been posting out of a sense of obligation not because I wanted to. what a contradiction.

That said, one thing that happened recently has made me motivated to keep posting once again, made me realize there are readers out there -no matter how small the number might be – readers who are inclined to read my crappy blogs.

I sometimes go back to my older posts and re-read what I posted in the early days.
To tell you the truth, it never fails to put a grimace on my face (Awwww). The very first post could be nothing but pathetic… it is too short and I wrote nothing but my outpouring love and personal feels toward the book. No character and story analysis whatsoever, just gushing how much I adore the story. It’s hysterical.

Having said that, it also made me realize I’ve come a long way.
Over the past six months, I think I’ve learned a lot about review writing from watching BookTubers’ videos and reading a lot of Goodreads reviews. Every single review and video that I read and watch helped me grow tremendously (I hope) and I now would love to think that I’ve got better at writing reviews compared to what I used to be.

Even though my writing is still crappy with my grammar all over the place, leaving A LOT to be desired, I will keep reading and posting without making any excuses from now on.

I love reading.
I love gushing my thoughts and feels on books and sharing them with you all.

So, keep an eye out for me, you guys. And kick my butt if I cut too much slack.

Thanks for reading my rambling as always.
I’ll talk to you guys again, soon!

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