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. 

Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson

prejudice■Synopsis (excerpt from Goodreads)

After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn’t afraid to show him that he doesn’t. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.


 

Well, well, well.
This book surprised me in various ways – with its strong writing as well as the solid story line, it sucked me in right from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.

To be perfectly honest, I started this book with low expectations because it was one of those books that you get from Amazon for free. I may be a bit biased and quick to brush off those free books, but I’d had my fair share of disappointments from such free offers albeit only temporary, so I couldn’t help but be a bit skeptic about starting this book.

However, as I mentioned, I found this book surprisingly powerful and delightful to read.

The main character, Emma came across a bit frustrating and obnoxious at first, particularly when she keep turning down every single olive branch Kevin has to offer; she stubbornly clings to what little pride she has and I couldn’t figure out why she has to be THAT STUBBORN AND PRIDEFUL. Even with the issue that I had with Emma’s personality, the story development – the chemistry between Emma and Kevin in particular – won over my heart and I really enjoyed the reading experience.This is a cute, swoony read.

I think the title is very fitting to the story; I leave it to you what ‘Prejudice’ and ‘Pride’ represent, but I think it speaks volumes what this story is all about.

I personally find her writing was on-point, beautiful and very descriptive. The descriptions of spark-inducing kiss scenes and Emma’s murals and painting were just amazing and I can easily visualize what they would look like. I wonder if the author actually dabbled in art; she did an amazing job on that.
The dialogues and prose are also vibrant and scintillating. I enjoyed the flirting banter going back and forth between them so much; that was one of the things that reeled me in.

As to the story crafting, I found it interesting that the author employed the game, ‘20 questions’ to narrate Emma and Kevin’s upbringing and past. This scene brought much depth into the story and told me why Emma is the way she is, where her overly strong refusal to be a ‘case of charity’ comes from.  It was the scene where I began to understand Emma’s personality and started warming up to her. I wouldn’t say that I can relate to her (because I still don’t), but I thought this twist effective.

In addition to that, the scene of Kevin being with his mom was also fantastic. It completely flipped the way I see his mother upside-down. Since I wasn’t expecting that turn of event at all, it caught me off guard and I couldn’t help giggling in delight. The ensuing chapters till the end is quite a page turner. I just couldn’t put it down, I was anxious to find out how the story unfolds between Emma and Kevin.

All in all, this is really a sweet, delightful read. The way how Emma and Kevin’s emotional distance closes in on is definitely worth the read – I’m sure it’ll make your heart flutter. I’m positive!

 

Winter by Marissa Meyer

winterI could give this book billions of stars. Five stars could never, ever be enough.
I ADORE THIS BOOK. THIS WOULD REMAIN AS MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE, I’M CERTAIN OF IT.

Despite its volume, which is over 800 pages, this book never bored me. I never had a dull moment.

So many things happen, so many dramas take place, it’s literally like a whirlwind. Everything flashes so fast, yet leaves an incredibly big impact on me.
And let’s not forget about the romance between the characters; each romance felt so adorable, and MADE MY HEART SWOON. I can’t get enough of this. I love it soooo much.

The story-crafting is just as amazing as the rest of the series, but I think Marissa Meyer’s writing gets only better each book.
Just like ‘Cress,’ they are the scenes where the characters of Cinder’s gang split up and go their separate ways to fulfill the missions assigned to them and a lot of things happen along the way. Each of them are driven into a corner, give or take,  but their paths do cross in the latter of the book. The way each side story between the characters beautifully entwines is just enthralling and captivating. I must say that my most favorite would be the story between Cinder and Kai, yet I admit that the book held me in thrall the entire time.

Although I have never touched on the aspect of this series being a Sci-Fi retelling of fairy tales and each book based off of fairy tale characters, I think I must mention this is a great retelling of ‘Snow White.’  Jacin’s dedication to Princess Winter is so sweet and adorable. Particularly the scene where Jacin kneels down and tries to kiss Winter to peace her deranged mind together reminded me of the Prince kissing Snow White; it was a perfect reflection of the original story.

Another thing I want to mention here is how amazing the each speech made by any of the main characters sounds in the book. The story involves royals from both Luna and the Eastern Commonwealth, so it does include a lot of political messages and diplomacy and I assume it’s kind of hard to make those speeches sound realistic and cogent. In that respect, the author did it a spectacular job. The words just resonated with me, tugging at my heartstrings and they evoked my emotions; it gave me all sorts of feels. Sadness, despair, angst, and delight.

I had moments where I gritted my teeth, felt my skin crawl, sighed in despair, squealed both with frustration and delight, and had my eyes welled up – and I adore every single inch of the book.

The character development is also stellar – I got even warmed up to Wolf and Scarlet whom I hadn’t appreciated much in the previous books. In particular, Wolf’s characterization is amazing; his bashfulness and concerns after the re-bio engineering (You’ll know what scene I’m talking about if you have read the book) made me chuckle. It warmed the cockles of my heart. My gosh, how I adore all those characters!!

It hasn’t been even ten minutes since I closed the book, but I’m already missing all the excitement and good times that I had reading this book.

I now realize what the BookTubers were talking about when they said they were not ready for the series to end. I was in no way ready for this…(sobs).

But I appreciate the ending; I am glad that it did end on a positive, hopeful note.
Although it was a teeny bit of a letdown that I didn’t get to see the explicit closure between Kai and Cinder’s romance, namely, a happy ending between those two, it still casts a ray of hope of them being together someday, so I’ll try to be cool with that.

Oh, my God. I want to read the after story, particularly what happens between Kai and Cinder!!
(I know I’m gushing so much about those two, but I can’t help feeling attached to those two. Who wouldn’t?)

I highly recommend this book. This is definitely worth the appellation of ‘the Grand Finale.’

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

the-sunI couldn’t put my finger on what exactly tugged my heartstrings when I finished the book.
I couldn’t elaborate the feelings that I had when I closed the book. 
Something warm and bittersweet, poignant feelings washed over me. 

It was only a sigh that escaped me. Neither could I move nor speak. I didn’t even know what happened to me. I felt so overwhelmed and powerless.

I picked up this book knowing it deals with some heavy yet important issues. Although the book itself is categorized as YA, I couldn’t resist my temptation to get my hands on it.

First and foremost, this book totally crashed me; not only is the writing as beautiful and poetic as ‘Everything Everything,’ the story-crafting is also enthralling.

As I briefly mentioned, this book touches on some very important issues such as racism, discrimination, stereotypes, and political issues like deportation.

We tend to let such issues slip away being preoccupied with our daily lives, but surprisingly enough, this book made me realize racism and stereotypes are entrenched in our lives much more deeply than we might imagine. That aspect is explicitly described in the scene where Natasha and Daniel visit a shop Daniel’s father runs. It may not strike you instantly, but I believe the significance and the message will sink in on you as you process the scene.

The characterizations of the two main characters is also brilliant; Natasha is so clever and smart yet is adamant to pass herself off as someone who doesn’t believe in ‘love,’ or ‘fate.’ She love sciences and is pragmatic, but the change she undergoes through the interaction with Daniele comes so gradually and naturally, it feels even beautiful.

On the other hand, Daniel, who is Korean-American and a boy who possesses a mind of poet is just lovable. He is romantic, gentle and passionate. Just as adamant Natasha is toward nonexistent of love, Daniel strongly believes in the power of ‘love’ and ‘fate’ and does everything in his power to get Natasha to see things in his light. The road to success had already been laid out for him, entering Yale and becoming a doctor… yet he is willing to mess up his life for the sake of ‘love.’ The chemistry between those two characters is just beautiful and captivating.

I assume there are a lot of readers who don’t think much of ‘insta-love,’ but I think this one-day romance between Natasha and Daniel resonates with a lot of them; it’s got some special quality and power that speak to our souls.

The underlining limitation to the duration of their romance -‘one day’ -must have taken this story to the next level. They have only hours left and that is all the more reason why they become near-desperate to make it happen; make what happens between them sustainable. It felt kind of cleansing to me. So beautifully written.

However, this book also teaches there are things that are beyond your control, and they often stem from others’ conduct. Life can be ugly and tough; no amount of love or strong volition can overturn the decision that had been made. We just have to let it go.

This fact is told in a very quiet manner yet the message cuts right into my heart.

Speaking of writing, I found the writing style employed in this book was so unique and fantastic. This book is narrated in multiple perspectives, which means each chapter is narrated from a different perspective. The vast majority of the book is narrated from Natasha and Daniel’s perspectives, but you can also read the story from different charactes’ perspectives and it was quite interesting to read how the same thing can be differently perceived through others’ lens.

The author did an amazing job to even include some random characters to weave the story, the characters who only briefly involve in their lives in the specific day- Natasha’s last day in the U.S. before she’s deported back to Jamaica – and it described how each characters’ words and deeds can affect each other’s lives. This ripple effect kind of approach felt fresh to me.

To be honest, it took me a while to get invested in the story and I didn’t find it gripping until the latter part in the story, but from then onward, I was glued to the book, I just couldn’t put it down.
The ending is particularly spectacular – although I had mixed feelings about how the story goes, I was so happy when I reached the last airplane scene. The epilogue beautifully wraps up this amazing, beautiful story.

I really adore this book. This is not a mere YA book. I recommend everyone reads this.This is definitely worth a read.

The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts

snow-globeThis is another re-read for me; I read this short Christmas novella at the end of November last year.

I didn’t plan to read this originally, but I pick this up on a whim.

I docked a star this year – as opposed to the other re-read which moved me immensely, this one failed to move me as much as it did last year.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love this little Christmas story, I enjoyed it a lot. Yet, it kind of fell flat for me particularly the ending.

This story revolves around three women, Kiley, Suzanne and Allison. They’re best friends and they pass a mysterious slow globe which Kiley finds in an antique shop on to one another and SOMETHING happens to each one of them. According to what the owner of the antique shop says, the snow globe brings exactly what its holder needs.

To put in a nutshell, this book can be divided into three parts; a love story which revolves around lovelorn Kiley, a heart-warming family story with Suzanne, and Allison’s story which I can’t find words to articulate what exactly is.

The first two parts are delightful to read. They are fast-paced and are full of heart-warming vibe. Although I found the love story between Kiley and Craig a bit too fast-paced and insta-lovey, I enjoyed reading Kiley’s encounter with her Mr. Right.

That said, I must say that I found the transition from Kiley’s story to Suzanne’s story a bit abrupt. There was no clear closure to Kiley’s part and I was still deeply engrossed in Kiley’s love story, so the sudden transition baffled me a bit.

Suzanne’s story is well-written and beautifully crafted. It’s a typical I-woke-up-and-smell-the-coffee type of story, realizing what really matters on Christmas day, but the epiphany she has in her dream was therapeutic to read. It is very cleansing.

Nevertheless, I think I must say that Allison’s story fell flat for me. It doesn’t leave as big an impact on me as the other two stories have.

On top of that, I find the fiasco at the Christmas dinner a bit over-exaggerated; I felt the author tried too much to put forward the image of how messed up Allison’s family is after her grandmother passed away. As a result, I felt it a bit over the top and I was put off by it. Everything felt kind of slippery and didn’t sink in on me as much I would have liked.

Likewise, the ending didn’t appeal to me as much; I am still not convinced why they come to the specific conclusion, because the rationalization of what they do in the end doesn’t feel strong enough for me.

Overall, it’s a delightful read. I wasn’t too happy with how the story goes and ends, but it doesn’t change the fact that I adore the first half (maybe until 75% or so) of the book.

I gave this book solid 3 stars – or, 3.5 out of 5 stars. It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed reading it.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineTitle: Landline

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Length: 308 pages

I picked up this book knowing absolutely nothing about its synopsis; I downloaded it just because it was in a list of best fiction (‘Books you should read in 2014’ or something along those lines) .
So much so, I started this book with much lower expectation.

This book took me by surprise – little did I imagine this book would be this emotional and compelling!

The story starts off with Georgie’s marriage being on the rocks.
Neal and Georgie have been married for 15 years and blessed with two little daughters. They seem to have been doing okay, but it actually hasn’t been Okay at all; Georgie has always upset Neal in some ways – she has always put work before her family, almost always.

Just before they’re supposed to leave for Omaha -Neal’s hometown – to visit his mother, Georgie breaks bad news to Neal; she tells him that she can’t go because a big opportunity in her career has come up. Again, she puts her work over her family and it terribly upsets Neal.
The next day, the whole family sets out for Omaha leaving Georgie and it leaves a bad taste in her mouth. She had never imagined Neal would pack up and leave without her. She has somewhat taken for granted that Neal would concede. Well, this time he wouldn’t.

From that point onward, however hard Georgie tries she just can’t get through to Neal.
Only with an old yellow telephone in her childhood bedroom in her mother’s place, she gets to talk with Neal – Neal back in 1998.

This is not exactly a time-travel fiction, but I thought the plot was really interesting.

The author did a great job in unraveling Neal’s character; although ‘Real’ Neal only appears in the beginning and the last few chapters, through Georgie’s recollection of every small detail of Neal and how they had developed their relationship, I found myself drawn to him as I read along.
I would say that I literally fell in love with Neal.
He’s reticent and a man of few words, but when he speaks, he speaks to my heart. Every single word he utters carries an incredibly strong weight on me. His words literally swallow me up and rock my soul to the core.

That was definitely not what I had expected.

Georgie’s desperate attempts to get ahold of Neal also served amazingly to heighten the tension and I could feel her mounting affection for Neal the more desperate she becomes; it almost broke my heart.
I didn’t particularly love Georgie; there were a lot of things that I just couldn’t relate to her, but her near-desperate want of Neal was expressed spectacularly; so intense, so compelling, it was just heart-wrenching.
In addition to that, the shift in her perspective toward her work and life was also beautifully and dramatically described through her actions that she takes in the end. I was completely hooked by the end of the book.

I found the writing was also very explicit and strong, yet I’m afraid to say I didn’t particularly like Georgie’s inner voices in brackets; the author inserts too many inner voices even in the middle of what seems like a grave, hopeless situation. Inner voices are usually fine with me, but the vast majority of her inner voices was in a inquisitive, self-question form. It may have been an attempt to reflect Georgie’s character as a comedy writer, but personally, I found it kind of distracting. It spoiled the heightened, intense tension and I didn’t like her trying to make light of the situation which is not at all supposed to be subject to ridicule.

Despite that, I still adore this book. This is definitely going to be one of my favorite books in the year 2016.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend picking this one. This is another book that made me realize there’s definitely something in hype books that draws people’s attention. For me, it lived up to the hype it has gotten. Highly, strongly recommended.