Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.
You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.
Tessa Arlen is my blog guest today to celebrate the release of A Death by Any Other Name. Like all good historical mysteries, a beautiful setting puts the reader at ease before tragedy strikes. In this case, Tessa takes us to a lovely English garden.
This book has been on my TBR for quite some time, and I finally made it a priority to read it after having the opportunity to hear Abby Johnson speak at a local event. Her story is in turns tragic and inspiring on many levels. While it is no great literary work, I didn't expect it to be, and, with a story like this, it doesn't need to be.
It is no surprise that this book rates higher with pro-life readers than pro-choice, but what I really appreciated about Abby's point of view was that she humanizes both. Turned off equally by extremism on both sides, Abby points out that most people tend to be doing what they truly feel is best for women. That is what put her in her increasingly awkward position with Planned Parenthood.
At one time, PP was possibly more pro-woman and less pro-profits, but, as happens with many not-for-profits, they began to see themselves as a business rather than a charity. As we all know based on news since Abby has left PP, abortion is big business. She joined PP as a college junior because she believed that the organization cared about women as much as she did. Maybe, at that time, they still did.
When you give the devil a foothold, he has a way of taking over, so it didn't take long for abortion to become a necessary evil in Abby's mind. She even courageously confesses to having two abortions herself. She chides her younger self for her way of thinking.
If I have this child? Why wasn't it obvious to me that I already had a child, who was growing inside of me? Once you are pregnant, there is no if. That child, though tiny and in an early stage of development, already exists! But I didn't yet see that. What I saw, and by now was reinforcing in the minds of other young women as part of the Planned Parenthood organization, was that I was in a condition of pregnancy, not that I was now the mother of a child already dependent upon my own body for sustenance. I am amazed at how semantics can shape thought.
Abby talks a lot about semantics in this book and how the PP talking points are designed to minimize the decision that women in crisis situations are making. Yet, for years, she believed that compassion was their driving force, that providing education and birth control was PP's chief goal in order to perform as few abortions as necessary. It was how she justified her position there. She was helping women.
Of course, Abby isn't the only one to work at PP because they want to help women. It is easy to vilify the organization based on their misleading statements and illegal practices, but there must still be good people working there who truly believe they are doing what they can to help women in their time of need. Abby is no longer one of them.
I'd begun at Planned Parenthood, as many of my coworkers had, out of a sense of idealism and a desire to help women in crisis, but it seemed to me the emphasis had shifted at the organization. It seemed like maybe that's not what a lot of people were believing anymore because that's not where the money was. The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion, and so I had a problem with that.
She could no longer keep her blinders on when a combination of things happened. First, she gained the position of clinic director and was given an insider's view of how decisions were made and what organization priorities were. Second, the abortion quota. No longer could Abby believe the lie that PP wished to minimize abortions through education and birth control when she was informed that the number of abortions at her clinic needed to double because "that's how we make our money" and free birth control needed to be cut back because it was too expensive. Finally, Abby was asked, despite a complete lack of medical training, to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion. Watching that 12 week old baby fight for its life only to be torn apart as the doctor made lighthearted jokes was more than her conscience could take.
Throughout this story, Abby doesn't pull punches when it comes to the actions of the "other side" either. She and her husband were denied membership to their church because she worked for an abortion clinic. Instead of reaching out in love, these Christians closed their doors. She also expresses anger toward pro-life protesters who use graphic signage and guilt instead of prayer and kindness to spread their message. Since she was working at PP when Dr. Tiller was murdered by a pro-life extremist, she knows what she is talking about.
In the end, Abby became a spokesperson for the pro-life movement, largely due to actions of PP. She would have quietly gone away, but PP made a media spectacle out of it. They attempted to damage Abby's reputation (after naming her employee of the year the year before) and create public sympathy for the organization but ended up creating a much larger pro-life stir.
Over the course of more than a decade, Abby has endured attacks from PP, negative media attention, loss of friends, and public scrutiny of her life. Yet, when she talks about her decision to leave PP, it is without regrets. She has learned to trust that, "He had chosen to demonstrate through me, that He redeems the foolish, the broken, the sinful, and then uses them to accomplish His purposes."
Being an indie author myself, I enjoy reading novels by other brave souls who decide to self-publish. It's tough to be responsible for a book from cover to cover, and I tend to be more forgiving when reviewing an indie novel because I sympathize with the challenges faced. This is the attitude I held when I picked up The Scribe's Daughter, but this novel demands that it be held to a higher standard.
Nothing about this book made me think, "It's good for an indie novel." This book is just a joy to read and can hold it's own against any competition, traditional or self-published. It is beautifully written, edited, and formatted with an intriguing storyline and captivating characters.
Stephanie Churchill has vividly created a world that will feel familiar to those who enjoy medieval historical fiction. As the protagonist, Kassia, experiences adventures that take her on the full range of fortune's wheel, each setting is beautifully described. I had a clear vision of mountain vistas, sparkling lakes, bustling cities, and thick forests, and felt as though I was there at Kassia's side.
Each character that shares Kassia's trials is given a unique and complex personality, but none more so than Kassia herself. Since the novel is told from a first person point of view, the reader is inside Kassia's head. We get to laugh out loud at her snarky sarcasm while we are sharing her inner pain and doubt. This strong, courageous young woman goes through more to get to her happily ever after than anyone in the story, besides the reader, is privy to.
This novel has action, romance, betrayal, secrets, and more, sure to please any reader of historical fiction or epic fantasy adventure. I grew close to the characters during my time with them and look forward to seeing them again in future installments to the series.
I was a little angry when I finished this book. That probably seems an odd reaction to a light, romantic, Christian novel, but there it is. Like so many other Christian authors, Kingsbury just cannot resist the temptation to make everything turn out alright.
I may be a little jaded, but sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes people die. Sometimes really wonderful, young, beautiful people die. It has nothing to do with people not praying enough or their lives not being worth it. I have no idea why God makes the decisions that he sometimes makes, but with a difficult anniversary close on the horizon, I needed something different than what this book is offering.
The idea behind this series is exploring how angels interact with humans, guiding and helping, but with limits on how much they can interfere. Do I believe this can happen? Definitely! Does every good Christian always have life turn out the way we think it should? Definitely not.
I really enjoy some scenes in these books (I suppose this is sort of a review of this book and the first which I didn't write a review for), but I also keep waiting for reality to kick in. The faith of the characters is inspiring at times, but at others the story gets too fluffy. The author tries to set a darker tone in this book, claiming that it is one of the most difficult and dangerous missions that these angels have been on, but the plot just doesn't back that up.
On the other hand, I do want to continue with the series. There is just enough here that keeps me invested in the characters and the exploration of guardian angels that I can't quite put it aside.
I have an amazing guest on my blog today! Judith Arnopp shares her inspiration for writing about one of history's scariest mama bears, Margaret Beaufort. Thanks, Judith, for showing us that there is so much more to this pious woman.
As most people who will choose to pick up this book, I am a fan of Jane Eyre and any other book written by the Bronte sisters. They have a way of clutching my emotions and drawing me into their stories as if they were reality. That being said, I have always wondered a bit about Mr Rochester. He and Jane's attraction for one another has been a bit of a mystery to me, so I thought it would be intriguing to read his point of view.
Mirroring Jane's own journey, this novel begins with Edward as a small child. He is largely ignored by his father, teased by his brother, and left to whatever amusements he can find for himself in Thornfield Hall. It is not until his father sends him away to a tutor that Edward forms any true relationships. Watching Edward's childhood pass by in a series of arrangements that his father makes for him without discussing or explaining them helps the reader see how he became the man he is in Jane Eyre. He is obedient to a fault, and this leads to the events that harden his character.
Rochester as a child deeply feels disappointment and loss in a way that explains why he is so guarded later in life. He is close to few but is a deep thinker, so this book takes us into his mind.
"Why had I so easily assumed there would always be another time, another chance?"
"The future is as uncertain as the weather, knowable only as far as one can see on each day, and therefore just as unpredictable and, just as unkind."
The heartbreak and neglect that he suffers helped me form a greater sympathy for and attachment to the dark, mysterious lover of my precious Jane. His battle to cope with the wife he is tricked into taking on also created greater sympathy for Rochester. While it is easy to read Jane Eyre and wonder at his great deception, in this book we see just how much he had done for poor, mad Bertha.
"Still, she was my wife; I had taken her for better or for worse, though none of us imagines beforehand how bad the worse might be."
I only wish that the revelation of character had continued once Edward and Jane's stories came together. Instead of continuing to be a deeper look at Rochester's thoughts, here the novel becomes a quick retelling of the story that we already know. It is still difficult to see the love growing between Jane and Edward. In fact, one wonders at how cruel this previously thoughtful and sensitive man could be toward the woman he claims to love more than any other.
He has suffered disappointment and disillusionment, but his actions toward Jane still don't seem to fit with the character that Shoemaker has created. The romance is there because we know it is, not because we see it happen.
If the Jane portion of the story seemed a bit rushed and didn't answer all the questions that I had hoped it would, I still greatly enjoyed this story. I feel a closer connection to Rochester having read it, especially through feelings he experiences that are easy to share, such as "I ran from the room, my mind at once full and blank, if such a thing is possible." Yes, it is possible. I feel for you Edward, as I did not before.
I received this novel through the publisher and NetGalley.
I am currently planning a blog tour for the release of Queen of Martyrs (yay!) and my question to my dear bibliophile friends is this: What makes a blog tour effective?
Should I try to schedule guest blogs every couple days or spread them out over a longer period. If you see an author posting too frequently, do you start to ignore it? Also, what kind of posts do you like to see? Obviously, I will be writing on what made me choose Mary as my protagonist and some detail of her life, but what other kinds of posts make you consider choosing a book?
Sorry, I think that's more than one question. ;-)
I appreciate any input. You guys are always so helpful!
On International Women's Day, it seems appropriate to honor a woman who stood up to a man few others would dare to challenge. Henry VIII intimidated most grown men into following his will, but he would have a difficult time taming his teenage daughter.
My daughter and I love to attend musicals together, but she is constantly bemoaning my sensitivity. Yes, I cry. A lot. Over songs, memories, books, sweet things my kids say . . . . just about anything.
A couple of days ago, we went to see The Secret Garden. This song had me sobbing.
This overview of four powerful leaders of the 16th century reads like a blog. In some ways that is nice. It is easy to read and doesn't get into too many details. On the other hand, it also includes opinions and outright errors. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be about four men, it felt like it focused on Henry VIII in much greater length.
Trisha Hughes is a guest on my blog today celebrating the release of her new novel, Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King. Read about her inspiration for this epic novel and the trilogy to come.
I have two Goodreads giveaways ending today and would love for any of my BookLikes friends to win!
Why examine this little snippet of history? We know that Margaret Pole was horridly executed on Henry VIII's orders, and we know that Reginald Pole was safely away from England at the time. I think it is important to look at how Reginald took this news because I have read some opinions that Reginald was bitter toward his mother for his dedication to the church. Based on studying both of these historical figures, I have not found evidence of that. Yet even Hilary Mantel states it as fact.