Hello again dear friends! It's me your friendly neighborhood girl who is a book reviewer by day and a sewing ninja by night! They should really put that on a t-shirt! If they do, would someone buy it for me? 'Cuz I don't want to spend my own money.
Anywho, today I'm going to be reviewing a romance novel entitled Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin. The story is about a woman named Kate whose grandmother just had a stroke. Kate moves in with her grandmother to help until she gets back on her feet. It's also about a born-again-christian named Nick who is trying to live better than his former wild lifestyle. While Kate is in the process of moving in with her grandmother she has a car wreck where Nick saves her life. While the two are immediately drawn to each other there is a slight problem. Nick has vowed not to date for a whole year and he is in his sixth month when they meet each other.
The part about one of the characters vowing not to date for a year then, coincidentally, meeting a beautiful young lady he likes is what drew me to this book in the first place. From a young age I always understood that I was never going to date a guy until I knew that The LORD wanted me to and I was ready for marriage; which included not dating in high school. So I was curious to see how this book turned out! Either it was going to be great or the author was going to totally ruin it!
I wouldn't say the book was totally ruined, but there was a element that I wish was handled differently.
Nick tells Kate up front that he isn't going to date for a whole year so in order for them to spend time together they can't be alone unless it's business related. At first they handled it pretty well. Nick was careful not to end up alone with Kate and if he did it was strictly for business purposes only (or so he told himself). They tried to simply be friends but pretty soon most of that got flushed down the toilet. They began holding hands, going out to eat, and doing some quote "friendly" kissing (and no, it was never on the cheek). I have some guy friends whom I trust and know that I can count on them in the way Kate knows she can rely on Nick. But unlike Kate and Nick, you will never catch us holding hands or kissing, even on the cheek. A friendly slap on the back is about as far as we would go and even then you'd be lucky to catch that! Personally, I think that you must be very careful with what you do physically with someone of the opposite gender, whether it be a potential mate or simply a friend. We humans have these things called hormones that can quickly get out of control so we must be careful because once we open ourselves up to another person like that there is no going back and it can be very hard to not open up ourselves any more. As seen in the book, after Nick and Kate have their "first kiss", they begin having trouble keeping Nick's vow.
In the author's defense however, the characters never "go all the way" with each other. She several times places them in situations where we see them struggle with sexual temptations, but they never follow through with their desires. I just think that they shouldn't have started being "physical", even in little ways in the first place.
While the book is categorized as a "romance" novel, the story in not completely about Nick and Kate's relationship, though that is a main plot line. The author explores many issues such as why we do what we do, aging, living with regret, and trusting in G-d. A huge part of the story is about Nick and Kate's personal walks with G-d and their struggles to trust HIM even when HE seems silent. I felt I could relate to their struggles, especially Kate's. She likes to have everything under control and is afraid of being left alone to face life's challenges. Her constant battle with herself closely mirrors my own. I've never been able to relate to a character in a book before quite like this. Mrs. Bylin's story seemed so real that it could have been true!
The story was beautifully told and excellently written! From the relatable characters to the symbolisms that appear throughout the book to wrap the ending up in a nice little bow, Mrs. Victoria Bylin is truly a rare find author! I will definitely be reading some of her other novels for years to come!
Until I Found You is rewarded with a 4 out of 5 rating from me (see sidebar for rating scale). The ONLY reason it does not receive a 5 is because of the physical issue mentioned above. This is a book that I will definitely re-read over and over again and I'm sure you will too!
P.S. I was given Victoria Bylin's Until I Found You by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
If you have not read Anne Elisabeth Stengl's previous books do not read Shadow Hand first.
This series, Tales of Goldstone Wood, needs to be read in order for the greatest enjoyment.
This review does contain minor "spoilers" so proceed with caution.
"They say all the old stories--all the TRUE stories--are about blood. This simply is not so.
All the true stories are about love. And blood. The two so often go hand in hand, they're difficult to separate, but it is important not to divide the one from the other, or the story becomes unbalanced and is no longer true. That is why this is a story about blood and love, and the many things that lie between."
Thus begins Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Shadow Hand. A story with that dramatic of a beginning has to be good right? Well before I give you my thoughts, I want to tell you about how I first discovered Mrs. Stengl's work and The Tales of Goldstone Woods so you know where I'm coming from.
This past winter I was at a local used bookstore looking for a few new books to read when my mom came up to where I was with Mrs. Stengl's first book Heartless. I wasn't that interested at first, after all, the cover looked really dark. But it was a good price so I decided to give it a shot. At first the book started out reeeeeeeeeaaaaalllllllly sloooooooowwwwww then about halfway through the dragon came in and everything changed.
I couldn't put the book down!
IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!! I would stay up late at night after everyone went to sleep and read and read. This book definitely had captivated me! Up until Heartless I never had a book make me cry. But during the climax of the story there was this one scene on a beach and it was raining and OH MAN IT WAS GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That is how I started the series. So when Bethany House Publishers sent me an email asking if I wanted to review Mrs. Stengl's sixth book, Shadow Hand, I jumped at the opportunity!
Shadow Hand picks up exactly where MoonBlood ends with Lionheart leaving to go reconcile with his father. He arrives on the day of his cousin's, Foxbrush (who will be king in his place), and Daylily's wedding. But before the wedding begins Daylily runs away into the Wilderlands hoping to vanish forever. Foxbrush, however, determined to prove himself, chases after Daylily into the Wood and back through time. The story goes back and forth between Foxbrush and Daylily until ultimately their stories collide.
I really liked to idea of a going back in time plot line (yes I'm a Doctor Who fan). In her past books Mrs. Stengl has had her characters go from world to world (which sometimes gets confusing). This time the story mostly takes place in the same place, only in two different time frames (definitely a "timey whimey" type of book :).
Characters that readers have grown to love, like Earin and Imraldera, play their part in this tale connecting the former books and story lines to this one. There were also some characters that when first introduced I didn't like, but as the story went along I grew to adore. Nidawi Everblooming for example.
I will say I am a little disappointed with Mrs. Stengl's writing style. She has a bad habit of going reeeeeeaaaaalllllllly slow during the first half then jumping into all the action in the last part. Such was the case with Shadow Hand . The first part was really hard to get through. I understand that it was needed to explain and help develop characters, but in my opinion, the first part took too long. I really didn't get involved in the story until the second part after Foxbrush finds Daylily. (***HOWEVER, due to needing to get this review out in a timely fashion, I had to skip Starflower and Dragonwitch and move straight into Shadow Hand upon finishing Moonblood. It didn't really matter in the ability to follow the story. BUT, my mom had read those 2 books and did not find the first half of Shadow Hand as slow as I did. So, maybe it did affect my enjoyment in some way.)
On that note, I felt that the relationship between Foxbrush and Daylily was down played. Yes the story was about their own personal developments as well as their love story, but you rarely ever see the two of them together until the climax. So you really didn't feel like you wanted them to end up together. If they did, great, but if not, oh well, it's still a great story. I'm not saying that the love part of the story should have been what the whole book was about but I think that it needed more attention than was given.
The attraction between the characters was sweet and didn't involve any sexuality. There was kissing twice and the first one was pretty intense (it says the guy grabs the girl and kisses her hard) but that's as far as it goes.
While sexuality wasn't a big issue, language was. Almost all the characters curse at some point in time. They don't use what we would consider "bad words", however they swear and curse by former heroes and villains from their country's past. But that's not the part that bothered me. What bothered me was the fact that while you would expect the antagonists to be the ones with the foul mouths it was the good guys that are constantly swearing. These are the servants of The Most High (GOD in the series) and here they are cursing and swearing every time they get frustrated! I had a hard time with this because I was raised under the "let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'" mindset (which by the way came from the Bible in Matthew 5:36) and cursing and swearing, even by other peoples names, not necessarily GOD's, I still consider to be disrespectful and ungodly.
As with her previous books, I had trouble understanding certain aspects of the story. For example, one of the characters is possessed by something that you assume to be a spirit (which is the "villain" of the story). It's not explained until right before the final battle what this thing really is. This character is also harboring a red wolf inside and, once again, it's hard to discern what the wolf represents. While Mrs. Stengl does an excellent job describing when the "thing", wolf, or the actual character is talking or taking over it's hard to imagine what each one represents until the very end which can get confusing at times. It is also hard to discern exactly what Foxbrush's motives are. Yes he is determined to save his homeland and Daylily but you wonder if it's because he is just trying to prove himself or if it is because he really does care about them.
Overall, on a scale from 1-5, I would give Shadow Hand a 4 (see sidebar for rating scale.) The plot line was very good and I loved the characters but it just wasn't what I expected. After reading the first part of the prologue (see above) I expected it to turn out differently than it did. Don't get me wrong, the ending was wrapped up very nicely and I think it couldn't have turn out any better.
***SPOILER ALERT It should have been Daylily who kissed Foxbrush to wake him up not Lark! Can I get an amen?!?!?!!!!!!!! The author did use the moment when Daylily does (FINALLY!) kiss him to show her choosing him of her own free will. But still, she should have kissed him twice! Come on Anne! END OF SPOILER***
***SPOILER ALERT When it mentions that there is blood in this story, I expected it to be Foxbrush's, not innocent children's blood. But the scene at the end where Foxbrush gives his own two hands for Daylily's life was touching and I was very pleased with that. Sorry, I'm just one of those kind of gals that if the guy doesn't shed some kind of blood (or loses his hands in this case) for the girl he loves then it's not worth my time! Now everyone knows why I'm single! They told me to set my standards high! :) END OF SPOILER***
Shadow Hand will stay on my bookshelf and if ever I'm in the mood for a story about blood and love, I'll pull it back down and "Recall you now my ancient story!".
P.S. I was given Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Shadow Hand by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
I really don't know how to begin this letter. I know I have some things to talk about but now that I'm actually writing I can't seem to make my thoughts come together. But that's ok, because you're use to that right? You're always the one who gets to listen to me spill out all my problems and feelings and somehow make sense of it all. You're the only one in this family who understands what it's like being a girl (since it's only you and me). Because I am an only daughter, I've be able to have special privileges that most girls with sisters never get. I've been able to have a one-on-one relationship with you that I would have had to share if there was another female living in the house. Since you and I are the only two we look out for each other (you of course more than me!)
I don't know what I would do with out you! You've taught me to be a godly lady (mostly through example), helped me sort through issues, prayed for me, incouraged me, laughed and cried with me. You've done so much for me and I have always taken you for granted. I always expected you to be there for me, for there to be a meal on the table three times a day, for my clothes to be clean and for you to slove every problem. Deep down I knew I shouldn't because I knew you job was hard, but I was selfish and just didn't know exactly how hard you worked.
When you left to take care of Grandma for a week I thought the whole world was falling apart. You had always been the one who held everything together and now you were gone holding up someone else. I realized very quickly just how hard your life as a mother really is (and that was only being in charge of the cooking). You wake up everyday and serve others with rarely any time left for yourself and, once again, I take you for granted.
So I'm writing this to tell you how sorry I am:
I'm so sorry for every time you called me to the table and I ignored you.
I'm sorry for every time I disrespected you.
I'm sorry for every time you asked for my help and I didn't do what you asked.
I'm sorry for every time I did help you but secretly thought you were being lazy or grumbled the whole time.
Because you deserve better Mom. You deserve much more than you get from me and I'm sorry. I'm not going to say I'll change and from now on I'll be a better daughter for you and that I'll never treat you wrong again. Because if there's one thing I've learned about myself it's that often I promise to do things that I never do. I try to change my ways and it never works. I still remain that selfish girl who only thinks for herself.
I do promise to try to make a more contentious effort to see things from your prospective and not weight you down with all my little things that really aren't that important.
I promise to come to the table immediately after you ask because I know you worked hard to prepare me a meal and coming to the table on time is better than an audible "thank you".
I promise to treat you with more respect and love.
And with The Holy Spirit's help, I'll keep those promises and (slowly) I will change. And when I miss up, (because I will) I know that you will still forgive me. You've done that my whole life, forgiven me, and shown me through that that I really can be forgiven by a Heavenly Father for so much more than not coming when I'm called.
I still remember as a little girl you telling me that GOD loves me more than you love me. It was so hard to imagine and still to this day I have a hard time grasping the concept that someone loves me more than you do. Because, to me, you are the picture of love. Love that is given in abundance every day forgetting what has happened yesterday and focusing instead on today.
I love you Mommy, I know I never say it much or enough times but I do. I think I'll add that to my list of improvements: telling you "I love you" every day, and "thank you". Because you deserve that. And I'll start right now.
Mommy, Mama, Mum, Mummy,
I love you.
Thank you for all you've done for me.
You'll always be my best friend.
P.S. One more thing. If there are any grammar mistakes or misspelled words I apologize. I wanted this to be a surprise so I didn't have you check it. If it really bothers you you can correct it later. Forgiveness right? :)
(My flower everyone signed at my graduation party)
One year ago today, I accomplished the first to-do item on my bucket list:
Graduate as a homeschooler from start to finish.
Even though I have finished all my "schooling", I've never stopped learning. During this past year I learned many valuable life lessons; some of which I'm still learning today. So I thought in honor of my graduation "anniversary" I'd share a few of those lessons with y'all along with the three best pieces of advice given to me since then. Some are a little silly and some are very serious but all have helped shape me into the person I am today. Hopefully, you can learn from me and give yourself a little laugh! So without further ado, here they are in no particular order:
Lessons I've Learned Since High School Graduation:
-Life is going to start whether or not you're ready for it
-Marriage is loving someone unconditionally for the rest of your life
-If you're buying gas and you're paying in cash, you must go in and pay FIRST before you start pumping. Otherwise, you'll be standing there wondering why in the world nothing is coming out
- Who the woman doctor is (courtesy of Mrs. Shelby H. Thanks for that one!)
-How to hide money in your bra (I was so proud of myself when I figured that one out!)
-What it feels like to have absolutely no control of the things happening around you
-How to play nerf war
-How to stop said nerf war without lifting a finger. Just scream your head off and someone will call an automatic time out 'cuz they think you're seriously hurt or something
-That I can be over dramatic at times (see above)
-What happens when you put diesel fuel in your car that isn't suppose to run on diesel
-When someone tells you to shut up; listen to them. (There're probably trying to save you from embarrassing yourself)
-What it feels like to lose someone you love
-What it feels like when a piece of your heart is ripped from you and buried alongside that person
-How to cook chicken
-How to dry out sweet potatoes in the oven
-How to calmly address this situation: one of your friends decides that it would be funny to drop an article of food down your blouse IN PUBLIC! (I'm looking at you Annie W.!)
-How to be a bridesmaid (which may or may not involve helping the bride pee 10 minutes before the wedding)
-How I handle emergency situations (It's a good thing to know, because if you're like me and don't handle them well, you need to make sure you're always with someone who does)
-That I HATE cast iron! It wants to be babied and I feel like it never gets clean. So if I ever get married, please DON'T BUY ME ANYTHING CAST IRON!
-That even when I mess up, I am surrounded by o-mazing friends and family who love me despite my flaws and a Heavenly Father who loves me even more than that!
"Being old is cool! You can choose to not buy cigarettes or respect the elderly in an adult manner, and no one can stop you." -My friend Robert who graduated two years before me
"Don't worry, you'll be fine. You will mess up, but if you do, there is always Sonic and Hardee's down the road." -My Mum before she left me in charge of the cooking for a whole week while she took care of my Grandma in Mississippi
"Your attitude affects your altitude! Soar high in all you do. God will see you through." -Donna H., my 5th & 6th grade Sunday School teacher
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