Friday, June 23, 2017

Cornelli by Johanna Spyri Book Review


I recently re-read my copy of this amazing story! I had forgotten so much.  I was joyfully excited to see that I am still just as much in love, or maybe more so, than the first time I read it.

Cornelli, by Johanna Spyri, (Yes, she is the author of Heidi!) is about a little girl named Cornelli.  Her mother is dead (did ALL the mothers die in the olden days???!!!!!), and her Father has to leave on business for two years.  So, he gets Cornelli's second cousin, who is quite a bit older and an accomplished lady, in her father's eyes, to come stay with Cornelli.  The cousin, and her friend, are to take Cornelli in hand.  They are supposed to make her an accomplished lady like themselves...  Only problem is they change EVERYTHING, even good things, and with the way they treat her, the "ladies" end up making Cornelli a very disagreeable child, and a very sad little girl.

Things start to look up when a young boy comes to stay with Martha.  Martha is an older woman, a friend and neighbor, and retired servant of Cornelli's family.  The young boy is from the city, coming to spend time in the country.  Martha hopes the young boy's presence will help Cornelli be more like her old self.  Does it???  Maybe, maybe not.

There is a lot of beautiful scenery depicted in the story.  The place where Cornelli lives is very well described without being overly descriptive. There are fruit trees, including cherry trees, rolling hills, baby sheep, cows grazing on fields of grasses.

Cornelli really is a good and beautiful story!  The characters are very easy to connect with even though this is a older book.  The side characters are well done, and I enjoyed what we got to see from them.

This book is out of print, as far as I know.  But don't despair!  You can find Cornelli for free on Amazon Kindle and for 99 cents, so you can still get a copy!  And I am sure that there are used copies to be found (mine is from Goodwill).

I would recommend this book for ages 10+.  Younger is fine, but it is a about a girl close to that age and I always felt that was the most fun to read about someone near my age.


Spoilers!!!!
Reading again as a teen, notes:

I didn't know how really, truly DEEP this book was when I read it as a kid.  Everything kind of went over my head.  Okay, so, not every thing, but now that I am older and know about metal health, I can see how depressed and socially anxious Cornelli was.  She may have been suicidal.  It is all done in a sort-of light, fairy tale way, so, you don't really realize it unless you're older and you take a step back.
I say maybe even suicidal, because at one point she's sitting on a high window and throws her dress down.  A maid comes in with the dress and thinks the wind blew it down, but then realizes that the girl threw the dress down.  The the maid chastises her, and Cornelli responds with basically that she'd rather thrown herself out this really high window.  Like whoa there!!!  Anyway this made it so much deeper to me as I re-read.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson Book Review


The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, by Melanie Dickerson, is the first book in Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale mash-up series.  Each book is a re-telling of two stories.  This one is Robin Hood/Swan Lake and is super cool!  The book is set in 1363 and has no fantasy.  It is a historical fiction re-telling.  I got a lot more out of this after I had read the original Robin Hood and learned a lot more about Swan Lake.

This book is told in two points of views:  Odette and Jorgen.  Odette is "The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest" because she is poaching on the Margrave's land, so she can give food to the poor and orphaned.  She herself is an orphan who is currently living with an uncle.  Enter Jorgen, the new game keeper.  His job is to get rid of poachers on the Margrave's land.  So, of course this story is an easy, super-simple, everyone-just-loves-each-other romance, right?!  I am being sarcastic.  You see how this complicates things.

Odette is getting a lot of pressure to get married from her uncle and everyone else, ever!  She is "old" for the time to be unmarried.  So, her uncle's parties are more like trying to sell her to the highest bidder in marriage and less like a party.  She really enjoys Jorgen, they both have a big heart for the orphans in their area.  But if he knew about the poaching, he could have her sentenced to death.  He really does not like poachers, because one killed his father... supposedly.

I don't want to spoil you anymore.  I do not want to talk about how the re-telling plays a role any more than the back of the book/synopsis does.  If you're planning on reading the book, I want you to have your full enjoyment.  Sometimes, I enjoy knowing TONS about a story before I read it, but sometimes I don't, which is why I don't say too much about the plot.

Also, for me, a book is more about the characters than the plot.  So the characters are great, a lot of subtle changes, and plenty of character development.  There is Christian content of praying and going to a church/cathedral, and trying to live a Christian Life with everything going on in the world.  Although this is historical fiction, the way the characters live out their walk with God gives a great example for the modern Christian.

This is not my favorite book by Melanie Dickerson, but it was still really enjoyable.  The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is a book that I would read again and again.  Characters with a heart for orphans, who want to make the community better, are 100% something I can get behind.

I recommend this book for 14+.  It is categorized as an adult book, but is clean for most teens.  I am not sure about all 13 year olds, because of what I will talk about in spoilers with content.  There is obviously hunting and killing of animals, so if you are super sensitive to that this may be one not to read, but I was okay with it because it was not descriptively bloody and gory​.  I do not like to read about blood. *There is some kissing in the romantic relationship.*


Spoilers:




One of the main characters gets shot with an arrow, and is on deaths door.  There is a whorehouse that is shown as a bad thing, but a younger girl character who doesn't know what to do with her family and is being threatened ends up there.  Our main characters have to help the younger girl escape from there.  So, as you can see, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is a little on the mature reader side.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Dream Not Imagined by Shantelle Mary Hannu Book Review


A Dream Not Imagined: A Cinderella Story by Shantelle Mary Hannu, is.... you never would have guessed... A Cinderella story retold.  I was first thinking, "This book will not be able to surprise me."  DO YOU KNOW how many, many Cinderella re-tellings I have read/viewed???  Well, I don't know exactly either, but I can guess about 100-150ish.  Yeah, a lot!  I am REALLY into this fairy tale, and I don't like when re-tellings don't do a good job.  But no worries here, it was amazing!  I was surprised!  And I didn't see the plot twists coming (even though I almost always do, in like every book I read!)!!!!  I was just so caught up in the story.  Okay, so, no book is perfect, but this one came close.

First off, we have the main character Ellie.  She has grown up as a maid in her own home.  Her Mom is dead and her Dad is still there, but not happy.  He is married to an evil chick.  And evil step-mother has two not- very-nice girls.  I know this sounds like every other retelling out there but it's not.  I don't want to give anything else away, because the story is not very long and I want anyone who wants to read it to be successfully surprised, just like me.

The last thing to tell you of importance is that this is a Christian re-telling.  At first I was all like "it probably won't be able to capture what it needs to, it is this girl's debut novel and sometimes those are not the best." DO NOT LISTEN TO Have-not-read-this-book-Me!!!!!!!  It was so well done and fantastic!!!!!!!!  I don't know what she was thinking.  I am not her any longer.  The main lesson is that God writes the best love story, if we let Him.

It is a really sweet romance.  This was totally clean, no described kissing, or kissing for no reason.  Just letting you know, this is a non-magic story, more real life re-telling (my favorite type!).

Just a fun fact, the author is a homeschool graduate!  One more fun fact, I read this book all in one sitting!  I read the Ebook version.  Now I need A Dream Not Imagined in hard copy.   I so, already, want to have a re-read!

As for content there is not very much to be said:  the evil characters are evil, but you know that, it's Cinderella!  A character (not any of our heroes/heroines) drinks alcoholic beverages to the point of being drunk in one small part (but it is not said in those words, it is NOT looked at as a good thing to do, and is not a big part of the book).  Overall, I would recommend this book for age 12, if the alcohol scene will go over their head, or if you have already had a talk about it, even if just a tiny bit.  If not, then until the age when they you/they have discussed alcohol.  Also, for those who are concerned about mentions of such things as death... see below the spoiler note.

KIND OF TINY SPOILER!!!!!

In a part of the big plot twist there is a brief mention of dead bodies from a fire.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill Book Review

The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill is my favorite book by her and one of my very favorite books of all time. This writer can write!!!!  Sadly, covers and synopsis for her books are not accurate like 99% of the time.  It is that way for this one.  I was very uninterested by the synopsis and tagline, because they are terrible. (At least for the copy I read. There are many re-printings of Grace Livingston Hill books.) But I was running out of books to read, so of course I read it... and was Blown Away!

The following section is a rant:
*The cover does not represent the book very well. For one, the barn is the wrong type.  For two, the car is one that would not have been invented yet.  The clothes and hairstyles are not at all accurate, or would have not been invented until 50 years in the future.  The hair is probably not correct in color, I don't remember to say for sure, but I feel like the color is wrong.  And if this picture represents the first time she and the kind-of landlord are going to the barn, where are ALL the children they had with them????  Are they in the TRUNK?!?!?*

Plot:
This book is set at the turn of the century.  1918 and 1917 are both listed as copyright dates.
The book starts with the main girl, Shirley Hollister, in the countryside and she sees a barn.  Her mom is not doing well health-wise and they cannot continue to live in the city, because it is just making her worse.  The problem is a house in the countyside costs a lot of money that her family does not have.

Shirley thinks that the barn would make a good house and could be in their price range. (Of course they get the barn, because the title wouldn't be The Enchanted Barn otherwise.  I don't want to say how, because when I read it, I didn't know.)  She overheard two men talking about how they can't sell the property, because of a will, and because one of the heirs is under age.  She remembers the name of one of the men the property belongs to, and returns to the city to find him and ask about renting the barn.

I don't want to say too much more because the back of the book does not say too much more. The only other thing I knew was that Shirley got kidnapped at some point. (Yes, this book has some Espionage Mysteries-ness!!!! But not until later in the book.)  So, yeah, now you know, too.

The Characters:
The characters are so good!!!! Shirley was just awesome.  I want to be like her!  Well, I don't want my Dad to die and I am happy not having as many siblings as her, but she is very smart and so ingenuitive.  I enjoyed reading from her point of view a lot.  Also, I want to be as useful in Mysteries and as knowledgeable and resourceful as she is. Plus, her faith is impeccable and something to strive for.

Shirley's siblings (I am not going to be going in depth for all of them, because that would take so long) are all flushed out, well-rounded, not flat characters.  I always appreciate that in side characters, because I know how hard it is to write.  Shirley's baby sister is the cutest thing ever!  Grace Livingston Hill writes how the baby talks, so you read it like she says it and that just makes her so much cuter!!

The main guy, Sidney Graham, (sometimes just called Graham) is very much his own character, not just there to be a love interest.  He has a family, and a job. The character development of Sidney and Shirley were realistic, at least to me.  I love Sidney's little sister, and I so enjoyed learning about his family.  I really appreciate that we got to know his family.  In a lot of YA, or really any books, you don't want to get to know the guy character that well, or just him, but not his family.  That kind of character writing is getting annoying to read, and this was a breath of fresh air.

Since the cover says this is "A Novel of Enduring Romance", on to the Romance.  It was so cute and appropriate for many ages to read.  When Grace Livingston Hill writes a Romance, she writes a really classy Romance, although she does have books that don't contain any romance at all.

I don't have an age warning because, the only semi-scary thing is the kidnapping, but Grace Livingston Hill handles that so well that it's not really scary, or inappropriate, or anything.  The Romance is appropriate for all ages, as noted above.  I read this book as a teenager, but the main characters are older than me.  I would not have had any issues if I had read this book as a pre-teen.  It is technically like a classic, because of when the book was published, but the writing's not that hard to read, and the length is reasonable, so I don't think it's intimidating.