Book Review: Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

 

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Working as a paid companion may be quite commonplace, but Miss Gertrude Cadwalader’s eccentric employer makes her job unpredictable, to say the least. She finds herself carrying out an array of highly unusual tasks, including wearing peculiar outfits and returning items the woman pilfered. But when the wealthy Mrs. Sinclair catches Gertrude sneaking around the Sinclair yacht with some of the missing items in her possession, she immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion.

Shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair is caught in the middle of a misunderstanding between his mother and Gertrude, but he can’t help coming to his friend’s defense. Even as he hopes their friendship might become something more, Harrison is unprepared for the outlandish escapades that seem to follow the lovely, anything-but-ordinary Gertrude at every turn.

 

Title:  Out of the Ordinary (Book 2 of the Apart from the Crowd Series)
Author: Jen Turano
Publisher: Bethany House
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads

My Thoughts:

This book came to me for very kindly for review from Bethany House for December. I started reading it immediately when i got it, having been brought in by the synopsis and the beautiful cover. However with the wedding and honeymoon things got a little behind, and so I JUST finished it yesterday.

The story started out action packed, establishing the relationships between the main characters right away. You are immediately set up with the conflict between Gertrude and her boss, Mrs. Davenport as well as the relationship arc between Gertrude and Harrison.

I’ve not found it often with Christian fiction to have an overall tone of light heartedness, or downright siliness to situation and characters. In that regard, this book was a surprise! You don’t often have the potential of older lady kleptomaniacs or adults hiding in closets to talk in secret.  Some of the other endearing things in this novel include: a wildly dressing, color-blind hero, the hero and his best friend taking love tips from romance novels and women not afraid of physically taking down a villian. The settings used in the book were all very well described, and the voice of the book kept you engaged and entertained.

I did have a few issues with this book. As I said, being naughty and only judging this book by the cover, (and apparently not that closely at that!) I was not aware that this was the 2nd book in the “Apart from the Crowd” series. This had me feeling a little lost as to the vast amount of characters and their importance to the plot. The dialogue, although mostly well written, had a lot of filler and had me wanting to skip ahead at times.  ALso the characters of the 2 widows  seemed like a plot device to ‘fix everything’ in the last few chapters of the book.  The set up to the HEA was wonderful, but the actual end of the book left me feeling a little wanting – and  had me confused as to whether the focus of the book should have been the eccentric Mrs. Davenport, rather than Gertrude.

In the end, I gave this book a 4/5. The voice of the book was very good, and once I realized this was meant to be a little on the silly/light hearted side it did get a few giggles from me. The ladies in the book were strong and sassy, and the men in the book were happy to have them so. Even with having a little trouble keeping all of the characters straight, all of the loose ends were tied up at the end, and I will be interested in checking out more by Jen Turano. I have requested the 1st book in the series from my library. I’ll be curious to see if this changes my perception at all.

 

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Book Review “The Daily Question”

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Title:  “The Daily Question: My 5 Year Spiritual Journal”
Publisher: Waterbrook
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Hardback
My Rating: 5/5

First off to get the legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way: “I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”

This is my first time reviewing a journal-y thing, and I really enjoyed it! I received this book toward the beginning of November (my apologies to Blogging For Books – this is  really terrible for  review turnaround time) which really gave me the opportunity to live with and use this book.

The Daily Question Journal is just that. It is a Journal that gives you a spiritual related question to answer for every day of the year. There are spaces for every year, for 5 years, for you to answer the same question. Some of the questions can be as easy as “How can you encourage a friend today?” (Oct. 25) Some of them are a little harder and require more contemplation such as, “When did you have to be honest, even when it wasn’t easy?” (May 28).

Here are a couple of my own examples:

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The 5 Year Spiritual Journal appealed to me for 2 reasons. Firstly, I have been in the process of transcribing my Great Grandparents own 5-year journals of their day to day life. They started with my Great Grandfather the year before he married, and then continued after the marriage by my Great Grandmother. These span from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. Reading all of these journals was a fascinating peek into their life, 4 lines at a time. It was really interesting to see how things changed over the years, and to see it on 1 page.

Secondly (which maybe I should have mentioned firstly) I have really been trying to work on my spiritual life, and am trying to make my walk with God a priority. I find with little ways like starting my day answering a question, it helps me focus more. Sometimes it’s a right off the top of your tongue answer, and sometimes you have to think a little. Either way, it’s a little conversation with God that you can think on throughout the rest of your day. Who doesn’t want more of that?

I highly recommend this journal. It’s a nice way to explore yourself while deepening your relationship with God. I think this would also make a nice gift as it is both thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing!

Updates

Hello!
I promise one of these days I’ll be back to posting regulary, but some really great things have been happening lately.

First off I went back home to spend time with my family for Thanksgiving.

Then I got married:

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Then we went to spend our Honeymoon & Christmas in Germany with my husband’s family.

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(Do you spot the tiny castle above us 🙂 We hiked up there to tour it)

Then we decided to spend New Years eve freezing to death in a tent to do a hiking/camping trip.

 

Now since we are finally home and starting to settle, we’re getting our apartment in order and joining our church.

 

Now on to some book reviews! 🙂

 

Happy New Year!

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WEDDING!

I’ve been a bit MIA lately (I say that too often – goals for next year!)

BUT I HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE THIS TIME!

I was getting hitched!

Proof:

We had a Vintage Christmas Wedding – and it was pretty awesome. I feel so loved by God and all my family and friends. Next week we’ll be leaving for Germany for our honeymoon. I’ll try to do some blogging about that – but we’ll see how it goes! 🙂

I have a garden update to do, but expect a book review first. I also recently started Bullet Journaling -so that may come into play now and again!

Friday night lights er-hikes

Last night, after work – the Love and I decided to hike one of our favorites here in SLO.

It’s called locally “Madonna Mountain” , because it has a giant white letter “M”  on the side of it, and and ove looks the famous “Madonna Inn” . It’s real name is Cerro San Luis, and the “M” refers to Mission Prep High School. Cerro San Luis is one of the 9 Sisters which are a series of mountain peaks that stretch from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

Rumor has it that a local resteraunt hosts a “Tri-Tip Challenge”, where if you hike Cerro San Luis, Bishop’s Peak and the Cal Poly “P” in the same day – you get a free Tri-Tip Sandwich. Tri-tip is a VERY big thing here.

Some day this winterish (when the weather gets a bit cooler) we’re going to attempt it. But for now, this beauty smiles in on us from our kitchen window every day. Since it’s walking distance from the house – it has become a favorite.

 

 

 

Carl the Fog coming in over the Valley

Gotta utilize that good lighting

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

Book Review: “Where We Belong,” by Lynn Austin

Loot from Lynn Austin

“In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.

As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.”

Title:  “Where We Belong”
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House (sent to me for review as part of the launch crew)
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

Quick note:  Lynn Austin is one of my very favorite authors (and the very first one I ever picked up when it came to Christian Fiction), and when I heard she was looking for people to help launch her book – I immediately applied, and got accepted.Yet another first for me! This book was very kindly sent to me for review as part of the launch crew. I will cherish this book (and the lovely note sent with it) forever!

 

My Thoughts:

True to Lynn Austin form, this is a very well written, fast moving, exciting, loveable and relatable book.  The 2 sister’s story is set up in they style normal for Ms. Austin, switching between past and present,  focusing on mainly 1 character’s POV at a time. The way this is done makes understanding backstory much more pleasant, and really gives you a feel for each of the main characters. This being Christian fiction, I do love how the message of the gospel and how different bible stories become relatable to both the characters and to the reader. The author does not shy away from her beliefs, and does not water them down as some other Christian fiction does tend to. At the same time, it’s not written in a manner that is overly preachy.

One thing I really enjoy about this book (and most of Lynn Austin’s work) is her focus and creation of strong heroines. She is not afraid to let them shine, as well as fail when need be. They are written true to their time, but at the same time  – can be people you know and aspire to be in this day and age as well. Both Rebecca and Flora are both strong in their own ways – and a want to be taken seriously (mostly by men and authority figures) in a way that is sadly still applicable today.  The bond between the sisters, though having differences of opinions and tempers is unshakeable – even able to stand the friction of romantic partners. Their relationship was written in a believable way, allowing differences of temper, opinion and the tendency for the oldest sibling to be the bossiest.

To keep from spoilers I will say I always enjoy the romantic tension written into Ms. Austin’s stories, and this was no different. The choice of choosing from your heart, or choosing from your head is a timeless one. I appreciated the different portrayals of love this story had to offer, and the decision to go with what society offered, versus something more in line with God’s plan for your life – was well displayed and refreshing.

As for Kate and Soren, they’re stories were enjoyable, but I appreciated even more their character development and traits. Soren had the loyalty of Flora and  her tender heart. Kate on the other hand had Rebecca’s stubborn independence and need to be able to be in charge of her own life/self. I found their stories just as interesting as the main line.

Beyond having the ability to move me to laughter, tears and spiritual revelations, another thing I enjoy about Lynn Austin’s writing – is I always get  to learn a little something about history/setting. I had recently read a nonfiction work about her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and now greatly enjoyed seeing it fleshed out in the backdrop of the 1890’s. I also was not aware of the breadth of devastation the Chicago Fire had caused. In the end Ms. Austin shows the overlying picture of how even in the midst of what can seem like a doomed season – God’s hand is still upon us, and we still have lessons to learn from Him.

Another 5/5 for me, and a new favorite added to my shelf.