The Orphan’s Wish by Melanie Dickerson (Review)

Title: The Orphan’s Wish

Author: Melanie Dickerson

  • Date read: September 15, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Retelling / Christian Fiction / Romance
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 329 (hardcover)
  • Series: Hagenheim, #8 (stands alone)
  • Fave character: Aladdin
  • Source: BookLook Bloggers review program (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
  • Notes: Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy. These opinions are all mine.

My Review

So far I’ve always enjoyed Melanie Dickerson’s novels—sometimes you just want a fun, light read, you know?—and I loved this one too. 🙂

I liked that The Orphan’s Wish had a somewhat different feel than the other Hagenheim books, though still with ties to them that made it familiar at the same time that it was fresh. I enjoy a good knight-or-duke’s-son-with-the-fair-maiden-in-a-castle-or-the-woods adventure/romance as much as the next person (as most of these have been), but this one (though with elements of that) was a new setup. Aladdin, while having some action, was much more of a hardworking businessman, which was different and fun for a change, and the setting was largely in the city of Luneberg and it was such a colorful, medieval European city, which reminded me a little of reading about Prague. I enjoyed that! And, of course, I enjoyed visiting Hagenheim again as well. 😉

It’s a retelling of Aladdin, but I confess that story’s not terribly fresh in my memory (I may have read the original folktale once or twice, and saw a certain Disney version of it maybe once awhile back), so I don’t feel like I caught many references. Which was fine. I enjoyed it well enough as a story on its own merit! If you’re looking for a super-Aladdin-y retelling you might possibly be disappointed, though.

Aladdin himself was a wonderful character and I felt deeply pulled into his point of view. He’s not your usual main character—he’s brave and courageous and clever, but he also works really hard and is always trying to do the best he can, and be the best he can be. He has a talent for running businesses and he’s kind of out to make his fortune so that he feels that he, a lowly orphan boy, brought from the Holy Land as a child to live at Hagenheim, can hope to be worthy of marrying a duke’s daughter. But he has a lot to learn, too. 😉 I was kind of annoyed at him for not manning up and telling someone something he didn’t want to say (you caused more problems, man!), but I also loved how he tried to do better, and how he would be clever and heroic sometimes, just when you started to think all he usually did was run businesses and be in love. XD Anyway, he was great.

I liked Lady Kirstyn too. I appreciated that she was the quiet kind of heroine—poor thing felt somewhat overlooked in her family, even though they’re wonderful (because we’re talking about Duke Wilhelm’s family of the Hagenheim Castle series. :P). And she goes through a lot too. The mischievous orphan Abu and the kind old merchant Herr Kaufmann are other interesting characters. And a villain or two…

I also loved the cameos of Valten and Wilhelm and some of the others from this series! So awesome. Especially man-of-few-words Valten giving Aladdin relationship advice. XD (This can totally stand alone as its own book, though, and you don’t have to read any of the others in the series to appreciate it. In fact, it’s a fine place to start.)

I suppose it’s a fairly usual Christian romance, but I enjoyed both of those aspects—it was sweet, and there were some nice faith elements/messages. The plot was also interesting, and—like I mentioned—felt kind of new and fresh. There’s some danger and excitement and mystery thrown in, so it’s not just Aladdin and Kirstyn trying to figure out their relationships. XD I liked how we got to see them grow up together, briefly, at the beginning (childhood friends turned lovers, yay!), and how there were also a lot of memories mixed in, because it really felt like they’d known each other forever, and that was neat. Oh, and I also loved the letters and the storks!

Random note about the series: I exaggerate slightly, but I kind of feel bad for Duke Wilhelm always having to run around after his kids when they’re the hero or heroine of the book and are always getting kidnapped, or shot with crossbows, or running around falling in love with the wrong person… Like, seriously, poor Wilhelm and Rose every time their kids get a new book. XD I love it though.

Anyway, this was another fun novel from this prolific author, and I always look forward to more. 🙂

A favorite quote: “I suppose it is difficult to be good at both business and art.”

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


About The Orphan’s Wish

From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes an inspired retelling of the beloved folk tale Aladdin.

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.

Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.

Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

An enchanting new version of the well-known tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, June 26, 2018


Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website


Thanks for reading! 🙂

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The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron (Book Review)

Good morning, my dear Roadlings!

I’ve been a teensy bit absent around here due to Camp NaNo, which has not left much time for reading or blogging… But I’m happy to announce that I hit my NaNo goal!

In honor of this fact, have a book review of a fascinating novel I read this week to celebrate completing Camp NaNo. 🙂

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

(I’m in love with the cover! ❤ )

Title: The Lost Castle
Author: Kristy Cambron

  • Date read: April 23, 2018
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Genre: Contemporary / Historical Fiction
  • Age: Adult but teens would love it too
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 385 (ebook)
  • Series: The Lost Castle, #1 (stands alone)
  • Source: The publisher (Thomas Nelson) through the Booklook Bloggers program
  • Notes: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

My Review

3.5 stars

Firstly, this book is GORGEOUS. The writing, the descriptions, the setting—I was drowning in beauty. The author’s voice and the poetic descriptions were really enjoyable to read. ^_^

This book is actually three stories in one, which was fascinating. Three stories set in three different time periods, but intertwined and connected by names, places, family… and intriguing items. An eighteenth century portrait, a fox brooch, a World War II photograph… and a castle in France. Almost the entire book is set in France in three different time periods (contemporary, WWII, and the late 1700s), with a dash of contemporary America and WWII England.

My favorite of the three storylines was actually the contemporary one: a young woman named Ellie trying to find a mysterious castle in France and coming up against unexpected roadblocks, like visiting a vineyard and meeting the Irish grandson of the old Frenchman who owns the vineyard. (Loved the grandfather!) Quinn Foley (said Irish fellow) was one of my favorite parts of the book. He had some fun lines and I loved giving him an Irish accent in my head. XD Ellie was spunky and I liked her. Together they make an interesting pair, especially when they’re at odds. 😛 But I loved when they worked together, too.

Another of the story threads deals with Revolution-era France, and a lady who was supposed to be marrying the lord of a certain castle… when a peasant uprising changes her life and the lives of the aristocracy in Paris and elsewhere. She adapts surprisingly well, and it was neat reading her story of working alongside Robert, the younger brother of her betrothed. I like Robert a lot too. 🙂 This was another era I enjoyed reading about.

Less-favorite (for me), but still super gripping, is the storyline in the World War II era. This one featured Vi, a plucky British gal behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied-France. I personally don’t really care for reading about this time period—it just depresses me for some reason—but these sections were certainly thrilling, and I did enjoy them sometimes. It was mostly interesting as Vi is Ellie’s grandmother, and so piecing together her past in these flashbacks/third narrative was intriguing. Plus, there was Julien, and I really liked him! And there were a couple of references, like to Sherlock Holmes, which I enjoyed. 🙂

I loved getting to follow three totally separate, yet somehow connected stories, and putting together pieces as they alternated.

It was also fun how the castle (the Sleeping Beauty, as it was called) was at the center of the three plots; it gave it a connected feeling.

Sometimes you’d hear bits of one of the stories in one of the other stories, which gave it a fascinating, layered feel.

The characters were quite lovable, the romance threads were adorable, and like I said, the writing and description was breathtaking.

What I didn’t like as much was mostly a certain THING that happened, which I saw coming and was fairly obvious, given the evidence, but still. I can’t STAND sad endings, and it was depressing, even if some readers might find it bittersweet and not mind. I won’t give away details, but the NUMBER ONE RULE of romance is you-know-what… and that one broke it. And my heart with it. *cough* If a book wants to make me dislike it, all it has to do is kill a favorite character or have a bad ending… It made me a sad otter. 😦

To be fair, there WERE three separate storylines and I was QUITE happy with how two of them turned out, so that’s not bad, statistically. 😛 Most of the book is a solid, gorgeous 4 star. I knocked off half a star for the sad thing.

Other than said disappointing ending of one of the threads, and simply not usually caring for WWII-era stories (which is totally a me-thing), I don’t really have anything to complain about. (I do still think if certain characters had been more Narnia-like and not been standing around talking about nylons and lipstick, a random side character wouldn’t have died. Air-raid shelters exist for a REASON, people, and you should totally get in them instead of standing around putting on makeup. PLEASE. Sorry, a pet-peeve of mine. XD)

Content: There’s a bit of violence (I mean, WWII…) and involved intensity, but otherwise it’s a clean read, and even though I think it was written for adults, it’s suitable for teens. It’s technically Christian Fiction, though there’s not a huge message or anything, just occasional mentions of faith (surprisingly few, actually) and the quiet touch of God’s presence even amid war-torn France. So even if you don’t technically care for this genre, you won’t find it preachy.

Overall, it was a gorgeously-written, enchanting read, skillfully weaving three storylines together, with memorable characters, and for the most part I really enjoyed it! 🙂

If you don’t mind a tiny smidgen of tragedy and some bittersweetness mixed in with your historical/contemporary romance-mystery-ish stories, you’ll absolutely love this. ^_^

I’m glad I gave it a read, and I’m now curious about this author’s other work!

Some Favorite Quotes

“A tourist like you, ya mean?” He tossed a glance down at the half-hidden map in her hand. “I didn’t think they still made maps that folded.”

“Yeah. They do, apparently. I found it in a bookstore at the airport. And good thing, because my GPS hasn’t once found a signal out here.”

***

“And you didn’t come all this way to France just to get arrested, now, did ya?”

***

“… even if it was only for a short time, that time forever changed her. And if it’s succeeded, isn’t that what a story should do? Change us in some way?”

***

“Maybe they’ll see the fairy tale in this place too.”

***

“I like the idea about buildin’ up the wall again. It’s grand. But I thought maybe we could start with the chapel? If you say yes, we’re goin’ to need it first.”

I review for BookLook BloggersI received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

About the Book

Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman begins speaking. Of a secret past and castle ruins forgotten by time. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . .

Each piece that unlocks the story seems to unlock part of Ellie too—where she came from and who she is becoming. But her grandmother is quickly disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley in hopes that she can unearth its secrets before time silences them forever.

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods—the French Revolution, World War II, and present day—The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through the generations.

Links: Author • PublisherGoodreadsAmazonBarnes & Noble

Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading. ^_^

Bye, NaNo; Hi, Christmas (Coloring Christmas Devotions Review + Photos)

Oh hey, look, November’s over and I survived NaNoWriMo and can rest now.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

Speaking of which, while I am recuperating enough to get together some form of Ishness post about my Novemberness (look for it Monday!), here: have a review of a coloring book for Christmas, because we all need to relax right now. *ahem*

Coloring Christmas Devotions

by Thomas Nelson Publishing

  • Authors: Published by Thomas Nelson. Illustrations by Lizzie Preston, Claire McElfatrick, and Suzanne Khushi
  • Date read: November 29, 2017
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Christian Non-Fiction / Devotional / Adult Coloring Book
  • Age: Any
  • Year pub: 2017
  • Pages: 96 (paperback)
  • Source: Booklook Bloggers
  • Notes: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of writing my honest review; these opinions are my own.
  • Links — Find the book on: ZondervanAmazonGoodreads

This is a combination of a Christmas devotional and a coloring book, with nearly fifty pages of charming art to color (on the right-hand pages) and 31 pages of devotions (perfect for reading throughout December) alternating with 15 Bible verses (on the left-hand pages).

The devotional topics are varied, on a Christmas theme—some of them moving and relevant, while others weren’t as applicable to me (since I haven’t been in some of those situations or didn’t “get” some of the more modern references), but might be to others. Mostly it was tying in modern struggles with the rush of the holidays, with examples from scripture and a theme of slowing down and focusing on the real reason for the season, which was nice.

The lovely illustrations range from winter or wildlife scenes to nativity scenes, to Christmas associations like bells, candy canes, nutcrackers, ornaments and holly, etc., and some of lovely patterns too.

Being my first adult coloring book, this was a fascinating experience, and so fun! I may be slightly addicted to coloring now. 😉 I’ve heard its relaxing and enjoyable but I didn’t realize until I tried it myself!

I used pencils and colored pens—I think markers or crayons wouldn’t be thin enough since most of the illustrations have very narrow areas that would be a little tricky to color. My pens didn’t quite bleed through the page, but anything darker might.

It’s the perfect book to wind down with and relax in the evening, particularly (in my case) when I had just finished NaNoWriMo and was transitioning from a writing season to a Christmas one at the end of November. I turned on some Celtic Christmas music and curled up with this coloring book, discovering new and wintry delights. 🙂

Overall, it’s a very fun book, and I like the mix of thoughtful section to read (which I read all in a sitting) combined with lovely wintry/Christmas-y art. I can’t really compare it to other coloring books since I don’t have experience with them, but I loved this one! I would recommend it for fans of coloring and really any Christians who celebrate Christmas.

About the Book

Enjoy all the best parts of the Christmas season as you spend time reflecting on God’s greatest gift for His children: the birth of Jesus. This unique coloring book also includes devotions perfect for the season. Take a few minutes out of the busyness of Christmas to spend time in devotional thought, while relaxing through stress-free coloring.

With inspirational devotions on one side and a festive Christmas scene to color on the opposite page, Coloring Christmas Devotions will be a welcome part of your holiday celebrations. Take a few quiet moments to yourself to reflect on the reason behind the festivities as you read through the Scripture verses and devotions and color the pen-and-ink illustrations.

This coloring book is unique with a trim size that is easy to fit into a purse or bag, an embellished cover, perforated pages, and a low price point.

A beautiful gift or a fun treat for yourself, Coloring Christmas Devotions will help you focus your heart on the true meaning of Christmas.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

So, the big questions!

Did you survive NaNo? Are you ready for Christmas? And have you ever tried an adult coloring book? Because this was my first one, and now I’m curious about y’all! Thanks for reading! 🙂 I’ll be back soon with some NaNo-ish wrapup posts! ❤

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson (Review)

Title: The Noble Servant

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Date read: June 6, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance / Fairytale Retelling (The Goose Girl)
Age: YA
Year pub: 2017
Pages: 312 (hardcover)
Series: A Medieval Fairy Tale, #3 (or Thornbeck Forest, #3)
Fave character: Steffan
Source: BookLook Bloggers review program (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Notes: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher

My Review

Melanie Dickerson does it again! Another extremely enjoyable novel from a talented author. 🙂

I always enjoy Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale novels, and this one was especially enjoyable for some reason! 🙂 It’s the final book in the trilogy which began with The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and The Beautiful Pretender, and it tells the story of Magdalen, the friend of the heroine in The Beautiful Pretender, which I was very excited about. However, each of the books stands alone (aside from a few references/characters who reappear, which isn’t so important), so if you haven’t read the first two, you can definitely jump in on this one! 🙂

The Noble Servant is a retelling of The Goose Girl (with nods to The Prince and the Pauper as well), which is not a fairytale I’m as familiar with as some, although I know the general idea of the servant taking the place of her lady and forcing the heroine to become a servant tending to geese. I enjoyed the retelling aspect but likely didn’t pick up on as much of it as I might have if it was a different fairytale. But far from making it less enjoyable because of that, I actually enjoyed it immensely because I had no idea what was going to happen!

I really liked our heroine, Lady Magdalen of Mallin, who was very sweet but capable; and I especially liked the hero, Steffan, Duke of Wolfburg, who was kind but heroic and noble, and had some great lines. They are both nobles who find themselves in servant roles outside Steffan’s castle, and there is a plot by Steffan’s uncle and all sorts of intriguing things. I loved how they both ended up servants for awhile, which was interesting to read about. My favorite thing about the story was probably Magdalen and Steffan. They were super cute together, too. 😉 I loved their dialog! Some of their discussions and times with the sheep and geese were my favorite parts of the novel. ^_^

I especially loved how Steffan really disliked the geese. XD You have a Goose Girl retelling, and the hero doesn’t like the geese the heroine is around because he’s scared of them. It. was. the. best. XD Steffan’s comments about the birds were my favorite. 😀

As always, I enjoyed the medieval German setting (Steffan had even been away studying in Prague! I loved that!), with the smattering of German words, and the castle and the woods and fields, and even a sight of the sea. It was overall lovely and a great setting and time-period. Also, I want to eat those stuffed rolls with bacon, potato, and sauerkraut in them—they made me so hungry. XD

It was exciting at times, and absorbing all throughout, and had a few surprise twists which I did not see coming! Especially with a few of the side characters surprising me. So that was neat. 🙂 Something about it felt a little different than Melanie Dickerson’s previous books, I felt, but not in a bad way. It was just… kind of new. 🙂 While still being slightly similar in a good and familiar way.

Like I said, I wasn’t ever sure what would happen next, and the writing was extremely well done, and kept me turning pages all throughout the book, eager to find out how our sweet heroine and dashing hero would get out of their predicaments, with God’s help, and maybe find a little love along the way. 😉 I couldn’t stop reading and was captivated until the final page.

I can’t think of anything specific that I disliked. Occasionally it gets very slightly exasperating how long it takes the hero and heroine to actually let on that they like each other and get over their worries about not being worthy etc., but that seems to be a classic romance theme, so oh well. 😛 And it didn’t annoy me as much as sometimes.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable story, which I quite liked. ^_^ I’d say that young adults and adults alike would enjoy this charming, sweet romance in medieval Germany, with a dash of retellings and Christianity, mistaken identities, lovable characters, and fun dialog about geese. 😀

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Favorite Quote

“Evil birds. What are they doing among my sheep?” He raised his arms. “Shoo, you cruel little beasties.”

About The Noble Servant

She lost everything to the scheme of an evil servant.

But she might just gain what she’s always wanted . . .

if she makes it in time.

The impossible was happening. She, Magdalen of Mallin, was to marry the Duke of Wolfberg. Magdalen had dreamed about receiving a proposal ever since she met the duke two years ago. Such a marriage was the only way she could save her people from starvation. But why would a handsome, wealthy duke want to marry her, a poor baron’s daughter? It seemed too good to be true.

On the journey to Wolfberg Castle, Magdalen’s servant forces her to trade places and become her servant, threatening not only Magdalen’s life, but the lives of those she holds dear. Stripped of her identity and title in Wolfberg, where no one knows her, Magdalen is sentenced to tend geese while she watches her former handmaiden gain all Magdalen had ever dreamed of.

When a handsome shepherd befriends her, Magdalen begins to suspect he carries secrets of his own. Together, Magdalen and the shepherd uncover a sinister plot against Wolfberg and the duke. But with no resources, will they be able to find the answers, the hiding places, and the forces they need in time to save both Mallin and Wolfberg?

New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson beautifully re-imagines The Goose Girl by the Brothers Grimm into a medieval tale of adventure, loss, and love.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, May 9, 2017

Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Review: FOUND by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Jago

I’m doing something a little different today… reviewing a picture book!

Found: Psalm 23

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrated by Jago

Published by Zondervan: February, 2017

Find the book here: Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Review

FOUND is a charming board book, 20 pages in length, and is an adorable and touching depiction of the 23rd Psalm.

I’m firmly of the opinion that we can never outgrow children’s books, and this one is lovely!

It’s a precious picture book about the Shepherd looking after His sheep. The text is simple but lyrical, basically a simplified version of Psalm 23. I would have preferred it to have the exact words of the psalm, but, that being said, there is also a sort of charm to the way it’s written so that it’s easier for smaller children to understand.

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The illustrations (of the Shepherd, sheep and lamb, and lush meadow and stream scenes) are deceptively simple, but further inspection shows the depth of detail—I could look at it over and over again (and I have!).

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The lamb is my absolute favorite. It has SUCH personality and is just the most adorable thing! I love when it smiles. ❤ This book is worth it just for that little lamb. It’s so cuuute!

If you have a child, nephew, niece, or other little friend (or even for yourself!), I highly recommend checking it out. Just in time for Easter, too! I really enjoyed it. ^_^

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

So, do you ever read picture books? Isn’t this one cuuute? ^_^ Do you have any favorites from childhood (or recenter)? And don’t you want a lamb like that? 😀 (I know, I know, that’s beside the point, but still!) Thanks for reading! 🙂