October 24, 2015

"I shouldn't speak to you..."

Hello all! I'm linking up once again for Heidi's monthly Inklings Explorations. The topic for this month is a gypsy scene in either literature or film. I decided to use Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you've seen it, you will know that one of the characters, Esmeralda is a gypsy.

In this scene, a solemnly beautiful moment, Esmeralda is trapped inside Notre Dame, the church she had turned to for sanctuary. Hunted down by the villain of the story, Judge Frollo, she can't step outside without forfeiting the protection the church affords her. Outside, Frollo would have her killed for no more than the fact that she is a gypsy.

While inside, Esmeralda rankles at how her people are treated so badly. All their lives, gypsies have been thought of as thieving, murdering outcasts. The ones unlike that are never even given a chance.

Esmeralda talks with a kindly priest of these atrocious injustices. And while in Notre Dame, she feels herself looking for hope in a place she never looked for it before.

I hope Heidi doesn't mind if a use a clip of Esmeralda's song for this post instead of elaborating more.  It's a beautiful song, and I do hope you'll give it a listen if you haven't heard it before.

I want to say (without the intention to offend anyone!) that I while I realize the Catholic church is a correct portrayal of the major "denomination" in the Middle Ages,  I don't quite agree with the message it sends. I only mention this because in The Hunchback of Notre Dame the characters are shown (presumably) praying/talking to Mary and/or the saints and I don't believe this is correct. I believe we should pray only to God through Jesus Christ. No where in the Bible does it actually mention praying to anyone but Him. 

I don't say this to offend anyone. I myself come from a Catholic background! I know some of my readers are Catholic, so please do NOT think I mention this to point out anyone. I simply felt the need to put a little "disclaimer" here. ;) I sincerely hope no one minds my saying so!

And of course, this should be a given, but if you're Catholic please don't feel that our differences bar you in any way from my blog! You all are welcome and I enjoy each and everyone one of the comments I receive from my darling readers! You all are so sweet and encouraging.

Thank you again, Heidi, for such a fun link up!!

October 14, 2015

Behold the Dawn~K. M. Weiland

I received this book as a birthday gift from some very dear friends of mine, Heidi and Eowyn. I had heard of the book from Heidi's review and was intrigued. I was so excited to start it when it came in the mail!

I finished the book in less than a week and was thinking of it ecstatically and happily for weeks after.

This book. Is so. Good.
Here's the synopsis, because it does a better job of explaining that I would:

Marcus Annan, a knight famed for his prowess in the deadly tourney competitions, thought he could keep the bloody secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him wreak vengeance on a corrupt bishop, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.

Wounded in battle and hunted on every side, he agrees to marry—in name only—the traumatized widow of an old friend, in order to protect her from the obsessive pursuit of a mutual enemy. Together, they escape an infidel prison camp and flee the Holy Land. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past—or his growing feelings for the Lady Mairead. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

First off, the hero. Wow.  HE IS SUCH A GREAT HERO. Marcus Annan is not your chivalrous Prince Charming. He has a Rather Awful past stained by past mistakes. He is chasing redemption-even if he won't admit it-but can't find it in the tourneyor battles he participates in. He's a great warrior, one of the very best. But he still feels empty and guilt-ridden for what he's done.

Lady Mairead was such a lovely heroine. I loved that she was a gentle woman who despite her strength and bravery, is hurt and scarred from her own past-and her present fear. She isn't a "I can do everything myself" kind of heroine. Which is a refreshing change from *most* heroines (not that I don't like those kind of heroines either, if they're done well.).

The romance between him and Mairead was unbelievably adorable!!! Well, adorable isn't quite the right word. It was just sooo good. I admit half of my fangirling over this book was due to their relationship.

How many romances center around a couple who are already married? And not just a marriage-but a "necessity marriage." (Okay, so Loves Comes Softly. Give me another example.) They did not marry for love and never intended to marry for love. Annan only agreed to it as a favor to a friend. It was just a way to protect Mairead until they reached the convent that would shelter her.

But. This blood-stained tourneyor with a broken past finds he doesn't want to go on alone anymore. He finds himself slowly and irrevocably falling in love with the Lady Mairead. He can't ever expect her to love him or share a life with him. What life could he possibly give her?

I love it when he protects her---ahh. So many feels!! Guys, he's so gentle and caring with her and kind--this huge, powerful man Mairead is scared to death of because she isn't sure what "kind" of man he is.  "Lady Mairead...you're afraid of me."

And, to anyone who has read the book, remember this quote: "All that matters is that you are my wife." Squeee.....such a sweet and tearful scene!!!!!! I was quite pleased that it didn't take till the end of the book for Annan and Mairead to admit their love for each other.


Marek was a perfect sidekick. My favorite part about him was that he wasn't just a sidekick.  He had his own character arc!!! Let me say that again. THE HUMOROUS SIDEKICK HAS A CHARACTER ARC. How many stories have that?? He was sweet and adorable and had so many good lines and aww I just love him so much!
And he shall be my squishy.

I really liked the villain because he was VERY well written, in my opinion. He was dark and ruthless and evil, without being over the top or humorous in a Disney villain sort of way. He felt real. Like a twisted and corrupted Bishop would be back then.

And then there's the other villain, Lord Hugh, a vicious man who, in creepy stalker fashion, ruthlessly hunts poor Mairead (which is where Annan's protection comes in awwwwwwwwwww).

Okay, so I'm going to share a funny story with you all. One night, I was reading this book in bed with a flashlight (ahem) and I suddenly saw a dart of movement on my left. I jump out of bed and turn to find a larger-than-I-was-comfortable-with sized spider on my bed. ON MY BED. This guy was big enough that I was immediately uneasy and unsure of how to kill it. Treading softly to the bathroom I tore off a long piece of tissue and and returned to my room. The spider was inching his way rather quickly over my sheets so I shook them a little to get him in a spot where he wouldn't have a chance of escape. Thankfully I killed him with one try. It would have been horrendous if I missed him and he somehow got away. IN MY ROOM.

-shudders to think of it-

Soooo, after that incident it took me awhile to settle back into bed (after checking under, over, on the sides of the bed for any of his friends) and I decided to read a few more moments to calm down.


Weeelll, wouldn't you know it I was just at the part where Mairead dies. What. 

I was so stressed out from my spider incident that I was fed up. Nope, no, I am not going to bed thinking she died. I knew my love for this book would plummet if she died. I looked ahead in the book (no judging). She survives. I sighed in relief and turned out the light.


I still didn't sleep well that night. Every time I woke up (which was often) I checked my bed for spiders who dare to show their face in my room.

Now for the few (minor) things I didn't quite love. The beginning was a bit...slow. Even though it was technically "fast paced" since it began with a battle and a chase scene. I think it helped show who Annan's character and history but....this was at the point where I didn't really know the characters yet. I'm much more likely to be interested in the outcome of a battle with characters I love in it-not characters I just met.

I was also a bit confused by the plot at some points. I can't really say why because of spoilers (spoilers I don't want to give away). But, once all the secrets were revealed it all made much more sense. The secrets driving the plot were VERY good. I didn't figure it out until the split second before it was revealed, and even then I was blown away by how well it had been done. I never suspected a thing. VERY well done, Emma. (ha)

Another point of confusion at times was Gethin.

"Wait so Gethin and the Baptist are the same guy?"
"Oh he's not..."
"Oh, he is."
"Is he good or bad?"
"But he's your friend!"
"He sure doesn't act like a friend."
"Frenemies, haha"
"Oh you USED to be friends, now I get it..."
"Wait, what??"
"Why did that happen?"
"I'm so confused I'm not even trying to understand anymore."

(my thoughts while reading)

So, either I was just stupid or the plot was a leetle hard to follow at points.

The other thing that kind of "let me down" was the ending-don't get me wrong, though! I loved how it ended. I can't think of a way I would change it. It just didn't....well it didn't send me into vales of tears. (I actually didn't cry at all at the end. Which was disappointing.)

On the content side, this book is completely clean but I would recommend it for more mature readers because of some of the incidents in the story. Battle violence, for one (it's not gory, though) and the subplot of Lord Hugh's advances to Lady Mairead whom he had previously taken advantage of, resulting in a child born out of wedlock. (it's all handled very well without unnecessary description.)

If you like medieval times read this book. If you like the Crusades read this book.  If you like God-honoring romance read this book. If you like action and adventure read this book. If you like redemption stories read this book. Basically, just read the book.

Aaaannnd, wow, that just became about the longest book review I ever wrote!

ps. I was recently featured on Heidi's blog for her monthly "Three Things I Love in a Good Story" (that you could join in on too!)  series. Pop in and check it out if you like!