June 18, 2016

With Every Letter~Sarah Sundin

I realize that I tend to write full book reviews on only my favorite of favorites. Which, I suppose, is only natural. Why waste time constructing a post about a book you hated or just couldn't care less about? (Although, ranting can be fun sometimes heh heh)

Guuuyyyss, I loooove this book!!!

(Oh yes. Be forewarned this is going to be a rambling, fan-girl-y review. :P)

-sigh- How do I begin to express my love of this book's amazing characters, stunning settings, and wonderful plot? In order to inject some semblance of order into this review, I'll start with giving you my own short synopsis. 

Well, I went onto Goodreads to take a look at the official synopsis and got distracted by reading all the one and two star reviews for With Every Letter. 

What is wrong with people?

Guys, word of advice. Don't read the hate reviews of your favorite books. Unless you enjoy having your blood pressure elevate in annoyance and anger. If you do, go for it.

Oh yes, the synopsis. -tries to focus-

Set during World War Two, the book follows two main characters— Mellie, a flight nurse, and Tom, an engineer. Although they've never met, they've been writing letters to each other through an anonymous letter program (in the story, the program is inspired by the Jimmy Stewart movie, Shop Around the Corner, which just makes me plain happy because I really like that movie!). Mellie is painfully shy and lacks confidence in her looks, personality, and social skills. She's always been different from other girls her age, and she finds that to hold true even among the other nurses. Tom lives under a shadow. He has spent the greater portion of his life trying to live down his father's violent reputation. Through their correspondence, both find friendship and encouragement in their walk with God.
Problems arise when they fall in love (it's a Christian romance novel, what did you expect?) because they both think they need anonymity to retain their friendship. Each are convinced the other could never look past outward appearances and see what truly lies in the heart.

And, that's all I'm giving you synopsis-wise. Now I'll just fangirl. ;)
I picture Mellie as a mix between Agent Peggy Carter and the girl on the cover of the book haha
Awww, dearest Mellie. Poor little thing. I just want to give her a hug! Mellie is so sweet, so kind, so helpful—but painfully shy. With Ernest's encouragement and advice (Ernest is the name she gives to Tom, her anonymous correspondent) she is finally able to learn how to reach out to the other women in her squadron (group, battalion, or whatever it's called) and experience true friendship for the first time. She forms a trio with Rose and Georgie, two other flight nurses, and with more help from them, learns to come out of her shell. 

 *spoilers * 
The only time I get annoyed with Mellie is when she meets Tom and DOESN'T TELL HIM THAT SHE'S ANNIE (her "pen name"). But, I DO understand why she didn't.

Mellie came a loooong way from the beginning of the book. By the time Tom wanted to meet her, Mellie's confidence and social skills had improved by leaps and bounds. 

But, she still wasn't there yet. She holds back for two reasons:
1) She's selfishly afraid of being rejected. 
2) She's unselfishly wanting to protect Tom from disappointment. You see, she's convinced herself Tom could never think she is beautiful. (And that's where we all groan in frustration because every time we read Tom's point of view, he's berating himself for being attracted to Mellie when he should only have feelings for "Annie". )
*end spoilers* 

Now, before you assume Tom is head-over-army-boots for Mellie only because of her beauty, let me explain what a wonderful guy he is.

Oh Toooommmm. 

Guys, how do I count all the reasons I love Tom? Honestly, he is on the list of "fictional guys I would actually marry if they were real" (versus just plain ol' fictional crushes). That is, if I wrote out said list. It's a mental list. ;)

Shall I list the reasons?
1) He's kind. Part of this is due to the fact that he's been taught that he HAS to be kind in order to "erase" the stain his dad has given him. But, even if that weren't the case, Tom would still be kind.
2) He has a rather tragic backstory but rises above it. (And it hurts him so much and affects his life and I just want to hug him because the poooor thiiiinng.)
3) He looks like Steve Rogers (Okay, I picture him like Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America).
4) He's really sweet and funny and just SUCH A GENTLEMAN.
5) He writes letters. Long, descriptive, lovely letters that any girl would love to receive.
6) He puts others before himself. Like when he wants to dance with Mellie, but holds back because girls get a "reputation" by dancing with him. Because of his name. (He's just so chivalrous!)
7) He's incredibly faithful and trustworthy. He resolves to love "Annie" no matter what she looks like. Yes, he would prefer her to look like a certain exotic girl he knows, but he's ready to sacrifice that.

And see, that's where this romance is different. Tom is so faithful to "Annie". Instead of trying to seek out Mellie, he does his best to avoid her. Instead of trying to win the one woman he finds absolutely gorgeous, he puts that aside and channels his heart and soul into writing to "Annie". Because he knows her heart, her dreams, and her thoughts, and he loves her for them. 

He realizes that a beautiful heart is much more important than a beautiful face.
-sigh- Tom and Mellie...they're just one of my favorite fictional couples ever.
Excuse me while I go off into a squeal of fan-girly giggles and screams.
Thank you, random gif boy. You totally define fangirling. haha
I honestly have no words to describe what a beautiful relationship they have. They're just SO SWEET. They both struggle with their past. Tom has to learn to forgive his father for his mistakes, and Mellie has to learn to forgive her mother for hers. They learn that forgiveness does not mean approval and that they don't have to live in fear of becoming their respective parents. They encourage and uplift each other in their walk with the Lord and help each other grow.

Another reason I love this book is that I relate strongly to Mellie. No, I was never as introverted as she was and I had plenty friends growing up, but I did struggle with shyness and insecurity. Around my early teen years, I was very insecure with my looks. I was taller than most girls my age (and boys...how awkward is that!?), I had VERY thick hair that I couldn't style very well, and frequently had acne on my face. And that's only a few of my "complaints"! ;)  I would compare myself way too often to movie actresses or older girls that I knew. Now, my insecurity wasn't enough to "ruin" my life—some of my happiest memories come from those years! But it was hard some days, and I feel bad for any girl going through the same.

I am quite content with my looks now. God helped me out of that "phase" and showed me that no matter what I looked like (or thought I looked like) I WAS beautiful, because I was his daughter and his creation and nothing would change that. Everything he creates is beautiful! Why would his people be any exception? 

(And, it's worth mentioning that the early teen years are the most awkward years. If you're in that season of life and find it unbearable some days, please know that it WILL get better. I absolutely promise.)

Mellie thought she wasn't beautiful—but she was. Not every man found her so—but the right one DID. And more importantly, God found her beautiful. Because of her kind, selfless soul. No, she wasn't perfect. But she is a "gentle and quiet spirit" and this is so very, very precious to God. 

I could watch this gif all day.
(Pretend that gif takes place outside, under the stars.)

THE DANCE SCENE MY WORD.

When Mellie is told by her commanding officer to stay and have fun with the other nurses and officers at a dance, Tom, in his wonderful gallantry, "rescues" Mellie from a man he knows to be "bad news". He saves her from dancing with him, and instead they talk together. I won't explain the entire scene but suffice to say that they eventually dance together and it's soo cute and sweet and....yes. It's perfect. They laugh and banter and are just so happy to be in each other's company.

This post is getting so long, but I just want to mention a few more things--I love Tom's friendship with Larry Fong and Mellie's with Rose and Georgie!  Both characters deal with the excitement of having a real friend...and the bitterness of having misunderstandings and betrayals (mostly unintentional) within these relationships. Of course, this causes them to grow in ways they couldn't have foreseen and it's all just so wonderful. :)

Sesame (Tom's dog)  is so darn cute and the scenes with him and Tom are just perfect. <3

So, of course, I could talk about the end of the book, but I want you to read this for yourself and see what you think. I feel as if this review has been less of a review and more of a fan-girling, nonsensical post, but hey. I did warn you of that, didn't I? ;)

Content wise, I do think this book is one of the nicest Christian fiction romance novels I've ever read (not too much over-emphasized physical attraction blehhh) and has one of the strongest Christian messages I've come across in CFR novels. Now, with that said, it IS a romance novel, and it can tend to be a little sappy and overly detailed when kissing is involved. :P Sometimes women are mentioned as being "curvy" and one character is called a "slut". 
Other than that, I can't think of anything else that could be included as "content."

I hope you give this book a try if you haven't already!
 If you have read it, do you like it?
 If not, why ever not?!
 (I won't be too mad, I promise. ;))

18 comments

  1. Well, in all honesty, I basically have never read Christian fiction romance novels ("The Sweetest Thing" is probably the only one in that category) and it doesn't sound like anything I've ever read, but I'd be happy to give it a try! And better yet, my library has it! :D I'll scribble it down on my to-read list. ;)

    ~Miss Meg

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    1. Yay! I hope you enjoy it if you read it, Miss Meg, although I'd totally understand if you decided to try it in the future instead of right away. :) Whatever works for you! :D

      (And don't worry. You're not missing too much by not reading Christian fiction romance novels. ;))

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  2. This is on my book list on books to buy... I might just have to add it to my cart on Amazon! :D

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    1. Ooh, yay! Do tell me if you like it! :D

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  3. I read the synopsis and scrolled down here as not to spoil it

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  4. AHHH YES. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Not as much as you, maybe (because the LACK OF COMMUNICATION annoyed me to BITS - Sarah Sundin always does this) but I really yearn to re-read this now!! I got this for free on my kindle and I remember REALLY enjoying it. :-D (And yes, THE DANCE SCENE IS CUUUUUTE.)

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    1. I know you do!! :D I understand your frustration. Lack of communication annoys me too, although it doesn't annoy me as much in this as it does in other stories.
      Yes, you totally should re-read it! It's ADORABLE.

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  5. Thank you for the lovely review, Natalie! I'm so glad you enjoyed Tom & Mellie's story! And I love the gifs :)

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    1. Thank you ever so much, Ms. Sundin! Your comment made my day!!

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  6. Do I love this book?

    Ermmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . not really . . .

    I'm sorry, Natalie--I hope I don't hurt your feelings by saying so! I just . . . am not very fond of it. I don't do well with Christian fiction romance, period--I even tried reading "Christy" this month and just couldn't get into it at all. AND PRACTICALLY EVERYBODY I KNOW ABSOLUTELY LOVES THAT BOOK. Go figure. I'm not a CFR person, I guess.

    Also, I have to say I had a hard time relating to Mellie, even though she was VERY sweet and nice and kind. She was just . . . different from me.

    (But I'm so glad you like her and can relate to her well. And Sarah Sundin does make a very good point about beauty and self-esteem with her story, so that's cool. I liked that she showed how Mellie really WAS beautiful, but she wasn't "seen" as such because she fell outside society's narrow standards for beauty/attractiveness. Because that happens to a LOT of us, and it's really not necessary or right.)

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    1. Hahaha, it's okay, Jessica. ;)

      I don't really mind...as long as you don't write a really negative review bashing it, haha. But seriously, it's okay. I'm not hurt at all. I can definitely understand not liking CFR. I love reading some once in awhile, but after 2 or 3 books I tend to go crazy. :P

      That's all right too. It certainly would be a boring world if we all related to the same characters!

      Yes, indeed! I totally agree with all you said. :)

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  7. I LOVE your reviews, Natalie!! You do such a good job of bringing the story to life, and I love how you include pictures of how you imagine the characters to look. :) This sounds like an absolutely darling story. I really, REALLY want to read it now. :D And guess what? Our library has it, so I CAN!!!! YIPPEE!!!

    So yeah...all that to say. This was an excellent review, and I very much enjoyed reading it!! Thank you so much!! <3

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    1. Thank you, Miss March! I'm SO glad you think so! Pictures are always one of the most fun parts of the review. ;) Ooh, your library has it! I can not WAIT to hear your thoughts on it. :)

      Thank YOU so much!

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  8. YOU READ IT AND LOVED IT!!!

    Yes, what is wrong with people??? ;) I mean, I love the other two of Sarah Sundin's books that I've read, but this one still has first place in my heart. I think it may be because I'm painfully akin to Mellie in SO MANY things!

    AND TOM-!!! Could he be more amazing? I'm not at all sure. :) The picture you chose for him is adorableness itself, I'm all smiles inside just looking at it! :) You got Tom in a nutshell, I think. It is so hard to find a hero that is such a good man as he.

    You did a terrific job of taking what could have been a plain review and bringing it into the realms of real life and feeling (which, while always a nice thing, is even more fun about a romance novel :)). Lovely, lovely accomplishment, friend!

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    1. YES, I did!! (Actually, I read it for the first time about a year ago or so...recently I re-read it. Did I tell you when I read it for the first time? I can't remember now..I'm so sorry if I didn't! :/)

      Yes, indeed. This is my favorite Sarah Sundin book as well. What other two have you read?
      I'm so glad you find Mellie relatable as well!

      Eeek, Tom. Your loving him too makes me so happy. I honestly can't imagine him being anymore "perfect" (without being actually perfect, of course ;)). And yay! I'm so glad you liked the picture. :)

      Awww, thank you! You are too sweet. <3 I'm so happy you enjoyed this!

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  9. This book is sitting on my TBR shelf, so I skipped reading most of your review. I'm glad to see, based on what I did skim at the beginning, that it's good! I really liked the Wings of Glory trilogy and was hoping this would be good as well.

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    1. Oh, I hope you like this when you read it, Hamlette! I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts. :)

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