SRP Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

the nightingaleThe Nightingale features two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, who live in France during the start for World War II. Isabelle is 18, fiercely headstrong and also independent to a fault. Isabelle has compassion for all and a strong sense of justice. From the start, Isabelle was what I’d call a self-rescuing princess because she was not content–nor wanted–to hide behind anyone. She knew what was happening in her country was wrong and would hurt many people before it was over…if it was ever over. Isabelle had no problem risking her life to save others and struggled to keep her opinions in check, only doing so when she knew her outspokenness might harm her sister and niece. Isabelle was larger than life in way. A totally selfless person who put the good of mankind before any thoughts of preserving her own life. She knew her actions placed her life at risk and did so with abandon.

I related more to Vianne as she was a woman who was desperate to keep herself and child alive, even when it meant following rules she longed to break. She had a quieter of being self-rescuing princess, doing all she could to keep her child feed, healthy, and as protected as she could from the devastation in France. Vianne didn’t feel she had the right to take a stand when her child might suffer the consequences for her decisions. Vianne struggled with her conscience and doing what was needed to survive instead of what her heart and spirit screamed needed to be done. My heart went out to her. Vianne believed herself to be weak and cowardly when compared to her sister. While her sister made bold, brave choices, Vianne also made those same decisions but in a different way. Vianne, like her sister, had a cause deep in her heart and when faced with the choice of looking the other or getting involved, she pushed down her fears and acted. 

I know I related to Vianne more because I felt her situation was one I’d most likely might find myself in one day. Not so much having to save someone in a dire, wartime situation, but more of an action that is smaller and local, not something huge and grand. I think those are the situation that everyone finds themselves in during their lifetime, and it’s these times our character is tested and challenged, making us change how we define ourselves. Everyone has had a strong and brave moment, and will again. Many times we don’t see ourselves that way because our actions aren’t grand. But it doesn’t take a grand, in-the-world’s-face action to help someone or to save them…sometimes it’s stepping up to help when it’s needed or simple telling others to stop.

Crafting Moment from Embellished to Death

With March being National Craft Day, I thought it was perfect to share a small scrapbooking moment from Embellished to Death. 

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbExcerpt:

The fall guy. I repositioned all the glitter glue and acid free markers following the Roy G. Biv sequence for hues. I needed something to take my mind off of Bob’s words and the fact I couldn’t do anything about it. Or at least right now. Steve was starting to look like the knock to his head was sapping his energy. There was no way I’d run after Morgan when I needed to keep an eye on Steve. And from what Bob and Ted said about the man, Morgan wasn’t a man to trifle with. He meant painful, hurtful business.

Steve winced and adjusted his chair, turning ever so slightly to the left.

The afternoon sun shone through the windows flanking the back wall of the hotel. The natural light showcased our products beautifully and I hoped it resulted in less returns, though I wished it would tone down a little so Steve wasn’t suffering. I scooted up and sat as tall as I could, hoping to block some of the rays from Steve.

“Do you have tennis items?” A cropper sorted through a pile of sports themed paper and embellishments. “You have every other sport.”

“I packed some,” I said. “There might be a box or two that hadn’t been opened it. I’ll check for you.”

Getting down on my hands and knees, I crawled under the table. The first box I shook was empty. The next had a little heft to it. I tugged it toward me and opened the flaps. Trimmers. Scissors. Piercing tools. I reached up and fumbled my hand around the table.

“Need something?” Steve asked.

“Duct tape.” I wanted to seal the box of possible weapons.

“Here you go.” Steve handed me a roll.

After taping the box, I returned to my original mission. I jiggled the last box. There was something in it. I drew it out and peered inside. Paper and stickers. I hoped the tennis items were in here. The other options were I left them at the store back in Eden, or the trailer. My stomach tightened. I wasn’t looking forward to going outside. I couldn’t send Darlene or Steve. The black sedan might still be there, and I didn’t want either of them running into the owner of the hidden car.

I opened the box. I flipped through the sheets. “Found them.”

“Thanks.” The woman picked out one of each item and headed for the register.

A sealed package of Christmas pattern paper was next and under it Halloween items. This was our discounted product. How did the tennis items get mixed up in here? I lifted the box from the floor.

“Let me get that.” Steve jumped up.

“I got it.” My arms strained. Next year, I’d pass on ordering the Christmas lines for the store. None of my choices sold very well. “Can you clear a space for me? These are clearance items. I’ll just mark the box fifty percent off.”

“We should put it by the register. If you have Bob checking people out, he’s not going to know clearance from regular merchandise.”

Bob had taken up residence in a chair that was on the perimeter but not in the store. Bob rotated his attention between his cell phone, the doors, and Garrison.

“He’s here for the ambience.” I rummaged underneath the table for pieces of cardboard. I wanted to use them as dividers to separate the pattern paper.

A customer handed her selections to Steve.

 I removed some of the paper. A butter yellow scrapbook album was at the bottom of the box–Gussie’s gift album. I rescued it from the bottom of the box. One of our mysteries was solved. Grinning, I scooped it out and sat down.

The first page was a heart-shaped collage of photographs, an at a glance depiction of my grandmothers’ lives. Hope and Cheryl aged from innocent teens, to young mothers, grandmothers, all the way to the present where they were strong, independent business owners.

I turned to the next page. Someone had taken a photo of my grandmothers behind the counter at Scrap This. They smiled brightly, arms draped around each other. I saw love, strength, and honesty in their expressions and body language.

My grandmothers had not only lost their soul mates, but their only children. The world had dealt them many harsh blows in their lifetime, and yet they lived fully and without reservations. They hadn’t turned those pains into a reason to create a shield between themselves and others, instead using their experiences to help others through the same heartbreaks.

“I wish I could be like them.” I touched the edge of the photograph, wanting to draw the best of them into me.

“You are.” Steve wrapped his arms around me, placing a tender kiss on my head.

“No, I’m not.”

“If you believe that, then you know what to do to change it.”

Steve was right. I stood, pressing the book to my pounding heart. I yearned to fess up, but now wasn’t the time or place. There were too many distractions and people around. Steve, the man I loved, deserved to be told without an audience.

SRP Review: The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

the ship of bridesThe Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes showcased a group of war brides leaving Australia and journeying to England to meet up with their husbands. There were four brides who were featured in the book: Maggie, Avice, Frances and Jean. I was intrigued by each one of them.

At first, I found Maggie to be uncomplicated and the cheerleader of the group but as I grew to know her more, I realized there was a little more to Maggie than I originally thought. I found her character refreshing as she wasn’t the usual, cheerful mom-to-be but had insecurities and doubted her ability to mother. It made her come alive even more. I found her struggles real, and the fact she voiced them out loud rather than keep silent, made her a self-rescue princess to me. So many times, women keep their insecurities about motherhood quiet because they fear being judged and believe that to not love every moment of pregnancy or motherhood is saying you don’t  love your children.

Frances was more reserved than the other characters and even though I didn’t feel I knew her as well in the beginning of the book, something drew me to her. I think it was her quiet resolve and determination. Frances took everyone at face value even as she held them at arm’s length. She had a fierce spirit that came out at times and I was really rooting for everything to work out for her. I have to admit that she became my favorite character in the story. Frances was strong and forgiving without coming across as being a doormat. I think that’s a hard combination for a person to pull off, it’s easier to become bitter and close yourself off than giving others a chance. Even though Frances was reserved, she still allowed a tiny crack in the walls she built for others to come in.

One of the hardest things for a writer to do is write an unlikely character and yet make that character sympathetic. I found Avice at times snotty, off-putting, and hypocritical yet I found myself rooting for her because I was able to see the insecurity that drove her behavior. Even though she came from a financial stable family, it was clear that Avice felt lost and as if she had to prove her worth to her parents. While I still cringed at her behavior, it made me understand her more. I liked that Avice had a complex personality, not all light and yet not all dark, and struggled with she felt was expected of her.

What I loved most was how different each of the brides were yet in the end all had the same basic need to be loved for who they were. Each of the women went about achieving that goal in a different (and one I’m not sure did, but in my mind I have given her a much-needed and deserved happily ever after). I liked how The Ship of Brides portrayed accurately the complex friendships of women, and how loyalties can falter when one believes their character will be tied to a friend.

Stay in the Now

So far, 2015 has been a little overwhelming for me (in a good way). I decided at the end of last year to expand my horizons a little and silence the annoying voice in my head that liked to say I couldn’t do something. Or, it just wasn’t in me to figure out a new skill. I was really tired of it so started doing some new things and working on some skills I did have. And that voice had also made me second guess myself that resulted in me pulling out two threads from Embellished to Death. I loved them and believed added so much to the story but I worried about it…one changed a lot for my heroine and required a new mindset for her. Fortunately, my wonderful editor knew I was holding back something and encouraged me to go with my instinct and write it. I’m so glad I did. EMBELLISHED front under 2mbThose two elements…Bob (Ted’s brother) and Garrison’s (Bob’s life partner) appearance in the book added a richness to the book and I really enjoyed seeing them together on the page. I must admit they are my favorite couple in the Scrap This series. The other element in the book shook up my heroine’s world and while I was worried about it happening in Embellished, when I finished writing Framed to Death (#4) I was so happy I finally ignored the “you can’t” voice. I enjoyed seeing Faith grow on the page. It’s nice seeing her also silencing her own “I can’t’ voice.

To work on silencing mine, I took a sewing class at the end of last year and did pretty well I must say. I then decided to take an online course on taxes, did a good job, and then got a job preparing taxes. I know this might sound strange but I actually enjoy it.. What makes me the proudest was that I overcame the voice saying I wouldn’t be able to do it, and forged ahead even during the class segments when I started doubting myself. So twice last year I won against the “You can’t” voice that liked to derail my plans and vision.

contest 012While Framed to Death (the fourth in the Scrap This Series) is with beta readers, I’ve been working on a book that has been in my mind and heart for the last few years. I’ve been wanting to do it but the “You can’t” voice had overcome me and convinced me the book was a little more than I could write. There are elements of paranormal and mystery in the story, but the hardest one to get just right is the uniqueness of the spirit of not only the people in Appalachia but also Appalachia in and of itself.

This year I stopped listening to the voice saying I can’t and have dusted off the manuscript and began working on it again. I had completed half the book when I let the ‘I can’ts’ convince me I couldn’t adequately tell the story in my own head. If I can’t tell the story who can? And it’s a story I need to tell. It’s been with me for a few years and won’t leave. That tells me it wants out and into a book. The story has grown over the years and I’m confident I can do it. I’ve made some major changes to the original plot and I’m loving how the book is coming together. I don’t know what will happen when I complete this manuscript, but I’m proud that I’m writing ahead and not letting me stop myself from trying. I decide to live in the now writing moment and will consider the book’s future when I’m done. I realized that at times I’m so concerned at what will come next, what could happen, that I don’t enjoy where I’m at now so my motto for this year is “Stay in the now.”

SRP HOLIDAY REVIEW HOLIDAY EDITION (PART III): The Santa Shop, An Avalon Christmas, and A Victorian Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

This is my last Holiday Review Edition for 2014, I had wanted to post before 2015 but family activities took precedence. I was happy to get in a little more holiday reading this year than last, and hope that I’ll get even more holiday reading at the end of this year (though I really don’t want to ruminate long on this year ending as it has just begun).

the santa shopThe Santa Shop by Tim Greaton was a different type of Christmas/holiday read for me. I do my best to steer clear of darker stories around the holidays. I like the books I choose to be more light-hearted and have a humorous rather than serious tone. The Santa Shop, while not depressing or dark as in creepy way, it started off with a sad tone that grew more hopeful as the book went on. In a way, that is how the holiday season goes for some people, sad and stressful and growing into a more hopeful and restful time. I like how the book had a message without the reader receiving a lecture. Even when Skip was at the point of giving up total hope, he still clung to some and was able in his darkest hour to look past himself…and that to me is one of the true, loving spirits of the Christmas season.

After reading The Santa Shop, and I decided to go for something that had a little more of a happy tone and that built on the feeling of community that was in the end of the Santa Shop. I wanted to keep that feeling going. I read An Avalon Christmas by Darien Gee which is a collection of short stories that connect with each other through the town of Avalon.an avalon christmas The stories are a mix of longing, people searching for a connection, and of reaching out. The stories have a sweet spirit and all the point-of-view characters come away with a better understanding of themselves and their role in the world. All of the stories are set around Christmas time and show some of the holiday spirit that blossoms at that time of year.

 

 

a victorian christmasMy last holiday read of the year was A Victorian Christmas by Catherine Palmer. This book, like An Avalon Christmas, is a collection of short stories but in this book they aren’t connected. The stories are set in the Victorian times and are set at Christmas time. There is a strong Christian message in each story so for those readers who prefer non-religious holiday stories, this book might not be to your liking. For those readers who enjoy Christmas stories that reflect strongly the religious meaning of Christmas, this is a wonderful book and will be inspiring and uplifting.

 

 

SRP Holiday Review Holiday Edition (Part II): Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

I hope the holiday season so far has been one of joy, wonder, and happy times for everyone and continues to be so. I also expect it has been a little busy. I don’t know why, but this year it seemed to have snuck up on me. I had thought I had a good plan to get all my holiday preparations done and have plenty of time to read but time escaped from me. It probably didn’t help that I had the flu for about a week which stole away some of my energy, not to mention an online course I was taking. But, I have been able to read two books (and hope to be done with a third tonight).

The first book I read was Mrs. Miracle. mrs. miracleI first heard about this book when I watched the movie on the Hallmark channel a few years ago. It was one of the movies I was on the lookout for every year (along with its sequel). This year, we switched from DirectTV to cable and our area doesn’t get the Hallmark channel. I was so disappointed. Since I couldn’t watch the movie, I decided to read the book. I tried really hard not to compare the book to the television movie but in the end it kept coming to mind.

There were elements of the book that weren’t in the movie which made the book richer and gave the characters more depths, and there was a scene or two (definitely one) that I was glad wasn’t in the movie. The main part of the story stays pretty much the same in the book and the movie and I think if you enjoyed the movie, you’d the book. And, if you didn’t enjoy the movie because you found it a little sappy (which some people find most of the Hallmark, Lifetime, UP, etc holiday movies) then you might enjoy the book instead as it’s richer and delves into the heavier aspects of the situation. This story has a Christmas time setting also a Christmas time message of hope, love and forgiveness. Even though it’s a little heavy (deals with a widower with small children), I still found it to be a ‘feel good’ story.

call me mrs. miracleThe next book I read was Call Me Mrs. Miracle. I enjoyed both of the books with Mrs. Miracle, but will admit that my favorite of the two was Call Me Mrs. Miracle. For me, the second Mrs. Miracle had more of a Christmas story line as part of the plot centers around a toy store at Christmas time and a little boy’s Christmas wish. Like with Mrs. Miracle, there is also a Hallmark movie based on this book. I will also admit there is one element of the book that I like a lot better in the movie than I do in the book and wish it was the same. I don’t want to give it away so won’t say anymore. It didn’t change the story much, but to me it made the Christmas spirit come through more in the movie than in the book. This book left me a little teary-eyed (which is hard to do) and has moved up the list as one of my favorite holiday reads. It had the right amount of emotion, plot, holiday setting and Christmas magic feeling to make it a perfect holiday read for me.

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part I): A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas, How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas, and The Christmas Bake Off

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

a nutty nutcracker christmasFirst, I’m going to start with a children’s book that I read this holiday season: A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas. I’m going to add one new to me children’s book to my reviewing schedule every holiday season. I really liked the take on the Nutcracker story which incorporates video games. I read the book on my Kindle and would love to see the print version of the book. I loved the pictures on the Kindle Fire and know they have to look so much better on the printed page. (I was sick at the start of this holiday season so I checked out books through Overdrive.) It was an engaging story that can be completely read at one bedtime. It wasn’t scary and had the perfect mix of humor and message.

The next book is How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas by Fiona Gibson. I’d classify this story as having taken place during Christmas Eve/Christmas rather than one which showcases the holiday spirit. The story is about Anna meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. how the inlaws wrecked christmasWhile the events happen on Christmas Eve, the focus of the story is on Anna and Ben’s relationship and realizations that are made during the time rather than on the holiday. It’s a quick read and I think it does portray though how sometimes it’s during the holidays when we truly come to know and understand a person and our role in their life.

the christmas bake offThe last book for this post about my holiday reads is The Christmas Bake Off by Abby Clements. The story is set in Skipley village during the annual Christmas Bake Off. The reader gets to meet a few of the residents and might, like me, come to root for all of them to win the bake-off. There was a reason that I wanted each of the contestants I met to walk away with the win. Unfortunately, there is some ‘grinchy’ competitive spirit and some sabotage occurs. The truth is found out and not all is what it seems. This was a cute story filled with holiday shenanigans along with holiday spirit and some romance. I enjoyed this short story and it was what I needed (great mix of humor, town coming together, and romance) when I was feeling under the weather. Helped put some holiday spirit into me. Also, this story does include some recipes at the end.

Stay tuned to the Self-Rescue Princess for more holiday book reviews. One of the books to be featured next week is Mrs. Miracle. And, if you have any suggestions for holiday books please feel free to list them in the comments. I’m always on the look out for the perfect holiday/Christmas story.