2008: An old favorite, reading it again right now with the Yahoo GLHill Group.
--- 2012: ONCE UPON A TIME..
"The Enchanted Barn" delivers on its title, &...more2008: An old favorite, reading it again right now with the Yahoo GLHill Group.
--- 2012: ONCE UPON A TIME..
"The Enchanted Barn" delivers on its title, & provides readers with a delectable modern-era fairy tale.
Most of Grace Livingston Hill's novels weave a homespun adventure out of the stuff of everyday life; but in "Enchanted," she allows herself to push past the boundaries of practicality & fashion a beautiful tapestry of dreams come true.
Sweet, engaging characters; a smart & spunky heroine; a handsome & adorable hero; and enough summer breezes, country vistas, & fragrant blossoms to lift any reader's heart out of the doldrums--this book is a definite happy-ever-after. :)(less)
12-29-08: I'm in the middle of other books, but suddenly had a desire to read this one! It's one of my old favorites, but I haven't read it in eleven...more12-29-08: I'm in the middle of other books, but suddenly had a desire to read this one! It's one of my old favorites, but I haven't read it in eleven years, holy cats. Best part is, it's like reading a new book! This one is totally surprising me with unique twists to the characters. And the story just embraces my heart with the relationships among family and friends! There's a thread of mystery and intrigue, with moments of mortal danger--just enough to keep me turning the pages with eagerness. Written in 1932, the culture and setting are fascinating. Also great--there's a ton of story. It could be ending at p. 250, but I have eighty more pages to go! Sweet!(less)
In "Head of the House," Grace Livingston Hill showcases one of her trademarks -- the ability to follow the trials and adventures of a family, while ma...moreIn "Head of the House," Grace Livingston Hill showcases one of her trademarks -- the ability to follow the trials and adventures of a family, while making the reader feel that they're part of the group.
The story opens just after the sudden death of a man and woman, who leave behind seven children! The oldest, Jennifer, soon discovers that their overbearing aunts and uncles are plotting to separate the children, farm the youngest ones off to boarding schools, and marry Jennifer to an "acceptable" young man.
Jennifer is three months away from coming of age. She makes the dramatic decision to leave her carefree society life and devote her attention to raising her siblings...and the first order of business is to run away with them until she is legally able to take charge!
Over the course of three months, Jennifer and her little family face trouble, danger, and hardship that bind them closer together. They find a faith that will carry them through the rest of their lives. And Jennifer meets a long-lost friend who shows her that the responsibility of "Head of the House" can be shared.
First published in 1940, "Head of the House" is a wonderful time capsule of customs and place; but the story at the heart of the novel is timeless.
There are *eight* main characters; and to handle that task, Grace uses kind of a total omniscient narrative. We follow the story mostly through the eyes of Jennifer, the "Head of the House;" but at other times we see life from the perspective of her brothers and sisters. There are also places where the story slips into narration, with beautiful descriptions of setting.
Somehow, Grace manages to do this seamlessly. (I'm still studying her style, trying to figure out how she does it.) This story is quiet and warm, with moments of drama and danger. Uniquely, the drama doesn't come from evil villains or flying bullets (as in some of her other books), but from the real-life conflict and life-or-death moments inherent in raising a family.(less)
Quiet, lovely Rachel Rainsford has just lost her scholarly father, and is alone in the wo...moreOmigosh, I have a new favorite Hill book.
--- The year is 1927.
Quiet, lovely Rachel Rainsford has just lost her scholarly father, and is alone in the world. Out of financial necessity, she takes a position as companion to an elderly lady on the other side of the country. Rachel embarks on the train trip with misgivings, for she feels apprehensive about the gentleman who is assigned to escort her; but she quiets her worries by telling herself she is simply shy and old-fashioned, there's nothing to be worried about--nothing at all.
Then, a strange young man walks past her in the train car, and drops a note in her lap: "Don't look startled! Sit quietly and read this. That man that seems to be with you is going to beat it in Chicago and leave you in the hands of an old crook who has taken a fancy to you. They've told the conductor that you are insane and they are taking you to an asylum. If you would like me to help you, take your hat off and lay it on the seat beside you..."
What should she do? Which stranger should she trust?
And so begins a thrilling story told in the best classic style of adventure. An independent, resourceful heroine must entrust her safety to a dangerously charming World War One veteran. The two embark on a cross-country race with planes, trains, and automobiles; during which Rachel tries to escape from an unthinkable evil--and the powerful attraction she feels toward her rescuer.
A message of faith is woven into the story through Chan Prescott, who has spent his wild young life righting wrongs and carrying out vengeance where it was deserved. Now he must face his own mortality, and learn that the only way he can win the love he wants is to die to his own desires.
The setting is brilliantly painted. The novel takes place during a time when great cities seethe with a hidden underworld; the elegance of society masks vicious crimes; and a person can very easily disappear from the face of the earth.
12-29-08: This wonderful rags-to-riches story carries as much inspiration today as it did when it was first published in 1938. Not only does brave, be...more12-29-08: This wonderful rags-to-riches story carries as much inspiration today as it did when it was first published in 1938. Not only does brave, beleaguered Jane Scarlett receive astounding news about her finances, she discovers true riches of faith, friendship...and maybe even true love. This book lifts your heart and captures your imagination. And at page 224, I'm not even done with it yet!(less)
**spoiler alert** I found this an enjoyable book, especially for fans of Darcy & Elizabeth. I have a couple reservations (see below), but I think...more**spoiler alert** I found this an enjoyable book, especially for fans of Darcy & Elizabeth. I have a couple reservations (see below), but I think it's just me. The writing was well done, the mystery kept me guessing, and the romantic moments between Darcy and Lizzie were adorable. :-)
~~~~~~~~~ SPOILERS BELOW: ~~~~~~~~~
My issue with the story was from a writer's perspective. There was a strange tug-of-war in style and characters. The problem? Carrie Bebris is just too good of a writer! :-)
ISSUE: I think the author intended to write in the "voice" of Jane Austen; yet her own style of writing kept coming through to the surface.
FLIP SIDE: Bebris' writing is SO GOOD and enjoyable to read that I was GLAD when her own style flickered to the surface! It felt like she had thrown off fetters and run with a craft that she loved to do. It made me wish that she had written the entire book in her own voice.
ISSUE: The characters started out authentic to their roles in "Pride & Prejudice", then diverged into completely new personalities. As a fan of Lizzie and Darcy, I found myself miffed & thinking, "They'd never say those things/act that way!" For example, Lizzie is strong-willed in the original Austen, yet oddly settles into a more era-traditional feminine meekness here.
FLIP SIDE: It felt like Bebris was trying to stuff her own characters into the strict guidelines of Austen's standard. I thoroughly enjoyed Bebris' characters--I wish she had let herself run with them freely. The gentle-spirited female protagonist *worked* in this story--just not as Lizzie Darcy.
CONCLUSION: Basically, it comes down to marketing. This would have been fabulous as a Carrie Bebris book, but it probably sells better as a "Jane Austen" book. So it's two books in one: an Austen impression, and an Austen reimagining. I wish the author had chosen one style and stuck with it--and my vote would have been for a reimagining, her own take on the world of Austen.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: The mystery builds suspense very well, throwing suspicion on a likable character and hinting at supernatural causes for the mischief. It kept me guessing to the very last chapters...then everything tied up exactly as it appeared it would. The likable guy really did it, and he did it with magic.
IF I HAD WRITTEN THIS BOOK: There are soooo many other opportunities here! When Pride & Prejudice was written, mesmerism (a precursor to hypnosis) was just gaining popularity. All the "magical" properties of the professor's pocketwatch and Caroline Bingley's behavior could easily be traced to hypnotic suggestion. Plus it would be rocking cool to include that historic trivia in such an engaging story.
Secondly, making Caroline's husband the bad guy is a missed opportunity--his suspicious charm could have been milked to the last second, distracting the reader from the "real" antagonist. My vote would have been for Miss Kendall and the professor in cahoots.
Historically, Louisiana would have been soooo fascinating to incorporate into the story. I would have played up its legends and superstitions, and contrasted them to the British culture of the day.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS BOOK: The choreographed ending battle felt contrived and slow-motion--and the reason I recognized that is because my own final battle was just as carefully plotted out! Seeing it in someone else's words made me go back to my novel, tear apart the fight scene, and slap it back together with speed, randomness, and unexpected action. Just like it would happen in real life.
Also, the villain barricaded himself in a bedroom? Dude, how were you going to get out? The bedroom felt like a restful, passive setting. It taught me to pick a dynamic setting for final events--or to purposely take a passive setting and infuse it with drama. What if instead of the Bingleys' guestroom, this was a back bedroom at a rough wayside inn? That would kick Darcy's conflict up a notch, for sure. :-)
IN OTHER WORDS: There are as many different ways to tell a story as there are people in this world. Put the same characters in the hands of Jane Austen, Carrie Bebris, and me, and you'll get three completely different books. And that's a good thing.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW? Take all my ideas and put 'em into a book of my own. Hmm....wayside inn....
12-29-08: It's possible I've read this book more times than any other. (Yes, I've read the Bible more often, but not cover-to-cover this many times!)...more12-29-08: It's possible I've read this book more times than any other. (Yes, I've read the Bible more often, but not cover-to-cover this many times!) ;-) It's been my annual Christmas read for ages. This year, I'm thoroughly enjoying the ambiance of a 1940's Grosset and Dunlap hardcover edition, complete with gorgeous dust jacket.
Family, friendship, warmth; a house party that will make your heart twang with longing; and great drama that not only endangers the hero's physical life, but threatens his business, his soul, and his heart, as well. Any wonder why I reread this every year? (less)
Selfless, caring Julia Cloud finds herself "adopted" as a guardian to her headstrong niece and nephew. It seems like a perfect solution for three lone...moreSelfless, caring Julia Cloud finds herself "adopted" as a guardian to her headstrong niece and nephew. It seems like a perfect solution for three lonely hearts--the orphaned teens have a great companion to mother them, and their "Cloudy Jewel" finally gets the loving home she's longed for. But what happens when three independent minds disagree?
One of GLH's best, I think! Beautifully written, it's the kind of book where you want to knock on the cottage door and spend an evening with these characters. There's just enough conflict and drama to make the story a page-turner (I've never seen so much gunplay in a Hill book!), but nothing to emotionally jar the feeling of home, and love, and friendship.
Also one of her more thought-provoking books. The college-age siblings tackle the questions of Sabbath rest (is it really important?) and service to God (who says I want to serve, anyway?). Thanks to their fun, irreverent personalities, Allison and Leslie's conclusions come across as realistic and enjoyable to watch.
Written in the 1920's, "Cloudy Jewel" gives us a glimpse into the details of another time, yet proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This book hit me with the vital importance of Sabbath rest--whether it's on Sunday, or another day of the week. I need a full day's rest to relax and renew; and I need time every day to reconnect with God and my own soul. After reading "Cloudy Jewel," I started taking two hours at night to have a glass of wine, read a book...and rest. It's helped.
Pre-read note: I have of course read Pride & Prejudice before--at least 3 times in novel form, & unknown replays of a novelization-on-tape. (N...morePre-read note: I have of course read Pride & Prejudice before--at least 3 times in novel form, & unknown replays of a novelization-on-tape. (Not to mention the movie versions. Do movies count?) I'd always felt that the core story was epically marvelous, but the book itself was cold & tedious. However, the last time I read it--10 years ago!--I believe I'd changed my mind. I'm looking forward to another reading, a fresh perspective, and just maybe a happy surprise. :) (less)