Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Traitor was a nice wrap-up to the Four anthology and to the group of novellas that have now become widely viewReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Traitor was a nice wrap-up to the Four anthology and to the group of novellas that have now become widely viewed as prequels to the Divergent series. Despite that, I personally still think it’s better to at least read Divergent first. Otherwise, the reader will get major spoilers for that book and some things might not make a lot of sense. That’s especially true with this novella, which takes place pretty much simultaneously with events in Divergent. In this story, we learn how Four became aware of the unholy alliance between Dauntless and Erudite and their plans to attack Abnegation. He goes through some soul-searching as he tries to decide whether to warn his birth faction or not, as well as whether he can trust anyone enough to tell them these things. As he struggles with figuring those things out, he meets Tris and becomes her trainer, and we get to see some of the early parts of their relationship from his POV.
I think I’ve said it with each new novella I read in this series, but it might bear repeating that IMHO, the Divergent series as a whole would have been much better if it had been written in dual perspective. Getting Four’s POV on many of the events of the series has been great and has really helped to deepen my understanding of him as a character and some of the things that happened. It’s been so long since I read Divergent that I can’t recall precisely how the specific scenes in this novella compare to those same scenes in the main book from Tris’s POV, but I do recall complaining in my review of that book that the parts where Four takes Tris into his fear landscape along with their subsequent discussion and first kiss at the chasm afterward didn’t hold the emotional weight I felt they should have. Well, in this novella, that’s completely different, and I believe it’s all owed to the fact that we’re seeing what all this meant to Four. We learn why he chose to take Tris into his fear landscape and what it felt like for him going through that with her. We also get a richer conversation afterward and get to see his burgeoning feelings for her, too. It all made their relationship much more cohesive for me. The only reason I chose to knock off a half-star is because a few of the scenes seemed a bit repetitive with us only getting a slightly different perspective, but overall, I liked this novella a lot and really think that these scenes should have been included in the main Divergent book....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear is another one of our church book club picks, and one that is very timelReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear is another one of our church book club picks, and one that is very timely in its subject matter. Fear in our society has been on the rise for quite a while now, and it only seems to have been exacerbated by the recent presidential election. While some fears are legitimate, others, when looked at critically, are not. Eg. A recent study found that nearly half of Americans are very or somewhat fearful that they or someone they love will become the victim of a terrorist attack, when in reality, this risk is fairly minuscule. One is exponentially more likely to drown in a bathtub, die in a car accident, or get struck by lightening, statistics that are detailed in the book. One thing that the book points out that I wasn’t too surprised by is that studies have shown this high level of fear seems to primarily be a US phenomenon. While people in other countries have fears, too, they tend to exhibit less fear than Americans despite sometimes being at higher risk for certain situations. Another example is the recent Ebola outbreak, which had Americans freaking out, when it was the people in the affected countries or the surrounding areas who should have been the most fearful.
The author breaks his book into five chapters, the first of which takes a look at the rising culture of fear in America, which helps to put things in perspective. In many cases, it’s politicians who are fear-mongering, making constituents afraid of what might happen if they don’t elect a certain person to office. The media is also largely to blame, because, let’s face it, reporting of bad news – a form of fear-mongering – draws viewers and/or readers, which means more money for the various news outlets. The instant availability of news via social media doesn’t help matters either. So, what is to be done about this rise in fear? That’s what this book tries to answer, at least with regards to people of faith. The author examines the role religion can play in easing fears and how the faith community can help spread this into the wider world. One chapter is devoted to Judeo-Christian teachings since these two religions are so closely intertwined. Then the next chapter explores other religions, primarily Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The author endeavors to explain each religion’s teachings on the subject of fear. I found it quite interesting that all of them have a similar focus on not fearing people or things that are happening in the world, but only to fear God (in the sense of awe or reverence). This served to show me that we actually share beliefs in common with our brothers and sisters of other faiths if we take the time to look for those things. The author then discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a real-world example of the ways in which fear can take root and affect adversaries on both sides. Finally he wraps up with ten practical recommendations for ways faith communities “can model a world without fear by refusing to live in fearful isolation from one another.”
This is a very short book with less than 100 pages of actual text. The remaining 25 or so pages cover a study guide for small groups and end notes. In spite of its brief length, this is a rather dense book that took me longer than average to read. This is because I had to focus my attention more fully as I was reading it. Some places seemed a bit more philosophical and harder to follow, which is why I knocked off the half star, but I fully acknowledge that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and that it might have just been me being overtired while reading those parts rather than a weakness of the book. Overall, this was a great read that can really challenge faith communities and people of faith to live out their religion’s teachings on overcoming fear if they can open their hearts and minds enough to accept this challenge. I fully agreed with all of Rev. Kinnamon’s suggestions for faith communities, and the idea that we, as people of faith, need to be leading the way in dispelling fear rather than encouraging it by marginalizing others for any reason. However, I can say that it’s probably going to be an uphill battle to convince my fellow persons of faith who harbor a certain mindset to get on board with these recommendations. Despite that, it won’t stop me from trying to make a difference in my little corner of the world and beyond when the opportunity arises, and I hope that other persons of faith will follow suit in promoting peace, understanding, and freedom from fear, so that we can live more emotionally healthy and productive lives....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews It’s hard to believe that the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released more than a decade ago and that we’re now fifteReviewed for THC Reviews It’s hard to believe that the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released more than a decade ago and that we’re now fifteen books into the series. With many long-running series like this, the stories can sometimes become old and stale, oftentimes feeling repetitive, or they may simply lose their momentum, which in turn, loses my attention. Not so with this series. If anything, I think the books have been getting better and better. Out of the most recent five books of the series, all have rated keeper status for me, compared with only two of the first five. But hey, really they’re all keepers, because I love the series so much, I just can’t get enough of it. Unlike some readers, I’m not even remotely tired of the Brothers yet. They still enthrall me, thrill me, and make me fall in love with them all over again with each subsequent book. And as usual, I’m left begging for more and can’t wait for the next one.
The Chosen took a slightly different track than previous books of the series and than what I was expecting. By that, I mean that Xcor and Layla, despite being the main hero/heroine pairing in this story, didn’t have quite as much page time as the couples from previous books. Maybe about a third of the way into reading it, I realized that this is most likely because their story has been developing as a sub-plot in the last several volumes, since they first met in book #10, Lover Reborn. That meant that there was less to tell. Since they were already in love and had been for some time, it was just a matter of them consummating the relationship and overcoming the hurdles to reach their HEA. These weren’t small things by any means, but since they already had the getting-to-know-you stuff out of the way, their part simply didn’t take up as much page time as it might have otherwise. I did thoroughly enjoy it, though. These two captured my attention and imagination from their first meeting and I’d been rooting for them to get together ever since. Although their journey to the HEA has been fraught with many pitfalls and Xcor needing to overcome his own selfishness and hardened warrior instincts, I was happy with how everything turned out. The ending was absolutely perfect and I look forward to seeing more of this couple as the series story-arc progresses.
Xcor is a badass, plain and simple. He entered the series with his Band of Bastards fully intending to dethrone Wrath and take that seat for himself and even went so far as to attempt an assassination. Then he met the Chosen, Layla, and his entire focus began to change. Like so many of the males in this series, he was brought to his knees by his love for one special female. He never felt like he was good enough for someone like her, which eventually led him to push her away. Then he was captured by the Brotherhood and spent the entire previous book in a coma, only being kept alive so they could torture him for information and then execute him for treason. Well, of course, none of that could happen or he wouldn’t get that happy ending with Layla that he’d been dreaming of, but never expecting to get. I was really happy with how things went in the book for Xcor. We learn his heartbreaking backstory, beginning with being rejected at birth by his father for having a cleft lip, and things didn’t get any better from there. He suffered through a pretty wretched childhood, learning to be independent from a very young age. Then after his transition, he chanced to meet the Bloodletter and was tricked into joining his war camp, and we all know from Vishous’ story just how horrifying that experience was. But it also turned him into a hard, unforgiving warrior, who had never known genuine love and had no softness or emotion left in him until Layla came along. He doesn’t fully understand why she loves him unconditionally and half expects her to leave him at some point if she learns too much of his past. But at the same time, he soaks up her affection like a starving man, and in reality he has been emotionally starved. I like that upon meeting Layla he started to gradually soften toward Wrath and the Brotherhood, and by the time we get to his first scenes in this book, he no longer holds any animosity for them. However, it’s still a long road to him gaining the Brotherhood’s trust and respect, and I really liked how this part of the story played out. I also love how an intense, stalwart warrior like Xcor who’s never been given to displays of affection turns into a gentle pussycat and an incredibly tender lover in Layla’s arms. It all made me totally fall for him.
Layla has been a part of the series for a very long time. I can’t even recall when she first appeared on the scene, but she has always been one of the main Chosen who were freed by Phury from service to the Scribe Virgin but who still provide for the blood needs of the Brotherhood and their allies. Somewhere along the line, she became best friends with Qhuinn, so when she went into her needing in Lover Reborn, she asked him to service her. The young were finally born in the previous book, The Beast, which was a joyous occasion for all. However, the joy quickly turns to sorrow when Layla finally reveals to Qhuinn that she’d been meeting with Xcor off and on for the entire time she was pregnant. Needless to say, things do not go well for her after that, and even her reunion with Xcor is marked with anxiety over either his impending demise or exile. But she tries to make the best of the time they have left. I’ve loved Layla from the beginning. She’s grown and changed in unexpected ways throughout the series. She’s a wonderful mother, always trying to put her young first, and we get another little taste from her of why the female of the species can be more dangerous than the males.;-) I adored her for the way she loves Xcor unconditionally and for the way she stood up for him to those who would do him harm. She’s an all-around awesome female and I’m so glad that she finally gets the happy ending she deserves.
Since Xcor’s and Layla’s scenes don’t take up as much page time, we get lots of other POVs. This is pretty much par for the course in these books, but I think there were more than usual, as I counted no less than ten other characters’ perspectives. Since Qhuinn’s and Blay’s lives are inextricably linked with Layla’s due to them sharing parenting duties, I’ll start with them. Qhuinn kind of disappointed me with his off-the-rails behavior, but then again, he disappointed nearly everyone else in the story, too, and it’s not without consequences. The toughest one to read about, though, is the rift in his relationship with Blay that’s caused by his angry, irrational outburst. Blay, unsurprisingly, tries to be the calm voice of reason throughout, but even a peacemaker like him can have a breaking point. I felt like he was completely justified in his reaction to Qhuinn’s words and actions. I would have been upset too. Even though Qhuinn’s anger persists throughout a large part of the story, I have to give him credit for things that he does later on and was happy with how it all turned out in the end.
Trez and iAm are also a part of this story, though their sub-plot runs parallel to the things happening within the Brotherhood and doesn’t intersect this time. Trez is still deeply in mourning for Selena, which made me a little sad. iAm is there helping to support his brother in his hour of grief, while each of them continue running their respective businesses. I thought maybe I had an idea of where things were going for Trez, but I was wrong. Instead, I was surprised by the addition of a new female character named Therese, who applies for a job at iAm’s restaurant. It appears that a major revelation in her life either made her run away from her family or she doesn’t have a family anymore. I can’t say much more about her without giving away a major spoiler. All I can say is that a deep, instant attraction sparks between her and Trez, and I look forward to learning more about her.
In addition, three of the Brothers get their own POVs. First is Wrath (yeah, I know he’s technically the king, but I still think of him as a Brother :-)), who continues to prove himself as the benevolent ruler of the vampire race. I was very impressed with his ability to forgive and his wisdom (with a little “encouragement” from Beth) in mediating some difficult circumstances. Then there’s Tohr, who opens the story depressed, because it’s Wellsie’s birthday. That, the household recently losing Selena, and Tohr witnessing Trez’s grief over his mate’s death have stirred up old memories of his own devastating loss. All of this causes him to make some unwise choices that put a little tarnish on his previously pristine veneer for me, but eventually he comes to see reason. Last, but certainly not least, was Vishous. He’s been getting several of his own scenes throughout the past couple of books. In this one, he’s protecting his king and continuing his role as all-around geek extraordinaire. However, his contemplations over his mating with Jane from the previous book continue, with him now feeling rather neglected by his shellan, who is always busy playing chief medic to the Brotherhood and their families. This makes him begin to consider the unthinkable. Based on the Warden’s answers at her recent in-person Q & A, it looks like things may get worse for this couple before they get better. They certainly wouldn’t be the first couple in this series to have to work through difficulties, and with a long-running series like this, I know I can’t expect all the previous couples to get along perfectly without any problems (after all real life couples certainly don’t), so as long as Vishous doesn’t do something stupid, I think I’ll be OK with that.
Former Bastard, Throe, has now gone full-on evil and is poised to become the newest arch-enemy of the Brotherhood, as he’s now the one seeking the throne. He gets into some really freaky stuff in this story that I’m sure will have repercussions throughout the next few books. Then the final character who has a couple of his own POV scenes is Zypher, who has kind of become the defacto leader of the Band of Bastards in Xcor’s absence. They go searching in a last-ditch effort to find their real leader, while making plans to return to the Old Country if they can’t locate him.
While they didn’t get their own POVs, there are a few supporting characters with key roles, chief among them Lassiter. After bringing Tohr back to the land of the living many moons ago, the fallen angel was mostly just mooching off the Brothers, annoying the crap out of them, and being the comic relief, but now he's finally getting some great material. I’ve loved all the wonderful little things he’s done throughout the last couple of books and that continues here. He shows that under all the flamboyancy and flippancy there beats a vulnerable heart. There are some surprising developments with regards to Lassiter as he takes on a fuller role in the series. Jo Early, the human woman who is trying to prove the existence of vampires is barely seen, but she’s still out there doing her thing and causing trouble for Vishous to clean up. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her. And finally, while not actually seen, Assail is heard in the background as he continues his detoxing process and it isn’t pretty. But it looks like he’s finally going to get his HEA with Sola in the next book of the series, The Thief, most likely releasing next spring (2018).
Overall, The Chosen was an excellent story and I loved every minute I spent reading it. Each time a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book comes out, I feel privileged to spend a little more time in their world. It feels so real, and I can’t get enough of these guys and their gals. There have been a few things happening in the series that have given me the feeling that things are moving toward the ultimate goal of eliminating the Omega once and for all, which makes me question whether the Warden is slowly wrapping up the series. However, in her Q & A, she gave me hope that I’ll still get to spend plenty more time with the Brothers, when she said that as long as they keep talking to her and as long as we, the fans, keep reading, she’ll keep writing them. You better believe I will do exactly that, and with the Black Dagger Legacy, we now get two books in the Brotherhood’s world each year. I can’t wait for Blood Fury coming at the very beginning of next year (2018), and for The Thief to follow shortly thereafter....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Thus far, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Lorraine Heath, and Never Marry a Cowboy is no exception. It was a wonderful wrapReviewed for THC Reviews Thus far, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Lorraine Heath, and Never Marry a Cowboy is no exception. It was a wonderful wrap-up to the Rogues in Texas, and my favorite of the series. This final book features, Kit Montgomery, the last of the three English nobleman friends who were sent to Texas to earn their way. Grayson and Harrison each lost their hearts in turn to Texas ladies in the first two books of the series, but Kit has vowed never to love again. The one time he allowed himself to love, it turned out disastrously and broke his heart into a million pieces. But he didn’t count on a frail woman who has been told she’s dying to capture his heart once more. Ashton’s brother, David, caught her trying on her mother’s wedding dress and read in her journals that she had a crush on Kit, who had visited her family only once, but had captured her imagination and her heart during his short time there. Thinking it will provide Ashton with her dying wish, David asks Kit to give his sister a marriage in name only. This leads to a great deal of complications for this tortured hero with a heart of gold. I absolutely loved Never Marry a Cowboy. It’s a sweet, emotional, and sensual read that gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies and left me with a smile on my face.
When I first saw hints in the previous book, Never Love a Cowboy, of just how tortured and vulnerable Kit was, I knew he was going to be a great hero, and he definitely didn’t disappoint. Kit is the second-born of identical twins, who never felt like he could live up to his father’s expectations. He was a weak and sickly child, so he worked twice as hard to earn his father’s respect but never really had it. Then he and his identical twin brother Christopher fell in love with the same woman, but since Christopher was the oldest and the heir, he is the one who ended up marrying her. Then Clarisse became seriously ill. Unable to deal with Clarisse being in unbearable pain during her final hours and knowing that Kit would want to say goodbye, Christopher sent for Kit, who secretly overdosed Clarisse on pain medication and then held her in his arms as she died. What he did has tormented him ever since, yet he knows he would do it all over again. It broke his heart so badly he vowed never to love again. Now he lives in Texas where he was sent by his father, and after trying his hand at picking cotton and driving cattle, he’s finally settled in as the new marshal of the little town of Fortune, where he and his friends live. Kit is more or less walking through life in a blur, unable to get over his lost love, when David comes calling asking Kit to marry his sister. Getting involved, even in a pretend marriage, with a dying woman is the last thing Kit wants to do, but when he sees Ashton again, he’s drawn to her ethereal beauty. After spending a day with her and seeing the childlike joy she takes in such simple things, despite her illness, he knows he can’t deny her this final wish. But the more time he spends with Ashton, the more he wants to give her and make all her wishes come true, yet the guilt over what he did to Clarisse still haunts him, making him hold back a part of himself from her.
I loved Kit to pieces for not only wanting to make Ashton’s wish come true, but for insisting on going above and beyond. He’s a very detail-oriented person who doesn’t forget a single thing and treats her like a princess. Kit is so giving and loving toward Ashton even though he knows that the further he falls in love with her the worse his heart is going to break if she dies in six months as the doctor predicted. This motivates him to do everything he can to help her get better, and I loved how he coaxes her to eat more and encourages her to take long walks with him on the beach where they’re honeymooning. His efforts pay off as she slowly gains weight and becomes stronger. I adore the way he pampers her and wants to give her everything he can to make as many beautiful memories as possible in the time they have left, so they will both have something to sustain them in her final days and beyond. Kit is a wonderful man who wears his heart on his sleeve, but at the same time, he’s incredibly strong and brave in ways it would be easy for others to miss.
Ashton is a sweet, unassuming young woman, who has been sickly all her life. She nearly died the previous winter, which is why the doctor, who diagnosed her with consumption, doesn’t expect her to live more than another six months. Because of her illness, she’s been doted upon and protected by her family, rarely doing much outside the house. When Kit came to visit her brother in the previous book, she was very attracted to him and started daydreaming about a life with him, which she detailed in her journals. When she travels to Fortune with David, she has no idea of his plans to ask Kit to marry her. When she finds out, she doesn’t want his pity, but after spending some time with him, she finds herself falling more in love with him, so that when he proposes, she can’t resist accepting, even though she knows it’s a pretend marriage in name only. But that all changes when Kit insists upon taking her on a proper wedding trip to Galveston, where they spend a month at the beach, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Ashton may have been pampered and brought up in privilege, but she’s no spoiled miss. In fact, she craves her independence and wants to experience a few firsts before her time comes. Despite supposedly dying, she has an unquenchable zest for life and wants to seize every moment of the time she has left. Because of Kit’s first love dying, she doesn’t want to cause him any more pain and fully intends to go back to her brother’s in Dallas when their time at the shore is up but finds herself falling more and more in love with him. She basks in Kit’s love until she discovers his darkest secret. Then she isn’t sure how she feels about what he did. The part of the story surrounding her uncertainties and shying away from Kit was hard to read after the beautiful romance they’d shared, but every part of the story was important to them finding peace, redemption, and an HEA.
There are several notable supporting characters in Never Marry a Cowboy. Kit’s brother, Christopher, shows up, unintentionally confusing the townspeople into thinking he is Kit, which was amusing. I really liked that he became a part of the story, because the two brother have such a close connection. They share that twins thing, where they can feel each other’s emotions even with an ocean separating them, and they’ve always been close, never begrudging each other anything, even when they fell in love with the same woman. Christopher suffered, too, when Clarisse died, so it was nice to see him get a new happy ending as well. Gray (A Rogue in Texas) and Harry (Never Love a Cowboy) prove to be Kit’s loyal friends to the end. I love the bond that these men share. We also get to see Gray’s and Harry’s wives, Abby and Jessye, as well as their ever-expanding families. It was also nice to see Kit reconcile with his father. Then there are the villainous outlaws who cause no end of trouble for Kit.
Overall, Never Marry a Cowboy was a splendid read that was full of the sweetness, emotion, and swoon-worthy romance that I crave in my reading. I truly felt Kit and Ashton falling in love from the very beginning and throughout the first two-thirds or so of the book. I just loved all the time they spent together, getting to know one another and coming to realize they couldn’t live without each other. During this part of the story they’re so loving and giving. Even though the distance that develops after Ashton learns the truth of Clarisse’s demise is heartbreaking, it brings each of them to a deeper understanding of each other and their feelings, so it served a valuable purpose. For me, Never Marry a Cowboy was a perfect read and an equally perfect wrap-up to the series. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the next generation of these men’s families in the Daughters of Fortune, which also includes Kit and Ashton’s son, Devon, as the hero of the second book, To Marry an Heiress....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I first read Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners series about ten years ago when I’d just been coming off a book drought that hadReviewed for THC Reviews I first read Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners series about ten years ago when I’d just been coming off a book drought that had lasted at least that long. I still marvel at how I, a self-confessed bookaholic, could have gone so long without reading much at all, but I guess becoming a mom can completely rearrange your life and priorities that way. In 2007, I promised myself that I would get back to reading regularly and I haven’t looked back in the decade since. If memory serves, Someone to Watch Over Me was the very first book I randomly chose from my overstuffed bookshelves and it was also the first one I ever read by Lisa Kleypas. I didn’t even realize it was part of a series at the time, but lucky for me, it was the first in the series. I remember that it made me fall in love with the author’s work and immediately run out to the library to get the others in the series that I didn’t yet own. When I joined GoodReads in early 2008, I added all the books I read in 2007, rating them as best I could with my faulty memory. I recalled really enjoying Someone to Watch Over Me and the entire series, but I wasn’t sure if I had loved it (and them) enough to warrant 5 stars, so I gave all of them 4 stars (thinking they were really more like 4.5’s). Now that I’ve re-read this book, I can unequivocally say that it is indeed a 5-star read for me. Even though I remembered the big plot twist, I still loved reading it again for all the romance, sweetness, and all the little details that had since been purged from my memory. And since I read it before I started writing reviews in mid-2007, I never wrote one for it, so now I get the pleasure of doing that with double the impressions of the story.:-)
One of the things I got to rediscover is all the reasons why I loved Grant so much. First his backstory is very sympathetic, and while it doesn’t play a huge part in the story, he has experienced a lot of loss in his life. Lisa Kleypas is known for her self-made men and for her everyday historical heroes who aren’t part of the aristocracy. Grant is both. As a teen, he met a Bow Street Runner and idolized the work he did, vowing to become one some day. And that’s exactly what he’s done. He worked his way up through the ranks quickly to become the top Runner at Bow Street. His fame precedes him, and after having many ha’penny novels written about him, he’s become a sought-after guest at many aristocratic functions. It also brings him some of the most lucrative private cases, which has helped him to amass a fortune larger than some aristocrats. But he still moves quite easily in the streets of London where he grew up. He first met Vivian at a society party and was thinking about making an offer to become her protector, but he immediately changed his mind after figuring out how shallow and manipulative she was. This is one of the things I loved about him, because it showed that he's a man of depth and character who wants more than someone with a pretty face to warm his bed. His spurning of Vivien led to her spreading untrue rumors about him. However, in spite of wanting revenge on her for that slight, he can't seem to stop himself from feeling a sense of protectiveness toward her and caring for her tenderly when he finds her near-dead, the victim of an attempted murder. He also senses an innocence about her all along, even though he believes that's impossible given her position as a famous courtesan. While he does have a few moments of hardness when he's determined to make Vivien pay and does lie about their prior relationship, those lies do come back to bite him. He also can't seem to help but soften when he's with her. And his library? I'd marry him for that alone.;-) For a giant of a man, Grant is an incredibly gentle lover, and I loved him to pieces for declaring his love for Vivien before bedding her the first time.
The reader knows nothing about Vivien prior to her being dragged out of the Thames, half-dead and with no memory of who she is. I like how the author keeps the reader just a little off-balance with regards to what's going on with her. I seem to recall when reading it the first time that much like Grant, I was never quite sure whether she is the infamous courtesan Grant believes her to be or not. He knows that she looks exactly like the Vivien he knew, and his eyes can't lie. But she acts so differently, it’s almost like she’s another person. Could the blow to the head have somehow altered her personality as well as caused the memory loss? Half the fun of the story is in finding out the answer to that question. Having previously read it and already knowing the answer, I could look at it from a different perspective, and I think that it was a very well-written and well-plotted story. The Vivien we see recovering at Grant's house has an air of sweetness and innocence about her. She's absolutely mortified to learn that she was a courtesan. Somehow deep inside, she doesn't feel like that's her at all, but Grant says it’s true and she trusts him. I love the way she melts when Grant is around and how she sees the man within and seems to truly understand and appreciate him in a way other women perhaps haven’t. Vivien may be sweet but she certainly has a back bone, too. She bravely puts herself at risk to help Grant find her would-be murderer, and when she discovers Grant's lies, she doesn't let him off easily. I also found her to be very calm and collected, never a woman given to histrionics like many women in her situation might be. When shocking revelations occur, she generally takes them in stride, so I admired her for that. Overall, Vivien (or is she?:-)) was a very well-rounded heroine who I related to quite well.
Someone to Watch Over Me also had a couple of very notable secondary characters who go on to become amazing heroes in their own stories, and I got to start falling for them all over again by re-reading this book. Sir Ross Cannon is the head magistrate and leader of the Bow Street Runners. I love how protective he is toward women and children and how seriously he takes his job. He even has a cat that doesn’t seem to like anyone else but him, which is cute. Ross is definitely an honorable man and it shows even in his supporting scenes. I remember loving him just as much as I loved Grant, maybe even a little more, so I can’t wait to re-read his book, Lady Sophia's Lover, which is the next in the series. Then there’s Dr. Jacob Linley, who’s also a total dreamboat. I seem to recall him playing a supporting role in all the Bow Street Runners books. He’s a young doctor, who is more progressive-thinking than some of his older colleagues. He’s also absolutely wonderful with his female patients, which means that women often seek him out for treatment. Jacob becomes the hero of the novella Against the Odds, which is considered the final story in the Gambler’s of Cravens series. I was so sad when I realized that I hadn’t read his story yet, which is probably the result of it being connected to another series that I also haven’t read, but I’m definitely going to have to rectify that soon.
Overall, Someone to Watch Over Me was a thoroughly enjoyable re-read. It’s a deeply emotional and romantic story. I love how Grant and Vivien bond over a shared love of books, something that surprises Grant, as he didn't think Vivien cared one whit about reading, much less had an intelligent and philosophical mind. The sexual tension between them is exquisite as our hero and heroine navigate the treacherous mystery of who tried to kill Vivien and why, while falling in love. The love scenes are beautiful, tender, and steamy, too, exactly what I expect from Lisa Kleypas. The mystery was well-done, keeping me guessing (the first time I read it :-)) as to whether Vivien is really Vivien and who had it in for her (something I didn’t recall until the story began to progress). It was just an all-around great read that I’d be happy to revisit in about another decade, once I’ve forgotten much of the story again.:-)...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I was just reading an article last week about how one of the most effective tools for fostering peace, understanding, and empaReviewed for THC Reviews I was just reading an article last week about how one of the most effective tools for fostering peace, understanding, and empathy for those different than ourselves is through the medium of storytelling. As someone who has been a life-long voracious reader, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve learned so much about other people, their cultures, and traditions through reading. Especially when it comes to non-fiction, I often have a tendency to gravitate toward books that are about people or things that are outside my own wheelhouse, because I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about things I don’t know much about. I’ve had a few books written by Muslim women on my TBR list for a while now, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading any yet. Then a member of a local Islamic group that shares our church’s fellowship hall to break their daily fasts during Ramadan came to a service one Sunday morning and briefly spoke. Until then, I had no idea that our Christian Bible and the Qur’an share some of the same “characters” and stories. Finding this out piqued my curiosity even further, so when Threading My Prayer Rug was one of the suggested reads for this month’s church book club, I eagerly voted for it. Others in our group were obviously as curious as I was, since it became our latest read. I’m glad it was, because it ended up being a very well-written book that taught me a great deal about the Muslim faith and Pakistani culture that I would highly recommend to anyone who might want to learn about either.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Sabeeha Rehman has a very engaging and conversational writing style that’s easy to read and made me feel like I was sitting down to have tea with her while she regaled me with her life story. Born and raised in Pakistan, she entered into an arranged marriage with a doctor who was performing his residency at a hospital in New York, which of course, meant that she had to uproot her life and move halfway around the world within a month of getting engaged and a mere day or two of officially getting married. The first few chapters of the book cover the engagement and marriage, which was quite fascinating. I previously knew only a little about arranged marriages. With our western sensibilities, I think many Americans would find this practice, at best weird, and at worst atrocious. But at least in the author’s experience it was neither, so seeing it through her eyes helped to make me see it in a whole new light. For her, this was simply an accepted and normal part of her culture. At each step of the process, she had to give her consent, so it wasn’t like she was forced into it either. While it isn’t necessarily something that I would have wanted to go through, it wasn’t nearly the oddity I was expecting. In fact, there was a certain charm and romanticism to it all that I hadn’t expected. As it turns out, the author made a soul mate match that is still going strong forty-five years later. Fast-forwarding a bit, I also liked that the author and her husband, recognizing that their sons had been raised in the US with a different culture, didn’t insist on arranged marriages for them as well. She did engage in a bit of matchmaking to help her oldest son, while her youngest ended up completely doing things his own way, but in both cases, they seemed to have also made excellent matches.
Beyond the issue of arranged marriage, I really enjoyed reading about Ms. Rehman’s assimilation into American culture. There were many things that shocked her upon her initial arrival in New York, but that over time, became much less of an issue. She came here with the intent of only staying for the two years it would take for her husband to complete his residency, but when that time came, she’d fallen in love with America and was starting to make a place for herself and her family in this country. They moved here way back in 1971, so the climate for Muslims was much different back then. They were able to go back and forth freely to their home country to visit relatives and her relatives were able to come to New York to visit them. How times have changed! Even though they are US citizens, born and raised here, both her son and young autistic grandson are both on the “no-fly” list, simply because they have the misfortune of sharing the same names as suspected terrorists, which the author says are as ubiquitous in the Muslim world as John Smith is to Caucasians. Anyway, back when they moved here, there were no mosques in New York, so it was fascinating to see how she managed to connect with other Muslims and start building a community, not only around their shared faith, but also around some shared culture as well. And eventually, they were able to raise the funds to build a mosque, but until then, they met in smaller spaces for their own version of Sunday School.
I also enjoyed how the author weaves the metaphor of threading her prayer rug throughout the narrative. There are so many things about her that changed over time, and part of what I could appreciate the most are her evolving beliefs. She came to this country with a pretty conservative mindset, which has ebbed and flowed over time. Some things which scandalized her in the beginning have become non-issues now, while she herself has become a much-more observant Muslim in her personal life. In those early years, she thought she had been a devout Muslim in Pakistan, only to discover later in life that she really hadn’t been. Wanting her children to know about both their Pakistani culture and the Muslim faith, she set out to learn more about it herself. This led her to begin observing Ramadan and eventually participating in the five daily prayers, and I have to admit that the discipline required to do these things pretty much puts me to shame in my own spiritual life. She became a leader in the Muslim community, which brought her up against some traditionalists with regards to a woman’s place and which isn’t all that different from some Christian churches I’ve attended. Later on, when she wanted a better understanding of what the Qur’an said about women’s roles, she delved into an in-depth study of their holy book, which included an attempt to learn Arabic so she could read it in its original language. Again, this puts me to shame, because that would be like me trying to learn Greek and Hebrew to read the original texts of the Holy Bible. At each step of her journey she would use the metaphor of the patterns in her prayer rug changing to indicate the ways in which she was changing.
Throughout reading Threading My Prayer Rug, I was struck most by just how many similarities that I shared with the author, which seem to transcend culture and faith. During his presidency, Barack Obama often invoked the idea that that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us. I don’t think he was the originator the quote, but it’s a good one in any case. And that is exactly what I felt while reading this book. The author and I may come from very different backgrounds and practice different faiths, but at our core, we want the same things and have the same hopes and dreams for our families and loved ones. I also strongly believe that the only way we are ever going to stop classifying Muslims as “other” is to learn about them and their faith, and this book went a long way toward demystifying those things for me. Sabeeha Rehman is just an ordinary woman dealing with some of the same challenges in life that all of us face. Yet at the same time, because of her name and her faith, she isn’t always made to feel welcome. I was impressed by how she remains upbeat and optimistic in spite of her circumstances, while also being a tireless advocate for interfaith dialogue, peace, and understanding. I can’t begin to express how much I admire her doggedness and the energy with which she approaches life. Being a low-energy, deeply introverted person, I could never do even half of what she’s done in her life, but it’s inspiring nonetheless. I think we all need to take a page from Ms. Rehman’s book and put ourselves out there in the fray of life and fight for what’s important with the same vigor she does....more