Friday, April 30, 2010

Wallpaper P&P

    So here is the P&P wallpaper, as promised. Just click on it for full size. You are free to use it as always, but credit and a comment would be nice. Let me know how you liked it.
    Have a nice weekend and God bless.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Classics: The Maiden's Bequest by George MacDonald


  Description:

      Orphaned as a child, Annie's special friendship with Alec is a source of strength and security which sees them both through many difficulties in their nineteenth-century Scotland.
      Alec and Annie eventually are separated by circumstances when he leaves to study medicine at the university. There he meets beautiful Kate and falls helplessly in love. But she rejects him in favor of an arrogant upperclassman. Alec bitterly blames himself for Kate's eventual despair. How will he come to recognize that peace and tranquility, hallmarks of Annie's life, come from within?

       A few words of introduction about George MacDonald for those of you who are not so familiar with his work (although I think there can't be anyone who isn't). He is a Christian author of the time of Charles Dickens. His works contain literature, essays and poems as well as short stories, fables and parables. Most readers probably know him as the spiritual father of C.S. Lewis, who was urged towards Christianity by reading one of his fantasy books. He then also got the idea of the Narnia books from another fantasy work of MacDonald's called "At the Back of The North Wind", as I recently found out while reading this wonderfully deep and complex book. The editions of his books that I will be reviewing here are simplified from his original works, by Michael Phillips. This particular book's original title is "Alec Forbs". I first read the originals and then bought the Michael Phillips editions because they are by far easier to read and enjoy. The original works usually contain much of the dialogue in a heavy Scottish accent and idioms, which make them quite hard, or sometimes even  impossible to understand. However, either way his books are diamonds to collect. You can find and read many of his original works in this link: The Online Books Page.
      The Maiden's Bequest was the first book I ever read of MacDonald's and it absolutely charmed and delighted me.

       In some ways it is a Cinderella story. Annie is the poor orphan who is abused and looked down on. Alec is the handsome and protective teenager who always comes to her rescue. So she grows up worshipping him as a god and -unsurprisingly- ends up  falling in love with him. But Alec has plans to conquer the world.
       He goes away and leaves Annie behind to suffer in her unrequited love for him. But soon she discovers the real God and gives her life over to Him. When Alec comes back, he is amazed, impressed and envious. He wants what she has.
       Alec is a wonderful hero for a book. He is sweet, tender and solicitous, but also enough of a bad boy that it should keep the plot going and the characters realistic. Annie is the heroine we all would like to be. She is quiet and loving and she has an inner strength that never dries up, because she has the Lord. Everywhere she goes, people are touched and transformed by her relationship with God.
        This is a deep book. It explores the characters' motives, their origins, why they have become what they are and their morals. It also explores many characters' relationships with God and their personal faith. I learn a lot about the Lord every time I open a MacDonald book and this one is no exception. It made me reevaluate my relationship with Him and that is the most precious thing a book can do for you.

Rating: 5/5
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Not just with words: Bookmark

        This bookmark is especially dedicated to Martha, and  as usual you are all free to use it as you will. Just reminding you that you can order a bookmark with your favorite verse or saying here, or else just wait around for my next creation. Martha, thanks for sharing. Hope you like it and God bless.



             Also, I have a question. I plan to post a wallpaper with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth from the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle P&P version here in the "not just with words" section. Would anyone be interested in that? Thanks in advance for your comments, they are much apreciated.

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From the G. Heyer Shelf: Frederica by Georgette Heyer


Descritpion:


One of readers favorites, Frederica is full of surprises.

When Frederica brings her younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, she seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Lord Alverstoke can't resist wanting to help her.

Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance. But with his enterprising - and altogether entertaining - country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled...

        Georgette Heyer is my favorite secular author. I seriously believe that no other author, whether classical or contemporary, can match her wit, her humour and her intelligence as an author. No other book has ever made me laugh out loud for days like her Regencies. Frederica was her first book that I ever read and I felt that I hadn't really read about romance before. I do believe that I would not be the person that I am today if it were not for her books.
        Now about Frederica, which happens to be my very favourite book in the whole world. The hero and heroine of the book (Frederica and Alverstoke) reminded me greatly of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy, only the conversation was much more sparkling and the plot of the book really exciting and even adventurous. He is bored and looks down on practically everybody. She is full of life and happiness, despite her burdens (her numerous and noisy but delightful siblings), and makes him feel alive for the first time in ages. How can he let her slip through her fingers? Only trouble is, he is not accustomed to doing things for other people and hates it for his boring, orderly life to be interrupted. So, for a time, all they do is talk. And, as it says in one of my favourite movies, "Lost In Austen": from the talking comes the love..... 
        And what a love that is.... their romance is absolutely breathtaking. If you thought that love changes Mr. Darcy, wait till you see what it does for this guy!
        There is also a great deal of humour, as I mentioned before, and many charming characters, which will remind you of people you know. As for the period detail, it is so beautiful and realistic, that you will be looking for your reticule before you are through with this book. In general, Georgette Heyer has made the Regency world come alive in a wonderful way, not only in descriptions of places, but also of sports, dress, speech, important persons of the time and a thousand other little things that help transport and educate the reader.
       Needless to say, I have read her books to shreds, this one most of all. It must be now about a hundred millions times that I have read Frederica and I am starting to feel the need to reread it.
       I think you will be the richer for having read this book.

Rating: 6/5   (I hope you will give me poetical license for this rating, 5 just didn't seem enough.)
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Period Pearl: An Unexpected Suitor by Anna Shmidt


Description:

       After years of caring for others, Nola Burns is ready for her own dream-running a Nantucket tearoom. And it will take more than charm for dashing entrepreneur Harrison Starbuck to buy her out. After all, what proper lady could trust a man who thinks the theater is a suitable venue for God's word?All Harry offers is a business proposition. So why should it bother him when Nola receives threatening notes? He has no reason to be concerned for the vivid, spirited woman. Does he? Yet as the threats escalate, Harry's plans shift. Now this unexpected suitor only wants to keep Nola safe-and cherished-for a lifetime.

        This is a delightful book, focusing on the personalities of the characters and on their feelings.
        It tells the story of a young woman on the verge of becoming a spinster, who has a chance at happiness after taking care of her family in her youth. But thankfully God has other plans for her life than the ones she does. She finds it hard to recognize His hand in the sircumstances and people he brings in her life and resists all possible change at first, but then her kind heart and her trust in the Lord prevail and slowly but surely her life starts to change. She starts to change. This is a wonderful story about how God changes us for the better when we least expect it (or want it). We can be stubborn at first and distrusting anything that doesn't fit into our way of thinking, but God wants us to be free and loving and happy. This is the valuable lesson of this book.
        It focuses on the relationships between different people and goes quite deep, which I think is what makes a good book. It is, of course a romance, a christian romance at that, and there is a great deal of tender, sweet wooing, all of which is beautifully interwoven with deep christian truths. It also contains quite a lot about theatre and actors, which is one of my favourite subjects. And tea, of course.
       Something else that made me love this book, was that the people in it are (mostly) good-natured, even though they have their faults, and redeemable. I loved this, as when i finished the book, I had a generally pleasant feeling about the world, which i think is one of the things a good book ought to do for the reader. It is remarkable how the author manages to do that and still be quite realistic in the complexities of the characters.
         A delicate, tenderly woven tale,which, although filled with hardships is wonderfully sweet underneath it all. Just like Nola, the heroine. It is filled with controversy, but at the end it all makes sense. Just ike Harrison, the hero.  And just like all of us.

Rating: 4/5
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Very Vintage: The blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery


Description:

       Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery's only novels intended for an adult audience, The Blue Castle is filled with humour and romance.
       This novel is considered one of L.M. Montgomery's few adult works of fiction, along with A Tangled Web, and is the only book she wrote that is entirely set outside of Prince Edward Island.


     We all know Lucy Maud Montgomery from her Anne books (Anne of Green Gables, etc.). But this lovely, inspiring book is for adults and quite different from her usual style in children's and young adult books. First of all, the plot is terribly original and exciting. And then the love story is the sweetest in the whole world.
     However, the most important thing in this book is its message. It tells the story of a young woman who discovers that she has about one year more to live. So suddenly, every petty little restriction and the confining rules her family and society have forced upon her seem quite irrelevant. She only wants to enjoy her little time left on earth. She strikes out on her own. She frees herself of everything and everyone that wants to change her and sets out to do what her heart wants for once. Her life changes. She finds love and happiness. She finds life. 
     Accepting who we are, no matter what people say, is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. To be brave enough to be who we are and enjoy it. This is for most of us (like myself) just a dream, and this book may seem more like a fairytale.....
     But with God on our side we can do it too.
     The story of this book inspired me to start enjoying my life and accepting myself. I was amazed at the change it brought about with God's help.

Rating: 5/5
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not just with words

      This is the first ballet bookmark of my new blog. I will be posting more in the future, depending of course on whether you like it. I just want to remind you that you can leave a comment with your favorite verse or saying and I will make it into a bookmark. You are free to use this as you will. Enjoy and God bless.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ballet Books: Tour de Force by Elizabeth White


   Description:

        In Tour De Force, Gilly has grown up to become a rising star in one of the premier NYC ballet companies. However, when she comes back to Alabama to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, she finds herself intrigued by the Birmingham company's handsome young director, Jacob Ferrar. Gilly and Jacob have to wrestle with ordering priorities in the Christian life: where do building a relationship, pursuing artistic dreams, and serving God fit into the mix?

       First of all, let me say that I adore all things ballet. (You will soon find that out in the "not just with words" post, anyway.) That's why I picked up this book, which combines ballet and God. However, that proved to be the least of the reasons why I loved this book eventually.
       I am generally skeptic when it comes to Christians in occupations such as acting, dancing, etc. because I firmly believe that such a work environment is not becoming or convenient for a person who aspires to live in God's way. Also the moral standard in such jobs are generally quite low, so it is not realistic that a Christian should be able to climb the ladder. The heroine of this novel is a prima ballerina, which gave rise to these questions in me, but however I decided to put these thoughts aside and enjoy the story, which I did. I would be very interested to hear your views on the matter, if you have read the book.
        Of course the heroine and the hero of this book, in spite of being both ballet dancers and working in an industry which is based in intrigues and competition, manage to be exemplary clean and deeply devoted to God, even in their work, throughout the trials that find them as the story unfolds. This is one of the greatest charms of this book. All the descriptions of famous ballets and of the numerous rehearsals is the other.
        Although this book contains a lot of ballet descriptions which transfer the reader alternatively in the wings, in the ballerinas' private lives and on the luminous stage; although it tells the most romantic and tender love story; and although it provides with a beautiful example of how anyone can turn their workplace into a place of worship to God, it was something else that made this book memorable and incredibly precious to me.
        This book, to me at least, is a book about prayer. About anxious, urgent, desperate prayer. About answers that do not seem to come when you most need them. About trusting God even when He is silent. About waiting on Him and knowing that He still loves us even when our whole lives seem to be about to crumble. About realizing that God is the One who makes our greatest dreams come true and yet He is also the One on whom we must depend completely, for with or without our dreams, He is our whole life.
        When I read this book I was seriously and chronically sick, and God knew that I needed to be reminded of these things. I read it and realized that God's love and power are not measured by the times that He will perform miracles in our lives, but by the fact that He lives in our heart. And the miracles will come, too, only in His time.
       I think that no matter where you may be in your life right now, it will bless you.
       And of course, all the ballet descriptions don't hurt either. At all. :)

Rating: 4/5
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Monday, April 12, 2010

A Contemporary Look: Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter


 Description:

       Their letters could lead to lasting love . . . or expose Sabrina's mortifying secret.
       Sabrina Kincaid didn't intend to fall for Nantucket native Tucker McCabe, the man she serves coffee to every morning-a man tied to a past she deeply regrets. But she has. And she's fallen hard.
But she's kept this a secret from her handsome customer.
       And now Tucker wants to hire Sabrina to help locate his friend "Sweetpea"-the mysterious woman he's falling in love with online. Sabrina is not inclined to help, but if Tucker hires someone else, it could spell disaster. Because if someone else sifted through the emails and figured out the truth-then Tucker would discover that the person he's trying to find is . . . her.




          I loved this book even before I read it! The plot line is so wonderful, "you've- got- mail" style, and it becomes more so as the book progresses.
         The way the hero romanced the heroine made me think of the way God pursues us, and knows everything about us, but still we are so silly and afraid and untrusting. And yet He persists.
         I loved the heroine, who was full of doubt and fear and guilt and I loved the hero who was full of love. He gave me a warm feeling of strength and safety. I loved how protective he was of her and how careful. When I finished this book I cried and thanked the Lord for treating me exactly like that, for not caring about my failings and for waiting for me patiently, when I was too scared to trust in Him.
         This is also a story about forgiveness from the Lord and from those we have hurt. You see, the reason she doesn't want him to find out she is "sweetpea" is some dark secret from the past. But God doesn't hold our past mistakes against us when we repent and change. This is beautifully depicted in the book.
         I loved it all, the secrets, the misunderstandings and the letters - for they were all part of the most beautiful love story.

Rating: 4/5
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Contemporary Look: Leaves of Hope by Catherine Palmer

 

     Description:
           
       An adventurous spirit has always set Beth Lowell apart in her family, creating tension with her mother, Jan, who cherishes stability. Beth, a risk taker who traverses the globe for her job, wonders how Jan, now widowed, can endure her staid, predictable life. Then a hidden note reveals that Jan has kept a shocking secret from Beth. Beth's search for the birth father she has never known takes her to an enchanting tea estate in the Himalayan foothills.

        First of all, I want to say that Catherine Palmer is my favourite christian author. Both in historical and contemporary fiction. Her books are always scented with the spicy perfumes of exotic lands, like Africa and India, like this one. They are sparkling with the most delightful romance, like this book does. And they are filled with deep and wise spiritual insight, and this book is no exception.
         That said, I will try to give you a few more glimpses into this delightful book. It brings to life the most amazing adventure of discovery, faith and redemption and the most complex and realistic characters.
         There is a woman with a past, who is now a mother and a widow. She herself thinks that she hates changes and she desires a safe, if boring existence. But the truth is she is strong and adventurous inside.
         There is her daughter, a young woman, whose amazing spirit has lead her to the ends of the world and back. She has now to face the greatest adventure of her life, however, which sometimes brings to the surface her selfish and immature nature. But in spite of her failings, through it all, her close personal relationship with Jesus doesn't fail to touch and change everyone about her. I really envied and admired her for that.
         There is a young man who is a bit rough around the edges but really sweet and romantic at heart. He becomes drawn to the Lord with such force that it will take your breath away. And he makes a declaration that might put even Mr. Darcy's (first) proposal to Elizabeth to shame.
         There is a God who is shown in this book to be caring and faithful through all our mistakes and faults. He is just waiting for the moment when we will eventually come back to Him, to forgive us and guide us into a new life. He is a God of details and "coincidences". He is the God who works all things to good for those who love Him.
          And of course, there is tea. Tea in beautiful rose-decorated teacups, tea in misty plantations on a mountain, tea in a hot steaming cup in a London pub. The leaves of hope are litarally tea leaves.
          I was truly blessed and inspired by this book about relationships and the Lord's guidance in our lives and about faith. It is one of the few books in which I really can't say who I identified with the most: Beth or her mother. I related to them both and felt as if I was in their shoes the whole time I was reading. A Catherine Palmer book can do that to you.....
          I just finished reading this book for the second time. Need I say more?

  Rating 4/5

     
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Contemporary Look: At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon


   Descritpion:

           Father Tim, a cherished small-town rector, is the steadfast soldier in this beloved slice of life story set in an American village where the grass is still green, the pickets are still white, and the air still smells sweet. The rector's forthright secretary, Emma Garret, worries about her employer, as she sees past his Christian cheerfulness into his aching loneliness. Slowly but surely, the empty places in Father Tim's heart do get filled. First with a gangly stray dog, later with a seemingly stray boy, and finally with the realization that he is stumbling into love with his independent and Christian-wise next-door neighbor. Much more than a gentle love story, this is a homespun tale about a town of endearing characters -including a mysterious jewel thief.


         I am sure that most of you are familiar with this book, but I could not help posting about it. And I think that when you see this review, it will be like being reminded of a very good, old friend.
         All the books in this series, with this one first and the wedding story second are truly funny, warm, deep and filled with christian values. However, none of the next books in the series matches the magic of this first book, for me. Becasue it is in this book that you first enter the most charming town in the world, where people are good-natured, church-going, curious about their neighbours, and every one has a past, a present and a future.
         While I was reading, I completely forgot that it was all in a book and believed everything and everyone to be really there. I still do, actually. I think these are real people that I met and got to know once, and will visit them again when I pick the book up for the third time (I have already read it twice). They are quirky and humorous and sometimes irritating, but thoroughly endearing.
          What is quite original about this story is that the hero is Father Tim, a middle-aged Reverend with no family. He is not a typical romantic hero, and yet as a reader I found I could totally relate to him and the issues he has to deal with. At the beginning of the book he appears to be a bit discouraged and tired spiritually, and who hasn't been in this place? So, even if he isn't your typical young Prince Charming, the readers find themselves rooting for him very early in the book, and especially when he is about to win the "girl". That was refreshing.
         This was a very peaceful book, though not slow. Peaceful and pacifying. It's the place in the world I would love to live in and the kind of people I would love to meet.


    Rating: 5/5
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Not just with words

                      Here is a little gift for Easter from me. You are free to use these anywhere. I hope you like them and that our Lord will bless you by this verse as He has blessed me. Dear Becky, thank you so much for sharing.

                       This first bookmark is with art by Thomas Kinkade, and its is actually my favourite. But I know not everyone likes his style, so I made another one.





                       Please leave a comment about your favourite verse or saying and I will try to make it into a bookmark. God bless.
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Book Blogger Hop

                If you are interested in finding (and following) more book blogs than you can imagine, this is the place to visit. You can also share your own blog by following the simple instructions. Thank you crazy-for-books! Here's the link: the Book Blogger Hop
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

         Happy Easter everybody!
            I hope that you will all celebrate the new life our Saviour has won for us in the warmth of your families and friends.

    P.S. Please let me know if you liked the bookmark I posted previously, and whether you would like to see more. I would very much like to give one for Easter, if you would. Also, I would really like it if you posted your favourite verse or saying in the comments and I will make that into a beautiful bookmark. I figured, since we are all book lovers here, a bookmark would come in handy, right? Thanks in advance for all your comments and God bless.


( the image is art of Ron DiCianni)
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Period Pearl: The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw



Description:

           He won his fame--and his freedom--in the gory pits of Rome's Colosseum. Yet the greatest challenge for once-legendary gladiator Caros Viriathos comes to him through a slave. His slave, the beautiful and mysterious Pelonia Valeria. Her secret brings danger to his household but offers Caros a love like he's never known....


            Should anyone learn she is a Christian, Pelonia will be executed. Her faith threatens not only herself, but her master. Can she convince a man who found fame through unforgiving brutality to show mercy? And when she's ultimately given the choice, will Pelonia choose freedom or the love of a gladiator?

    
             I absolutely loved this novel. It is a wonderful, warm, tender romance. This is one of the best books anyone has ever written about the first Christians.
             The  heroine is lovely and sweet. She is quite brave, too. What I especially liked was the way she wavered in her faith after all these calamities had befallen her, because it was realistic. Not that it wouldn't have been great to read about a heroine that remained a rock of faith amidst ever trial, but this heroine I could totally relate to. What's more, even though she had serious doubts about God, she still stood firm in her beliefs and did not bend when she was threatened. Even when she fell in love, which in some ways was even harder. I learned a lot from this girl's faith. I envied her.
            And she had the courage to love this violent man, who also was a heathen. She had the courage to see him through the eyes of God. You have to admire her for that.
            The hero was a classical tortured, hardened by circumstances and personal pain, gorgeous-looking hero. But he didn't hesitate to be different from all those around him, which is why he was drawn to Pelonia and her God. I loved how tender and protetive he was to her. Even though she was a slave he mostly treated her like his equal and more, sometimes without even realizing it. He actually wooed her. It was also very realistic how he struggled with Pelonia's different and dangerous beliefs and his growing attraction to a christian slave.
            And when the time was ripe for him to believe in God..... well, I won't tell you what happened, so that you will read it for yourselves. But the truth is I cried a little.
           This, as I said, is a perfect story about the first Christians, complete with romance, danger, witnessing about Christ and a vividly portrayed arena scene.

Rating 5/5
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Classics: Evelina by Frances Burney




Description:
   
             Frances Burney's first and most enduringly popular novel is a vivid, satirical, and seductive account of the pleasures and dangers of fashionable life in late eighteenth-century London. As she describes her heroine's entry into society, womanhood and, inevitably, love, Burney exposes the vulnerability of female innocence in an image-conscious and often cruel world where social snobbery and sexual aggression are played out in the public arenas of pleasure-gardens, theatre visits, and balls. But Evelina's innocence also makes her a shrewd commentator on the excesses and absurdities of manners and social ambitions--as well as attracting the attention of the eminently eligible Lord Orville.
            "Evelina", comic and shrewd, is at once a guide to fashionable London, a satirical attack on the new consumerism, an investigation of women's position in the late eighteenth century, and a love story. 

          I looked for and bought this book, because i read somewhere that Frances Burney was the author that chiefly influenced Jane Austen's writing. Indeed I found this to be true while i was reading. But, on top of it all, I loved this book for itself. And in some aspects, even more than Jane Austen's books, if it is possible.
         First of all it is all written in the form of letters, so there was little or no (tiresome to me) descriptions of places and scenery, etc. Second, it was so sweetly and passionately romantic, that it surpassed even Elisabeth and Darcy's story! (only in some ways only, of course. There can be no other Mr. Darcy). If you have read some of my reviews you must know by now that I love the hero being tender and protective and caring (who doesn't?). Lord Orville is like that. Of course, in some ways he is quite the opposite of Mr. Darcy. He is always trying to put everyone at their ease, especially our heroine, who is something of a country mouse. He is about the only one who does not look down on her. I thought he was quite a rare specimen for a man -for all ages.
         The book is also full of satire, humour, adventure, damsels in distress being rescued.... everything you would expect from a classical as well as from a modern historical novel, sprinkled with subtle social criticism and filled with the most realistic and sparkling characters. I really didn't want it to end, but thankfully, I can reread it as many times I want (and I will).
         For a while, after finishing this book, everything else I tried to read seemed insipid. If you read it, I hope you'll see what i mean.

Rating 5/5
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