the advocate | book review

I’ve always been a great historical fiction fan.  I just finished this audiobook that pretty much blew my mind and made it to my list of top ten favorite historical fiction novels.


The Advocate by Randy Singer

Rating: 5.0 – 5.0

My Thoughts:

In books of Luke and Acts, the two-part piece of work written by physician/evangelist Luke, are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1:3,4; Acts 1:1).  The Bible doesn’t say anything about Theophilus but it is generally believed that he was a benefactor of Luke and Paul.  Beyond this, there are only theories.  One of those theories is that Theophilus was the lawyer that represented Paul during his trial before Nero and that Luke wrote the books of Luke and Acts so he would know the facts as he prepared for the trial and he would “know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” Luke 1:4.  It is upon this theory that Randy Singer tells his story.

Singer tells the story of a man who not only witnesses but plays a role in the trials of both Jesus of Nazareth and the apostle Paul.  It is an epic tale and that put me in mind of Wallace’s Ben Hur and reminded me of my favorite book from the 8th grade, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (which I now feel like re-reading!). He expertly paints a picture of Roman societal, religious, and political life as you follow the experiences of a man who must make sense of what truth really is as Rome meets her decline and a new religion is born.  It was super educational without being textbook-y, just as a good historical piece should be.

About halfway through the story, I wondered how much more story Singer could possibly tell.  I was not expecting what was to come.  You know the feeling you get at the end of a long, epic movie?  You wonder how things could take such a turn, how the character’s life in the beginning could be so diametrically different from his life at the end?  Your emotions get played and you wonder how you’d deal with it if were your story.  Yeah, that’s how I felt at the end of this book.  Bittersweetness isn’t quite the word to use but it’s the best I can come up with.  It was beautiful and horrible and real.

You should read it.  For real.  Go to Audible and download it or Amazon and get the Kindle or print copy.  I actually got my audio copy from ChristianAudio.

This will definitely be on my list of favorite books read this year, I can’t recommend more highly!  Seriously, read it.  You won’t regret it!

Happy reading, y’all!

This book counts towards the following challenges:


forevermore | book review

I love this book! Figured I’d just get that out of the way :)


Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake

Rating: 4.0 – 4.0

Hope Ladley doesn’t stay in one place for very long.  Guided by her Heavenly Father, she goes from place to place, helping families that need an extra pair of hardworking hands.  When she and her mule arrive at Jakob Stauffer’s farm in Gooding Texas, she quickly discovers that his family needs some extra TLC.  Taking Jakob’s sister Annie and his little daughter Emmy Lou under her wing, Hope gently lends healing and joy to hearts once held by fear. Making a pact with her boss to take care of Annie and Emmy Lou, Hope is determined to do whatever it takes to make sure she keeps her promise. Her unconventional ways, zany sayings, pure honesty and willingness to get the job done transforms Jakob’s house into a well-ordered home.  Little does she know, her own heart is transforming to. What exactly did God have in mind when He sent her to Jakob Stauffer’s home?

This is one of my favorite audiobooks.  The story is sweet and inspiring and fun and Stina Nielsen’s performance is a pleasure to listen to!  Hope is a lovable character and her honesty and straightforward ways are commendable.  She’s the kind of person you want to sit down and have a cup of tea with or work along next to while sewing or doing laundry. She’s the kind of woman I want to be–hopeful, cheerful, hard-working and trusting in God’s ways and wisdom.

I totally recommend this if you’re looking for something fun and inspirational.  Hake does a fantastic job telling this sweet story :).

Happy reading y’all!

P.S. There are a couple of other books in her series, Only in Gooding!. I read them out of order and have started reviewing them out of order! Sorry about that!  

The books go in this order:

  1. Fancy Pants 
  2. Forevermore
  3. Whirlwind
  4. That Certain Spark
  5. Serendipity

the reluctant heiress | book review

One of my absolute favorite YA novels is Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs.  A few years ago, I picked up another one of her books hoping that I would enjoy it just as much.  A started it several times, not being able to sink into the story. I listed it as an alternate title on my 2014 TBR list and after spotting it on Audible, I decided to give the audiobook a shot.

5711852The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson

Rating: 2.5-4.0

Let me first just say that I have a hard time with the title.  This book, as well as A Countess Below Stairs, was re-released in 2009 from its original publication in 1982 with the title Magic Flutes.  I think the original title fits the story better, but whatever – it is what it is!

Eva Ibbotson tells the story of Austrian heiress Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. With nothing to her name accept a castle that is far past its prime, this princess cheerfully hides her identity and secures a position as an under-wardrobe mistress for an opera company with its own financial struggles.

Completely unselfish and unwavering in her belief that everyone is equal, she throws herself into her work and her passion for music believing that it is the medium that will level the social playing field. Meanwhile, her broken-down old castle is purchased by self-made millionaire Guy Farne who has grand designs of his own.  Only Guy’s plans center around re-capturing the heart of a woman from his past. When their paths cross, both Tessa’s and Guy’s respective worlds are flipped around and each is forced to evaluate what love means and what they truly want in life.

This book definitely charming and has its clever moments just as I expect from Ibbotson. However, I wouldn’t put it up their with A Countess Below Stairs though.  I don’t know but there wasn’t the same level of dignity in this book. And while Tessa is very sweet and likable, I didn’t warm up to the other characters very much.

I think, perhaps, I’ll give the audio another shot in the future. Distant future….lol.

I’m glad I finally got through this read and I can cross it off my TBR list and add it to my Audio Book Challenge for this year!  Two birds, one stone. Yeah, baby!

Hope y’all are having a great week so far!

Happy reading!

Little Women Check-In #2

Hey Dear Readers!!

LittleWomen ButtonI hope your Christmas season is going fabulously and you’re taking time to enjoy the wonder and happiness of the season!  And I really hope you’re enjoying Little Women so far! We’re about halfway done, whoot!!

I’m actually a bit behind :P. Just starting part two.  Right now, I’m off to get ready to snuggle under my covers and knock out a couple more chapters of the audiobook, which I’m seriously enjoying!  Listening to Barbra Caruso read my favorite book is like drinking hot cocoa from my favorite mug, for real!


Tell me how you’re coming along so far! Look forward to your thoughts :).

Have a great night!!

And happy reading ;)


Little Women Read Along Begins!!

Happy December, Dear Readers!

It has arrived!! Time to break out those copies of LM Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women! (This post is kind of late in the day so perhaps you’ve already started!).

I did a post shortly after joining the Classics Club about Little Women being my favorite novel. It still is and I CAN’T WAIT to read it again!! It’s such a homey story, perfect for the Christmas season!


There are 47 chapters in this book and we have 28 days to read so if you average 2 chapters a day, you’re good to go!

I will be doing a giveaway so be sure to stay tuned and participate in check-ins! This event will be much easier for me than The Count of Monte Cristo because it is a re-read. I will do my best to post every Sunday :).

Those of you who tweet can hashtag #lwreadalong and you be sure to add any links to your blog posts in the comments!

So excited you’ve decided to read Little Women this holiday season, I’m sure we’ll have a marvelous time!

Happy reading!

Elyssa :)

a countess below stairs review

714569I’m counting this toward the Audiobook Challenge even though it’s a total cheat because I’ve listened to this book at least one-hundred times, including a happy run-through this year.  This review is a bit of a cheat as well since it’s just an abridged version of the review I did on Tumblr in 2010.

Whatever, I’m going for it anyhow!

I discovered this book years ago on accident at the library (isn’t that how so many of our favorites are discovered?).  The audiobook was read by Davina Porter, one of my favorite narrators.  Her performance of this book is beautiful!

Eva Ibbotson tells the story of a Russian countess who must keep her identity hidden after her family loses everything during the Russian Revolution. Finding herself practically penniless in England, she manages to secure a job as a housemaid for an Englishman’s estate.  Utterly out of her realm, Anna, armed with a copy of Selina Strickland’s The Domestic Servant’s Compendium, is, nevertheless, determined to work hard for her boss, the new Earl of Westerholme, who is just returning home from fighting in the Great War. With her zest for life, her willingness to please, her selfless heart, and genuine interest in the lives of others, Anna Grazinsky soon captures the hearts of the inhabitants of Mersham, including that of Lord Westerholme himself who is in the midst of preparing for his marriage to the golden-haired, blue-eyed goddess, Muriel Hardwick.

I looooove this story!  If you’re looking for a romantic comedy, this is it!  It’s completely fast-paced, witty, honest, dignified, vivid and charming.  Ibbotson spun a tale of honor, duty, and loyalty, as well as pure, unadulterated love and I definitely put it up there in my top 5 favorite YA novels.

All the girls had bobbed curtsies as he passed, but Rupert was about to encounter for the first time this weapon of social intercourse in Anna Grazinsky’s hands. One arm flew gracefully outward and up like an ascending dove, her right foot, elegantly flexed, drew a wide arc on the rich carpet-and she sank slowly, deeply and utterly to the ground…here was homage made flesh; here, between the bust of an obese Roman emperor and a small, potted palm, Rupert, Seventh Earl of Westerholme, was being offered commitment, servitude, another human being’s all. 

Reading the hard copy is great but if you can, get the audiobook read by Davina Porter.  It’s a delightful listen!

Y’all stay blessed :)

to kill a mockingbird review//classics club


To put it quite simply, I love this book. I loved when I first read it in high school and it remains one of my favorite novels.  I think it is one of the greatest pieces of American literature ever penned!  There is so much to love about it!  And then, of course, there is the film.  When I read Atticus Finch, I see Gregory Peck and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it’s meant to be!

SPOILER ALERT: This post does contain spoilers!! You have been warned ;).

Oh there so much to say about this book!  I keep typing out sentences and deleting them, typing more and hitting backspace.  Tom Robinson and Boo Radley and Mrs. Dubose and Miss Maudie!!  There simply isn’t enough time!

The brilliance of this story lies in the fact that its multi-faceted plot is seen through the eyes of a young girl.  Scout is spunkiness personified.   She’s curious about life and truly wants to know how and why things work the way they do.  She actually puts me in mind of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby a little.  Maybe it’s the hair.  Maybe it’s the unfiltered desire to know about everything, to understand people and have them understand you.  I think it’s a great coming of age story.

But of course, as much as we love to love Scout Finch, the real hero of the book is Atticus.  And rightfully so.  Here’s a man who knows who he is and what he stands for and doesn’t need to prove himself.  He simply lets his life speak louder than his words.  But oh, his words!  This book is filled with some great quotes from this southern lawyer!

W45 52

“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


“If you shouldn’t be defendin’ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.

“Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets a least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t let ’em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”


“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”


“Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Yes.  Atticus Finch is pretty much the coolest guy in American literature.  His relationship with his kids is beautiful.  His sense of duty to his fellowman is admirable.  While he was out to fight for truth and justice, the knowledge that victory was pretty near impossible never swayed him.  He understood that the Tom Robinson case was more than defending an innocent black man – as important as that was – it was about proving that his morals were more than just talk.  Many people talk big but fail miserably when faced with the hard test.  Atticus may not have won the case for Tom, but he proved that as long as there were others like himself who were willing to sacrifice all for the sake of justice, racial equality would eventually become a reality.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

If you have never read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it!!  And then watch the movie :).