Faves of TwentyEleven: The Scenes

It’s time for another installment of the Faves of TwentyEleven series. This is hosted by Nomes of Inkcrush and it’s all about our reading favorites for the past year. :) If you missed my other posts, here they are:

I’m really a day late from posting this, but Nomes said to have fun and not worry about being on schedule…so there. On to the next list!

Day Three: The Scenes

Note: I can tell from now: this list is really going to make me wish I made notes about the books I read this year. *facepalm* Oh well. :)

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Faves of TwentyEleven: The Characters

From books, we go to characters! Today is the second day of the Faves of TwentyEleven series hosted by Nomes of inkcrush. :) Characters are my favorite part in a book, and sometimes I think they may even be more important than plot. I believe strong characters can revive an overused or boring plot, so I always pay attention to them. Here are some of the characters that stood out for me in the books I read in 2011. :)

Day Two: The Characters

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There You’ll Find Me

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. JonesThere You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 320
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

In a small cottage house in rural Ireland, Finley discovers she can no longer outrun the past.

When Finley travels to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from the God who took her brother away and seems to have left her high and dry.

But from the moment she boards the plane and sits by Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to Finley’s plan.

When she gets too close to Beckett, a classmate goes on a mission to make sure Finley packs her bags, departs Ireland-and leaves Beckett alone.

Finley feels the pressure all around. As things start to fall apart, she begins to rely on a not-so-healthy method of taking control of her life.

Finley tries to balance it all-disasters on the set of Beckett’s new movie, the demands of school, and her growing romance with one actor who is not what he seems. Yet Finley is also not who she portrays to Beckett and her friends.

For the first time in her life, Finley must get honest with herself to get right with God.

* * *

When I was younger, I used to write stories about a group of friends who lived in Ireland. It was just a random country I picked out in the world atlas, and I thought I liked the sound of Ireland as a setting. Of course, I really knew nothing of the country then, and it wasn’t until later on that I read and watched some stuff about Ireland on TV that I realized none of what I wrote was even the least bit realistic. But my recent trip to Europe got me to meet a YFC mission volunteer from Ireland, and meeting him reminded me of those days when I’d write those stories.

That’s what made me pick up There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones from my trip readings. Here we meet Finley Sinclair, Save the Date‘s Alex Sinclair’s younger sister. After they had confirmed that Will, Finley’s other brother, had died in an terrorist attack in a mission trip, she was devastated. Her life spun out of control as she tried to cope with her loss. After a year of therapy, she proved herself stable enough to go on an exchange student program to Abbeyglen, Ireland, one of the places that Will had gone to. Finley hopes to find herself and get answers from God who had seemed distant from her ever since she lost Will. But a movie star, the school’s queen bee, a cranky and sick old lady puts a wrench on Finley’s plans. As the pressure all around her builds, Finley starts dealing with things in the only way she knows how, even if it meant harming herself in the process. Can Finley find a way to get it right with God?

I liked Jenny B. Jones’ other novel, Save the Date, a lot, so I was thrilled to find out that There You’ll Find Me was a spin-off novel to that. I always like seeing how other characters I liked from a previous novel were doing in another novel that is not a sequel. There You’ll Find Me is more YA this time around. Finley is such a strong-minded character, sometimes a bit stubborn, but we can also see that she has a big heart, especially with her friendship with her host sister, Erin and her concern for Cathleen Sweeney, the old woman she was assigned to visit for class. I liked Finley’s voice, and I could definitely feel and relate with her need to control things. I liked that she wasn’t portrayed as too depressed or too angry — just very lost. And it made me want to wrap her up in a big, big hug, and tell her that God has not forgotten her.

St. Ciaran’s Monastery — I think this was one of the places Finley and Beckett visited. Image from saintsandstones.net

And speaking of God. The spiritual aspect of this book is not preachy, and I think Jenny B. Jones excels at that. Well, compared to Save the Date, there were more mentions of God, but Finley was in a spiritual journey, so what do you expect? I liked the Finley’s power verse, too, and I admit to shedding some tears at the moment when Finley found what she was looking for. The actual Irish journey was a treat to read, too, and I wished I was actually in Ireland to see the things that Finley was seeing. I wanted to spend a night at a pub enjoying good food, music and company. I want to look at the Celtic crosses that Finley was also looking for. Ireland sounds like a beautiful, beautiful place from the way it was described, and I have already written that place in my bucket list after I was done reading this. :D

There just seemed to be a little too many issues that Finley was trying to get over with in the book: grief, control issues, school stuff, Cathleen Sweeney, a possible eating disorder. Add romance to that and I’m surprised that Finley took that long before she had a melt down. I assume that it portrays real life, but it was just kind of hard to follow and it made the resolutions a little too quickly wrapped up.

And speaking of the romance. Unfortunately, I don’t think there wasn’t anything exciting about the romance, even if it was kind of sweet. I hope I’m not being cynical. I liked Beckett and I thought he was a nice guy, but I felt that the movie star + normal girl pairing has been done a few too many times. Plus points, though, on the development of their friendship to romance, which was fun to read.

There You’ll Find Me is a good follow up from Jenny B. Jones. A little bit paler in comparison to Save the Date, but nonetheless a good one. If you’re looking for a clean contemporary novel that will tickle your romantic and traveling fancies, then I think you’ll like this one. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Nightly Reading
Book that Thing!
One Page at a Time

Save the Date

Save the Date by Jenny B. JonesSave the Date by Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 320
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

When Alex and Lucy pick out wedding invitations, they wonder if they can be printed in vanishing ink.

Former NFL star Alex Sinclair is a man who has it all–except the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancee in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy will find her heart on the line–and maybe even her life. When God asks Alex and Lucy to scrap their playbook and follow his rules, will they finally say, “I do”?

* * *

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones because if I were to judge this book by its cover, it didn’t give me the chick lit vibe. It gave me a romance novel vibe, sure, but not really chick lit. Am I the only one getting that? I want chick lit, but I’m not entirely sure if I wanted a romance novel — if you get what I mean. Nevertheless, I requested this from NetGalley because the blurb seemed interesting despite its familiarity, and I heard good stuff about the author on Twitter.

Maybe it’s the leftover February air that made me start reading this, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Save the Date starts with Lucy Wiltshire dancing around her kitchen, preparing a meal for her boyfriend Matt, expecting a proposal coming very soon. However, she was crushed when Matt says he’s choosing his job over her, and he had to move away, just as when Lucy can’t leave her hometown because she was about to open her foster home for adolescent girls, Saving Grace.

Fast forward two years later, Lucy seems to be doing well, until life decided to throw her a curve ball: she loses funding for her foster home and she needs money, quick. Gold coins don’t grow on trees and Lucy is desperate. Enter old schoolmate and rich boy Alex Sinclair who was running for Congress. A chance encounter between the two gave Alex a good image for the election, so he proposes to Lucy: they would pretend to be a couple and get engaged to boost Alex’s image, and Lucy gets paid to be his fake fiancee, enough to fund Saving Grace for years to come. Left with no choice, Lucy says yes, praying that she wasn’t making a mistake. As they play along with the lie, demons from the past surface and they find out that God’s plans are higher than our plans and He can work His purpose even in our flimsy human plans.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. This had the same vibe as  A Billion Reasons Why but it has less of the Southern drawl and more of real and sympathetic characters. I liked Lucy from the start — she’s a darling, but she was far from a weakling. She’s been toughened up by the hardships she experienced in her life and even if she suffers from a big inferiority complex, her heart is always in the right place. I admire her passion for the girls she’s caring for and her fierce loyalty to what she believes in, even if sometimes it comes off as stubbornness. While I’m not much taken by Alex’s described good looks and his charisma, I thought he was good for Lucy. He is far from perfect which I really appreciated, and I’m sure his faults and his growth in the story is something that other people have experienced. I liked how their relationship developed and how they saw each other in a better light despite the lie that they have built for their image. I lost count at how many times I sighed and wished that they’d realize that they were perfect for each other, and that one of them would make a move that would break the the pretend relationship they have so they could move into something real. Their banter was refreshing and witty, none of the gooey, over the top exchanges that didn’t feel natural. I liked that even if it seemed like an outrageous story, everything in the story still felt real, like it could happen to anyone.

This modern-day Cinderella/The Princess Diaries-like story by Jenny B. Jones is definitely worth the read. I can’t relate 100% with everything, but Save the Date shares important lessons on love, compassion, forgiveness and allowing God to work in our lives, and I think those concepts are pretty universal, anyway. While there’s nothing really new in the premise, the characters, their voices and the author’s humor shines through in the story, making this a very, very good read. :) I look forward to reading more of Jenny B. Jones’ books.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Michelle’s Book Review Blog
Novel Reviews
Backseat Writer
Bookworm Hollow