Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Orphan King

The Orphan King, Merlin's Immortals Series #1

The Orphan King
Sigmund Brouwer

I’m never one to turn down free books, so even though I suspected this book was probably not going to be my favorite, I decided to try it anyway. This book being a fantasy, I was expecting to be confused because...well, that's just what happens with me and fantasies. The Orphan King did confuse me- at first. Then, to my surprise, I actually figured out what was going on! As for magical content- I’m still not sure what’s really going on with that. The bad guys obviously use magic. At first, I thought the heroes were using it as well, but then it’s revealed that their seemingly mystic tricks were just that- tricks. Because this book had more going on than mystical symbols and potions and sorcery like a lot of fantasies do, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would- certainly more than the last fantasy I received from this publisher. I also appreciated the fact that it was set in a historical context. That made it much easier for my mind to grasp.

Overall, though this book didn’t amaze me or convert me over to the genre, I certainly didn’t hate it, although I probably would not recommend it to someone who wasn’t already a fan of fantasies.

Objectionable content: This book had several violent scenes, nothing too disturbing, but violent nonetheless. The "enemy" is known to perform human sacrifices, although this is only mentioned, not described. Magic is performed by the bad guys and it at first seems as if the hero is using magic, as well.

Rating: 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

To Have and to Hold

To Have and To Hold, Bridal Veil Island Series #1

To Have and To Hold
Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller
Bethany House Publishers

The first books of adult Christian fiction I ever read –after Janette Oke’s novels, of course- were the "Ladies of Liberty" series by Tracie Peterson. Our former library had to have bought every single book by Mrs. Peterson within the month they came out, and so I became incredibly familiar with her work and have probably read at least three fourths of all the books she’s written. Even so, I’ve never really been a huge fan of any of her books, although I admit to enjoying several, especially the one’s she has co-written with Judith Miller. The library we go to now does not have a very large selection of Christian fiction, so when I saw that they had gotten the first book in the Bridal Veil Island Series, I immediately grabbed it. Here is the book description:

When Audrey Cunningham's father proposes that they move to Bridal Veil Island, where he grew up, she agrees, thinking this will help keep him sober and close to God. But they arrive to find wealthy investors buying up land to build a grand resort on the secluded island--and they want the Cunninghams' acreage.
Contractor Marshall Graham can't imagine why the former drinking buddy of his deceased father would beckon him to Bridal Veil Island. And when Boyd Cunningham asks him to watch over Audrey, Marshall is even more confused. He has no desire to be saddled with caring for this fiery young woman who is openly hostile toward him. But when Audrey seems to be falling for another man--one who has two little girls Audrey adores--Marshall realizes she holds more of his heart than he realized. Which man will Audrey choose? And can she hold on to her ancestral property in the face of overwhelming odds?

I admit to being entirely disappointed with this book- mainly because of the heroine. One thing that bugs me about a lot of Tracie Peterson’s (I haven’t read a whole lot by Judith Miller) writing is that the heroines seem extremely feministic to me. (Deborah from the Striking a Match series immediately comes to mind) But at the same time, many of her heroines do have their good points despite this (I did enjoy the Ladies of Liberty and the Broadmoor Legacy series to name a few). It’s just that so many authors seem to make the mistake of creating a "strong" or "independent" heroine that really just turns out into being a shrew. Not nice, language, I know. But that’s the first word that comes to mind when certain female characters remind you of Kate. This world seriously needs some Pertruchios. Sigh. Rabbit trail again…

Audrey, though she wasn’t really a "career" girl or anything, was just so stubbornly independent it was maddening. As soon as Marshall shows up, she immediately assumes he’s a drunk like his dad and is going to lead her own recovering-alcoholic father back down the path to perdition. This is before he barely says a word to her. I just wanted to shake her for the way she was so obnoxious! And then after days of rudeness, when she finally confronts him about why she’s been snapping, growling, and ignoring him and he tries to explain he is not an alcoholic, she won’t let him get a word in edgewise. I feel like also putting it in here that if I’d been Marshall, I’d a- pitched her. (Sorry, just watched Anne. Couldn’t help it.)Talk about prejudice. I’m no stranger to characters who make you grit your teeth, but when that character is supposed to be the heroine…sigh. In fact, there were quite a few characters I didn’t like. Yes, I’m a southern girl. But Yankee-hating Aunt Thora made me want to scream.

I also feel that the romance was kind of the clichéd type that sometimes makes you want to roll your eyes, and the bad guy was pretty obvious from the beginning. Eeek. I feel like I’m being so mean. But this book was just…eh. I even skimmed through some of it because it wasn’t really holding my interest. I hate writing negative reviews. I do. But yet I seem to write them so often. I do feel like I need to be honest in my reviews, so of course I’m giving my honest opinion…but. Yeah. I just didn’t care for this book so much. It definitely is not Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller’s best.

Rating: 4

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Messenger

The Messenger
Siri Mitchell
Bethany House Publishers

I received a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday, and when it comes to actually buy a book, I’m incredibly selective. I research, I read reviews…I want this book to draw me in and not be a waste of my money. That may be because I get so many free books for reviews that are not really my first choice, so that when I do get to make a choice, I’m very picky. (Actually, I did get a chance to review this book for free, but picked another. Sad mistake on my part…)

Anyway, back to the subject. I have read three other of Siri Mitchell’s books: A Constant Heart, Love’s Pursuit, and She Walks in Beauty. I read the first two and neither of them struck my fancy, as I found them both to be, shall we say… depressing. For me, anyway. Also, because Siri Mitchell often writes in first person from both main characters' side, I found it confusing. However, I then read She Walks in Beauty and really enjoyed it.

So when I was at the bookstore, I saw her newest book, The Messenger, and paused. And decided to buy it after taking it and then putting it back several times. I am very indecisive, but somehow, The Messenger kept somehow jumping off the shelf and getting into my hands. Long story short, it is now on my shelf.

That was possibly the longest ever introduction to a review. Enough with my rambling; here’s the book description:

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?

Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith.

This book pulled me in entirely. I loved that fact that it was a romance…but then it wasn’t. It’s about how Hannah and Jeremiah have to learn to work with and appreciate each other, and though they do end up caring for each other by the end of the book (sorry if that’s a spoiler for you…) it wasn’t the typical "Oh she’s pretty and he’s handsome I want to marry her/him" plot. In fact, they annoy each other so much so many times that despite the serious nature of the book, I did have a smile on my face a lot.

I had recently read a biography of Benedict Arnold, and although the man did not appear in in this novel, from the biography I learned about many of the incidents of the British occupation of Philadelphia (such as the infamous Meschianza) that were included in The Messenger. I found that to be an interesting coincidence, and felt the pleasure of knowing the historical background of the plot!

This book tackled the issue of a faith based on a political position or particular belief, and I found that it contained much to ponder. The only downside for me was the fact that I found the ending to be very abrupt- so much so you're almost confused at whether or not it really is the end. I wanted more to it! Also, if you are not familiar with Siri Mitchells's writing style (first person perspective from both characters) it can be confusing. However, The Messenger is not a book that is to be quickly forgotten, and I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction.

Objectionable content: The British officers are very immoral in the way they behave and the way they treat their prisoners. It is mentioned a woman was raped. A man lost his hand in a battle, and many men die of sickness or accidents while in prison.

Rating: gasp…is she? Will she? Yes! I actually am giving it a 10. Amazing, no?

If you’re wondering, yes. I did take a very long time deciding whether or not to give this book a 10!
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