Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Recommended Reading of 2013

Hello, all! Out of all the books I've reviewed this year, here's a list of my favorites. I tried to pick at least one from a variety of genres. Here they are in the order that I read them:

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen (Regency Romance)

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen- 10 out of 10 stars

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin (Historical Romance)

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin- 10 out of 10 stars

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner (Contemporary Fiction)

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner- 9 out of 10 stars

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (YA Fantasy)

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George- 9 1/2 out of 10 stars

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson (Regency Romance)

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson - 8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Anomaly by Krista McGee (YA Dystopian)

Anomaly by Krista McGee- 9 out of 10 stars

Burning Sky by Lori Benton (Historical)

Burning Sky by Lori Benton- 9 out of 10 stars

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer (Historical Romance)

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer- 8 out of 10 stars

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden (Historical Romance)

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden- 9 out of 10 stars

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering (Mystery)

Rules of Murderby Julianna Deering 8 1/2 out of 10 stars

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (YA fiction)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart- 9 out of 10 stars

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay (Contemporary Fiction)

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay- 9 out of 10 stars

The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson (YA Historical)

The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson- 9 out of 10 stars

Tales of Goldstone Wood Series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Christian Fantasy, the last three books unreviewed on this blog; however, I did review Heartless last year)

Cover art of all 4 books of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Captive Maiden


The Captive Maiden
Melanie Dickerson

Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined

I had high expectations for this book, and was eager to start it. Though I did like the story and the characters, I did feel the writing was a little lacking in places; it felt a little over-explained or simplified, and the two main characters second-guessing each others' motives so much wore on me after a little bit. However, despite these complaints, I did really like this book.

Though I wasn't sure if I would like Gisela at first (she was more on the rebellious and wild side than I usually think of when it comes to Cinderella) she did ultimately win me over. And Valten- well, I became intrigued with his character in The Fairest Beauty and wasn't disappointed here. I also liked seeing all of Valten's family again- especially his sisters. I heard Melanie Dickerson is working on another fairy tale retelling...hopefully it will be about one of them ;)

One thing that surprised me was that the "typical" part of the Cinderella tale was really only the first half of the novel here; the author took the plot completely down another path. Though I didn't mind this, I felt like the plot might have been dragged out a bit more than was needed. Parts of the romance aspect I really liked; other parts I didn't care for. (There wasn't much kissing until the end, but there was more than I usually like in my books). I liked The Captive Maiden more than The Fairest Beauty, I think. One thing I particularly appreciated was the absence of deception in the case of Gisela and Valten's relationship, both with each other and everyone else. It was a refreshing change from most YA fiction and probably my favorite part about the book. Though it's not one of my favorite fairy tale re-tellings, this book is still getting a pretty high rating- I can't help it. Despite it's faults, The Captive Maiden still captured the magic of the Cinderella story that I love so much.

Rating: 9

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Dancing Master


The Dancing Master
Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers

Leaving London, dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire--but is stunned to discover that dancing is prohibited! He finds an unlikely ally in Miss Julia Midwinter, but her questions about his past are becoming harder to evade. Together, can they bring new life to this quiet village--and heal long-kept-secret scars?

...And here comes the first of the Christmas Present book reviews ;) As I'm sure many of you know, I've loved Julie Klassen's books since I read The Apothecary's Daughter when that novel first came out. I received The Silent Governess for Christmas the subsequent year, and ever since then this particular author's books have been expected under the tree every Christmas since.

I was excited for The Dancing Master, and it was different from Julie Klassen's books- mainly because most of it was from the hero's perspective. I did like Alec; he certainly wasn't my favorite hero of all time, but I thought he was likable. Julia, on the other hand...it's not that I hated her. And though she was such a flirt, I felt the reason why she acted that way got across well. However, I think my favorite characters were the secondary ones, especially the Midwinter's neighbors. I really was more interested in them than in Julia and Alec...it was just a little hard for me to figure out why Alec liked Julia in the first place. I will admit the mystery aspect was interesting, and I didn't figure it out until nearly the end.

Though I can't deny I really did enjoy this book, I don't think it lived up to the other books of this author's that I've read. It was enjoyable and I certainly recommend it; it just wasn't the completely spectacular story I had wanted it to be.

Rating: 8 1/2

objectionable content: pretty much on par with the author's other books. Some "regency tactful" explanations of illegitimacy and adultery, and a bit of kissing. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cozy Classics: Emma

Cozy Classics: Emma
Jack and Holman Wang
Simply Read Books

What a cute idea! A board book told with a minimal amount of words (only one word per page), this early introduction to Jane Austen's classic story was adorable. And the pictures really helped tell the story- I would have thought that it would be impossible to tell such a complicated story in only a few words, but the needle-felted illustrations were done to show such pivotal scenes that I knew what was going on on every page! Definitely a great way to introduce very young children to the stories (and it's part of a series too- there are Cozy Classics versions of Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre, among others)

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cloak of Light

Cloak of the Light, War of the Realms Series #1   -     By: Chuck Black

Drew is caught in a world of light - just inches away from the dark
What if...there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? What if...our world wasn’t beyond their influence?
Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn, but college offers Drew a chance to start over—until an accident during a physics experiment leaves him blind and his genius friend, Benjamin Berg, missing.
As his sight miraculously returns, Drew discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond the normal man. When he begins to observe fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist?
With help from Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl who offers encouragement through her faith, Drew searches for his missing friend, Ben, who seems to hold the key to unlocking this mystery. As the dark invaders close in, will he find the truth in time?
I fully admit that I wasn't really interested in this book from the description on the back; the reason I picked this book up for review is because I'm familiar with Chuck Black's other series and enjoyed them, so I decided I'd try his newest books.

I’m not usually a big fan of speculative/supernatural fiction because a lot of it is, well, speculation, and sometimes the theology tends to get a little strange. However, I did like Cloak of Light much more than I was expecting to; unlike most of the books in this genre that I’ve tried reading, it seemed more coherent and believable and in the back of the book the author is very clear on what the Bible says about angels and demons and what parts were purely fiction.

The story did have a bit of a superhero quality to it, also, which was interesting. My only quibble is probably that sometimes the author’s writing fell into the tell-instead-of-showing trap. His writing style isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly amazing or poetic. Still, it was an interesting read that I think that guys, especially, will like. (I know my brother was interested in reading it after me)

Rating: 7 ½

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