Saturday, May 25, 2013

Giveaway!

Charity U at Austenitis is hosting a giveaway. The prize is a copy of either Glamorous Illusions or Grave Consequences, by Lisa T. Bergren. You can head on over here to check it out!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Lasting Impression


A Lasting Impression
Tamera Alexander
Bethany House Publishers

A fake. A forger. More than anything, Claire Laurent longs for the chance to live an authentic life, to become the woman she wants to be. And she'll be given that choice. But will it come at too costly a price?


Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.

Yes, this is a really short review, I'm afraid. This moved really slow for me. Though there were some parts I enjoyed, most of the time I felt...rather bored. It didn't capture my attention. It's gotten rave reviews on Christianbook.com, but for me it was just kind of an "eh" read.

However one thing is for certain: if I ever find myself in Tennessee  I want to visit the Belmont Mansion- it sounds amazing. However, beyond that, this book didn't hold my interest very well.

Rating: 5 1/2

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Follow the Heart

Follow the Heart, Great Exhibition Series #1   -     
        By: Kaye Dacus

Follow the Heart
Kay Dacus
B & H

Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a "sitting-room romance" with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age.
Kate and Christopher Dearing's lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother's brother in England with one edict: marry money.

I’ve heard much about Kaye Dacus, but I’ve never had the chance to read any of her novels until now. Though it took a little while to get into, I really enjoyed Follow the Heart. It was slow-moving at first, but I thought it got better as the story went on.

I wasn’t quite as interested in Kate’s story- I liked the plot between her brother Christopher and governess Nora much better. (Nora was definitely my favorite character, though Christopher came close). Though I didn’t dislike Kate, she wasn’t really one of my favorite characters, probably because I felt really bad for Stephen Brightwell, and though I know she didn’t mean to hurt him, she did. I, personally, am pleased that the third book in this series is to be about him, because I think he deserves a happy ending of his own!

Objectionable content: there are a few kisses throughout the novel.

Rating: 8


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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reached




Reached
Ally Condie
Dutton

Cassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect façade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter.

The wait is over.

One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most—family, love, choice. Her quiet revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion.

With exquisite prose, the emotionally gripping conclusion to the international–bestselling Matched trilogy returns Cassia, Ky, and Xander to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long, the power to choose.

I actually have finished an entire YA series. Please applaud. :) 

This book was divided between the three main characters- Cassia, Ky, and Xander’s- point of view, and since Xander was my favorite character, I was glad to see him in more of it.

Like all the books in the Matched series, this novel had some really interesting and exciting parts strung together with some really boring parts. I was anxious to finish, but not really in a good way. I made myself read the whole thing, but sometimes it dragged and I just wanted to skip to the end! There was more death in this book than either of the two others, but still not due to violence, but sickness. Sadly, there were about four uses of a certain D--- word scattered throughout, and there was, again, some kissing.  (I know there was some, but I can’t tell you how much, because I don’t remember. I think I blocked it. But I can tell you, like most of the Matched books, Cassia and Ky are separated for most of the novel, so there’s only kissing when they’re together.)

From the beginning I wasn’t a fan of the Rising, and sometimes I was a little confused and  didn’t quite understand what was going on.  I was a little disappointed with Ky and Cassia’s ending- there wasn’t really quite enough closure for me. So, really- did they get married? And now that the Society is over, how exactly is everybody going to live? They’re starting to put the pieces of life back together, but a lot of things are still at loose ends. I mean, I’m not a rabid fan of this series, but hey: I just invested myself in three thick novels- I think I’d like an answer to my questions!

Anyway, I guess I’d rate the entire Matched series a 7- it is somewhat enjoyable, but not amazing. It’s nice for those who want to read a futuristic, dystopian novel, but don’t want to expose themselves to a lot of violence. Sadly, these books didn’t stay quite as clean in other areas. Still, it’s cleaner than most YA books that I’ve (tried) to read.

Rating:7

PS- I know the covers look really weird, but they actually make perfect sense if you read the books. I personally think they're neat, in a futuristic kind of way, but the cover of the first one is still my favorite. This third book is probably my least favorite.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crossed



Crossed
Ally Condie
Dutton

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake. Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever

I wasn’t sure I would like this book when I saw that it was divided into both Cassia and Ky’s point of view. I’ve read books like that before, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t sure it would work here. It did work better than I thought (although Cassia and Ky's "voice" wasn't distinct...sometimes I had to remind myself just who was telling the story) and I was still a little bothered that the story was told in first person/present tense- I’m not particularly fond of novels told in present tense.

As I mentioned before, Cassia and Ky’s love story is not really my favorite in the world, and though I suppose I liked them moderately well on their own, I always got either bored or a little annoyed when they were together. For the first half of the book they were separated, but then when they got together again it was like, “romance time” and there were some smooches that just had me skipping. I was more interested in in the Society and the Rising and what was going to happen with that- that’s what kept me reading, not Cassia and Ky’s story.

There was more death in this book, but still not a whole lot of violence. There was one bad word, which was disappointing, especially since the last book didn’t have any language issues. There was some kissing as I mentioned above, and then, of course, Cassia and Ky just kept thinking about how wonderful the other was whenever they were apart (this had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I’m sorry, I just wasn’t a fan of either of them. And I liked Xander better than Ky, anyway)

Again, like the first book, this book started to drag for me after the first half (I did really like the first half, though, where they were trying to survive beyond the borders of the Society) This book did have a its good points, and though I lost interest during the last half, I’ll still be reading the last book just to see how everything turns out.

Rating: 7

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Into the Free


Into the Free
Julie Cantrell
David C. Cook Publishers


I don't even know where to begin on this book. I mean, we have barely been introduced to the characters before we see Millie's dad beat up her mom, Millie stand by helplessly as she watches a dog give birth to and then kill her own pups, and then, on top of it, her only friend dies. And did I mention that her dad also nearly cuts down her special tree? The latter seems almost silly next to the others, but all together it created a sum of complete depression and heartbreak. Honestly, it was one of those things you look at in disbelief and think, Who would write this?

I kept reading to see if it got any better, but when sixteen-year-old Millie started kissing some strange gypsy boy she'd barely met, I decided I'd had enough. I skimmed through the rest of the novel, but it only proved my overall thoughts on this book: it was depressing, filled with a few scattered theological statements I didn't like, and not worth my time.

I'm not going to lie and say the author didn't know how to write. Her actual writing was very, very good, with a mid-century classic feel reminiscent of something like To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, To Kill a Mockingbird deals with serious content as well, yet it didn't seem nearly so... dirty as in this book. There was something about Into the Free that completely rubbed me the wrong way.

I know that a lot of Christian fiction has the reputation of being fluff and sappiness, but really...this book was too far in the opposite direction. It went past deep into almost...disturbing.

Rating: 2

Upcoming Fiction

As Mount Vesuvius churns in the distance,
a runaway slave and a nobleman craving justice join forces.
In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator star is on the rise. But the gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s actually a runaway Jewish slave named Ariella, who’s disguised herself as a young boy. A savvy fighter, Ariella determines to triumph in the arena, knowing her life would be forfeit should anyone uncover her truth.
Cato, a wealthy politician,  resettled in Pompeii after tiring of the corruption in Rome. But he soon learns Pompeii is just as corrupt, and if he doesn’t play the game, his family could pay the price. Determined to bring about justice for the citizens of Pompeii, Cato searches for allies. But what he discovers instead are a confounding group of Christians… and a young female gladiator whose fame is growing daily.

I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time, and I've really enjoyed the other books in this series by Tracy L. Higley, so I look forward to it's new release! Thomas Nelson, Spetember 2013


After the tragic death of her closest friend, 20-year-old Celia Thatcher is sent to work in the bookstore of family friends. Hoping the new surroundings in Massachusetts will help her regain a happy outlook on life, Celia catches the eye of not one, but two men: the elite, but unkempt Bostonian-turned-hermit, Edward Lyons, who is clearly trying to run from his past and from God, and Charles Harrod, a charming Harvard law student who promotes a religious belief Celia has never before considered. With both men vying for her attention, Celia’s world is again turned upside down when one of her beaus is accused of murder. Suddenly realizing where her heart lies, Celia is now challenged with a choice bigger than man: should she follow her heart or her God?

So...for whatever reason this reminds me a Beauty and the Beast, which equals: winner! Abingdon Press, October 2013



In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate. 

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

A fictional retelling of the love story of John and Abigial Adams, I can't wait to read this one. I'm a fan of the Adams family anyway (snap, snap) so I'm looking forward to this book. Bethany House, September 2013


The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

I haven't been completely impressed with a lot of stuff from Tyndale's historical fiction department lately, so I'm hoping for a winner here. Tyndale, September 2013


Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin pens another exciting tale in her series featuring WWII flight nurses. Fans new and old will find in On Distant Shores the perfect combination of emotion, action, and romance.

I can't wait to read this next book by Sarah Sundin, especially since the first book in this series was a favorite. Bethany House, August 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Matched



Matched
Ally Condie
Dutton

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

This is actually a book that I had seen before online somewhere, and so since the cover looked familiar when I saw it for the first time at the library, I decided to check it out. I actually found Matched, for the most part, enjoyable. The beginning really drew me in, but then it started to drag a bit during the middle- it was a long book, and I think it could have been a tad bit shorter with no damage done to the plot. There were several chapters in the middle where I really was kind of bored and just hoping that something interesting would happen. I mean, I guess I appreciate the fact that the author was trying to focus on how Cassia and Ky’s relationship developed so it wouldn’t be one of those “love-based-on-attraction-alone” type of romance stories, but I found it rather dull. I also didn't care for the whole "two love interests" aspect of the book, which is one of my Least Favorite Plot Devices Used in Romance, but it turned out better in the end -so far- than I was expecting. The book did pick up my interest again at the end, though, so I think I'll probably read the next book.

Matched reminded me, just a little, of Farenheight 451. Granted, it was slightly less depressing and less hopeless than the latter, but that was a good thing. I hated Farenheight 451.

This book was also very clean. It was secular, so there wasn’t any mention of God at all, good or bad. It was like He was completely nonexistent. (Again, it was only slightly less hopeless than Farenheight 451….without God, is there ever hope?) However, there wasn’t any language, violence, or sexual content (although in the last half there were a few quick kisses I certainly could have done without.)

Matched was really an interesting book, and though I wouldn’t say it was my favorite YA novel, it was certainly one of the cleanest I’ve come across.

Rating: 7 1/2 

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Missing Series



"The Missing" Series
Margaret Peterson Haddix

I don’t normally do reviews on an entire series rather than an individual book, but since I’ve read three of The Missing books already, and they are moderately short, I decided to go ahead and do so here.

Here's a synopsis I found on Wikipedia. It's not the best write-up ever, but oh well.

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he has never thought it was a big deal, until he begins receiving strange messages. Jonah, his sister Katherine and his friend Chip realize that Jonah and Chip are important missing children from history who were transported to the twenty first century by baby smuggling time travelers. Unknowingly, they are lured into a cave with all but one of the other 36 missing children by the baby smugglers themselves. After they have defeated them, another time traveler from the future decides to send Chip and another boy, Alex back to the 1480s, where they are really princes of England. Jonah and Katherine accidentally were taken along for the trip as well, and now it is up to them to save their friends and return to the twenty first century.

Our library only has books 2,3, and 4, so I actually (gasp!) skipped book 1. Though I still wish I could have read it, I did get enough backstory in book 2 to understand what was going on. Books 2 (Sent) & 3 (Sabotaged) were probably my favorites- though 4 (Torn) was okay, it just wasn’t as fast-paced or interesting as the others.

The Missing is an exciting, fun series, and I’m looking forward to reading the other books!

Objectionable content: In book two, there are a couple words that are not exactly “bad” words, but what I would call rude words and not some I would repeat. In the series there are also a few mild  cases of “girl-boy” middle-schooler nonsense.

Rating: 8 (Sent and Sabotaged); 7 (Torn)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time



A Wrinkle in Time
Madeline L’Engle

I was at the library the other day and picked this book up. I’d heard of it, but I didn’t really know what it was about- I just knew it was supposed to be a children’s classic. I certainly had no idea that it was apparently controversial!  I read a special edition of this book, so it had a big long “afterward” that I skimmed through, and  one phrase back there that I read concerned me. It said that some people criticized  the book for being “too Christian” and other people for it not being “Christian enough”. And later it read, “A Wrinkle in Time was condemned by the same people who would later condemn the Harry Potter books.”

Me: “What- what?” Since we were the people who didn’t like the Harry Potter books due to the witchcraft, I was wondering, what on earth was in A Wrinkle in Time? It doesn’t have magic, does it? I read this phrase when I was about halfway through the novel itself, and I certainly hadn’t read anything in there that offended me. Yes, this book is science fiction, so there was space travel and weird creatures, but I was pleased, because guess what? These crazy creatures praised God.

Now, later, there was one thing that I didn’t like. The children –Meg, Calvin, and Charles- are discussing heroes in the past who fought against darkness, and Charles says the first one is Jesus, and then they name many other famous “good guys” in history. However, it seemed to kind of lower the level of Jesus to just a “good” man and nothing more, so I did not care for that. (Really, putting Jesus in the same category as Buddha almost goes past "annoying" and into "offensive") And though I later learned some things about the author’s “liberal” Christianity that concerns me, besides that one scene, there wasn’t anything that really bothered me in the book. Granted, this book is the first in a series, and I haven’t read the other books, so maybe there is some objectionable stuff in there. (And I’m only getting around to reviewing this book just now, since it’s been a few weeks since I read it, so my memory on a few things might be a little hazy) But for the most part I found this book fine, although I probably wouldn’t let really young children read just because they might get confused theologically in some ways.

So what is this story about, anyway? Meg Murry’s father has been missing for months after working on a top secret project for the government. Accompanied by her brother Charles, their neighbor Calvin, and an odd trio of strange old ladies by the names of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, she goes off in a journey to save her father –and later, Charles- from the mysterious but dangerous creature called IT. (Who, no matter how the book described it, I visualized as the Face of Boe)

A Wrinkle in Time was an exciting Science fiction adventure that really rather crossed of a number of genre lines. Although I do caution for a bit of discernment while reading, I personally liked it quite a bit, even if it isn’t one of my favorite books of all time.

Rating: 8
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