Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Soul of The Rose

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The Soul of the Rose
Ruth Trippy
Abingdon Press

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?

If you're looking for action, adventure, and mysterious plot twists, then The Soul of the Rose probably won't be what you're looking for. A fairly simple, straightforward love story, it nevertheless enveloped me in its quiet but interesting world, introducing me to characters I really did care about.

What I loved most about this book was that it focused more on the "heart connection" between the two characters, rather than sensual desire. Celia really seemed to care about keeping God in her relationships (there are so many "Christian" romances where it seems like all that's to the romantic relationship is the characters desiring each other physically and barely keeping themselves under control because of their religious beliefs) and I really liked the apologetics aspect to the book as well. There are certain common Biblical themes that are rehashed in a lot of Christian fiction, but this particular theme was different, and it was so refreshing to read a novel where I agreed with nearly everything theologically.

Even though The Soul of The Rose was a bit more, shall we say, intellectual, than most romances. it also had heart and emotion- a fitting combination, given the main point of the story- that we should know God not only with our heads, but with our hearts as well.

Rating: 9

Friday, January 17, 2014

Butterfly Palace

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Butterfly Palace
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson

Lilly secures a job as lady's maid in a grand manor in Austin, Texas. But even far from home, her past lurks around every corner.

When Lilly Donnelly arrives at the Cutlers' famed Butterfly Mansion in 1899, the massive house and unfamiliar duties threaten to overwhelm her. Victorian Austin is lavish, highly political, and intimidating, but with the help of the other servants, Lilly resolves to prove herself to her new employers.

Then, while serving at an elegant dinner party, Lilly recognizes one distinguished guest as Andrew, the love of her life, who abandoned her without a word back home. He seems to have assumed a new identity and refuses to acknowledge her, leaving her confused and reeling.

Before Lilly can absorb this unwelcome news, she's attacked. Could it be the sinister Servant Girl Killer who has been terrorizing Austin? Or is it someone after something more personal--someone from her past?

Does she dare trust Andrew to help or is he part of the danger threatening to draw Lilly into its vortex?


Though I did find the mystery interesting and well-plotted - it took a variety of twists and turns that I honestly didn't see coming- there were a few things that did bother me. It was mostly the romance between Lilly and Drew; it is stated that in their past they did not keep their relationship pure, and although by the time they meet again both of them regret their past mistakes, there's still an awful lot of kissing involved. (The uncomfortable, mushy kind) I didn't find it difficult to skip those parts, and there was certainly more to the story than that. But still, it was a disappointment.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was Lilly's mistress, Belle, who starts out as an incredibly dislikable character...until later in the book when she begins to change. Normally characters like that don't change and are just the one-dimensional, spoiled and annoying rich girls who exist only to make life harder for the heroine, and though Belle started out that way, by the end of the book she was one of my favorite characters because she was interesting.

In the end, though I wasn't amazed with this book, and found some of the content that continued to pop up rather annoying, I do give it points for having a detailed mystery and few intriguing characters.

Rating: 6

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

South Carolina Brides


South Carolina Brides
Vickie McDonough
Barbour Books

After tackling quite a few classics, I was ready for a light read, so a set of novellas sounded good to me. Though the last novella collection I read was a disappointment, this collection is a set of books previously published by Heartsong Presents, which I enjoyed a lot when I was just beginning to read Christian fiction. And since these were all set in my home state, I thought it would be a nice change.


Out of the three stories, the last was probably my favorite. All the same, I didn’t find any of them particularly memorable. 

As I read South Carolina Brides, I think I discovered the main problem I have with romance novellas is that they try to fit all the elements of a full-length romance into a short amount of pages; it just very rarely works. Halfway through the novella the characters will be declaring their love and I’m just like, “Guys, you literally met the day before- this isn’t a Disney movie, all right!” In fact, some of the time the characters in a Disney movie have more of a basis to their relationship than the characters in some of these novellas! If the characters finally realized they loved each other at the end of the novella, or even if the story was about two people who already liked each other who now had to face a challenge- maybe that would work. But most novellas seem a little like a fun-sized candy bar; a shot of mushy romance to satisfy feminine emotions and desires where the relationship consists of mostly kissing and contrived romantic situations because there’s not enough space in the book to write anything else in regards to their relationship. The character development languishes in a frustrating way while the author tries to fit a bad guy, kidnapping, disapproving relatives, romantic trysts, and some sort of Christian message all in 100 pages. Just pick one or two of those things, please, and you’d be on to something. But doing it all at once just doesn’t work.

I know: it sounds really mean and harsh, but no matter how good of a writer an author may be, I’m always left disappointed when reading these novellas. I liked them a lot when I was younger, so maybe as time has gone on I’ve (hopefully) raised my bar of expectation in my reading material. As a fraction of a whole, South Carolina Brides wasn’t any better or worse than any other novella collection I’ve read. (and I personally apologize to the author of this collection for using South Carolina Brides as my starting point for this rant-like review of novellas in general) I can’t say I’m completely done with novella collections, as I admit Barbour’s The British Brides Collection caught my eye (this one being a much larger collection of stories by a variety of authors) so I’m still hopeful. But unfortunately, South Carolina Brides didn’t break out of the sappy/dime-novel-feel mold this genre seems shackled to.

Rating: 5


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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Headmistress of Rosemere (Guest Post By Emily)


The Headmistress of Rosemere
Whispers on the Moors, Book 2
Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Patience Creighton has devoted her life to running her father's boarding school. But when the enigmatic master of the estate appears at her door, battered and unconscious, the young headmistress suddenly finds her livelihood- and her heart- in the hands of one dangerously hansom gentleman.

At twenty-five, Patience Creighton is already a spinster. The busy headmistress of Rosemere always expected a dashing man to sweep her off her feet and take her away... but that man never came. And since her father's death, keeping the school running and her mother happy has been plenty to keep her occupied.
William Sterling dallied her way into financial trouble and mortal danger. When he is assaulted by his creditors' henchmen on the road home from a tavern, he guides his horse to the doorstep of his tenant, the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. After being tendedto by Patience, the wounded William rides off into the dawn- but makes a point to learn more about the lovely headmistress.
As he spends more time at Rosemere, something delicate begins to develop between William and Patience. But that will not deter William's creditors. With little money to repay his debts, and less for the upkeep of his estate, it becomes clear that sacrificing Rosemere may be the only way to preserve his legacy. But it may also cost him his happiness.

The Headmistress of Rosemere was well written and enjoyable. However, the main plot reminded me a lot of The Heiress of Winterwood (the first book in the series), though I think I liked Rosemere better than Winterwood. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was only one kiss in the entirety of the book. It was a romance without a lot of mushiness, which can be hard to find. Though I enjoyed The Headmistress of Rosemere, it didn't particularly stand out among so many other historical Christian romance novels. It's one of the better historical Christian romance books, to be sure, but I wouldn't consider it a favorite of mine. 

Objectionable Content: You learn that William has quite an immoral past, but luckily it doesn't go into more detail than necessary to the plot. 

Rating 7 1/2

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cinder

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Cinder
The Lunar Chronicles, Book 1
Marissa Meyer
MacTeen Books

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future

I’ve seen this book around a lot lately, but I doubt I would have picked it up had it not been for the fact that my last library trip was a bit of a bust and I only got one book; being a little desperate for more than that I picked Cinder up at the last minute- and I’m very glad I did! The story of Cinderella has been retold so many times that it really is hard to find a retelling that’s original. But Cinder was just that- a quirky sci-fi retelling that involved androids, cyborgs, and people living on the moon!

This is a book you’ll probably either love or hate- unlike the other Cinderella retelling I recently reviewed, The Captive Maiden, which was more traditional and girly, Cinder was definitely science fiction. It was grittier and more modern, but still felt like Cinderella. Keep in mind that it doesn’t end with a happily ever after, but on a cliffhanger- leaving you hungry for more. I’m looking forward to reading more of the Lunar Chronicles (I think the third book, Cress, sounds especially interesting, it being a retelling of Rapunzel). Again, this book won’t be for everyone, but I personally enjoyed it quite a bit.

Objectionable content: a few little things here and there; the worst of it being about five uses of the words H*** and D*** There is a kiss. I would recommend this for 15+


Rating: 8 ½ 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Luminary


Luminary
Krista McGee
Thomas Nelson

Thalli thought escaping to the surface would mean freedom. But is she any less of an anomaly aboveground?
After escaping an underground annihilation chamber, Thalli, Berk, Rhen, and John find themselves fleeing across the former United States, aboveground for the first time. As the defectors cross the forgotten landscape, the three youths see things they had only read about on screens: horses, rain, real books—and a colony of unsanctioned survivors living the ancient way in a town called New Hope.
When these survivors reveal the truth of what happened years ago, Thalli is left unsettled and skeptical of everything she’s ever been told. Can she trust anything from the State, including her own feelings for Berk? When she volunteers for a peace mission to New Hope’s violent neighbor, Athens, her confusion mounts when the supposedly ruthless Prince Alex turns out to be kind and charming. Although everyone in New Hope warned her not to, she can’t help but fall for him.
Meanwhile, John’s unwavering faith in the goodness of the Designer begins to make its mark on Thalli’s heart. But can Thalli really come to trust in a generous, protective Designer who rules over all things? Would that not be setting herself up for another betrayal?
The time for her to decide is now . . . because the State is closing in.
This book was, at the beginning, a little slow for me: I found Thalli rather unlikable and the other characters seemed a little dull. However, after the first few chapters, the story really picked up (and I began to like Thalli again). It was very different in tone than the previous book, but it fit this story. It felt reminiscent of some instances in the Old Testament in the books of Judges and 1&2 Kings.

The one thing I didn't like was the beginnings of a love triangle. Nooooo, I felt like screaming, Luke-Skywalker-like. What is it with YA fiction and love triangles? However, though I didn't care for that aspect of the book, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story so much that it ruined it for me. I liked the way the Luminary gave closure to the main conflict of its story but still ended on a cliffhanger. I'm definitely curious for the next book, Revolutionary, and can't wait until it comes out this summer!

Rating: 8 1/2

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