Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Word Changers

The Word Changers

The Word Changers
Ashlee Willis
Conquest Publishers

Her parents’ marriage is falling apart. Fifteen-year-old Posy feels her life is falling apart with it. Retreating to an old library down the street, she selects a mysterious book in a secluded corner and is magically drawn into its story...

Posy finds herself in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and manipulative king and queen who have attempted to usurp the role that belongs only to the Author of their story. The princess has fled and the kingdom is teetering toward rebellion. Posy is joined by the Prince Kyran as they fight with the characters of the story against their slavery to the Plot.

Posy and the prince search beyond the borders of the story for the runaway princess. They visit mysterious places, face horrifying monsters, and fight fierce battles. They make both friends and enemies as their journey leads them into many dangers. But some of the worst dangers, Posy soon finds, lie deep within her own heart. 

Now Posy must find the courage and forgiveness needed to save the story and, most important, heal the heartache she knew in her own world.

The plot was original and fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like it, and I really enjoyed it. This book had many intriguing characters- ones whose goals and ambitions were often a mystery. Who was trustworthy, and who wasn’t? I’ve read other books like this where that plot device was annoying, but it was handled well here and I really liked it.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the romance, since it involved a few kisses and seemed almost out of place in regards to everything in the rest of the book.

Still, overall, this was one I enjoyed much more than I was expecting to! It had a lot of different types of characters -owls, mermaids, centaurs- and normally that type of fantasy can confuse me, but this book was easy for me to read, and that’s something I definitely appreciated! Recommended to anyone who’s looking for a clean fantasy book with allegorical meanings.

Rating: 8


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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Annie's Stories

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Annie's Stories
Cindy Thomson
Tyndale

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.
But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.
Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

I reviewed the first book in this series awhile ago, and while I did enjoy aspects of it, I had a hard time relating to the main character. The same thing happened in Annie's Stories...and for nearly all the same reasons. At first, I really hoped that I'd like Annie; she'd had a hard life and I wanted to root for her. But she seemed so sure that no one could understand her because they hadn't been through what she had, and she was so distrustful of men. It's not that she didn't have reason too, really, but it really started to annoy me the way she'd jump to conclusions about people. Then again, I've read some other reviews of the book and no one else seemed to have the same problem I did, so maybe I'm alone in my opinions.

I liked Stephen, though- even if he did make a few really foolish decisions.  But he had a good heart, and I loved the whole "whistling postman" aspect of the story.

I wouldn't recommend this to younger readers, though- Annie had lived in a terribly abusive, disturbing "charity" home, and then later they find a young girl who'd been raped. Nothing graphic, and the content was handled tactfully, but it still isn't a subject I'd be comfortable handing to younger readers.

Overall, I guess I enjoyed most of the first half of the book; it just struggled to keep my interest in the last half. Still, I've read some glowing reviews of this one, so even if Annie's Stories wasn't for me, I'm sure many readers of historical fiction will want to check it out.

Rating: 7

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Murder at the Mikado


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Murder at the Mikado
Julianna Deering
Bethany House

 Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect. 

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet


I love the “feel” of this series. The books themselves aren’t faultless, of course, but there’s something so fun about the whole setting. Drew and Madeline and Nick are a fun group to be around, and I always enjoy traipsing off with them on an adventure.

Now the thing about mysteries is that they can be rather messy; Murder at the Mikado included. Obviously, murder is not the most moral of occupations, and neither are the many other pursuits murders tend to engage in- adultery, thievery, lying, etc. It wasn’t a book I’d recommend for younger readers because of these reasons (although it was never explicit) but for older readers I definitely think it would be okay, as these things are certainly never shown in a positive light. (although it seemed to me that Murder at the Mikado had more of this than the previous books)

As far as the characters go, Madeline did annoy me at times, and Nick didn’t seem to be in it as much as the other books. However, the mystery was good and though I had suspicions about characters, I didn’t know who did it until it was revealed. Overall, I have enjoyed this series a lot. It’s a lot different than most of stuff in the Christian fiction market, and so if only for that, I’d recommend checking them out for a different reading experience!

Rating: 8


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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sincerely Yours

18059986

Sincerely Yours
Laurie Alice Eakes, Ann Shorey, Amanda Cabot and Jane Kirkpatrick.
Revell

From my earlier rant on novellas you’d think I’d stay away from them…alas, I can be somewhat of a hypocrite at times. But it’s not novellas or short stories themselves I have a problem with; it’s just that if they’re not done well I get easily annoyed with them. But when I saw this anthology, I was attracted to the lovely cover…and pretty covers are defintely my downfall. Not to mention, after reading some very large, thick classics, I needed an easy read. 

The first story, A Moonlight Promise (by Laurie Alice Eakes) was a whirlwind romance aboard a riverboat-neither my favorite plot nor setting, I'll admit. There was some typical romantic daydreaming that I always get impatient with, and I found it about average in regard to its quality, but it was passable. 

The second, Lessons in Love (by Ann Shorey), was my favorite- instead of being border-line annoyed by the romantic relationship, I actually really enjoyed it! The plotline might have been a bit far-fetched, but it was cute (although there was a lot of deception involved, which I had mixed feelings about). It was sweet, and I liked the characters- and I also loved the fact that unlike the other stories, the hero and heroine knew each other before hand, so it was really the only story where the romance didn't feel rushed. I’d never read anything by Ann Shorey before, but I’d definitely be willing to try some her books now. Out of the four stories, this one would be the only I'd consider re-reading. 

One Little Word (by Amanda Cabot) was the third story; it was about on the same level for me as A Moonlight Promise. I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters’ romantic relationship, but the carousel aspect was fun and interesting.

The last story was A Saving Grace (by Jane Kirkpatrick). Some of the writing near the beginning of the story didn’t quite jive with me and seemed a little awkward; however it evened out over the course of the book. I liked the fact that the main focus of the story wasn’t on romance. Still, this particular story was really stressful for me and lot more serious than the others.The things they were doing in that sanatorium made me so mad!! It was hard for me to get through.

Overall, Sincerely Yours, though not an astonishing piece of literature, was much better than a lot of short story collections that I’ve tried reading. Truthfully, there was really only one story I would say I really liked, but the others weren’t bad.

Individual Ratings: A Moonlight Promise – 5 ½ Lessons in Love- 8 One Little Word– 5 ½ A Saving Grace- 6

Overall Rating: 6 ½


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

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Place in His Heart

18637161

A Place in His Heart
Rebecca DeMarino
Revell

Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons. And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.

This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino’s own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life–and a legacy–in the New World.

Judging from the cover and title, I admit I was expecting a full-out romance from this book. In fact, the main reason I got it was because I learned the story was supposed to be based on the author's real-life ancestors, and that was just too cool to pass up reading, if you ask me. So I was more willing than usual to take a chance on reading a romance in this case (and I also don't find too many books that take place during this era, either)

Well, the thing I was most surprised about was how little romance there was- surprising considering that the characters get married very early in the book and a lot of authors would use that as an excuse to push the envelope when it came to sensual content in a novel. Aside from a few kisses (and the heroine struggling with the fact that she can't seem to get pregnant) there wasn't really much that might bother sensitive readers. So that was a nice surprise. That being said, there were some things about this book that didn't hit all the right notes for me- first of all, I wasn't expecting time to go by so fast! In one chapter we had the characters' wedding, and then the next chapter took place over a year later. There were a few (longer) skips like that, which didn't bother me once I got used to it, but it was unexpected. There were some sweet scenes (especially with Mary's relationship with her stepsons- probably my favorite parts of the book) and Mary herself was such a nice, motherly character that I really liked her. I did have a hard time liking Barnabas, though. I understood he had a lot of things that caused him to struggle, but sometimes I wanted to knock him over the head for not grasping how much Mary loved him and what a wonderful woman she was!

Even if I didn't always find A Place in His Heart a stunning debut, it was a pleasant read and recommended for fans of the era as well as those who enjoy historical fiction in general.

Rating: 7

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

And author Rebecca DeMarino is also hosting a wonderful giveaway! I suggest you check it out here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Blades of Valor

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Blades of Valor
Sigmund Brouwer
Waterbrook 

Thomas is finally in the Holy Land and reunited with Sir William, but is forced to travel on his own from the coast through Nazareth, and finally to Jerusalem. The road is a dangerous one—especially to a lone traveler. Bandits masquerade as slaves, traitors appear to be allies, and once again, Thomas doesn’t know whom to trust. He must rely on his own resources to discern friend from foe, and to finally discover the final key to the Druids' master plan before returning home to expose them. 

Back in England, a final storm is brewing against Thomas, for the Druids are much more powerful than the Orphan King can even imagine

So these books have always been facepalm-and-stress-inducing because they’re always wavering back and forth with, “this is a bad guy…no wait, he’s a good guy. Nope, he must be a bad guy, yeah we’re all sure he’s a bad guy…oops. Nevermind. He’s good.” Please, someone just TRUST someone, okay!

I kind of have mixed feelings in general on the series anyway; I got the first two books on a whim, and then after that I figured I should just finish the series. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the books at all; I have. But characters had a habit of driving me crazy. Because there was so much deception and not knowing who to trust, I either felt lost, or angry at everybody. However, there were times when it worked well: like a game of chess, one side thought they had won only to fall to the other side’s plans.

Still, I did want to know what would happen with all the characters and while I feel like a lot of the story was really drawn-out, it lived up to the previous books. So, if you enjoyed the other books, I'm sure you'll want to check this one out.

Rating: 7


I received an ebook copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Full Steam Ahead

18652058

Full Steam Ahead
Karen Whitemeyer
Bethany House

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

I really wanted to love these characters- I mean, an eccentric scientist and a dagger-wielding mathmetician? What's not to love? But too often I felt like the author was just telling me what happened rather than showing me. I mean, it was mentioned several times that Darius was eccentric, but I wanted examples. You shouldn't have to tell me. Let his actions get that message across. This happened so often in the book that I noticed.

Also, there were *cough, cough* more kisses than I was really comfortable with. There was also a lot of- how do I put this- longing for physical touch? I skimmed/skipped a lot of that, and it took up a lot much more of the book than I was expecting.

The thing is, even though I normally really enjoy Karen Witemeyer's books, I don't neccessarily think her writing in Full Steam Ahead is different from her other books; its just that her other books -like Short-Straw Bride or Stealing the Preacher- are really comedic and slightly ridiculous (in a good way) and so you end up having a lot of fun. This book- while it did have parts I enjoyed- just fell a little flat for me. It didn't have the redeeming spark that her other books did.

However, that being said, there parts to this book that I liked. I just found Full Steam Ahead  a bit weaker than many of the author's previous books.

Rating: 7

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