Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rise of the Fallen

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Rise of the Fallen
Chuck Black
Multnomah


   A six thousand year war rages and now the demonic Fallen are coming for him—the one man shrouded in mystery. Only Validus stands in their way.


   Validus is the last and least of God’s angels, but he’s seen much across the millennia since his creation. Empires have risen and fallen as angelic and demonic forces battle in a raging war that will determine humanity's fate – and the fate of his defeated brothers.


   Eventually called to be an earth-bound warrior, Validus rises to a position of power and respect, commanding legions of angels through impossible battles and overwhelming odds. But when orders arrive from the Creator's most elite Messenger, he finds himself suddenly demoted to a task of apparent insignificance considering the fierce war they are waging against the demonic Fallen – the covert protection of one unbelieving man. 

   Validus soon finds himself on a mission that will push him beyond his abilities as he battles to protect Drew Carter, for the Fallen are coming for him. Legions of them. 

   As Validus races against time to discover why Drew is so important to humanity's survival, can he stand between Drew and all who would destroy him?


   I fully admit this is not my favorite genre. But since I did read the first book in this series and have enjoyed Chuck Black's Kingdom and Knights of Arrethtrae series, I decided to read Rise of the Fallen. Also, my brother likes this author's books and requested that I get this one. So, what else could I do? ;)

   It was a little strange for me to picture the angels fighting over humanity with guns and weapons, but then again the Bible does say that we're in constant spiritual warfare, so it makes sense. Even so, at the beginning I kind of wished it had focused a little more on Drew, who I was more interested in than Validus. Also, the constant time-jumping was at first annoying because I'd get interested in one plot, and then it'd jump to the next before I was ready.

   However, despite a somewhat rough beginning, I really began to enjoy this book. I got into Validus's story, and Rise of the Fallen isn't so much a sequel to Cloak of Light as it is a companion book of what's happening on the "other side" in Cloak of Light. That might seem a little uninteresting to some (like me ;) but I actually ended up finding it fascinating.

   So, while it took a good few chapters for this book to really pick up speed, for fans of speculative fiction and Chuck Black's other novels, Rise of the Fallen is definitely recommended.

Rating: 7

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Prince of Demargen

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Prince of Demargen
E. Kaiser Writes
Hearth Books

The third in a book series based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen and heavily influenced by Frozen, Prince of Demargen is the story of the disgraced Prince Hess- a character reminiscent of a certain Disney villain.

While I admit I was a little worried with the whole retelling-of-Frozen aspect, it worked in this particular book. After all, most of us who enjoyed the movie were a little curious about Prince Hans's deeper motives and what happened to him afterward. Prince of Demargen blends the movie with the original fairy tale into a backstory/explanation that makes a lot of sense. It's sort of like fanfiction, except that all the names are changed. :)

The first half of this was a little slow, but it really picked up for me in the last half, once the other characters of the previous books were introduced.

There were sometimes the language of the tale didn't quite match up; most of the story was told in flowing, old-fashioned fairy-tale speak, and then suddenly there was a more modern phrase stuck in there that could be a little jarring. Also, I noticed a few technical errors- nothing so major as to distract from the story, but they were still present. Even so, I found this book enjoyable. There were discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which I feel might have been geared toward a younger age group, but I actually ended up getting pretty used to them and they did actually make me think a little more about what I was reading.

This particular book is third in the series, and while I haven't read the previous two stories, I was never lost- probably because I knew what it was based on and so could fill in the gaps. Overall, for fans of fairy tales- and Frozen, especially-  The Prince of Denmargen is definitely of interest.

Rating: 7 1/2

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Lady at Willowgrave Hall

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A Lady at Willowgrave Hall
Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.

Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.

As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.

When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?


I think out of the series, this book might be my favorite. I'm not sure why or if it really is any "better" than the previous books; I might have just been in the right frame of mind to read this one. I did like the characters, especially Cecily, and I think she is probably my favorite heroine in this series. Also, I'm not a really big "mushy romance" kind of person, so I liked that while there was definitely interest between the two characters, it never got too out of hand and was very restrained. This novel also had a lovely message of forgiveness.

This book did move very slowly, though. Not a whole lot actually happened. It was definitely more character-driven than plot-driven. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but there were times the book slowed down to a crawl. Still, it kept my interest and this author's books will probably keep coming up on my to-read list.

objectionable content: Two kisses at the end. The hero finds out he is the illegitimate son of a wealthy man. One of the secondary male characters is a flirt.

Rating: 8

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Catch a Prince

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How to Catch a Prince
Rachel Hauck
Zondervan

Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.

The "Royal Weddings" series isn't what you usually find in contemporary fiction because they are truly modern fairytales. Yes, all spiritual happenings are due solely to God's graciousness, but those miracles are a little out-of-the-ordinary in ways we don't usually see. Sometimes the stories themselves can be a bit unbelievable, but in the fictional world, they're a nice break from the world's realities.

How to Catch a Prince was somewhat heavier than the previous books- it involves the aftermath or war, destruction, and deceit. But even so, if retained something of the magical feel of the other two books and never got quite too sappy for me :)

I'm not sure if I liked this book more than the first book in the series, but I did like it more than the last book Princess Ever After. Overall, this was a fun series that while, not my favorite, was a nice read. And the fact that How to Catch a Prince happened to arrive on Valentine's Day was a fun coincidence.

Rating: 8

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sabotaged

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Sabotaged 
Dani Pettrey
Bethany House

Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now paired together on Yancey's search-and-rescue canine unit, they begin to put aside old arguments as they come to see each other in a different light. Then a call comes in from the Iditarod that will push them to their limits. 

Kirra's uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing. Frank's daughter has been kidnapped. In order to save her, the man must use his knowledge as a mechanical engineer to do the kidnapper's bidding or she will die. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl's life, but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.


I have heard so many good things about these books, so when I saw this title available for review, I selected it quickly...momentarily forgetting that it's the fifth in a series. Basically, I ran up to the library and snatched up all four previous books before reading this one.

While some might think this McKenna family book marathon got me excited about reading Sabotaged, I think the opposite may have happened. Don't get me wrong: the books have their good points. They are suspenseful. But there are a few things that really bothered me and while it wasn't so bad after reading the first book or two, I'm afraid that  after five books all having these same issues, I'm more than a little tired of them.

The first and most prominent problem is the romance. There's just so much physical attraction and awareness of the characters', shall we say, attributes.  I wouldn't go as far as to say that the characters were lustful, it's just...I don't know how to describe it exactly. I could just do less of the character's thoughts about how kissable their love interest's lips look, capisce?

Sabotaged, like the other books in this series, was decently written in the fact that the characters did have some dimension and the story built tension. That being said, the writing itself didn't blow me away, and if it hadn't been for the snappy pace, it wouldn't have kept my attention for as long as it did.

So while I admit part of the reason I didn't enjoy Sabotaged is due to my personal preference in reading material, a lot of it might have been because I just didn't find that it lived up to the hype. I found this entire series to be "meh" at best, although I know  that many, many people have enjoyed these books. I just wasn't really one of them.

Rating: 6

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Novel Interiors

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Novel Interiors 
Lisa Borgnes Giramonti
Potter Style

For those who have ever lost themselves in the stylish worlds of novels like Sense and Sensibility, The Age of Innocence, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and countless others, this design book embraces the fantasy of time and place, showing you how to bring some of those elements into your own home.

Lisa Giramonti inspires a new approach to decorating: by teaching us through the lens of worlds we may already know and love. With gorgeous photographs by World of Interiors photographer Ivan Terestchenko, aspirational quotes, and tailored reading lists, Novel Interiors reveals the essence and details of interiors mentioned in great literary works. This is a stunning, photo-driven book that shares enchanting and timeless ways to live more elegantly.

   The premise for this book was promising. Unfortunately, the execution of the idea was passable at best.

   Don't get me wrong; the pictures were well-done and I even liked many of the tips that author gave. But the actual interior designs were just...eh. They weren't so off that you couldn't see how they might remind you of a certain genre of novel, but it wasn't what I was hoping for.

   I wanted a "Sense and Sensibility" room. A "Great Gatsby" room. A room completely inspired by a Charles Dickens book. Instead I got rooms that weren't hideous, but weren't amazing. They were just rooms- some appealing, some not so much- that the author tried to make seem novel-ish. A few of them were downright unattractive, but many of them were just shrug-worthy- not terrible, but not breathtaking, either.

   My favorite chapters were probably the first two; they reminded me of the types of books that they were supposed to, even if they didn't go quite as far in that direction as I wanted them to. The later chapters were not very much like my decorating style at all, and it was hard for me to appreciate them.

   Overall, this book has one or two things to recommend it, but not enough where I'd suggest you'd pay $35 for it.

Rating: 5

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


Bellfield Hall

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Bellfield Hall
Anna Dean
Minotaur Books

1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard's shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance. It's going to take a lot of logical thinking to untangle the complex threads of this multi-layered mystery, and Miss Dido Kent is just the woman to do it.

I hadn't heard anything about this book series until Goodreads showed it to me (that's beginning to be the story of my reading life, haha) but, while it was a "secular" adult book- something I usually avoid simply because I don't like a lot of "content" in my novels-  there wasn't anything in the reviews I saw to raise any red flags, so I decided to try it.

What a delightfully written book! It was interesting- with a solid mystery I didn't solve beforehand- and while there were many of the topics mentioned in other murder mysteries (violence, adultery, ect.) it was all handled with the tact and delicacy of a true Regency lady, even if many of these themes were prominent. There were times I worried that it would delve into more sordid topics, but it never did. I probably wouldn't recommend this book to younger readers, but I personally did not find the content too offensive.

Dido Kent herself was an intensely likable character; one I could root for and relate to. Not only was she intelligent (but not more than believably so) but she had a good set of morals and earned my respect. I also appreciated that she kept to her times; while certainly a bit different from those around her, she still felt like she came from the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first.

Overall, I really enjoyed Bellfield Hall, and I'm sure I shall be seeing more of Miss Dido Kent in the future.

Rating: 9

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Sweetest Thing

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The Sweetest Thing
Elizabeth Musser
Bethany House Publishers

Anne "Perri" Singleton's world is defined by the security of family, the camaraderie of friends at an exclusive Atlanta girls' school, and an enviable social life. She isn't looking for new friends when Mary Dobbs Dillard arrives from Chicago. Besides, "Dobbs," the passionate and fiercely individualistic daughter of an itinerant minister, is her opposite in every way.

But just as the Great Depression collides disastrously with Perri's well-ordered life, friendship blossoms--a friendship that will be tested by jealousy, betrayal, and family secrets....

With her endearing characters and poignant storytelling, Atlanta native Elizabeth Musser vividly re-creates the charm of her beloved city amid the poverty and plenty that shaped the 1930s.


I'd seen this book advertised around Christian fiction circles back when it first came out, but it didn't really capture my attention until recently, when a few Goodreads friends recommend it to me and I saw the praise-filled reviews it had gotten.

The Sweetest Thing was intriguing and well-written, with an engaging plot and a strong Christian message.However, while I did really enjoy this book, it wasn't a favorite for reasons that are difficult to explain. I find that books have certain "moods" that evoke different feelings for me, and this one -like many books that take place during this particular time period- didn't really affect me emotionally in the way that I wanted it to. I also could have done with a little less of the dating bits (although the romance certainly wasn't a main part of the plot). Overall though, the main reason I didn't adore this book was simply because of a vague personal preference I can't really describe.

That being said, I couldn't help but be impressed by the writing style and the substance of this book, which was so much more than what you find in most modern Christian novels. And considering that I don't normally "go" for this type of book in general, it's a testament to the author's skills that I liked this book as much as I did.

While I would recommend this to older readers due to a disturbing event that happens in the beginning of the book as well as some more "heavier" issues later in the story, this is one book you won't want to miss if you're a fan of historical fiction.

Rating: 9

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Paper Hearts

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Paper Hearts
Courtney Walsh
Tyndale

Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she's poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park's tradition of stamping mail with the city's romantic postmark.When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn't come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail's new landlord, and he's threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail's doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

I'm not usually a fan of contemporary romance, but something about this cover attracted me (I think it was the colors), and I have been in a bit of a "chick flick" mood lately, so reading a book equivalent to that was kind of appealing to me at the moment. :)

I'm coming to the conclusion that all chick lit books remind me of Hallmark Channel movies. This one wasn't really as cheesy as I was expecting- it went deeper that I thought it would be- but it still had that "feel." It was a little reminiscent of You've Got Mail, as well. In fact, for the first half of the book I was really enjoying it. (also, there were two characters named Cecily and Gwen- The Importance of Being Earnest, anybody???)

By saying that I enjoyed the first half I'm not implying that the book spiraled downhill at the end or anything. It's just that I felt like it got too long; instead of falling in love with the characters the more I got to know them, I started to get a little tired of them. The whole "do-I-like-you-or-do-I-hate-you" thing felt like it was dragged out and I grew extremely frustrated with the way the male lead let a certain character completely run his life and trample over him. A few bits seemed a little inconsistent in regards to the characters, and while this book started off as a pleasant, perfect Valentine's Day read, I was tired of it by the time it was over.

It wasn't a bad book, and it took me a little while to be coherent with my reasons why I didn't like this book at the end as much as I liked it in the beginning. I'm sure many will enjoy it and it was charming. While it wasn't my favorite, if you're a fan of Christian romance, this is one you'll probably want to put on your list.

objectionable content: there is one kissing scene and *SPOILER* mention of a character who committed suicide*END OF SPOILER*

Rating: 7

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