Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Conspiracy of Silence

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Conspiracy of Silence
Ronie Kendig
Bethany House Publishers

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed at an archaeological dig where three Bronze-era censers are found, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist and an FBI agent who’s an expert in deception, Tox and his team are pitted against a secret society, a plague dubbed the New Black Death, and a revered codex—which may hold the key to stopping the deadly outbreak.

     Though I've heard some really, really good things about Ronie Kendig from friends, I never tried any of her books simply because, judging from the covers, I didn't think they'd be my cup of tea. But then I read the synopsis for this one and was intrigued. Archaeology and ancient diseases? Two of my favorite things! (Okay, only one of those is a favorite thing. I'll let you wonder which.)

     At any rate, I took this book hoping for an Indiana-Jones-like adventure. When I started though, I was a bit confused- something about it seemed much more like a second book in a series than the first. I searched, and there is a free prequel novella (Titled The Warrior's Seal) available. I HIGHLY recommend picking that book up if you're going to read Conspiracy of Silence. It gave quite a bit of needed backstory, and hey: it is free. So after finishing that, I picked up this book again.

     The thing about Conspiracy of Silence is that I would have enjoyed it about 100x more if it had been set...well, a hundred or so years ago. I just don't find adventure filled with modern technology and politics as interesting; it seems (for me anyway) to hinder plot possibilities. Also, it has a lot of military action in it--again, I'm fine with military stuff....if we're talking about, y'know, the Crusades or David's mighty men. And the thing was, this book had mention of things like that. But I couldn't help wishing that's what the story was, rather than the present-day plot. I want to stress that this is totally my own personal preference...I thought the story was fast-paced and exciting, if at times a bit confusing. But I just wasn't as interested in it as I otherwise would have been.

     So in other words...this was a good book, but it wasn't a good book for me. However, I'm sure fans of this author will find a lot to love in Conspiracy of Silence.

Rating: 7

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ain't We Got Fun

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Ain't We Got Fun
Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke
The White Rose Press

It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?

     Oh guys, this book was so adorable! I loved that the format was all letters, and honestly...I loved the romance (Tom was my favorite). The whole book was cozy and homey, the characters were winsome, and my only big complaint was that I wanted it to go on longer. It's really a perfect cozy read that brought me back to my childhood reading the Kit Kitteridge books, and I couldn't put it down. Absolutely charming.

Rating: 9

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NIV Journal the Word Bible


NIV Journal the Word Bible

     I had been admiring the journaling Bibles in my local Books-A-Million not that long ago, and I thought the idea was neat. It seemed like a worthwhile keepsake, not only to remind you of what God has done throughout your life, but also for maybe your children and grandchildren to one day see. This edition has a lovely cover and is well-made, even if the NIV isn't my preferred translation (but it was the only one available for review, so that was that- although there are other versions available if you want). Also, I wish there wasn't any wording on the side or that it simply said "Holy Bible:" the "NIV Journal the Word" logo seems a little commercial for my taste. However, the inside is great, although the print is small. There are  lines for writing, but they are faint enough so that you could draw of doodle along the sides if you wanted to, as well.

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

French Country Cooking

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French Country Cooking
Mimi Thorisson
Clarkson Potter

A captivating journey to off-the-beaten-path French wine country with 100 simple yet exquisite recipes, 150 sumptuous photographs, and stories inspired by life in a small village

Readers everywhere fell in love with Mimi Thorisson, her family, and their band of smooth fox terriers through her blog, Manger, and debut cookbook, A Kitchen in France. In French Country Cooking, the family moves to an abandoned old château in Médoc. While shopping for local ingredients, cooking, and renovating the house, Mimi meets the farmers and artisans who populate the village and learns about the former owner of the house, an accomplished local cook. Here are recipes inspired by this eccentric cast of characters, including White Asparagus Soufflé, Wine Harvest Pot au Feu, Endives with Ham, and Salted Butter Chocolate Cake. Featuring evocative photographs taken by Mimi’s husband, Oddur Thorisson, this cookbook is a charming jaunt to an untouched corner of France that has thus far eluded the spotlight.

     It's been a little while since I've gotten a cookbook for review, and I'm really glad I chose this one! I had not heard of Mimi Thorisson or her blog before, but I was definitely pleased with this cookbook, and I'd love to check out her previous one, A Kitchen in France.

     There are so many good recipes in here- I was especially enticed by the soups, and anything with lots of onions. Somehow, even the dishes that I know I wouldn't like looked appetizing...I think I might even be willing to try the asparagus dishes, honestly (and I hate asparagus).

     It also was memoir-like, as the author described how her large family came to own their current home and started their restaurant, which I liked. Some of it was a little...iffy, since the history of the house involved a man and his mistress. (And while all of her neighbors and friends sound interesting, there was a tiny bit of language). But the feel of the book was charming, and pleasantly French.

     But overall, this is one of my favorite cookbooks. Not only do the recipes look delicious, but they are also inspiring--making me want to get out my pots and pans and cook something new.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Shattered Vigil

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The Shattered Vigil
Patrick W. Carr
Bethany House Publishers

Victory over the dark forces during the feast of Bas-solas should have guaranteed safety for the continent. Instead, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover they've been outsmarted by those seeking to unleash the evil that inhabits the Darkwater. Jorgen, the member of the Vigil assigned to Frayel, has gone missing, and new attacks have struck at the six kingdoms' ability to defend themselves.

Just when the Vigil thought they had quenched the menace from their enemy in Collum, a new threat emerges: assassins hunting the Vigil, men and women who cannot be seen until it's too late. The orders of the church and the rulers of the kingdoms, fearing the loss of the Vigil's members altogether, have decided to take them into protective custody to safeguard their gift. On Pellin's orders, the Vigil scatters, leaving Willet to be taken prisoner by the church in Bunard. 
In the midst of this, Willet learns of the murder of an obscure nobleman's daughter by one of the unseen assassins. Now he must escape his imprisonment and brave the wrath of the church to find the killer in order to turn back this latest threat to the northern continent.

     The awful thing about reading books in a series when they first come out is that you have to wait months to read the next book. When that happens, you're liable to forget things, and that can be frustrating.  It took me several chapters to fully get back into the plot of the story, especially since I didn't have access to the first book to get a refresher. There were several things I liked about this book (like the invisible assassins and the street urchins) but it was still slow going for me. (also, there were some disturbing scenes that would not be suitable for younger readers) It was a very long book, and rather dense. Readers a bit more used to fantasy books than I might find it less exhausting than I did, though! And though it wasn't a favorite for me, I do want to read the next book in this series when it comes out--especially because of that ending!

Rating: 7

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Silent Songbird


The Silent Songbird
Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson

Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal—until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

     This was a book I was both really looking forward to...and not looking forward to. Being that it's a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and Ms. Dickerson's books are usually based on the Disney version (which I don't normally mind) I was afraid that the main character might retain much of the Disney character's rebelliousness, which I don't care for. On the other hand, my all-time favorite Melanie Dickerson book is The Merchant's Daughter, and The Silent Songbird is the sequel to that one.

     When I began, I admit my fears seemed to have some foundation. I had sympathy for Evangeline's plight, but I still didn't particularly like her attitude and her character at times annoyed me. However, as the book continued on I felt it got better and I enjoyed seeing more of Westley's parents...the two main characters from The Merchant's Daughter. Though the fairytale elements in this retelling weren't quite as immediately recognizable as in the author's other books, it did contain a lot of plot points taken from the fairy tale, and it had some nice history woven into it. My favorite character was probably Reeve Folsham, as I found his relationship with Evangeline funny and rather sweet.

Rating: 7

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Snow Queen

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The Snow Queen
Written by Hans Christian Andersen,  Illustrated by Snna Annukka
Ten Speed Press

     Here's a confession: I've never like the original story of The Snow Queen. I grew up on Andersen's fairy tales and I always favored The Princess and the Pea, The Wild Swans, and even, occasionally, The Little Mermaid. The Snow Queen never captured my attention, and I always found it slightly bizarre. (Probably not helped by the fact that my childhood edition had rather ugly illustrations). But in recent years, though I still wouldn't name it as a favorite, I've come to appreciate many of its themes and imagery.

     However, for this edition, the illustrations and binding itself is what I'm truly reviewing. I'm always on the lookout for expanding my hardcover book collection, and this copy, with its clothbound cover, caught my attention, The size of it is a little awkward for a hardcover, and I have mixed feelings on the illustrations. Some of them are quite nice and Scandinavian, but there's also something about the volume that reminds me (not in a good way) of old 1970s books we have lying around the house. That probably won't bother a lot of people; it more of a matter of taste. However, it's a nice winter read, and is, for all my complaining, somewhat nostalgic.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

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Shadow of the Storm
Connilynn Cossette
Bethany House Publishers

In the Depth of the Storm's Shadow, Only Truth Can Light Her Way 

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira's gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

     Oh, this book was hard to read but in the end, very beautiful. I liked Counted With the Stars, but I felt that Shadow of the Storm was actually better written- the Biblical elements were woven in very well, and despite all of the (oftentimes frustrating) immorality of the people, I never felt that it got too overwhelming. The story was interesting, and I got sucked into it quickly. While even the "good" characters were not immune to temptation and sin, they were redeemable, and I thought it was a good picture of the story of the Israelites we know from the Bible.

     I'm also really excited about the next book (which, by the way, now has a gorgeous cover just like the other two books!) and can't wait to read more from Connilynn Cossette- and I do hope she continues to write Biblical fiction.

note: due to subject matter (rape, marital infidelity, idol-worshiping, etc.), I wouldn't recommend this one to younger readers.

Rating: 8 1/2

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


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Another Day, Another Dali

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Another Day, Another Dali
Sandra Orchard
Revell

A Fast-Paced, Keep-You-Guessing Whodunit with a Dash of Romance 
When a valuable Salvador Dali painting belonging to her grandmother's friend is mysteriously replaced by a forgery, FBI Special Agent Serena Jones is called in to investigate. Serena hopes finding the thief will also mean finally measuring up to Nana's expectations. But when the evidence points to members of the owner's own household, it becomes increasingly clear that Serena won't be winning any popularity contests. 
The Dali isn't the only painting that's fallen prey to the forgery-replacing thief, raising the specter of a sophisticated theft ring--one with links to dirty cops, an aspiring young artist, and the unsolved murder of Serena's grandfather. 
With plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments, "Another Day, Another Dali" gives the plucky Serena Jones--and readers--a new high-stakes case to crack.

     Having read the first book in Sandra Orchard's art-driven mystery series, I decided to give the next book a try. As it is with for me with many books that are in a series, it took me a couple of chapters to get back in the groove of its characters and plot (reminding myself who everyone was and what had last happened) but I soon settled right back into it. What I like about this series is, of course, the art. (plus, Another Day, Another Dali referenced one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies: fittingly, How to Steal a Million.) I still find the romance vexing (I just really don't like love triangles) and I didn't like it quite as much as the first book, but overall it's a pleasant read with a wide variety of characters and some good humor.

Rating: 7

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Five Magic Spindles

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Five Magic Spindles
Rachel Kovaciny, Kathryn McConaughy, Grace Mullins, Michelle Pennington, and Ashley Stangl
Rooglewood Press

Awaken the Magic!

Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can't prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.

Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest.

Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day.

Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all.

Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn’t need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life.

One way or another, these beauties have no intention of sleeping away their problems.

     I've finally gotten my hands on this collection, and it was just as good as I had hoped. Each story is vastly different, but they all include the most recognizable elements of "Sleeping Beauty," and one thing almost all have in common is the importance placed upon secondary characters to help tell the tale of a sleeping princess.

     The first story, The Man on the Buckskin Horse, was a clever western retelling of the tale that I enjoyed whole-heartedly- even if I'm not in general a big fan of the genre. But Emma was such a likable character and the Sleeping Beauty elements were woven in so perfectly that I couldn't help but be completely won over by it.

     Within the first sentence, I was immediately drawn in to the absolutely gorgeous writing style of Guardian of our Beauty. The fantasy, Middle-Eastern-like setting fit the story beautifully, and reminded me a little bit of C.S. Lewis's country of Calormen in The Horse and His Boy (That's my favorite Narnia book, by the way, so of course that pleased me) There was something so rich and magical in this retelling. It's difficult for me to pick a favorite from the collection because I liked them all, but this one might be it.

     With a plot I personally found the most unusual and original of the entire bunch, The Ghost of Briardale also included comedic elements and some truly zany characters. I wasn't quite as big of a fan of the writing style of this one as I was some of the others, but I felt the cast of characters and the creepy setting of the asylum really picked this story up a notch. And I loved how Franz became a "true" hero!

     At first I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Spindle Cursed as much, since it didn't capture my attention as quickly as the others, perhaps because it was much more traditional in its interpretation of the fairy tale. However, I felt this one really got better and picked up the deeper into the story I got, and I ended up really enjoying it. Also, it had a dragon.

     The story I was the most worried about was Out of the Tomb- not, I must stress, because I doubted the fittingness of science fiction in a Sleeping Beauty retelling. Actually, I am quite fond of the idea- so fond, in fact, that I have WIP of that exact thing. So, judging from the story synopsis, I admit I had worried that our stories would be too alike. (Every writer's dread!) However, aside from a few small similarities, they weren't too much alike at all, and I greatly enjoyed this one! The opening reminded me a bit of Rey's introduction in The Force Awakens and I loved revolution-filled background, of which its familiarity and plausibility helped add realism to this fantastical and imaginative story.

     Overall, this was a great fairy tale collection from Rooglewood Press, and I'm excited to see which fairy tale they intend for their next collection.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Raven

28637703

The Raven
Mike Nappa
Revell


As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience's pockets while they watch. It's harmless fun--until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn't seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his "personal assistants," The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, "Nevermore." 

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues--and their complicated feelings for each other--to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge. 
Mike Nappa snags readers from the first page of this fast-paced thriller--and he never lets go until the end.


     When I heard about Mike Nappa's novel Annabel Lee last year, I was immediately interested because of its Poe connection. Sadly, I never got the chance to read it, but I quickly jumped at the opportunity to read The Raven. Though I knew both of these titles were taken from Poe's works, I sadly didn't realize that they were part of the same series about the same people--a thoughtless oversight on my part! Luckily, this did not hinder my understanding of The Raven's plot, although I do wish I had read the previous book, as there was a lot of underlying tension between characters that made me wish for the background knowledge Annabel Lee would have given me.

     I have mixed feelings on this book. It took me a few chapters to get into- it has a "southern-fiction-ish" feel that I wasn't really expecting, and as that style of writing is not my favorite, I felt disappointed. Also, though this book would still probably be considered clean, it was a little rough around the edges, so to speak. That being said, it definitely grew on me the more I read. I love husband-and-wife detective teams, but I'd never read about an ex-husband-and-wife detective team. Coffey and Hill's relationship is an interesting one, although I felt like I didn't get to know either of their characters as well as I would have wished. 

     Honestly, I really can't decided whether or not I liked this book. It had a lot of characters (though they certainly weren't hard to keep track of) which were all layered with murky and tangled motivations. The geeky pop-culture references were appreciated, and of course anyone with an affinity for Edgar Allan Poe's works will find the premise intriguing. Perhaps I will try Annabel Lee and see what I think of that one before I fully commit to an "aye" or "nay" on this series. 


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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Lady Unrivaled

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A Lady Unrivaled
Roseanna M. White
Bethany House Publishers

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile--even if it's just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won't wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better. 
Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?

     Out of the three Ladies of the Manor books, I think this one was my favorite--but that just might be because Ella was my favorite of the heroines, and I enjoyed a lot of her banter with Cayton. I liked his character quite a bit!

     As for the plot, it's not something that's wildly original, but in a very self-aware, I-know-exactly-that-this-is-a-cliche-but-I-simply-don't-care way that's strangely endearing. These books take me back to late middle school where I was just starting to read Christian fiction, with that optimistic adventure and romance combination that's just fun, if a tad unrealistic. My only real complaint is that I feel like this book (and the other two in this series as well) went on just a bit too long and never got me well-invested in the climax. Also, the women's stubbornness tended to frustrate me. However, even so, I'm starting to come to the conclusion that Roseanna White's book are exactly what I need when I want a nostalgic, escapist read. Recommended to older teens on up.

Rating: 8

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

To Follow Her Heart

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To Follow Her Heart
Rebecca DiMarino
Revell

A Satisfying, Emotionally Rich Conclusion to The Southold Chronicles Series

It is 1664 and Patience Terry is devastated to learn that Captain Jeremy Horton's ship has been shipwrecked off the coast of Barbados, with no survivors. She had hoped that Jeremy would someday give up the sea and settle down with her in Southold, Long Island.

Unaware his memorial service is being planned, Jeremy is rescued and aboard a British Naval Gunship with secret orders to attack New Amsterdam and claim it for the British Crown. When he makes his surprise return to Southold--and to an overjoyed Patience--it's not the happily-ever-after his beloved had hoped for.

With a finely tuned sense for authentic historical characters and settings, Rebecca DeMarino plunges readers into the 17th century--a world of high seas and tall ships, daring journeys and yearning hearts.
 

     Despite the fact that I found this author's previous book less than engaging, I wanted to finish this series. The first book in the Southold Chronicles (A Place in His Heart) wasn't bad, and since Patience and Jeremy are two characters that I remember finding the most interesting, I decided to give To Follow Her Heart a chance.

     I did like this novel better than To Capture Her Heart, mostly because the main protagonists were characters I'd already been introduced to, so I was interested in them. However, overall, this book still retained much of the tediousness and stilted writing that plagued the previous two books. Again, skimming through/skipping was involved simply because I couldn't get into the story. As an amateur genealogist, I really appreciate what the author was attempting to do with this series, and she's given attention to a sadly neglected time period. Unfortunately, I feel like the storytelling still needs a lot of work.

Rating: 5

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

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Promise of Jesse Woods

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The Promise of Jesse Woods
Chris Fabry
Tyndale

The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

     I was first introduced to Chris Fabry through his book June Bug, which I was interested in because it was inspired by Les Miserables. Later I read another of his novels, Every Waking Moment. I was impressed with his writing in both, though they were not the type of stories I'm typically drawn to. They're wistful and bittersweet, and in that respect, The Promise of Jesse Woods is no different.

     It's a difficult book to read because of many of the incidents that happen, and because the characters seem to take the hardest paths possible, filled with mistakes and regret. The book isn't devoid of hope, though, and it's engaging enough so that it's difficult to put down. That said, its ending is still not exactly happy and I don't think it's supposed to be. Since plots centered on secrets, misunderstandings, and old regrets tend to frustrate me, The Promise of Jesse Woods is not a new favorite of mine. However, from an objective point of view it's still a thoughtful read from a talented author.

Note: recommended to older readers do to themes of abuse, rape, and violence.

Rating: 8

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Missing

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Missing
Lisa Harris
Revell

Nikki Boyd Enters the Deadly World of Counterfeit Drugs to Find a Missing Woman 

Nikki Boyd isn't usually called in on homicides; her forte is missing persons. But when a case with two murdered and two missing pops up on a quiet suburban street, she's ready to start the investigation and find missing homeowners Mac and Lucy Hudson. When the first clues lead her to the boat of her friend Tyler Grant--and another dead body--Nikki must untangle what ties Tyler to the Hudsons. The clues pull her into a deadly maze of counterfeit drugs and a killer who will stop at nothing to silence anyone who threatens his business--including Nikki. 

Christy Award-winning and bestselling author Lisa Harris puts readers right into the action in this fast-paced thriller that will have them turning pages long into the night.

     Though I'm not the biggest fan of novels set during the present day, I do make exceptions for mysteries and thrillers. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this one! I think it was better than Vendetta, the first book in the Nikki Boyd Files. I was interested by the plot, which kept me guessing as new people were revealed to be connected to the case. The characters aren't delved into too deeply, but they are still likable. And while I'm still not entirely sold on the romance aspect, it's a relatively small part of the book, so it didn't really bother me.

Rating: 7 1/2

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

Saturday, July 2, 2016

An Elegant Façade

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An Elegant Façade
Kristi Ann Hunter
Bethany House


Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl. 


With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance. 

What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make. 


     I was wondering what I'd think about this book. I read A Noble Masquerade and enjoyed it, but I wasn't too sure about reading a novel centered on Lady Georgina- a character I certainly was far from fond of. Indeed, at first there seems to be very little to like about An Elegant Façade's heroine. However, as the story progresses, so does her character. By the end, I actually found myself feeling a bit of affection for her. Imagine that! I found Colin likable from the beginning, and truly, as a group, the Hawthorne family is one I do enjoy reading about.

     Like the first book, this was a light summer read that was easy to escape into, just as the airy cover promises. As far as romantic content goes, it's pretty standard for the genre. Certainly recommended to fans of Christian historical romances.

Rating: 8 1/2

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

God Bless America

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God Bless America
Various artists/authors
Multnomah

     I guess I am turning into a coloring-book person. And what better subject to color (right in time for Independence Day) than American history? I absolutely loved Whatever is Lovely, the coloring book released by Waterbrook (the sister company of Multnomah) so I was really looking forward to getting this one.

     Though there are a few nice designs, overall I found God Bless America less appealing overall. I tend to prefer more feminine, flowery designs, so these pictures were a bit less attractive because they were more focused on monuments and such. I do like the biographical information on the back of each page, though, which gives background information on the illustrated quote.There were one or two pictures that were of historical scenes (such as "the British are coming" or "one small step for man" ones) which I liked, but overall this one had me a bit less impressed than its predecessor. Though this coloring book is far from bad, given the choice, I'd probably recommend Whatever is Lovely over this one.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jefferson's America

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Jefferson's America
Julie M. Fenster
Crown Publishing

     Despite being a lifelong history lover, there are certain "blind spots" that I have--and Jefferson's administration is one of them. I never knew much beyond the Louisiana Purchase, and even that was just the basics (Lewis & Clark & Sacajawea - that's all, right?) For instance, I had no idea about the tensions with Spain, which played a HUGE part in the tale, and I certainly didn't know very much about all of the many other men who were exploring the continent around the same time. This book was informative, although I also found some of the information hard to grasp. Not so much that it was difficult to understand, but simply that it was written in such as manner as to be difficult to remember. However, I do believe that this problem lessened as the book went on. Still, having read several non-fiction history books within the last month, this one wasn't as pleasurable to read; it could be very dry at times and I didn't find it terribly engaging.

     However, if one can get past the less-than-compelling narrative style, it does give a good overview of the explorers of Jefferson's day and helps set the stage for the story of America's expansion into the west, and the subsequent chapters of our nation's history.

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Kill Devil

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Kill Devil
Mike Dellosso
Tyndale

Jed Patrick is convinced he's doing all it takes to keep his family safe--new names, new location, new identity. But just when he thinks he finally has his life back, trained men claiming to be CIA agents break in and threaten his wife and daughter, proving once and for all his family will never truly be safe until he eliminates the agency dead set on hunting him down.Not knowing if Karen and Lilly are better off by his side or in hiding, Jed is determined to protect them while finding a way to use the classified information that he possesses to dismantle the Centralia Project. But he soon learns that eliminating Centralia may require compromising his own values. As danger escalates, Jed isn't sure whether there's anyone or anything he can trust--including his own senses.

     This was one mind-bender- literally. Sort of like a Christian Jason Bourne (though not as Bourne-ish as the first book), with high stakes and lots of action. Though I tend to gravitate more towards movies within the action genre than books, I still enjoyed this one.

     The writing is a little different than what I'm used to--a bit more modern, a bit more sparse. That being said, I wouldn't qualify this as "minimalist" writing either; the author does have some pretty good descriptions. However, it's still very fast-paced. I'm not sure if there is going to be a third book in this series (this one felt like it wrapped up pretty nicely, although there is room for a sequel) but I did really like the new characters who were introduced in this book. Overall, a recommended read for those who enjoy suspense and thrillers.

Rating: 8

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

From This Moment

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From This Moment
Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House

Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.
But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally. 
Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they've worked for at risk?

     I love how distinct and unusual Elizabeth Camden can make her characters and their situations; it's always a highlight of her books for me. Plot-wise, I did enjoy this one a lot, and more so than Camden's last book, Until the Dawn. I really was curious about Gwendolyn's murder, and I loved the setting of a scientific magazine publishing company. That being said, it was a little harder for me to get into the characters. Although I liked the idea of who the characters were quite a bit, the execution of their personalities wasn't always what I preferred (although they did have some great, snappy dialogue at points).

     There's was also a bit of a side story with Romulus's cousin Evelyn and her husband, although some of the story caused me quite a bit of consternation (partly because I read its prequel e-novella). I wasn't the biggest fan of the novella, but ended up being pretty satisfied with how their story concluded in this book. My main complaint with the novella was its veering into the cliched territory of the feminstic historical-fiction heroine who wants to succeed in a man's world while being thoroughly "suppressed"; thankfully, although I thought From This Moment did go a little more into that territory than I generally prefer, it wasn't laid on so thickly in this novel.

     Overall, From This Moment was definitely entertaining. I enjoyed it, and it was a pleasant, much-needed break from all of the non-fiction research I've been doing lately.

Rating: 8

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dawn At Emberwilde

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Dawn At Emberwilde
Sarah Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.


     One thing I genuinely love about Sarah Ladd's books is their gentle gracefulness and sweetness; her books are just right to read on a cozy day with a blanket and a cup of tea.

     I enjoyed the plot of this books, especially the mysterious forest aspect of it. Sometimes I did get a little annoyed with Isabel, since I didn't always agree with her methods of raising Lizzie and even agreed with her difficult aunt upon a occasion. So while I admit that Isabel did take a little while to grow on me, I certainly had sympathy with her situation. (There's no question that I liked Colin, though!)

     At any rate, this is a lovely historical read for romance fans.

Rating: 8

I received this book through litfuse publicity. It did not affect the honesty of my review in any way.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Murder Comes By Mail

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Murder Comes by Mail
A.H. Gabhart
Revell


A Cozy Mystery Complete with a Small Town Full of Charming, Quirky Characters 
Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane doesn't particularly enjoy being touted as the hero of Hidden Springs after pulling a suicidal man back from the edge of the Eagle River bridge in front of dozens of witnesses--a few of whom caught the breathtaking moments with their cameras. But the media hype doesn't last long as a new story pushes its way into the public consciousness of Hidden Springs' concerned citizens. 
Photos of a dead girl arrive in the mail, and Michael becomes convinced she was murdered by the man he saved. With a killer one step ahead, things in Hidden Springs begin to unravel. Now Michael must protect the people he loves--because the killer could be targeting one of them next. 
Readers will love racing along with Deputy Sheriff Keane as the clock ticks in this page-turning mystery. 


     This book did not get off to a great start with me, I'm afraid. I got this one because I was in the mood for a small-town mystery, but I sadly didn't connect with most of the characters, and I found some of the content, mostly in the beginning, vaguely problematic. (That is, as a Christian reading a piece of Christian fiction, I didn't care for certain behaviors/ideas of the Christian characters).

     I eventually set this one aside to focus on other things because I just couldn't get into it. I did get back to it eventually, and I found that it did pick up once the murders commenced. The mystery plot itself was interesting (although I did solve the mystery by the middle of the book) and was what kept me reading, although I wasn't entirely satisfied with its conclusion. However, this novel wasn't really to my taste. It felt a little bit like one of those Hallmark channel made-for-TV mystery flicks.

Rating: 5

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Simply Calligraphy

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Simply Calligraphy
Judy Detrick
Watson-Guptill Publications 

     I've always been interested in and fascinated by different types and methods of lettering. Italics is one of the simplest and more recognizable forms of calligraphy, and that is what this book focuses on. While there isn't much that makes this book different or unique among calligraphy how-tos, I do like how simple and to-the-point it is. I was especially grateful for the little 30-degree angle illustration, since the right angle of holding the pen has always gotten me confused in nearly every other calligraphy book I've tried. I do wish that this book had come in a set with all the materials needed, though.

     It's definitely a beginner's book (as it says in the subtitle) but being a beginner, I can appreciate that. :)

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Beautiful Pretender

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The Beautiful Pretender
Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

     I mentioned in my review of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest that my favorite character was the Margrave....and I got my wish for the next book in the series to be about him. That's always nice.

     I really liked the plot of this one. I thought it was going to be based solely on "The Princess and the Pea," but there's a good bit of "Beauty and the Beast" in here too, which is always a good thing in my book :) It does share a lot of similarities to some of the author's other retellings, so I might have enjoyed it a tad more if I hadn't read them, so it wouldn't have seemed quite so similar.

     The characters are likable. However, I do wish there was a bit more depth and development in the characters/plot, and a little less repetition in the writing. Altogether, though, I'd still definitely recommend this one to Melanie Dickerson fans; it certainly contains all of the elements her readers continue to enjoy. Sometimes a girl just wants to read about virtuous maidens and noble heroes, and Mrs. Dickerson never seems to fail in that regard. :)

Rating: 8

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Together At The Table

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Together At the Table
Hillary Manton Lodge
Waterbrook Press

Three months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

     Argh. So. Many. Mixed. Feelings. All right, I think I'll sandwich what I didn't like about this book in with what I did like, so I don't come off too strong. (Which sounds more ominous than it is, since I certainly didn't hate or even strictly dislike this book. It was MUCH better than the previous one, although if you've read my review of that one it will probably give a hint to what my problems with this one were.)

     First off: the food. This book made me so hungry because everything in it sounds so good! I also find Juliette's life in and of itself fascinating. Portland, Oregon quite honestly seems more like a foreign country than a city in a different state sometimes! (Maybe that's why I relate to and "get" Neil so much more than I do Juliette, because his world and personality seem a little more like my own. Also, we share a love of Doctor Who, so that helps.)

     What I still really have a hard time with in these books is just how much kissing there is between people who aren't married. It's not descriptive, not overly sensual, but they just do it so often. It drives me nuts, especially since, personal convictions aside, as a person not given to expressing lots of physical affection, it just seems really weird to be so willing to kiss someone you're not sure about marrying. Just, ick. I'm not a person who's really into emotional drama, either, and Juliette and I have such different views and reactions to things that it's easy for me to get frustrated with her. Not that she's really unlikable; she can just be a little maddening. And...I didn't really like Adrian. So there's that, too.

     But I really, really liked the last part of the book where things get wrapped up with the story of Juliette's grandparents. Her story was heartrending but also sweet, and as a person who loves history, I found that I connected much more to that part of the book than I did anything else. I think the first book, A Table By the Window, was by far the best in this series, but overall, Together At The Table wasn't bad either.

Rating: 7

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Traces of Guilt

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Traces of Guilt
Dee Henderson
Bethany House 

A Riveting Cold-Case Mystery from Dee Henderson 
Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job. 
Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have. . . . 
When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie's determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

     I feel that labeling this "An Evie Blackwell Cold Case" might be a bit of a misnomer; Evie is only one of several main characters who all have pretty substantial amounts of time dedicated to them in this novel. That didn't bother me, since I enjoy large casts of characters; it was just different than what I expected. In that same vein, I wouldn't say it was really romantic suspense either, since the main characters themselves were never in danger, and while there were hints of romance, there really wasn't much of it. Again- this didn't bother me, although there was a lot more talking and exposition than action, which could drag things out. The mystery was more of a puzzle than anything else, which I loved. That being said, I found the ending rather disappointing. SPOILER the solutions to the trio of cases weren't as elaborate as I'd hoped, and the last one almost seemed completely unrelated to any of the leads they'd had. Maybe that's truer to life, but it just didn't seem very satisfying to me as a reader. *END OF SPOILER*

     The characters were likable, probably a lot like the people you'd wave and say 'hi' to at church or the grocery store (although I felt that it was much easier to get a handle on the male characters and their personalities more than the female ones.) All in all, though, this was a heavy book. Not only because of the particular nature of the murder/missing persons cases, but also because nearly every character had a tragic backstory. Perhaps this was part of the reason the book didn't really win me over, although it kept my attention and I'm sure that fans of Henderson will enjoy the appearances and mentions of some of her characters from other books.

Rating: 7

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Elements of Pizza

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The Elements of Pizza
Ken Forkish
Ten Speed Press

     I really, really like pizza.

     I mean, I think most people do, but I just felt the need to admit that I, too, am not immune to the charms of this dish. It's the one thing I just can't seem to get enough of, and I can keep up with my three teenage brothers on the amount of it I can eat. And since my family actually does make homemade pizza on a pretty regular basis, I thought that this would be a good book to give us some more knowledge and tricks in the making of this blessed gift from Italy.

     There's a lot of background information packed into this book, and I think it might be for a person who's slightly more serious about pizza-making (I did skip some of it), although I did find some of the historical information interesting. A lot of the recipes look really good, and I liked how many different styles of pizzas are included (I also like the simple sauce recipes, which I'd like to try). Overall, if you're in to making pizza (or you'd like to start) this one would be a good one to pick up.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Anchor in the Storm

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Anchor in the Storm
Sarah Sundin
Revell

One Plucky Female Pharmacist + One High-Society Naval Officer = Romance--and Danger 

For plucky Lillian Avery, America's entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg's attentions only annoy--even if he "is" her brother's best friend. 
During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves--and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection? 

Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won't soon forget.

     I absolutely loved the first book in this series, so I entered into this book with high expectations and hopes. I did like the plot, although I didn't care for this book as much I did Through Waters Deep. I never really connected to the characters, and for some reason I felt like this one wasn't as well-written as Sarah Sundin's other books. There seemed to be a little too much exposition in explaining the character's personalities rather than the reader simply getting to know them through their actions, but maybe I'm just being picky ;). Anchor in the Storm was still a good read, and there are some neat historical and locational details slipped into it that I particularly enjoyed.

Rating: 7 1/2

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Flight of Arrows

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A Flight of Arrows
Lori Benton
Waterbrook

It is said that what a man sows he will reap--and for such a harvest there is no set season. No one connected to Reginald Aubrey is untouched by the crime he committed twenty years ago.

Not William, the Oneida child Reginald stole and raised as his own. Identity shattered, enlisted in the British army, William trains with Loyalist refugees eager to annihilate the rebels who forced them into exile. Coming to terms with who and what he is proves impossible, but if he breaks his Loyalist oath, he'll be no better than the man who constructed his life of lies.

Not Anna, Reginald's adopted daughter, nor Two Hawks, William's twin, both who long for Reginald to accept their love despite the challenges they will face, building a marriage that bridges two cultures.

Not Good Voice and Stone Thrower, freed of bitterness by a courageous act of forgiveness, but still yearning for their firstborn son and fearful for the future of their Oneida people.

As the British prepare to attack frontier New York and Patriot regiments rally to defend it, two families separated by culture, united by love, will do all in their power to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.
 

     A beautiful novel filled with mercy and forgiveness, A Flight of Arrows is probably one of the best Christian books that I've read this year. Perhaps this is because it's difficult for hard-hearted me to actually be emotionally impacted by a book. But this one certainly succeeded where others have failed. It's rich with history and flawed but sympathetic characters who are able to overcome their pasts through the grace of God.

     The feel of this book reminds me of Last of the Mohicans, with all of the turmoil contained within-- only A Flight of Arrows has a strong, moving Christian theme. I recommend reading the first book in this series since, as the author has said, this duology is really one story that happens to be broken into two books. Due to some romance and mature themes I'd recommend this one to older readers, but even so, this is a stellar work from a talented author.

Rating: 9

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Land of Silence

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Land of Silence
Tessa Afshar
Tyndale Publishers

Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

     I've said before that I'm not a big Biblical fiction reader...I mentioned it in my last fiction review, in fact.

     Well, this is awkward. *blushes*

     In all honesty, though, I have read Tessa Afshar's other books, and I enjoyed them. In fact, I think the author's writing has even gotten better over time. It's not that the author's writing was ever bad, it's just that I slipped easily into the language of this novel and noticed a  difference in the style (in a good way).

     Sometimes the story was hard to read about because Elianna's life was so difficult, and on top of that, she could be maddeningly stubborn. (And I couldn't help but get angry at some of the character's actions--goodness, despite the fact that she blamed herself for her brother's death, it really wasn't her fault). It had some great secondary characters, though, and a lovely ending.

Rating: 8

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hairstyled

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Hairstyled
Anne Thoumieux
Potter Style

You don’t need to be a professional to get show-stopping hair. Hairstyled presents 75 deceptively simple techniques for creating your favorite high-fashion hairstyles. Dress up your everyday look with a ballerina bun or accessorize with a scarf bow. Turn heads at special occasions with the woven crown braid or a regal bouffant. 

Each style has how-to photographs that are easy to follow, and chapters dedicated to a variety of hair lengths and textures help you update your look whether you have a pixie cut or long, curly tresses. With product tips and countless ideas for accessorizing your ’do and inventive variations on classic styles, Hairstyled is your guide to getting gorgeous hair every day.

     I feel like this is a book that I would be much more impressed with if I wasn't such a Pinterest user. While there were one or two hairstyles in this book that I hadn't seen before, most of them I was already familiar with. The directions themselves were so-so (again, on the level of a Pinterest how-to). This isn't really an issue for some of the easier hairstyles, but might cause a few moments of confusion for the more difficult ones. There are some lovely hairstyles in here, but there are also some that look like they were just thrown together at the last minute with no thought of whether or not they actually looked good. (For instance, I have no idea what was going on with the "Straight With a Twist" style. Also, some of the hairstyles that used gel looked weirdly greasy and unattractive.)

     There are some pretty braids and buns, but most of these styles are probably geared for someone who is a bit more of a beginner in the hairstyling department. There are still some instructions I'll definitely use, though, and it's nice to have a book full of inspirations on days when I'm out of ideas.

Rating: 7

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Counted With the Stars

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Counted With the Stars
Connilyn Cossette
Bethany House


A Story of Love, Desperation, and Hope During a Great Biblical Epoch

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she's only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she's ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?


     I was first drawn to this book by its beautiful cover- those stars are simply gorgeous, and when I saw the hieroglyphics trailing along the bottom edge, I knew that the synopsis was sure to intrigue me even before I read it.

     I'm a little wary when it comes to Biblical fiction because I'm not always keen on making stuff up about Bible characters. I've certainly read a few good ones, but generally I tend to avoid them. However, what I loved about this book was that it was about completely fictional characters set during a specific Biblical event- the plagues of Egypt. (There was one appearance by a Bible character, but it was well-done and was one of my favorite parts of the book)

     My favorite parts were definitely those set in Egypt, although I really would have liked more- it seemed a little rushed and I would have liked the book to focus a little more on life during the plagues. There was a lot of talking about things. These weren't done horribly but did seem a little like information dumps, especially when you're someone who's already familiar with the stories and/or theology these moments are trying to tell. The writing itself was pleasant, although nothing that really stands out from the rest of the Christian fiction market (although it was written in first person, which is a little rarer in that genre). Overall, though, my favorite aspect of this book was by far the setting. It made the book stand out to me, and has put this author on my to-watch list.

Rating: 8

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts

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The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts
Maja Safstrom
Ten Speed Press

     I love the cover of this hardcover book! It's quirky and fun, and looks very good on my bookshelf. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts is a small book of black-and-white drawings of various animals with facts scattered about them. Some animals have more facts that others, but they're all very interesting. (although I could have done without the animal excrement-related ones. Eww.) Some of the drawings were cute, although I think the best ones were used on the cover; some of the drawings were a little underwhelming. Still, it's an enjoyable book and I was following my mother around the house telling her random animal facts as I was reading it.

     My favorite fact is probably that a group of owls is called a parliament.

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