Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Snow Queen


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


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


Another Day, Another Dali
Sandra Orchard

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


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.
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