Monday, October 5, 2015

The Traitor's Heir- Anna Thayer

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: In an epic and mystical tale that resonates with modern times, the young Eamon Goodman goes on a journey of discovery. A journey which sees him taking an increasingly pivotal role in the battle between the rival forces of the king and the master, and takes him from being a young soldier in his home of Edesfield to being a fast-rising hero in the dense and rotten city of Dunthruik.

Under the watchful eye of Lord Cathair, in the loving arms of Lady Alessia Turnholt, and torn between enemy forces, Eamon’s experiences lead him to question the nature and true meaning of some of the most important things in life - love and friendship, loyalty and honour, and who he really is. But will the answers he finds lead him to become true to himself and true to his name? Will they lead him to become a good man?

My Thoughts: When I first saw The Traitor's Heir available for review, I thought it was going to be an enthralling read. The description and cover were fascinating, with a premise I wanted to see explored. Unfortunately, it did not fully live up to my expectations. While there is a good bit to commend about the novel, there is also enough to critic that I was not captivated.

For starters, Eamon is fairly likable character. He is people pleasing and honorable, even at the cost of himself. While those around him insist he look out for himself, he instead looks out for those around him. He is also relateable in his desire to do something worth while and struggles with contradictory messages in the world around him.

Yet as likable as Eamon is, most of the other characters have nothing that sets them as enjoyable characters. The true King has the unfortunate depiction of being a mortal king, who has now power to see the future or any other "divine" characteristics, and yet shown as so perfect (as a symbol of God) that he followed almost without question. I found it hard to care about him one way or the other, and found no worthy reason for Eamon to serve this mortal king.

As to the Master, who is clearly a symbol of Satan, there was also some issues with his depiction. I spent much of the book confused as to whether or not he was mortal as well (as he seems to have powers and has lived for at least 200 years). Other than his Hands, who are depicted as sickly in color, and his attempts to stamp out all followers of the King, he did not seem like a despotic ruler. His people lived in peace and prospered, so that if he were a mortal king and not daemonic, I think he would have been a better ruler than the King.

With a story so laden with symbolism, I would have expected the exact nature of the King and Master to have been more clear, with the Master's reign far more vile. While Eamon is a likable and relatable character, I did not quiet buy into the world. Knowing this, I believe that readers could enjoy The Traitor's Heir, it simply was not for me.

I received this book through Bookfun in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shades of Doon- Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: After cheating death, Veronica Welling is determined to savor every moment in her idyllic kingdom with both her true love and best friend by her side at last. At the same time, Mackenna Reid is enthusiastically building her new life and a theater with her prince. But just as their dreams of happiness are within reach, the world Vee and Kenna have chosen is ripped away, leaving them to face their most horrific challenge yet—their old lives.

Thrust out of Doon, the best friends are confronted with tormentors from their past and no way to return to their adopted land. When the MacCrae brothers rush to their rescue, the girls' situation turns from nightmare to modern-day fairy tale. But their happiness could be short lived: unbeknownst to them, someone in their closest circle is aiding the witch of Doon in her bid to destroy the kingdom once and for all.

My Thoughts: After the cliffhanger from the last book, I was expecting Shades of Doon to be an emotional roller-coaster with more action and adventure than the last two. Instead, I read a book that was just the same as the others. While this is not inherently bad, progressing books in a series are supposed to amp up the tension of the overall series and Shades of Doon did not give that to me.

Now in the third of four books, the heroines are now dedicated to their Callings and and their heroes. While there is some tension left in Vee's hesitance to get married, there is no conflict as Jamie was willing to let her set the pace of their relationship. Where as this hurtle could have been a strong plot point in keeping the romantic tension going, it felt flat to me because Jamie was so understanding.

As to the other conflicts, the cliff hanger of the last book which I had thought would be the driving plot line, ended up taking little part in the story and then ended altogether before halfway through the book. Then, instead of battling a great evil, Vee and Kenna spent a good portion of the book shopping and showing off their boyfriends. While parts of this scenario were funny, they detracted from my investment in the story when I wanted to see them in Doon and saving the kingdom.

I can't say that Shades of Doon was any worse than the previous two books. If you enjoyed those, you are likely to enjoy this as well. I just found that at the point it was in this series, there should have been more. I still intend to read the last book when it comes out, as I want to see these characters happily-ever-after, I just hope there is more conflict than in this.

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Irish Meadows- Susan Anne Mason

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

My Thoughts: Irish Meadows was a surprising read. It started out some what slow, with an intro chapter that did little to grab my attention, but soon had me fully wrapped up in the family dynamics. Rather than revolving around only one hero and heroine, Irish Meadows has two of each, with the sisters wrecking havoc in each others' relationships. I enjoyed reading about the sisters' romances simultaneously and loved the way Susan wove the four point of views into one story. It was a refreshing read after so many reads where the sisters are at odds due to family complications, and yet only one perspective is shown.

When I first began reading the book, I did notice some descriptions which are a bit over used in the romance genre. These continued through out the story, but I was able to overlook them because I was completely engrossed in what was going on. While I really enjoyed the honesty of the sisters' portrayal, I have to say that the hero's perspectives were my favorite. Rylan is simply an all around awesome guy and Gil was someone I wanted to see overcome his faults.

Susan Mason admittedly does not have the most unique way with words. Yet she creates characters who are real and honest, allowing the reader to connect with at least one of her many characters. I look forward to reading anything else Bethany House might publish of hers.

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Pharaoh's Daughter- Mesu Andrews

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Anippe has grown up in the shadows of Egypt’s good god Pharaoh, aware that Anubis, god of the afterlife, may take her or her siblings at any moment. She watched him snatch her mother and infant brother during childbirth, a moment which awakens in her a terrible dread of ever bearing a child. Now she is to be become the bride of Sebak, a kind but quick-tempered Captain of Pharaoh Tut’s army. In order to provide Sebak the heir he deserves and yet protect herself from the underworld gods, Anippe must launch a series of deceptions, even involving the Hebrew midwives—women ordered by Tut to drown the sons of their own people in the Nile. 

     When she finds a baby floating in a basket on the great river, Anippe believes Egypt’s gods have answered her pleas, entrenching her more deeply in deception and placing her and her son Mehy, whom handmaiden Miriam calls Moses, in mortal danger.

    As bloodshed and savage politics shift the balance of power in Egypt, the gods reveal their fickle natures and Anippe wonders if her son, a boy of Hebrew blood, could one day become king. Or does the god of her Hebrew servants, the one they call El Shaddai, have a different plan—for them all?

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book! Mesu is one of my favorite authors and this may be my favorite of her's yet. The story gripped me, making me equal parts furious and anxious to read the next page.

Anippe lives a dangerous life, walking the thin line between favor and death. With her actions, she chances the anger of her gods, her father, brother, and husband in order to save her life and chances the lives of many others to save her son. While I would normally hate a character so deceptive, her childhood trauma and young marriage allowed me to sympathize with her choices in life. That, and the knowledge that El Shaddai had a greater purpose for her choices.

The story takes place over more than seventeen years, leaving Anippe with much heartache and regret. In the end, she learns that no matter how she tries, she can not control everything and must give her prays to a God who really cares.

I'm excited to read the next book about Miriam, and look forward to its release date.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Counting on a Cowboy- Debra Clopton

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: After losing everything dear to her, Abby never wants to love again. But a certain cowboy spurs her to wonder if maybe love is worth the risk. Running from a past that haunts her, Abby Knightly is drawn to the homey town of Wishing Springs, Texas, after her favorite advice columnist found love and a home there. Maybe this small town could offer hope and healing and a future for Abby too . . . if she's brave enough to reach out and take it.

Bo Monahan isn't interested in the new romantic destination his little town has become--or the women who might be looking at him like he's their next Mr. Right. Between taking care of his Pops and his growing stirrup business, he isn't looking for serious romantic commitments. But unexpectedly the young child he never knew about appears on his doorstep and Bo's world is turned upside down. 

This confirmed bachelor might not need a wife, but he sure needs a woman . . . and newcomer Abby Knightly is definitely a woman. When she comes to his rescue to help him navigate fatherhood, he slowly uncovers her own history. And suddenly Bo's thinking maybe, just maybe, together they can help each other work through the problems of the past to create a future of their own.

My Thoughts: Counting on a Cowboy is another sweet read. Though the description says Bo is a confirmed bachelor, he spends most of the trying to catch Abby's attention. And since we know that he is not typically a love'em and leave'em type of guy, it's obvious that he's after her for the right reasons.

While I liked Bo just as much as Tru, I did not relate as much to Abby as I had Maggie in the previous book. Rather than feel bad for her, I wanted to shake her whenever she lit into Rand. Even though he was a drunk, and she had lost a lot to a drunk, I still felt that there had been some leaps in logic that carried her to the place where she treated him the way she did. In the end, I felt like Pebble (a secondary character) had made more of a change in her outlook on life than Abby had.

That said, I adored Bo and Levi and seriously look forward to the next book (which I hope is about Jarrod). I can't wait to see what emotional upheaval comes with his relationship.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Renaissance Faire- Jane Stain

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: When handsome highlander Dall takes Emily up on stage at the renaissance fair for some Scottish dancing, the butterflies in her stomach are not from stage fright. She's a drama major who's seen River Dance a dozen times. But Dall never drops his 16th century accent, and no one ever teases him about that. There aren't any jeans or sneakers in his tent, either. 

My Thoughts: Jane Stain's novel is a little hard to rate. On the one hand, it is lighthearted and contains all the aspects of a time travel romance that people woo and ah over. I found myself completely unable to take it seriously, with the characters being adults but still needing parent permission to spend the summer at the faire, and the heroine jumping to conclusions with the scantest bits of information.

After having read it, I learned that the book had originally been published in serials, which might account for some of the holes in logic.

Renaissance Faire is by no means a serious tale. The characters are silly and often irrational. Whether the author meant it that way or not, it none the less makes a suitable read for those days when you just want to escape from all complexity.

I received this book through I'm A Reader, Not A Writer's free ebooks for review program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Through Waters Deep- Sarah Sundin

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.

My Thoughts: Through Waters Deep was an amazing story. Maybe it was just my love for Jim and Mary as a couple or the honesty of the historical context, but I really enjoyed this book and stayed up late one night so I could finish it in two days.

Mary is a girl after my own heart. Loving adventure while hating the limelight, I felt like she was a person I would have liked to have known. Jim was nearly the opposite, enjoying adventure while feeling perfectly at home with any attention he might draw by being himself. They complimented each other well, creating a pair whose happily-ever-after I could believe in.

The historical context, closely predating WWII, was well portrayed as an event that occurred rather than a drama to be amused by. It showed the often forgotten opinions of those who lived through it and the conflicts that stirred at home. These tensions are what drove the plot along and played the backdrop for Sundin's mystery to unfold.

I would give the story a full five stars, however, there were moments when the Nancy Drew aspects of the story came about as rather cheesy. If not for this, I believe that I would have give this the full rating.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.