Monday, January 14, 2019

The Unknown Hero- Isaac Philips

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: "Something had flinched in the darkness. He scanned the scene, his eyes straining to penetrate the walls of rain and mist. Then he saw it, a giant form as pitch black as the night…”

Why have they come? Fear and speculation ripple across the solar system when an immense war fleet shows up out of nowhere. The leaders of the seven inhabited worlds must scramble to determine a course of action. Together, they can stand against the threat, but their own underhanded schemes divide them.

Swept into the political panic, a timid, young rancher will have to unravel the secrets of the solar system that he holds dear. He will come face to face with the invaders and witness the first acts of war. To survive will take bravery, strength, and more than a little cunning.


My Thoughts: Often with sci-fi, the narrative is focused more on the science and how cool space travel is. At least that is how it has always seemed to me. And for that reason, I have preferred to read space operas, because I felt that I was able to get a better grasp on the story without being bogged down in terms that I didn't really understand. And so, with this story, I felt that it was a good middle ground between hard sci-fi and space opera in that it has the many worlds and deep world building of sci-fi with more of the simplicity of space opera.

The story did take some time to delve into. I was not able to picture the different species of characters as well as I would have liked, or even how those characters interacted with their world in ways that were different from humans. However, the story shown through those issues and Kiiyeepo stood out as a character who I could relate to. Adventure was not something he sought, but something he undertook because his world needed him.

I do not know how more devoted fans of sci-fi would take this story. The Unknown Hero does not seem to latch onto the typical genre staples of blasters, lasers, warp drives, or particle reassembly that can be found in other books. The science is closer to ours, just used in another galaxy with perhaps a few creative liberties. For that reason, I do not think this book fits into a solid box and that for anyone looking for that type of story, this may be for you.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the author.


Friday, January 11, 2019

JellyTelly Press Board & Coloring Books- Spotlight and Review




FaithWords is announcing a new children’s book imprint by the creator of VeggieTales called JellyTelly Press! This new line teaches children about the Bible in a fun and unique way. They’ll be publishing coloring books for preschoolers, picture books, activity books and chapter books for elementary schoolers, as well as Bibles and books for family devotionals.

As part of their announcement, FaithWords sent me the first four board books they have released this month, along with their Old & New Testament coloring books. The board books I found to be nice, short reads, with cute artwork that the kids will enjoy. 


The one real downside I noticed, was that while reading the stories, even I had a hard time keeping straight who was saying what, as some characters' dialogue carried over multiple pages. But with a quick flip through beforehand, the reader can probably figure it out and use different voices or some other means of keeping the characters in order.




As for the coloring books, I was impressed with the one on the Old Testament. The stories are there and are creatively illustrated (though sin is depicted as a little monster that attacks people, which may or may not be an issue for you). And if you would like to download and print a sample page for that, you can do so here.

However, I was not quiet as pleased with the New Testament coloring book. There seemed to be three different art styles in this, one of which was not  exactly pleasing. As well, there were far more pages that were just block words that the kids could color instead of actual pictures. If you are interest in a sample of this book to download, here is one that is one of the better pages.





Overall, this seems to be a cute series. And it will hopefully continue to get better. If you would like to watch a video which better describes the books and what they have to offer, you can click on the one below.



You can purchase God Made Me, God Made the World, God Made Night and Day, and God Made the Animals from the Hachette website here or from Amazon below (below links are affiliate).


Monday, January 7, 2019

White as Silence, Red as Song- Alessandro D'Avenia

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: International bestseller White as Milk, Red as Blood, has been called the Italian The Fault in Our Stars.

Leo is an ordinary sixteen-year-old: he loves hanging out with his friends, playing soccer, and zipping around on his motorbike. The time he has to spend at school is a drag, and his teachers are “a protected species that you hope will become extinct,” so when a new history and philosophy teacher arrives, Leo greets him with his usual antipathy. But this young man turns out to be different. His eyes sparkle when he talks, and he encourages his students to live passionately, and follow their dreams.

Leo now feels like a lion, as his name suggests, but there is still one thing that terrifies him: the color white. White is absence; everything related to deprivation and loss in his life is white. Red, on the other hand, is the color of love, passion and blood; red is the color of Beatrice’s hair. Leo's dream is a girl named Beatrice, the prettiest in school. Beatrice is irresistible - one look from her is enough to make Leo forget about everything else.

There is, however, a female presence much closer to Leo, which he finds harder to see because she’s right under his nose: the ever-dependable and serene Silvia. When he discovers that Beatrice has leukemia and that her disease is related to the white that scares him so much, Leo is forced to search within himself, to bleed and to be reborn. In the process, he comes to understand that dreams must never die, and he finds the strength to believe in something bigger than himself.

White as Milk, Red as Blood is not only a coming-of-age story and the narrative of a school year, but it is also a bold novel that, through Leo's monologue - at times easy-going and full of verve, at times more intimate and anguished - depicts what happens when suffering and shock burst into the world of a teenager, and the world of adults is rendered speechless.


My Thoughts: I am always up for a novel that has been translated into English, both because it helps support the arts from other cultures and because it allows a glimpse into life outside of the English speaking worldview.

This book is told solely from the perspective of Leo, a teenage boy who starts of the book behaving like all the children who made me give up substitute teaching. And for that reason, I definitely had a hard time getting into the beginning of the story. However, as the story progressed and life started to challenge Leo's perceptions, the personality he had began to change, and this Leo I liked much better.

The narrative of the novel is a poetic one, with most of the story told in introspective metaphors. And this introspection was what drew me to the later part of the story, despite the fact that I usually do not care for poetic narratives. However, while being beautiful analogies, many of the metaphors rely on sound or look alike words. And since this book was translated from Italian, those words no longer look or sound the same. Unfortunately, there was likely a lot that was lost in the translation simply because of the way the author used language to tell his story the first time and not by fault of the translator.

In the end, this book may take some getting used to. The reader needs to be alright with a poetic narrative which does not hold up as well in English. As well as overlook how well the adults in the story recognize Leo's teenage angst for what it is-- a cry for help as he struggles to understand a world that is no longer as simple and colorful as he thought it was, and how easily he accepts their attempts to help him.

I did enjoyed it by the end and would be interested in reading other translated works of D'Avenia's, should any of those be made.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book through the Fiction Guild.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Living a Life You Love- Joyce Meyer

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: You may say that you love your family, your spouse, your church, or the Lord. You may also express love for more temporal things like a good cup of coffee, your home, or a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant. But it is rarer to truly say "I love my life!"

It's common to be more frustrated with life than at peace with it, because the daily grind wears you down. Responsibilities and burdens become heavy and rob you of the happiness you're meant to have as a child of God. But you can be hopeful, learn to rise above your challenges, and be filled with wonder at what God might do every day.

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Joyce Meyer, who has gone from heartache to happiness through Christ, this book is the key to shifting your perspective so that you may also relish every moment and every part of life.

You will learn how to love life fully, in spite of your obstacles, and experience the happiness that is promised to you.

Joyce will explain:
Why you can't love life unless love is the central theme of it,
Why your attitude affects your life more than any outside circumstances,
How the love, help, and kindness you give away will come back to you immeasurably,
How to look to the future and keep your joy,
And so much more!

God has already blessed you with a life to love--and it's time to start LIVING A LIFE YOU LOVE.


My Thoughts: I've never actually read anything by Joyce Meyer, nor heard her speak. However, like most Christians, I had heard of her and so I was curious. I honestly do not believe that this is the best example of her work, so I may try other books of hers in the future.

The first section of this book was great. Joyce wrote about remembering who God is and how he is working in our lives. Each of those chapters had a noteworthy phrase that really struck me and lead me into prayer over some of my own issues. I am glad that I read those chapters and will likely reread them again here soon.

However, I was not as impressed by the other sections of the book. I don't really struggle with being spontaneous or loving the people in my life. I'm already careful about the environment I create for myself and I think that the Bible does a better job of telling us about the different seasons we will go through. Yet I also know that there are people who need encouragement in these areas but not in the same ones that I do.

This book does touch on something for most everyone, I believe. Yet, not every chapter will be for everyone, and that is where I find the book to be less than what I could have hoped for. Having read the entire book, I would have liked to have gotten more out of it than what I read in the first chapters. However, I would consider it for group study in the future and perhaps we could appreciate all the chapters together.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of  the book from the publisher.

Monday, December 24, 2018

On Magnolia Lane- Denise Hunter

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.


My Thoughts: If you had read the other books in this series, then you know that Jack has been in love with Daisy for a long time. Which is obvious to most everyone other than her. And after reading this book, I can't blame her. Despite the amount of time they spend together, both for her counseling sessions and their outings with friends, Jack never speaks to her as though she is anything other than someone he is counseling.

It was not until the midway point, long after he has started talking to her as TJ, that he begins to interact with her as a friend might. He finally starts asking her questions about things that she likes (instead of relying on knowledge he has of her from their sessions) and begins joking around, showing her that there is more to him than the pastor who leads a flock.

At this point however, I was still struggling to want the two of them together because of his lying to her about who he was online. There were a few different points where I thought he was going to finally make it right, but he instead doubled down on the delusion that he was doing nothing wrong by talking to Daisy as TJ. And if he had owned up to his actions at any of those points, allowing the end conflict to be about something else entirely, then I could have been happy with the way this story ended.

There were cute moments. I particularly liked when they started rock climbing together, as it showed that they actually could work as a couple. But even then, I could not understand how she so easily decided that she loved him in the end. Because while he had loved her for a while, she was only just getting to know him as someone other than her pastor, and that while he was lying to her the whole time. Even allowing for the story's theme of forgiveness, he should not have been able to so easily get with her in the end.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ilyon & Acktar Tour and Giveaway

Ilyon and Acktar Blog Tour Header
Jaye L. Knight’s newest novel, Bitter Winter, and companion novella Lacy have been released! Bitter Winter is the fifth book in the Christian fantasy series, Ilyon Chronicles. Tricia Mingerink's newest novel Decree is also releasing! Decree is the fifth book in the Christian fantasy/kingdom adventure series The Blades of Acktar. Read about these books below and be sure to check out the other blog stops on the tour by visiting the official tour page. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!


The Ilyon Chronicles

 

Bitter Winter

About Bitter Winter Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country. Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.


Review of Bitter Winter This book is a little different that the rest in the series. While there is still a lot of peril, most of it comes from a source other than battles or harrowing escapes from those who wish them dead. But for fans of the series, the stakes seemed so much higher than before as well. I love these characters to much and stayed up well into the night to find out what became of them.

For those who have not read the series, I would not recommend picking up at this point. There are a lot of relationships and conflicts that build on everything that has happened before, and I would have felt lost if I had not already known what happened in the other books. The central conflict is also one that I am not sure I would have cared for it not for my affection for these characters. While the beginning and end of the story were filled with action, the majority of the story circles around the characters' inner struggles griefs.

With each book, I grow more and more attached to Jace as a character, and I am not sure how I will handle it when there are at last no more books in this series. But until then, I will enjoy whatever Jaye writes and look forward to the next time we see him.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy of the book from the author.

Available now on Amazon!

goodreads

Lacy


About Lacy The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection. When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom. An Ilyon Chronicles Novella.


Review of Lacy I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that this time around, there were going to be two books released in this series at the same time. Lacy was a character I had not heard of at the time (she is introduced in Bitter Winter), but I had enjoyed Jaye's other novellas, which had to do with Jace. And if you love the story world Jaye has created, then this is a wonderful new addition.

However, I did not feel that the story was all that necessary to the overall narrative. Lacy is not a character who had I fallen in love with as I had Jace, nor did the plot seem to add any information that might be important later on in the next book.

The story itself is also quiet a bit darker and geared to a more mature audience than the rest of the series. Because it does not seem essential to the rest of the narrative, that does mean that readers can easily take or leave it at their choosing. And for those who want more stories set in this world, this is a delightful addition.

Perhaps I should clarify that I personally do not take issue with narrative. I have read many books which dealt with prostitutes as the heroine and had other mature elements. However, I know that many of the fans of this series appreciate it in large part because of how chaste it has been up to this point. And I think that for those readers, this novella may be one that they wish to skip over.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy of the novella from the author.


Available now on Amazon!

goodreads

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!  

JayeLKnight Author PhotoAbout the Author Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.






 

 

The Blades of Acktar




 About Decree The Adventure Continues. Discover more of The Blades of Acktar in this collection of novellas and short stories. The Blades as They Should’ve Been A test and the Gathering of Nobles will decide Leith and Martyn’s futures. Can they fight to become more than the Blades they were? Will Keevan accept the man who attempted to kill him as family? The First Mission When Martyn visits Surgis, his past seems determined to haunt him. Can he figure out how to forgive, especially when confronted with an enemy in need of his help? To the Far Great Mountains A death sends Leith and Martyn far beyond the borders of Acktar. Will they be able to arrest their quarry before they are caught themselves? From the story of how Leith and Martyn met to Ranson’s search for a life outside of the Blades, these stories will answer plaguing questions and expand the world of Acktar.

Available now on Amazon!

goodreads

Haven’t discovered the The Blades of Acktar yet? Find out more at on the official Blades of Acktar page.  


DSC09450-2About the Author Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country. You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway!

PaperbackGiveaway


Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a full signed set of the Ilyon Chronicles and The Blades of Acktar! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.) Click on this link to enter. Be sure to stop by each of the character chats (links in the blog tour schedule) for additional giveaways throughout the tour!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lady of a Thousand Treasures- Sandra Byrd

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.


My Thoughts: It has been so long since I have read a Sandra Byrd novel! I had loved her Ladies in Waiting series, but had not paid enough attention to realize that she had written anything after... at least until I saw this. And I am so ready for the rest of The Victorian Ladies.

As an anthropologist, I always love it when it an author clearly puts a lot of research into their novels and I am able to learn something that I had not know before. And since I also like to shop antiques, this story hit a lot of points that were close to home for me. I am still floored by the information Eleanor gives about faux pearls of the time period (and really want a necklace made with them).

I also appreciate that the romance in the story is what I would call a low simmer. The characters are interested in each other, we know they are. But even though this is a consistent part of the narrative, it doesn't overtake all the other plot points or character relationships. Eleanor has a life outside of her romantic entanglement, one that she cultivates with just as much care.

I had a lot of fun reading this book and only wish that I already had some information about the next. It will be a for sure read.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the publisher.




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