Monday, April 24, 2017

The Sacred Writings: Beneath the Blackberry Moon- April Gardner

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Big Warrior Totka Hadjo enters his toughest battles yet—the fight for love, the invasion of fear, and the inescapable ashes of each.

The war has ended, and now, Totka Hadjo must endure eleven moons and twenty-six sleeps without his beloved Copper Woman. But he has a two-fold task to keep him occupied: establish a lodge deserving of her and challenge her Jesus Creator to a vision, to prove his existence.

Totka leaves the white settlements with Copper Woman’s holy book, an object with medicine strong enough to keep at bay the hounding ghosts of his unavenged ancestors. But the sacred writings cannot restrain the Bluecoat who has returned from the dead, the one who first owned her heart. From the far reaches of the Muscogee Confederacy, Totka is powerless to stop the onslaught of events that conspires to take his beloved from him forever.

Leaping Waters, Totka’s old passion, is a constant presence he cannot escape, but she might be able to unlock the spiritual mysteries found in the holy book’s talking leaves. While he wades through the confusing symbols, the Choctaws, his ancient enemy, are determined to seize prime Muscogee hunting lands. In the process, they aggravate wounds that might never heal and expose him to a truth too bitter to swallow.

Denial and revenge go down much easier.


My Thoughts: I was so afraid to start reading this book; afraid that it wouldn't live up to the first. I have read many other novels where the main characters split off from each other in the second book and I have never liked that second book until now. Though very different from the first part, The Sacred Writings is just as amazing and I'm a little thunderstruck by how much I enjoyed it.

What sets The Sacred Writings apart from other stories where the love interests are separated is that the majority of this story focuses only on Totka. April made the correct decision to let him hold the story since his is by far the most interesting plot line at this point in his and Copper Woman's story. And even though he and Copper Woman are  not together, she is never far from his thoughts and I love how their separation drove his character arc.

Though the romance is not quite as strong, there are enough scenes to keep the romantic tension going right along side every other conflict Totka has to deal with. *Hugs book to chest* I loved this book so much.

That is not to say that there are not a few problems. A couple scenes stretched on longer than I was willing to read through and I ended up skipping on to the next. As well, the very last connection found between Totka and Hilaho felt like far too much of a coincidence. However, if you loved the first part, you will adore this as well.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection- Joanne Bischof and others

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?

My Thoughts: The collection started out strong with a captivating prologue that had me certain the rest of the stories would be spell binding. Unfortunately, after that, the collection started out a bit rocky, though it did get better as the stories progressed.

The first novella in the collection, The Distant Tide, was my least favorite of the stories. The characters' motivations lacked much conflict and I felt that the Message Bottle played an insignificant role in the plot.

The second story was better, the Message Bottle was more prominent and I like the characters better, however it was with the third story that I really started liking the collection. Those last few stories felt far more believable and the settings were more immersive. Though not my favorite romance anthology, I believe this one is still worth the read if you happen to come across it.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Praying the Psalms- Ben Patterson

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Have you ever tried to pour out your deepest feelings to God, only to discover that you can't find the words? We want to feel connected to God, but sometimes it seems like we're not speaking the same language.

There is no better place in all of Scripture than Psalms to learn to be with God. Praying the Psalms includes 50 selections from this book--songs of praise, cries for help, glad rejoicings, and humble offerings--accompanied by inspirational devotions that will open a divine window in your prayer life.

Adapted from God's Prayer Book; now in a deluxe LeatherLike binding.



My Thoughts: Though I have read through the Bible a few times, Psalms is a book I tended to slog through. It was only slightly more interesting to me than Numbers, and I simply could not understand why so many people loved to quote it. Praying the Psalms seemed like a chance to figure out why others found this book of the Bible so moving.

I have to say that this little book managed to give me a new perspective on the Psalms. It allowed me to take my time, reading each one individually and to really appreciated what the original writers were saying. Instead of rushing through multiple chapters in one day, I lingered on each and compared them to my own heart cry.

Each of the Psalms included is followed by the author's take on the subject matter, along with a breakdown of some of the more important verses. Though I appreciated Patterson's perspective, I did not agree with all of his conclusions. Some did not seem to correlate as well with the scripture as did others.

I really liked the size of this book. As someone who travels for work, Praying the Psalms was compact enough to bring along in my bag, with short enough chapters that I was able to read it on days when all I wanted was to collapse in bed and never get up. I would definitely recommend it as a gift for family members who struggle to get through longer devotionals and I plan to reread it myself.

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Search by Content- Book Ninjas Allows You to Chose

Recently I was made aware of a site called Book Ninjas, where readers can search for books in order to determine their sexual content level. Now, I know there are other sites like this, however this is the first which I have seen were you can actually search for a title or author instead of just by genre. So instead of looking for new books, I can check the rating on a book I am already considering. (Now picture me getting really excited!)

Today I have Lily Black, one of the Book Ninjas, here to tell us a little more about the website:




1.      How did Book Ninjas come about?

As a romance reader I (that is, Lily) was always stumbling across scenes that were way too hot for me, as well as books that had language I didn’t want in my head. After complaining of this to my sweet hubby for a few years, he got the idea to create a program which could quickly provide a blush level for books, so readers could choose books that were the best fit for them. Flash forward several years of hard work, and we launched Book Ninjas in November of 2016!


2.      How easy/difficult is it to rate a book on the blush-o-meter?

Hmmm…so, this question can be interpreted two ways. How easy is it for me, Lily, to add books to the catalog? That’s fairly simple, thanks to the algorithms and tech-wizardry that goes on behind the scene, as the Ninjas do their work. I simply select a book file (with its attached cover image and author) and add the description and genres. The Book Ninjas do the rest, providing the book a blush level!

Behind the scenes, the Book Ninjas use a variety of lexical analysis techniques to analyze the books, and give intermediate scores for language, overall heat level, and highest heat level (i.e., the hottest scene), which are then combined to provide the overall blush level.



3.      About how many book ratings does Book Ninjas currently offer?

We’ve just passed up the 1,000 mark for books in the catalog, and are super excited about that! Of course, that’s split over lots of genres plus further divided by romance vs. YA, etc., and by blush level. But still, we’re thrilled to have so many books in the catalog, and we continue to add more all the time!

Any authors or publishers who are interested in having their book(s) added to the Book Ninja catalog can contact me directly via email at lily at lilyblackbooks.com, or can use the contact form here [http://www.book-ninjas.com/contact-the-book-ninjas/]. Books need to have a minimal number of reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads, but we are eager to help authors and publishers get their books into the catalog.


4.      Are there any plans to expand the blush-o-meter? Whether to other types of content or else to offer a breakdown of content?

Yes, we are planning to add a rating indicating how bloody or gory a book is, which should be useful to readers in the Mystery/Thriller/Suspense genres.  The Ninjas are voting to call it the “blood-o-meter,” but we’ll have to see.  We’d also like to offer something for kids books someday, but that is further down the road. The Ninjas are always learning and training hard behind the scenes!

As for a breakdown of content, that’s already in the works and will soon be available to registered users! The extra info we plan to provide to those who’ve created an account will allow readers to see individual ratings for language, overall heat level, and hottest scene. The Ninjas will also break down the specific swear words included in a book, and other useful information. User interaction with the rating system is also planned. We should be rolling these (and other) updates out soon, so anyone interested should sign up for the newsletter here [http://www.book-ninjas.com/newsletter/] to stay informed!



Thanks Lily! I can't wait to see Book Ninjas expand.


Bio:  Lily Black believes in true love, but is also quite sure going after it is the scariest thing we'll ever do!  She explores this dynamic in her romantic suspense novels, which are set in the small imaginary town of Willowdale, where people dream big, love deeply, and kick butt if necessary.  She has a black belt in Chung Do Kwan Tai Kwon Do, and has also trained in everything from judo to broadswords.  She lives in North Carolina, where she works as a content editor for a small publisher, and divides her free time between the mountains and the sea with her very patient and loving husband and their teen daughter. She is also the co-creator of the Book Ninjas’ Blush-O-Meter. Readers everywhere search the Book Ninjas’ online catalog for romance, YA and chicklit novels in all genres, and find books that match their preferred blush level!
Book Ninja’s Catalog: http://www.book-ninjas.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16078435.Lily_Black


She has a new novel coming out, which is a 4 on the Blush-o-Meter, if you would like to check it out.



Description: Love is worth fighting for.

Alexa Wolving has just one rule: never give a guy a second chance. That works just fine in the safe life she’s built. In the charming town of Willowdale, her day job as a librarian balances perfectly with her evening job as a black belt instructor. But when she attracts the attention of a stalker, Alexa’s carefully built world begins to crumble.

Drew Cosimo knows he broke Alexa’s heart five years ago when he took his first Ranger assignment and disappeared from her life. Now that he’s out of the army, he’s moving back home to Willowdale. He’s not looking for a fight, but making peace would be easier if Alexa hadn’t told the entire town he was a money-grubbing jerk. Despite the tension between them, Drew is quick to offer his protection when a stalker forces Alexa from her home.

As the stalker’s attacks escalate, Alexa and Drew are forced to face their painful past and the simmering attraction between them. They must fight to save each other before everything they care about goes up in flames.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Grace and the Preacher- Kim Vogel Sawyer

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: The Kansas community of Fairland anticipates the arrival of their new minister and in recent months, late in 1882, postmistress Grace Cristler has communicated with Reverend Dille via letters, answering his questions about the little town, and developing affection for the man who pens thoughtful missives.

Theophil Garrison grew up under the loving influence of his saintly grandmother, but was roped into his cousins’ train-robbing plan. When they fail and are apprehended, Theo fled the scene, evading jail time. Now an angry cousin is out to avenge Theo's duplicity, and he’s on the run. He encounters a fatally ill traveler--a minister. Seeing a way to keep hidden, Theo trades identities with the man, dons his fine black suit, carries a Bible, and prays that he'll be accepted as Rufus Dille.

Once in Fairland, if Theo's true identity is uncovered, what will be left of the world he has built for himself, Grace, and those in the town who have come to love and accept him?


My Thoughts: Normally I give a book until page 100 before I set it aside as a DNF. However, by that time the hero and heroine had still not met, so I pushed through until they had. At that point, the story did pick up, so I was willing to continue with it. Yet I never truly felt invested in anything that happened.

Theophil's choices seemed less like those of a mature adult who has endured abuse and more like a scared teenager with no concept of how his choices would affect others. Grace was somewhat more mature, but still behaved like she might have been seventeen. There was a lot of blushing and stuttering on both sides, and while it was mentioned that they spent hours talking to each other, the reader is not privy to hardly any of the time which these two characters spend one on one.

Most of the actual romance between Theo and Grace was seen through the perspective of Bess. Her's was an interesting POV, with a good twist toward the middle of the book, but she over shadowed the two main characters. As well, I also found Earl's perspective to be far more interesting up until the end.

Overall, the conflict was not very intense. The characters seemed to forgive and forget without much issue and there was not as much of a climax as I would have liked. It is an easy, uncomplicated read that may offer a few hours of distraction, and there is a good bit of scripture worked into the mix without being overly preach. And that on its own earns the story a couple stars.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ARC from the publisher.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Geekerella- Ashley Poston

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.


My Thoughts: I've always liked fairytale retellings and this was no exception. An ode to both fairytales and fandoms, Geekerella is a fun twist on a subgenre. I enjoyed most of the ways Poston incorporated the classic Cinderella elements and found it a cute read that was easy to get immersed in.

I particularly liked Darien, whose sense of humor was near my own. Though he could be arrogant at times, he was (almost) always sweet with Elle. She on the other hand... could be harsh.

Though I did really like the book, there were some problems I had with it. First, the last portion of the book was rushed. While most of the book took place over at least a month, the end rushed through in about two days. And rather than make the climax about the characters' affection for each other, Poston chose to make it about their love of fandom. While not terrible, it felt like somewhat of a let down to the previous romantic build up.

I also would say that this should not be labeled as a YA. Though the characters are teenagers, there were certain things said which I do not believe to be appropriate for this age group, particularly younger teens. There is plenty for an adult to love, for whom I do recommend this as a fun read.

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

King's Blood- Jill Williamson

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In the second volume of Jill Williamson's Kinsman Chronicles, a remnant has escaped the destruction of the Five Realms and now lives on several hundred ships adrift at sea. As a flock, they sail north into the unknown in hopes of finding land that might become their new home.

As the king's illness worsens, Sar Wilek takes authority over the expedition and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts, vicious serpents, and dark magic endanger his life. 


One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms dauntingly in the future. Who is this Deliverer? And if the Magonians have him, what might that mean for the realm of Armania?


My Thoughts: The first portion of this book was not as enjoyable as I had hoped. A lot of the POV characters I had come to love from the first book were not given their own scenes in this and were instead replaced by other POV characters. This took some getting used to, as well as required me to comb my memory of the last book for who these new characters were. The second portion of the book did not have this same problem, as I had acclimated to the new characters. Yet it was in the final third of the book that the story truly interested me.

This is the part of the story where the connection between this series and the Blood of Kings started to make sense. Because the magic and cultures of the two stories are so different, I had struggled to reconcile them in my mind. Yet Jill does an amazing job of bringing about the connection and planting the seeds needed for Achan's world to exist.

Readers who had an issue with the many "romantic" conflicts in the first book should be warned. Those still exist in this portion of the book, though now Wilek and Trevn are fighting against them and advocating for a return to sole worship of Arman. The connections to the books of Kings and Chronicles are more apparent than ever, with phrases and scenarios pulled straight from the Bible. However these stories are ones of darkness, when Israel turned from God and the people of this fictional world are no different.

Though King's Blood is not everything I had hoped, it still has a lot of meat to it. The various characters and conflicts pull into question what we might have done in similar situations and remind us just how difficult it can be to serve God in an idolatrous world where so many offer up apposing answers. I think that is something we tend to forget in lives lured to complacence. And the last portion of the book, learning origins of Achan's history was worth read.

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