Monday, February 20, 2017

Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope- Texie Susan Gregory

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Trapped beneath 400 years of Egypt’s injustices, the Hebrew people await deliverance from generations of Egyptian slavery. But while it is still dark, God is at work. Young Jochebed is unaware the Master Weaver is preparing her to mother three formidable leaders: Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Shiphrah, the half-Egyptian midwife tasked to kill Hebrew male newborns, remembers childhood stories of a merciful God and cannot resist His call on her life.

Two women, each following the dangerous path God has set before them—this is their story

My Thoughts: When I first picked this up, I expected it to be like most Biblical Fiction. That is, a main character's romantic story woven into a Biblical narrative. Slender Reeds is nothing like that.

In ways, this is good. It is far more realistic to the cultural setting and time period, where survival outweighs romance. The slavery of the Hebrews is also more realistic, with the characters' daily lives filled with pain and drudgery as they seek out a glimmer of God's hope. Hope is slender as a reed in this story, with arranged marriages, barrenness, and ever breaking friendships. This is not the story for someone looking for a light-hearted read.

On the other hand, Jochebed's lack of a romance leaves Pharaoh (you know, murderer of Hebrew children) with a far better love story. Amram is virtually ignored in this story of Moses' humble origins, which disappointed me as I would have loved to see how all of this affected him. Instead, friendship was the main relational conflict of the novel, one which unfortunately seemed to repeat the same pattern.

Gregory's depiction of Hebrew slavery is likely a very honest one. While the full extent of their suffering is not detailed in the Bible, it is none the less known that the people suffered greatly. However, there were things I think could have been written better and I wish Amram had played a larger role. I would keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to read this.

I have provided an honest review after I received an ecopy of this book through Netgalley.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Royal Christmas Wedding- Rachel Hauck

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: It’s been five years since Avery Truitt and Prince Colin of Brighton Kingdom fell in love. But he broke her heart with no explanation.

Fast forward to present day, and Colin is Brighton’s most eligible bachelor now that cousin Stephen has married. When Avery’s father dies of a heart attack, she puts her life on hold and returns home to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to help Mama with the family restaurant. But Mama misses Avery’s sister Susanna, who lives four thousand miles away in Brighton Kingdom—and is expecting her first child. So Mama insists she and Avery spend the Christmas season in Brighton.

Colin and Avery are going to see each other a lot while she’s visiting. But she can’t forget the way he hurt her, and he didn’t expect his feelings to still be so strong.

Avery is torn between considering a future in Brighton and taking a coaching job in Georgia, and Colin is finally pushed to pursue what he really wants. Is it too late to convince Avery that she is his true love? And even if he does, will she make it to the chapel on Christmas Day to give him her heart?

My Thoughts: I've never been a huge fan of Hauck's books, though I seem to continually end up with them on my review list. So A Royal Christmas Wedding was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that I actually enjoyed it. It is fairly short and sweet, a great read for anytime of year, and not just at Christmas.

Colin and Avery are incredibly mature about their past. While most novels dealing with characters who were once almost married usually devolve into petty arguments between the two, these characters managed to refrain. This made the story all the more enjoyable and made their relationship worth cheering for.

I might have rated it higher had there been a little more to the story. The length doesn't allow for any subplots or deeper issues. Yet I think the simplicity of the story compliments the joyful feel of Christmas and makes this a nice relaxing read for a normally hectic time of year. And with Valentine's Day coming around, maybe we could all use some simple romance.

I have provided an honest review after having received this book through The Fiction Guild.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Mark of the King- Jocelyn Green

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict. 

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on? 

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

My Thoughts: The Mark of the King is an incredibly well written book that grabs a hold of your attention and wont let go. Detailing the struggles underwent by the original colonists of New Orleans, the novel follows Julianne through a life of heartache as she learns that only God's opinion of her matters and only following his will is able to bring her joy. This message is woven into the history of the colonies, a time when faith was heavily regulated by the church.

Green's research into the time period is astounding, as she truly brings this colony to life. Though I already knew a few of the details she uses, other facts were completely new to me. I am always impressed when an author is able to impart so much history without beginning to read like a textbook.

My one complaint is that the conflict which arises toward the end was one that could have been avoided if the characters had not kept secrets from each other. Though their reasons are understandable, they also showed a lack of trust in the other. I would also like to warn that this is not an easy book to read. Some of the events portrayed are stomach churning and I would not recommend it for teenagers or those who dislike reading about some of the more horrifying aspects of history. That said, I will personally be looking for any upcoming works by this author.

I have provided an honest review after having received this book through Litfuse.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sherlock Meets Sherlock- Episode 3

Listings: Episode 1, Episode 2

Announcer: So you've decided to return? Well, we are certainly glad to have you here for our final installment of this season's Sherlock Meets Sherlock. Remember that if you have not seen the first two episodes, you can find them in the listings above. And if you would like to see this broadcast continue, please leave a comment for our producer.

As with the past two weeks, BBC's Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have found themselves in the flat of their Warner Brothers counterparts. The following is an experiment to see how they would react to each other.

(Summary: As the characters from each all have the same names, Warner Brothers' Sherlock Holmes and John Watson will be denoted by their last names, while the BBC characters will go by their first names. Watson and John have since completed their fistcuff from the last episode and now the characters discuss how this situation could have come to be and how to undo it.)

The Scene: They all sit in chairs, Sherlock and John on one side of the room while Holmes and Watson are on the other. Watson has his head tilted back and is pinching his nose while John rubs his neck.

Holmes: (Claps his hands to break the silence) Well, isn't this fun?

(Watson glares at him)

John: You call this fun?

Sherlock: Of course he does. He obviously gets off on this sort of thing.

Holmes: And you don't?

Sherlock: (With an air of superiority) Of course not.

(Watson snorts and then cringes)

Holmes: (Looks at Watson) I do say, you should try not to laugh.

Watson: Shut up.

Sherlock: This exchange is all together fascinating, but there are more pressing matters.

Holmes: Charges of breaking and entering for instance?

Sherlock: You know very well that's not what happened here.

Holmes: I know nothing of the sort. (Nudges Watson) Would you mind handing me my pipe?

Watson: Get it yourself.

Holmes: Rude.

Sherlock: (Groans) Would you please?

John: (Crosses his arms) Just ignore them, Sherlock. We don't need them to solve this.

Holmes: (To Watson) Why can't you be that supportive?

Watson: Because you're an idiot.

Sherlock: I need absolute silence. (Leans forward with his fingers at his temples)

Watson: (Leans forward as well) (To John) What is he doing?

John: (Whispers) It's his mind palace.

Holmes: Does it work?

Watson: (Yells) Are you kidding me?

Holmes: Perhaps I should try it.

Sherlock: Does no one understand the meaning of silence?  (Stands abruptly)

John: I have not said a thing.

Sherlock: You're still contributing to the problem. (Begins to pace)

Watson: Now what is he doing?

John: He's trying to find a solution to this mess.

Holmes: Why does he not simply reenact the actions which brought you here?

John: We don't know what actions brought us here. This isn't exactly normal.

Holmes: Really? I had assumed you did this everyday.

Watson: Oh, knock it off. No else finds this as giddily fascinating as you do.

Holmes: Perhaps that is the problem. (Stands as well, then turns dramatically to John) Why don't you tell me, in exact detail, how it is that you came to find yourself here?

John: Are you serious? (Points behind him to Sherlock) If he can't figure this out, what makes you think you can?

Watson: Because he's Sherlock Holmes. He believes he can do anything.

Holmes: That is incorrect.

Watson: Is it? (Watson and Holmes glare at each other)

Holmes: (Looks away first) It hardly matters. One can not discover the full extent of a puzzle without having encountered all the pieces. (To John) Now, please--

Sherlock: (Yells) Of course!

(Watson and John both stand. All look to Sherlock)

Holmes: What is it?

Sherlock: (Ignores Holmes) Come. (Grabs John's hand and tugs him across the room)

John: (Furious) Would you let go of me!

Sherlock: It is completely obvious.

(Watson and Holmes follow close behind)

Watson: What is?

Sherlock: (Spins about, now clutching John by the shoulder) It was right in front of us all along.

Holmes: Do not keep with this suspense. Tell me!

Sherlock: (Grins snarkily) Why, it's elementary.

(There is a thunderous boom and blinding flash. Watson and Holmes shield their eyes. Papers float around them as though recently thrown in the air. Watson opens his eyes first. John and Sherlock are gone)

Watson: Well, that's over with.

Holmes: (Looks as well) I can't believe they did that.

Watson: Did what?

Holmes: The man could have at least told us how he managed to do it.

Watson: (Angry) Are you actually serious?

Fades to black. THE END

Announcer: We hope you enjoyed this special. Remember that if you did not catch the last two episodes, you can find those above in the listings.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Shattered Vigil- Patrick Carr

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: Described as a Fantasy Mystery, The Shattered Vigil is a very complex novel with many threads that need to be followed in order to reach the end. The tone is dark and suspenseful, with few moments of mirth to lighten the impact of the plot. Those who pick up this series (and especially this second book) should be ready for an intense struggle against the darkness that lurks in the Darkwater.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed this book more than I did the first. While both are just as dark, The Shattered Vigil played out on a grander scale and offered more answers to how the Vigil functions (or barely functions). The urchins also have a more prominent role, offering some childlike hope to the otherwise bleak worldviews of the adults.

I'm not sure what to expect in the final book of the trilogy. So far it seems difficult to imagine a truly happy ending, though I do hope that Willet and the others find one. And that lack of faith in a happy ending is what ultimately leaves this book with less than a perfect rating. Because while Carr has woven an epic story and world, I would have preferred it if there had been a least one character whose worldview wasn't completely shattered.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sherlock Meets Sherlock- Episode 2

Listings: Episode 1

Announcer: We so do hope that you enjoyed last weeks episode of Sherlock Meets Sherlock and are here now for episode two rather than having come upon this by accident. However, if you are joining us for the first time, you can find a link to the first episode in the listings above.

As with last week, BBC's Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have found themselves in the flat of Warner Brothers' Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Let's watch and see how they react to each other.

(Summary: In this episode, the BBC Sherlock has begun to recognize the Warner Brothers' Sherlock as his doppelganger. As the characters from each all have the same names, Warner Brothers' Sherlock Holmes and John Watson will be denoted by their last names, while the BBC characters will go by their first names.)

The Scene: Holmes and Watson stand in the doorway to the back room while John and Sherlock stand in the middle of it.

John: (Angrily points at Holmes) You are not us.

Holmes: Well, of course not. Not exactly. 

Watson: They are not use at all. Have you lost your mind?

Holmes: Quiet possibly.

John: (To Sherlock) Sherlock, will you not say something?

Sherlock: I do believe he already covered it. (Finds a chair and brushes its contents onto the floor before sitting with a flourish of his coat) There's really not much more for me to say.

John: You mean to say that you are just going to sit there and let them impostor us?

Watson: (Points cane at John) Now see here.

(Holmes moves to stand beside Sherlock while Watson and John advance toward each other. Holmes and Sherlock watch on)

Holmes: I must say that I find this rather entertaining. 

Sherlock: Whatever do you mean?

(Both Sherlock and Holmes watch in silence for a moment)

Holmes: I believe this is the perfect opportunity for an experiment. What do you think we could do to them?

Sherlock: Do to them? (Sherlock turns to Holmes with a look of disgust) We are not going to do anything.

Holmes: Don't tell me that you're not even the tiniest bit curious as to what we can get them to fight over. (Holmes lifts a fire poker of the table next to him and stares at it as though he can not fathom what it is) You are me, after all.

Sherlock: I'm not that much like you.

Holmes: (Twirls the poker in the air like a baton) Do tell.

Sherlock: (Shakes down his sleeves and tilts his head) I see by the red of your eyes and the paler of your cheeks that you have been engaging in illegal substances for sometime now.

Holmes: Utterly fascinating. (Uses the fire poker as a staff) But you forget, I too can read you and I have already noticed the needle marks on your arms, though you have now covered them up. Meaning that you too have been... partaking.

Sherlock: That was for a case.

Holmes: Was it?

Sherlock: Yes.

(Sherlock and Holmes stare at each other for a moment. Watson and John are in the background, yelling at each other)

Sherlock: (Notices a picture of Irene Adler on the coffee table across from him, though he does not instantly recognize her. He smirks) Sentiment.

Holmes: Excuse me?

Sherlock: Who is she? The woman that you love? I must say that I am shock--

Holmes: (Interrupts) Who said anything about love?

Sherlock: (Motions to the room) You did. In every way other than words.

Holmes: (Sniffs rather loudly) (To Watson) Watson, are you rather done yet?

(In the time that Sherlock and Holmes interrogated each other, John has given Watson a bloody nose and Watson has gotten John in a headlock)

Watson: (Grabs a nearby plate, covered in Holmes' last forgotten meal which now spills across the floor, and bashes it against John's head) Just a moment more.

Holmes: Take your time.

Scene Break: Fades to black. 

Announcer: Come back next week for this season's final installment of Sherlock Meets Sherlock.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Of Moose and Men: Lost and Found in Alaska- Torry Martin and Doug Peterson

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Torry Martin—a comedian, actor, and hippie—fled from California to the wilderness of Alaska, searching for answers to life's big questions. He found what he was looking for...and a lot more!

A moose got its head stuck in Torry's window. A reindeer was trapped in his kitchen. A bear almost prevented him from reaching his airplane. He once woke up frozen to his cabin floor.

Like the Israelites of old, Torry experienced plenty of miracles and mishaps in the wilderness. And like them, he came face-to-face with God and was changed forever.

Each of these true stories of Torry's hilarious blunders and misfortunes contains a nugget of truth, but one theme prevails: If God can reclaim and repurpose Torry Martin's life, He can do the same for you and those you love.


My Thoughts: A couple years ago, I was able to hear Torry Martin speak at a conference and I remember his lesson being one of my favorites that year. He was funny and his advice was practical. So when I saw this book up for review, I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. And am I ever glad that I did.

Of Moose and Men is a hilarious read. Torry's sense of humor shines through in every story that he tells, and I flipped through the pages faster than I would have imagined. Yet each chapter ends with a serious moment, where Torry explains just why he told that story and the lesson that he learned from it. The scriptures and insights he gives are powerful, and the simplicity of the moments God used in his life truly spoke to me.

There is a lot to think about with this book: what things we deem important or else take for granted, and how we interact with God in our everyday lives. I appreciate Torry's honesty as well as his wit when telling of his past, even though there were some moments that made me cringe. I highly recommend this, even for those who don't normally read non-fiction, as Torry Martin's (and Doug Peterson's) way of writing is easy to follow and very relatable.

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