Monday, April 14, 2014

On the Shoulders of Hobbits- Louis Markos

My Rating: 3 stars

Descriptions: The world of J. R. R. Tolkien is filled with strange creatures, elaborately crafted lore, ancient tongues, and magic that exists only in fantasy; yet the lessons taught by hobbits and wizards speak powerfully and practically to our real lives. Courage, valor, trust, pride, greed, and jealousy--these are not fictional virtues. This is the stuff of real life, the Christian life. Professor and author Louis Markos takes us on the road with Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, with looks at selected classic works of literature as well, to show how great stories bring us so much more than entertainment. They inspire and convict, imparting truth in unforgettable ways.

Rediscover the virtue of great storytelling and the power of fantasy to transform our reality.

My Thoughts: As a book to learn life lessons from, I would not rate this very high. It does speak of virtues and their application in the stories of C. S. Lewis and Tolken and what they mean to us. However, I found it far more useful from a story telling stand point and writing of ones own stories, then learning from these authors.

On the Shoulders of Hobbits does give some insight into interpretation of events in LOTR, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Hobbit and what can be taken from them. Yet it was more of a condemnation of modern values (not all of which I disagreed with), but not as much the exploration of the before mentioned works as suggested.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Queen's Handmaiden- T. L. Higley and Kindle Giveaway!

Description:  From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.

Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC

Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.

But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.

Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.

My Thoughts: The Queen's Handmaiden takes you through Egypt, Rome, and Judea. It takes you into the courts of Cleopatra, Marc Antony, and Herod and shows you the inner workings of their lives. The story of Herod's family was not one that I had known before.

Lydia is the handmaiden who has served in all of these households and it is through her eyes that we see the events unfold. Unfortunately, she rarely actually took part in any of the action. As the main character, I had thought that she would play a major role in events, but instead she only watched while the adventure she was to supposed be on was put on hold for years.

The events of Herod's rule were enlightening and filled with conflict. Lydia's task was potentially dangerous and would have made an awesome story─ if told on its own. With no developments for years at a time and its being told along side Herod's family drama, it felt less than important and I often forgot about the scrolls entirely.

There were great parts of the story. The characters drew me to their history. But the two different story arcs divided my attention in a way that stole much of the excitement. I am glad that I read it and hope for a follow up, 
I received this title through litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Tracy L. Higley is celebrating the release of The Queen's Handmaid with a fun giveaway.

Retailers + Resources gave it this glowing review: "Rich in historic detail, Higley’s vivid writing brings to life the plots and intrigues that swirled through the ancient world as alliances were built and broken on the calculated schemes of power-mad monarchs." 
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced April 21st on Tracy's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Tracy's blog on April 21st to see if you won.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Sentinels of Andersonville- Tracy Groot

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: Near the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in only one year. In this gripping and affecting novel, three young Confederates and an entire town come face-to-face with the prison’s atrocities and will learn the cost of compassion, when withheld and when given.

Sentry Dance Pickett has watched, helpless, for months as conditions in the camp worsen by the day. He knows any mercy will be seen as treason. Southern belle Violet Stiles cannot believe the good folk of Americus would knowingly condone such barbarism, despite the losses they’ve suffered. When her goodwill campaign stirs up accusations of Union sympathies and endangers her family, however, she realizes she must tread carefully. Confederate corporal Emery Jones didn’t expect to find camaraderie with the Union prisoner he escorted to Andersonville. But the soldier’s wit and integrity strike a chord in Emery. How could this man be an enemy? Emery vows that their unlikely friendship will survive the war—little knowing what that promise will cost him.

As these three young Rebels cross paths, Emery leads Dance and Violet to a daring act that could hang them for treason. Wrestling with God’s harsh truth, they must decide, once and for all, Who is my neighbor?

My Thoughts: Of all historicals, my favorites tend to be about the horror stories of war. Andersonville is a story that previously I had only heard of in passing, so I was interested to learn more by reading this. And I am extremely glad that I did.

Andersonville was a Confederate prison, with conditions that rivaled most any other prison camp I have read of. Tracy managed to bring this place to life in an amazing way. I fell in love with the characters and felt their pain. I laughed and felt heartbreak.

The one issue I had was that there were moments where I forgot who was talking, because the conversation was between minor characters and names had not been used in the last page. It was a little confusing, but also made it feel as though the book had been written soon after the Civil War. So in a way, my one complaint made the story a little better.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

One Realm Beyond- Donita K. Paul

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Cantor D Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms. But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment---finding a dragon to assist him on his quest---has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won t leave him alone. With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren't progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild's layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies.

My Thoughts: I had thought that this would be a much like Donita's other books, the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, which I loved. In some ways it was, but not enough to keep me wholly interested. The things that I didn't like included the dragons. The shape-shifting was not something I liked, especially with the forms they took (e.g. Hay bale, old dog, stretcher). I'm sure they were meant to be amusing, but I didn't think that they were. I was not too fond of Bixby either, who behaved like a juvenile.

What brought this book to three stars was Cantor. He was the only character that I could relate with, his being somewhat normal. I completely understood his insistence that Bridger was not his dragon. Why none of the other characters understood that is beyond me. ( I also liked Jesha, Bridger's cat). In the end, there were some laughs from situational comedy, and I think that tweens would love this story, I just could not get into it myself.

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fool for Books HOP

Thank you I am a Reader Not a Writer for hosting this HOP!

Today I am giving away a copy of Love on Assignment. This book comes from my shelf and is new, though one corner of the cover was damaged slightly when sent to me and it has shelf wear. It is still a great read, and I believe a good choice for Fools for Books as the heroine is a reporter who goes undercover, fooling everyone around her.

Description: The chance to break the big story is all Charlotte needs to secure her future. But when the truth comes out--it may cost her the love of her life.

Newport, Rhode Island, in 1900--a glamorous resort town where the rich and famous go to see and be seen.

Charlotte Hale isn't part of that world. She's a working girl, a secretary for a local newspaper, who dreams of becoming a real reporter. When her boss offers her an assignment, she jumps at the opportunity. She'll go undercover as a governess to investigate a scandal about her new employer, Daniel Wilmont, a young widowed professor of religion who writes a controversial column in a rival newspaper.

Charlotte's qualms about misrepresenting herself to Daniel soon morph into a deeper quandary. How can she get the goods on a man who turns out to be so honorable? How can she plot the downfall of a family that has inspired her to rediscover her faith? And how can she protect the man she now loves from a scheme she's been part of since the beginning?

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dragonswood- Janet Lee Carey

My Rating: 4 stars

Description: On Wilde Island, there is no peace between dragons, fairies, and humans.

Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. As the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans begins to fray, the royal witch hunter with a hidden agenda begins a vengeful quest to burn girls suspected of witchcraft before a new king is crowned.

Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous. Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. As their pursuer draws ever closer they find shelter with a huntsman in the outskirts of the forbidden Dragonswood sanctuary. But staying with the mysterious huntsman poses risks of its own: Tess does not know how to handle the attraction she feels for him—or resist the elusive call that draws her deeper onto the heart of Dragonswood.

My Thoughts: As a history lover, the first thing that drew me to this story was the premise of a girl who had been accused of witchcraft. What held me was Dragonswood.

A forest within medieval England, home to dragons and fey folk alike. I could easily see Tess fascination with it from the beginning. I was tempted to cross the boundary wall myself (if I could ever find it). The mix of history and fantasy in this unique story carried me way.

My one true dislike for the story was Lady Adela. Her reasons for her vial deeds are murky at best. I don't understand why everyone could explain them away and then treat Tess like she was wrong for being distrustful.

Still, story and its setting were absolutely delightful, if a bit sad because the ugly historical aspects of the witch hunts.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing Tip- Unwanted Destinies

King Arthur and Merlin

 Every hero anyone has ever loved has feared his or her destiny in some way. Because destinies are scary things with hardships and pains along the way.

The destiny will take a strength of character never before known to the hero, a growth of heart and moral. And every emotion felt in is a growing pain, making them who they need to be. Because the boy at the beginning of the story could never do what the man could at the end.

Prince Caspian

After reading A Draw of Kings this past week, the idea of destinies is one that has captured me. That someone like Errol, or Caspian from Narnia, could have a plan set out for their lives by God and the kind of fear that such knowledge brought to them.

That fear of destiny is what makes us love them, what makes them heroes. Because they were like us and they became who we hope to be. So give your heroes destinies, a path to trod. Let them become who we want to be.