Monday, November 20, 2017

Every Serengeti Sunrise- Tour, Giveaway, and Review

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Every Serengeti Sunrise
(From Kenya, With Love #4)
Rula Sinara
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 368 pages
December 1st 2017 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Elephants, Africa’s wild savannah and three best friends…

When attorney Maddie Corallis returns to Kenya to fight a humanitarian vs animal rights case, the last thing she expects is for her childhood friend, wildlife veterinarian Haki Odaba, to be the very man she’s up against. Loyal and protective, Haki would never turn his back on the elephants he’s devoted to saving, any more than Maddie could abandon the native tribes she’s come to protect. An impossible battle…but nothing compared to the fight they face when old feelings surface and the soul-deep connection they’ve always shared threatens the worst kind of betrayal...that of their dearest friend Pippa. The one Haki is expected to marry.

Denying their feelings is torture, but giving in is not an option. Not with the suffering it would cause. Besides, Maddie left Kenya once and she’ll be leaving again soon. An ocean, a case and a friend between them. Maybe love can’t always find a way…or can it?

My Thoughts

It is not everyday that a novel set in Kenya pops up in my review feed. Most American authors stick to the US of A, or else some of the more "romantic" countries of Europe. So it was a joy to find something that was a little more unique. And since I had read an anthropological study in college that dealt with Kenya and the tribal laibons, I was excited to see where the author took this story.

To begin with, Sinara did a great job of depicting Kenyan culture. She mentioned greetings and gift-giving, all without making these parts of the culture seemed forced to the story or else needlessly exotic. And she included simple details, such as the correct gifts to bring, without stating that those were the expected gifts, creating a sense of normality to the exchange between characters that I appreciated.

However, the romance itself felt like something that was forced in between the conflict of farmers killing elephants in retribution for destruction of crops. Though the narrative hints that there were feelings between the two as children, it seems to come out of nowhere that they suddenly love each other so much after only a few days together, days in which they have been on opposing sides of a legal battle.

There is also a lot of backstory to the characters that is largely glossed over, which I assume is because it was part of the other three books, which made it difficult to get a sense of just who this cast of characters are as people. Why do any of them have such a drive to protect the elephants? And why does that drive result in Haki being judgemental and sometimes callous to the local tribes people when it comes to their livelihoods?

I think that if I had read the rest of the series beforehand, that I would have enjoyed the romance in this one much more. However, reading it as a standalone left me wishing for more when it came to the characters' history and relationship.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through I am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

National and USA Today Bestselling author Rula Sinara lives in rural Virginia with her family and crazy but endearing pets. She loves organic gardening, attracting wildlife to her yard, planting trees, raising backyard chickens and drinking more coffee than she'll ever admit to. Rula's writing has earned her a National Readers Choice Award and HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, among other honors. You can discover more about Rula at her blog A Writer’s Rush, on Twitter, on Facebook as RulaSinaraAuthor or on her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

Tour Schedule

November 13th: Launch Colorimetry
November 21st: Wishful Endings
November 22nd: Heidi Reads... & I Am A Reader
November 23rd: underneath the covers
November 24th: Becky on Books
November 25th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

Prize Pack #1: (one winner, U.S. residents only)
- A set of three, 15X15 in cotton canvas ‘From Kenya, With Love’ tote bags
- A handmade wooden ‘Believe’ star ornament
- A set of 3 plush wild animal TY Teeny Tys (great stocking stuffers!)
- An autographed copy of A Heartwarming Christmas Craft & Cookbook
- An autographed copy of After the Silence
- An autographed copy of Through the Storm
- Every Serengeti Sunrise bookmark

Prize Pack #2: (one winner, open to U.S. and International residents)
Amazon Kindle (gifted) copies of The Promise of Rain and After the Silence (Winner may substitute a different backlist book by Rula Sinara, if one of the above titles is already owned. No other substitutions apply.)

Ends November 29th

Monday, November 13, 2017

Christy-Catherine Marshall

My Rating: 5 Stars

DescriptionThe train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

Yearning to make a difference, will Christy’s determination and devotion be enough?

My Thoughts: The last time I read this, I was in middle school in Michigan, reading novels meant for much older readers. Now, I'm finally the target audience and am reading the 50th anniversary edition in a city mentioned on the Cutter Gap map. How times have changed!

One of the most upsetting things for me as a child reader was that there had never been a sequel to Christy. I'm even more heartbroken about that now that I have read this over and fallen in love once again with the setting and the characters who are both familiar and yet foreign. Living in the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia has given me a new appreciation for Christy's many jaunts into the forest and her desire to stay even when her family would wish her home.

Something I was unable to fully grasp in my childhood was the faith journey that Christy embarked upon. Now that I have passed the age she was in the narrative, I have found the questions she grappled with to be just as important and thought provoking as she did. What does it mean to love thy neighbor? Especially when that person is someone who you feel lives in a world of ignorance and hate. Do you have to like them still? And what is the best way to live and preach the gospel when you know your neighbors are engaged in illegal and dangerous acts?

Christy was a courageous woman, one that many of us can only hope to be like, as she dove not only into a culture alien to her, but also into deeps of faith she had never dared tread. While there are portions of this new edition that could have used updating, such as where there are two people speaking in one paragraph without much distinction between the two, there is a wealth of storytelling that stands on its own as a classic that will remain for generations to come.

I am glad to have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through Litfuse.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Unraveling- Sara Ella

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

DescriptionWhat happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?

Eliyana Ember doesn't believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what's right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she's trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about--like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua's finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something--or someone--is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections--and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

My Thoughts: I am aware that most people awaited this novel with high anticipation. However, despite my moderate enjoyment of the first, I was not one of them. I suspected that the things I enjoyed about the first would be undone and, unfortunately, I was right. The complex love triangle that so intrigued me in the first book, now felt forced as I  wondered why she felt drawn to either guy. Both are at times emotionally distant and their "love" seems to come as a game of who "owns" her. While I ultimately prefer Ky over Joshua, I could not find it in me to care if they ended up together. Because while they are concerned with who her heart belongs to, the world is literally crashing down around them, and all the reader gets to see of it is a few crashing stones and some powers that no longer work.

As with the first, the same issue exists where characters refuse to share pertinent information with each other. And as with the first, this creates conflict where there never should have been one. While the fact that Joshua does this can be explained as the Void causing him to make selfish and harmful decisions, the same excuse does not hold up for anyone else, especially when they keep information from their Queen who otherwise could be working to fix the problem if she knew just what the problem was.

The true place where I felt that this novel failed its predecessor, however, was in the organization of scenes. While the previously mentioned issues are common for YA fiction, and honestly will not be a problem for many people, the scenes were something that only made the story all the more confusing. Throughout, both El and Joshua tell parts of their POV's through memories. However, while a few of these memories add to the story and are well led into, most of them are poorly inserted, leaving confusion as to whether they are current events or ones in the past. And very little, if anything, would have been lost if Ky's POV had been cut out all together.

The story is meant to be like a real life fairytale. But unlike a fairytale, there is very little whimsy to the story world or the plot. In the first, there was some, but in this... I don' know, I just could not get behind the Kiss of Infinity or the origin of the Verity and Void that is supposed to explain why love is such an all important force in this universe. Rather than feeling whimsical, it felt forced. But while I would not recommend this, there are many others that would.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ninth City Burning- J. Patrick Black

My Rating: 3 Stars

DescriptionFor fans of Ender's Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the world--until we learned to seize the power, and use it to fight back.

The war has raged for five centuries. For a cadet like Jax, one of the few who can harness the enemy's universe-altering force, that means growing up in an elite military academy, training for battle at the front--and hoping he is ready. For Naomi, young nomad roaming the wilds of a ruined Earth, it means a daily fight for survival against the savage raiders who threaten her caravan.

When a new attack looms, these two fledgling warriors find their paths suddenly intertwined. Together with a gifted but reckless military commander, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a wild and beautiful gunfighter, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose--they must find a way to turn back the coming invasion, or see their home finally and completely destroyed.

My Thoughts: Ninth City Burning is mostly a sum of all the novels it is toted as emulating. There are children who are integral to winning the war, yet they are not the only key players and are backed up by adults who will do whatever they need to to protect them. There are settlements that supply Ninth City while themselves living in ignorance and poverty, however this arrangement is out of perceived necessity rather than cruelty. And then there is science that is magic... and yet not.

Thelemity is a concept that is fun to read about and explore, particularly since the author spent so much effort to ensure that something that behaves so much like magic could be broken down into a science. Exploring the uses of this power through Rae's perspective is amusing in how relatable her struggle to learn its properties is. And Torro's perspective does a good job of tugging at heartstrings when he learns just what this war will cost him.

However, there were a number of other POV characters that could have been done without, and at times the explanations of thelemity drifted from showing to paragraphs of telling. The narrative opens with Jax, whose opening couple pages were hilarious despite the seriousness of the situation. However, he soon disappears from the forefront until much later in the story, after Naomi has stepped in and filled his place as the child with the weight of her people on her shoulders and future she is less than sure of. Vinneas and Kizabel also fill nearly identical roles in the narrative, both offering the perspective of people entrenched in this war since childhood who now seek to give mankind a leg up in the war but are largely ignored and outright hindered by those who are offended by the manner in which they go about it.

While all of these characters are able to show the readers events that the other characters are not privy to, the lack of diversity in roles and, to a lesser extent, personality, creates characters that it is difficult to invest in. Even Torro and Rae, who I felt stood better on their own, still filled the role of foot soldier who doesn't really want to be there but has their own reasons for not leaving AND who is a horrible failure at the majority of what they are being trained to do yet have an extraordinary and uncanny ability in some other area of training that is deemed just as valuable.

The more I think about it while writing this review, the more problems stick out to me. There are nomads who sound like they learned to read with a thesaurus for no apparent reason, characters who are far too knowledgeable on things that they shouldn't know unless they are social scientists, and an unwavering insistence that everything bad in the world is directly caused by the Valentines and once those aliens are defeated everything can be fixed. However, even with everything that I could pick apart, I didn't hate it. There was enough that was interesting and engaging (see the second paragraph of this review for some of those) for me to keep reading. And after seeing the that the alien big bad is referred to as "Romeo", I knew that I would have to take the story with a grain of salt anyway. While I personally do not see myself continuing the series (if there is one) I cannot say that I do not see this novel finding appeal for someone else.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Rhinestones on My Flip-Flops- Jane Jenkins Herlong

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: RHINESTONES ON MY FLIP FLOPS offers the message Jane lives by: prove people wrong and laugh while living your dreams.

As a nationally recognized Southern humorist, wife, and mother, Jane provides scriptural take-home wisdom and common-sense timeless truths. The purpose of RHINESTONES ON MY FLIP FLOPS is two-fold: to remind readers about biblical women who faced change and to provide life lessons about handling change that will benefit every woman. This book is designed to hit the heart with teachable stories that will encourage, inspire, and create laughable, honest moments. The book's common-sense, biblical answers will help women confidently face another day with empowerment and to pass their wisdom to the next generation.

My Thoughts: This is the first book I have read by this author, one I picked up in search of inspiring stories told with a sense of humor. The format of each chapter is that Jane introduces woman from the Bible who messed up in some way and then tells stories from her own life that relate. In the end, Jane then sums up how woman can take these stories as examples of how to find grace in life's flip-flops.

I found some of these stories entertaining. Her mishaps brought a touch of humor and Jane in no way shied from telling stories that had embarrassed her in the past. However, I found the majority of the snippets unrelatable as almost all of them had to do with either her life as a beauty queen or her domestic failures, both of which are subjects I was unable to connect with. I also failed to find the  way in which she told these stories amusing.

A running joke throughout is the phonetic way in which people she has known spoke. This mode of comedy is one that I have never enjoyed when it comes to reading because it forces me to read the joke at a much slower pace than I am used to. And once part of a funny story is ruined for me, the rest usually falls flat as well. However, I do realize that my preferences when it comes to humor do not ring true for all, and that many woman will likely relate to Jane's stories in a way that I was unable to. And I still may recommend it to woman who I believe might find inspiration from reading about Jane's flip-flops.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Keeper of Her Heart- Guest Post

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Keeper of her Heart
by Stacy Henrie
Inspirational Historical Romance
ebook, 271 pages
September 26th 2017 by Beyond the Page Publishing

If you like the novels of Deanne Gist and Lauraine Snelling, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie’s inspirational romance set against the backdrop of World War One!

Even at a young age, Ada Thorne knew that she would marry only for love, never money. So when she finds herself irrevocably drawn to Ned Henley, the lowly gamekeeper on a neighboring estate, she defies her parents and society by eloping with him to London to build a new life.

Without her family’s support, life in the city is far more difficult than the one of ease and privilege Ada has always known. She’ll find herself relentlessly tested in ways she never imagined—especially when Ned, answering the call of duty, enlists to serve his country in World War One.

Alone and near poverty with a child to raise, Ada’s resolve will be strained at every turn. And as she struggles to remain true to her convictions and live life on her own terms, Ada will embark on a journey of courage, faith, and love that will surpass even her own humble dreams . . .

Advanced Praise for the Book

“Stacy Henrie possesses superior storytelling skills, her historical accuracy and attention to detail are unsurpassed, and she knows how to create characters we can identify with and whom we really care for.” —Fresh Fiction

Desperation strangled Ada’s breath, making her light-headed. “If I am not to marry for love, then what is the purpose of such a union?”
“To maintain the life you have always known,” her father said, his voice rising again. “You will marry a man of good breeding and fortune who will see that you want for nothing.”
An image of a content and pampered lap dog came to her mind. No wonder she preferred horses and their strength and power to other creatures meant to sit silent and look lovely.
 “Do you understand what we are asking of you, Ada?” This time her father’s tone was softer and more placating.
Rising to her feet, she nodded. “I will not ride out alone anymore, and I will become the well-bred young woman you wish me to be.”
“Very good.” Charles looked relieved. “You may go on up to bed now.”
She kissed her mother, then bid them both good night. But as Ada rushed up the stairs, eager to escape to her room, she felt a heady rush of determination. She would follow through with her word about the riding and her ladylike training, but she would never settle for a marriage without love—never. No matter how rich or poor or well-bred the men who came to court her, she would marry for love or she would not marry at all.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids.

Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive a $40 Amazon e-gift card and an e-book copy of any of Stacy's books (winner's choice)
- Open internationally
- Ends October 25th

Monday, October 16, 2017

Heart on the Line- Karen Witemeyer

My Rating: 4 Stars

DescriptionGrace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My Thoughts: It is not everyday that an author of romance writes a hero with more brain than brawn... and even has that brain win out against a typical ladies man without much contest. Amos is a likable character who, unlike most heroes, is not overly confident in his ability to win the girl's heart. He knows that he is not the most handsome or the strongest man in town, but what he lacks for in more masculine traits, he makes up for in heart and courage. It was sweet to see him fight for the woman he loved even when he knew he couldn't hold his own in a fight. But he was still willing to stand between her and danger, which is what matters.

Honestly, Amos out shined Grace. While he was ecstatic to find that she was more beautiful than he had dared to dream, she was disappointed that he did not live up to her imaginings. Though she soon put aside her initial impression of him in favor of one that reflected his character rather than his appearance, Amos had already shown himself to be the better character of the two.

Though the description makes no mention of it, the book also contains a second romance, that between Helen and... well, that would be a spoiler, now wouldn't it? While this story was sweet, and did play somewhat into the greater story as a whole, I honestly did not think that it needed to be included. Helen's story would have been better served as a separate short story, where the focus could have been on her and her hero rather than their having to compete with Amos and Grace.

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