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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Explore Leira Blog Tour: I is for Inali



The initial introduction of Dah Inali in Songkeeper will likely stay with me for a while. The description of him, a dark, desert warrior with dreadlocks and spectacles, is one of the most unique physical characterizations I can ever remember reading. So when I was able to chose a character to host for this tour, I immediately thought of him. That said, I'll let the author tell you a bit more about him...




I is for Dah Inali 

We first meet Dah Inali in Songkeeper. Dah Inali is the brother of Sa Itera and the brother-in-law of Matlal Quahtli, chief over the entire Saari nation of the Vituain Desert. Born heir to the Sigzal tribe, he lost his inheritance when Itera was made mahtem in his stead and the Sigzal tribe was aligned with Quahtli as her dowry. It is a loss that he bears bitterly … and one he will not soon allow her to forget.

With a flick of his hand, he adjusted the spectacles perching on the bridge of his nose and turned to Sa Itera. “What does the Mahtem of the Sigzal tribe require of her disinherited brother?” –Songkeeper

Inali is an artist. I have always been fascinated with those who possess a gift for art, because I do not. Drawing the map of Leira for Songkeeper was about as much as my talents permit. I do not have an eye for design, and the things that I think I see so clearly, I cannot translate onto the page. When I try … I am bitterly frustrated.

So of course, I have the highest respect for the amazing people who can.

And Inali is one of those. Even when traveling, he carries parchment and charcoals in his satchel and can be found frequently setting his thoughts into drawings. He has the sensitive soul of an artist. Often underestimated because of his quiet, unassuming nature, when the moment of pressure comes, he may surprise you with his strength.

When it comes to life, his perspective is a somewhat melancholy and fatalistic one. 

“Things come and things go. Such is life, is it not, little Songkeeper?” --Songkeeper

He typically goes about clad in fringed leggings and an open lion skin vest with a clay bead on a chain around his neck. As far as weapons go, he prefers the subtle art of a spear pipe and coated darts to the heavier spears preferred by the majority of the Saari. 

A young Saari warrior stood beside him, skin the dull bronze of the desert. He clutched the upright shaft of his spear in two hands, point buried in the sand, cheek pressed against the haft. Hair the color and consistency of dried earth hung in knotted strands to his shoulders, interwoven with clay beads. A pair of spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose. –Songkeeper

Inali was one of my favorite secondary characters to write in Songkeeper. (Although, admittedly, I say that about all the secondary characters … because they are all my favorite!) In my mind at least, he was very distinctive. His scenes came easily. His personality translated onto the page with little effort on my part. Both physical description and personal mannerisms quickly fell into place. This is when I wish I was an artist like Inali, so I could easily translate the image in my head into a picture on a page! With no skill as an artist, I am forced to resign myself to words. And oddly enough, many of Inali’s scenes went from first draft to final stage with few changes. 

Regardless, Inali himself intrigued me. With his spectacles, satchel, and sketching supplies, his character stood in stark contrast to the majority of the Saari characters who took center page. In a world of fierce warriors, deprived of his birthright and his dream, he struggles to find his place. Maybe I just like characters who have hit every unlucky break and hard knock you can imagine, because poor Inali has had to face many significant disappointments in his life.

Those who manage to rise above such circumstances become the heroes we remember. But those who are broken and crushed beneath such circumstances become the casualties we mourn.

Curious as to which way Dah Inali will swing? I guess you’ll just have to read Songkeeper!

Check out the links below for a place to purchase the books.

Barnes and Nobles: Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper

And before you leave, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! One lucky winner will take home a copy of Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper, and a gorgeous handmade mug. Two lucky winners will take home copies of Songkeeper! Enter through the Rafflecopter below and be sure to visit www.gillianbronteadams.com to continue following the blog tour. You can earn new entries for each post that you visit along the way. Winners will be announced after April 15th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Bio: GILLIAN BRONTE ADAMS is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. She is the author of Orphan’s Song, book one of the Songkeeper Chronicles, and Out of Darkness Rising. Visit Gillian online at her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.





Description: War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.

Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.

Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran’s fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?


Monday, March 13, 2017

Unblemished- Sara Ella

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?


My Thoughts: This book turned out to be some what of a guilty pleasure. Many of its elements were things that normally make me cringe, yet I somehow still liked it. I don't know that I can pinpoint why, but Eliyana's struggle captured my attention and held it throughout, refusing to let me go even through the end.

I'm not a fan of shapeshifters or strange and convoluted names for things in a story such as the Kiss of Accord or the verity and the void. I don't like when tension is built through secondary characters refusing to answer straight forward questions. And love triangles are a sure way to make me roll my eyes... and believe me when I say that I most definitely did that while reading this.

Yet there is a complexity to the conflict in Unblemished that drew me in and left me needing answers. Though I don't so much care for the story world, I did end up caring about the characters and the questions surrounding the verity and the void. I'd rather not give away anything, so I wont mention names, but the connection between the individuals in this story's love triangle is one that I am excited to see explored and I plan to pick up at least the next book in the series just so I can see where that goes.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Wedding Shop- Rachel Hauck

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: It’s the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman after having inherited her great aunt’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.

More than eighty years later, former Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart’s Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life.

When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.

As Cora’s and Haley’s stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love.


My Thoughts: Once again I have found myself reading one of Hauck's books and I will say that I liked this one much better than the first in the series. The characters are far more likeable and the transition between time lines was not nearly as jarring. It helped that the two romances were completely separated by time instead of one leaping back and forth from childhood to adulthood and back.

I did not fully understand some of the character's reasoning. Haley's obsession with the wedding shop made little sense as she was hardly a romantic and had no experience with running a business or working sales. Cora also seemed rather naive and far more in love with the idea of passion than actually finding a steadfast love.

However, the tone and descriptions in this novel make some of the other flaws easy to overlook. The historical setting of the Great Depression was fantastic and Haley's unwavering loyalty to her newfound dream was admirable. I could have done without such a sappy point of commonality between the two romances, but I can genuinely see how someone more romantic at heart might fall in love with this story. It is one I might suggest to a friend.

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Silent Songbird- Melanie Dickerson

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

My Thoughts: Melanie's latest novels have been hit or miss for me. I loved The Beautiful Pretender and The Golden Braid, but this one felt overly forced and simplistic. I couldn't relate to the characters and though I finished it, I didn't at any point really enjoy it. From the first, Evangeline was a Mary Sue with her only "issue" being that she believed herself to be too selfish. Yet this never seemed to affect the way she behaved or the decisions that she made.

The villains of this story were also fairly lackluster. Evangeline's evil betrothed is something we have already seen in Melanie's other books and the other villains felt as though they were evil for evil's sake. The only character with much depth seemed to be the friend Nicola, who stood up for Evangeline as well as forgave her deception.

I might suggest this for younger teens, or even preteens. There is enough conflict and romance to entertain children in those age groups, while also containing only a couple kisses and little so far as described violence. I myself just could not get into it.

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

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.