Monday, July 25, 2016

Dawn of Emberwilde- Sarah E. Ladd

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.
 
For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.


My Thoughts: Isabel is moved form one extreme social environment to another when she is suddenly informed of q family she had never known. Considering her life up to the point of the novel, I believe that she handled this well; putting her sister's need for home and security above her desire to control her life. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a heroine whose driving motivation was that of love for her sister rather than for independence or personal security.

I also enjoyed Colin's perspective, as it was his scenes that contained most of the intrigue of the story. He had a sense of duty that complimented Isabel's well, along his respect of her beyond her family wealth and connections. However, though I liked them together, I also felt as though their relationship progressed rather quickly instead of over a greater period of time.

The description does not mention it, but one of the main conflicts is the domineering way Isabel's aunt tries to control her life. Personally, I found this to be a bit irritating as I would have put my foot down far sooner than Isabel did. I might have understood it better if there are had been a stronger relationship between her and any of the family or she had no other option, but since she was capable of teaching and enjoyed work I found it hard to accept her reasons for putting up with her aunt's control.

I received this book through the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Forbidden Wish- Jessica Khoury- Fantasy Friday

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.


My Thoughts: This was such a good read. From the first time I saw the word, "Habiba', I was hooked. Aladdin was never one of my favorite stories as a kid, but this was a pretty good retelling. Aladdin was my favorite character, even though he wasn't actually the main one of this story, and I can only hope more retellings like it.

There were some weak points. A lot of the magic is ambiguous, without much so far as explanation, and the fights between the jinni were a little hard to keep track of because I was not sure how to interpret how badly someone was losing.

However, the other conflicts were well portrayed, with stakes that were both personal and far reaching. There are also some really strong female characters, and not the typical "strong" heroines in YA who are really just brooding jerks. These girls are tough and loving, setting a good example of how to be feminine and still stand on their own to feet. I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Like A River From It's Course- Kelli Stuart


My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope. The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little--known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the "killing ditch." He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda Michaelevna is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Fuhrer's plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.


My Thoughts: I love Holocaust novels, so it disappointed me that this one was just was alright. It starts out as one would expect, with the atrocities committed during the war, both in general and then also targeted at the Jews. But it quickly turned to being less about acts committed than as it was about the characters' emotional fall outs.

To explain, there are four point of view characters: Ivan, his daughter Masha, Luda, and then Frederick who is a German soldier. Ivan and Luda do experience horrible events in the beginning, but then spent most of the rest of the book inside their own homes, hidden away. Frederick and Masha endure far more, yet Frederick's story ends around a hundred pages earlier than the rest, making me question why it had even been included.

On their own, I did enjoy reading Luda's and Masha's point of views. Luda's is a personal struggle that I cannot imagine most people being able to endure and I was glad to see her come out happy in the end. And Masha's perspective offered more of what I had expected going into the story, someone actively surviving daily life directly under the Nazis.

For someone interested in reading about the emotional struggles suffered during WWII, this may be an enjoyable read. For me, it was not what I expected from such a novel and I felt it would have been better without Ivan or Frederick's perspectives.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.




Celebrate the release of Like a River from Its Course with Kelli by entering to win a Kindle Fire Prize Pack.
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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 18th. The winner will be announced July 19th on Kelli's blog.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn- Renee Ahdieh- Fantasy Friday

Hello! This is my first Fantasy Friday post, a new series I have started in order to share my favorite fantasy and other speculative genre reads with you. Many of those featured in this series will be books I did not receive for review, but either really enjoyed or else believed the review was one worth sharing.


My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.


My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book which played with the ideas of black and white morality. All of the characters have secrets, some of them are more noble than others, though all have selfish reasons. The story this is based on is not one that I am familiar with but I am sure I will look out for more like it from here on out.

There are some draw backs to the story, one being that while I liked the book I would not have categorized it as YA. Beyond the character's ages, there is nothing in this book which reminds me of the age group. Though off screen, there is sex along with some language and murder.

What redeems the story, and the characters, is their regret and forgiveness. I am excited for the release of this book's sequel, where we see what becomes of these characters who struggle to right the wrongs they, and others, have committed.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Messenger by Moonlight- Stephanie Grace Whitson

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

Description: Orphaned Annie Paxton and her brothers may have lost the only home they've ever known, but they're determined to make a better future in St. Joseph, Missouri. Annie dreams of a pretty house with window boxes, and having friends, and attending church every week. But then her brothers spot the ad for a new venture called the Pony Express. "Wanted," it reads, "Young, skinny fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders and willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." Sure enough, both her brothers land jobs as Express messengers, and Annie puts her dreams on hold to work as a cook at Clearwater Ranch, a station along the Pony Express route.

Annie struggles to adapt to her new job--work made all the more challenging when she has so many to feed and few ingredients. The gruff station owner, George, doesn't seem inclined to make her life any easier, or at least not at first. But slowly a friendship builds between them. When Annie attracts the attention of a refined, dashing lieutenant from the nearby fort, she'll have to learn how to trust her instincts and follow her heart, even if she's conflicted about which way it's leading her.


My Thoughts: Messenger by Moonlight starts out a little slow, taking a few chapters to really pick up with the adventure of taking part in the Pony Express. The narrative is divided between the twins, Annie and Frank, offering alternatively hopeful and cynical outlooks to the story. While there is romance in the characters' lives, most of the story revolves around these two characters' personal growth.

There is a long list of characters in this novel, many of which add to the richness of it and then others that make parts of the story lag. My favorites were Billy, George, and Lydia, all of whom played a larger role in Annie's story as Frank's is mostly internal musings.

The story is certainly character driven, with most of events taking place as direct result to Annie and Frank's actions. Though somewhat slower, taking place over at least a year, the story was a nice change of pace from many of the other books I have read lately.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

COVER REVEAL- A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes



The conclusion to Nadine Brandes' dystopian series is soon to be released! I am happy to take part in the cover reveal and to share the count down with you. Keep reading for a chance to enter for some swag.


What more can you sacrifice than your life? 

Parvin Blackwater is dead.

At least…that’s what the Council—and the world—thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Now she will rise again. Strong, free, and fearless.

Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world?


Giveaway:
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Order:


A Time to Die


A Time to Speak
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Monday, July 4, 2016

A Flight of Arrows- Lori Benton

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: It is said that what a man sows he will reap--and for such a harvest there is no set season. No one connected to Reginald Aubrey is untouched by the crime he committed twenty years ago.

Not William, the Oneida child Reginald stole and raised as his own. Identity shattered, enlisted in the British army, William trains with Loyalist refugees eager to annihilate the rebels who forced them into exile. Coming to terms with who and what he is proves impossible, but if he breaks his Loyalist oath, he'll be no better than the man who constructed his life of lies.

Not Anna, Reginald's adopted daughter, nor Two Hawks, William's twin, both who long for Reginald to accept their love despite the challenges they will face, building a marriage that bridges two cultures.

Not Good Voice and Stone Thrower, freed of bitterness by a courageous act of forgiveness, but still yearning for their firstborn son and fearful for the future of their Oneida people.

As the British prepare to attack frontier New York and Patriot regiments rally to defend it, two families separated by culture, united by love, will do all in their power to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.


My Thoughts: Lori Benton has distinguished herself as one of my favorite authors and my absolute favorite historical fiction author. She's yet to publish a book I didn't like and every time I see she has a new book coming out, I squeal at my computer screen.

I always find my favorite books to be the hardest to review because there is not much that I have to say that is critical. For this duology, my least favorite part of these books is that there will not be a third one (so far as I am aware). As well, I did not like the ending of this one as much as I had the end of The Wood's Edge. I don't want to give anything away, but the outcome did leave me somewhat frustrated and angry.

The characters Lori creates are amazing. I loved Two Hawks and Anna's relationship and seeing all that they had to overcome to be together. And now that Stone Thrower is walking a good path, his and Good Voice's relationship was just as enjoyable.

What sets Lori's books apart, however, is the amount of historical detail she includes. In her books, the history is not just a backdrop for the story, but an active part of the plot. It truly makes the story come to life as though we were actually there. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

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