Monday, November 18, 2019

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck- Bethany Turner

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that's obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she's made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she's chosen. She's still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she's not sure she can write anymore. She's beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a "scandalous" book. And the fact that she's falling in love with her pastor doesn't make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

My Thoughts: As with the last book of Bethany's which I read, this book tackles the issue of sexual tension between a couple before marriage. However, this one starts with a woman who wrote adult romance (with sex) before becoming a Christian as a means of fulfillment and attention. And afterward, she had to find a way to live out her Christian principles when most everyone judged her for either her past or her present.

That first part, before her conversion, plays out rather rapidly with most of it being a direct address from Sarah to the audience. She starts with her divorce, runs down how she got into writing romances, the life she had doing that, and then quickly ties the backstory up with her conversion. The narrative slows down quickly after this point, letting the reader in on her relationship with Ben, her friendship with Piper, and the tumult of convincing her agent (and her audience) to let her write clean romance.

However, it was that first portion of that book which made it difficult for me to dive in. I didn't like the summary of years of her life or the suddenness in which she decided become a Christian after getting in a fight with her Christian friend about the kind of books she wrote.

I like that Bethany portrays real life situations that Christians can find themselves in. She doesn't shy away from topics that we wouldn't have seen years ago, and I know that there are many authors who have gone through just the kind of experience which she described. I just wish the story had been told a little differently.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book through JustRead's Blind Book Tour.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Christian's Carol- Wayne Thomas Batson.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Ebenezer Krow is a relentless man who charges through life, holding himself and everyone else to the letter of the law. Krow’s nephew, his employees, his business associates—even mankind in general—all feel the castigating burn of Krow’s glare. One night, on Christmas Eve, Krow is visited by his long-dead business partner, Marley Chastain. The ghost warns Krow that three spirits, one of them a devil, will assail him throughout the night. But will the harrowing experience be enough to tear the scab from his sin-scarred soul? Or will the lessons of Christmas and Krow himself be lost forever?

In this faithful but modern retelling of Dickens’ classic tale, Batson offers readers a thought-provoking “ghost of an idea” to haunt our homes and churches pleasantly for many years to come.

My Thoughts: Listening to this was a delight. I've never read the original A Christmas Carol, but I have seen numerous adaptations. The voice actor chosen for this fit the story perfectly, and I was hooked into the narrative the moment I heard him imitate Marley Chastain's voice.

The story beats of this novel follow closely to those of the original, though with a modern twist and a few obvious differences. Those differences make this story far more of a challenge for modern readers. One plot point in particular gave me pause, though at the end I'll say that I agreed with the outcome, at least so far as it played out in this story.

If you love A Christmas Carol, and are looking for a version of it with a few twists, I do recommend this. I especially recommend listening to it. The author's prose is spot on and the narrator really brings it to life, both combining to give the haunted Christimasy tone of the story.

I have provided an honest review after having received an audiobook copy from the author.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Girl Behind the Red Rope- Ted and Rachelle Dekker

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

DescriptionTen years ago, Grace saw something that would forever change the course of history. When evil in its purest form is unleashed on the world, she and others from their religious community are already hidden deep in the hills of Tennessee, abiding by every rule that will keep them safe, pure--and alive. As long as they stay there, behind the red perimeter.

Her older brother's questions and the arrival of the first outsiders she's seen in a decade set in motion events that will question everything Grace has built her life on. Enemies rise on all sides--but who is the real enemy? And what will it cost her to uncover the truth?

For the first time, bestselling authors Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker team up and deliver an intense, tightly focused ride through the most treacherous world of all.

My Thoughts: For me, its been a while since I have read one of Ted Dekker's books and the first time reading one by Rachelle. I've heard glowing reports of both authors' works and thought upon hearing that this was a mystery/suspense, that it would be just like Boneman's Daughter and The Bride Collector. Both of which had been some of my favorites of Ted's books. Instead, this had reminded me more of Forbidden or The Angel's Share (the latter of which is by a different author).

Both of those books I enjoyed, even though the allegorical styles were not my favorite compared to others. However, this one didn't capture my attention as well as those had. I hadn't felt drawn into the mystery, instead feeling like I had a pretty good grasp of everyone's roles and the story's outcome from the start.

The fear that is supposed to be prevalent in this book is more of an anxiety; a fear of messing up and doing the wrong thing, of being caught, of being judged and punished. And the story does a good job of showing that in this setting, and the red rope was a great picture of what the story was getting at. However, even though I also deal with anxiety issues, I didn't connect with this story or most of its characters.

Part of this could have been due to what felt like holes in the world building. The Fury are purposefully left vague, in my mind a little too vague so that I didn't see enough information to personally find them intimidating. And then there was the in-business general store for a small, completely cut off from the world community, as well as a long abandoned gas station with still running water. Those details, and others like them, might have had explanations, but the story world wasn't developed to a point that it did so.

This book had its strengths, but overall I felt that the weaknesses out weighed the rest. The novel is a fairly easy read, one that could still be enjoyed by the Dekkers' fans as well as those looking for stories like the two I named above. However, with the confusion I have seen over what genre this book truly falls into, it will not be for everyone.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the authors and publisher.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Romanov- Nadine Brandes

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

My Thoughts: When I had looked at my shelves the other week, I had been in the mood for something fun and easy to read. Romanov stood out, and I quickly devoured it in a couple of late nights. Nadine's writing is smooth and gripping, bringing about an engrossing story.

Being familiar with the story of Anastasia, I was prepared for certain aspects of this story which I know have taken other readers by surprise. However, there were still a few twists for those who think they might already know how this story plays out. And that's always a nice surprise when it comes to historical retellings.

The main draw back to this novel was that there perhaps could have been more too it. Compared to many other books in the genre, this is rather short and that affected the story in some regard. I felt that there was much more I wanted to know about the magic system, as well as how this story ending would have affected this version of history beyond what occurs in this book.

However, rather than causing me to dislike this story, it just created a hope that maybe Nadine will decide to write a sequel. One that perhaps is from the perspective of another character who might have a story to tell and can build upon what this book started.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Uncommon Death- Spotlight and Giveaway

A princess who makes dangerous bargains with the afterlife. A man desperate to save his wife, no matter the cost. An uber driver for the undead.

Death, whether real or metaphorical, comes for us all. Yet it is not always the end. And in the depths of grieving can be the promise of hope and redemption.

The tales and poems in this anthology explore the depths of love, loss, and transformation. Whether in a reimagined folktale or a modern urban fantasy, A Kind of Death features a fine balance of tragedy and comedy, but always with a hint of wonder and hope.*

*As this anthology concerns matters of loss (all handled tastefully and without graphic depiction), certain stories might prove challenging for sensitive readers. Recommend reading with a hot beverage and/or a packet of tissues.

My Thoughts
I've only just started reading this anthology, but already I have been struck by the tone and the authors' analysis of death and lose. The read has come at an interesting moment in my life, both in fall which is one of the first images of this anthology, but in my first trip back to my childhood home on my own. In past years, after my family and I moved part way across the country, we had all come back to visit friends and family occasionally. However, this time I made the drive on my own, choosing for myself where I would go and what memories I wanted to relive.

I had not expected that through this trip I would begin to reflect on all of the themes of this book— the absence of loved ones who have passed from this life, love of family who I have come to see, loss of the life I would have had had I finished growing up here, and the wonderful things I have gained by leaving the good things of this place behind.

Though the losses in my life are far from recent, there are still echoes of them that will always remain. So far, this anthology expresses those ideas beautifully.

Uncommon Universes Press is a traditional publishing company featuring fresh science fiction and fantasy stories with wonder, adventure, and sacrifice. Check out the links below to learn more!


A Hardback copy of A Kind of Death plus two art prints, bookmarks, and stickers. Ends Nov. 1st.
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