Saturday, January 31, 2015

Esther- Angela Hunt

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.

Esther marks bestselling author Angela Hunt's return to biblical fiction. In each novel she explores an example of a Hebrew Old Testament tob woman: a woman whose physical beauty influences those around her--and can change the course of history.

My Thoughts:Biblical retellings are some of my favorite historical genres. Each ones gives a different look at some of the Biblical characters. Esther: Royal Beauty is not the first book I have read about Esther, and, as expected, keeps many of the same story points as referenced in others. Admittedly, some of these parts are ones I found to drag on longer than I would have wished (i.e. her childhood and the time spent between the event mentioned in the Bible). However, there is a lot to be said about Hunt's retelling.

In previous books about Esther, I can not remember there being any mention in foreign wars or battles. Nor can I remember much mention of Vashti other than her being removed from the throne. Yet it is known that Persia was a waring nation that expanded its territory through concur, so they must have fought. And their is no historical mention of Vashti's execution, so she must have still remained around and been a force to be reckoned with.

As well, Hunt included the point of view of the eunuch, Harbonah. While at times I was irritated by his insistence that he loved his King,  as though he had to convince the reader that this was a good thing, there were many things the reader could not have been privy to had his character been removed. Through his eyes, Hunt did splendid job at bringing Persian history to life and I am excited about the rest of the series.

I received this book through Bethany House Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Daughter of Highland Hall- Carrie Turnasky

My Rating: 3 stars

Description: Fans of Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre, and Pride & Prejudice will enjoy this pure and inspiring romance taking place in Edwardian England amid a clash of cultures and changing times.

Eighteen-year-old Katherine Ramsey travels to London with her family to make her debut into society and hopefully find her future husband. Her overbearing aunt insists she must secure a proposal from a wealthy young man who is in line to inherit his father’s title and estate. But Katherine questions her aunt’s plans when she gets to know Jonathan Foster, a handsome medical student and strong Christian who is determined to protect the poor and vulnerable in London’s East End. When a family scandal puts a damper on Katherine’s hopes for the season, she has time to volunteer with Jonathan, caring for children in one of London’s poorest areas, and romance blossoms. Katherine’s faith grows and she begins to envision a different future with Jonathan. But when Katherine’s work in the East End puts her in danger, Jonathan distances himself from Katherine to protect her. A wealthy suitor reappears, and Katherine must choose which path to follow.

My Thoughts: The Daughter of Highland Hall is a well written story with a compelling hero. I honestly liked Jon and his parts of the story. As well, his sister Julia was someone I enjoyed reading about. Unfortunately, I did not care for the heroine.

Kate is a well-to-do young woman who seems to want all the trappings of society, while simultaneously hating the trappings of society. She despises the rules and the etiquette, but wants to be set in the thick of it and find a husband who follows all these rules. Really, the only thing I could figure that Kate wanted from society was money and status, yet she is supposedly humble enough to make friends with her maid and spend time in the East End. She seemed more spoiled, wanting everything while sacrificing nothing and it made for a wishy-washy character without any real direction.

While Jon was mature enough to weigh what he wanted and to make sacrifices for it, his judge of Kate's character seemed idealistic. He at times told her that she was not self-centered or the kind of person to give up. Yet she put attending a party above helping a friend rescue her sister and consistently gave into her aunt's desires because to do so was less embarrassing.

When Kate was not attending a party or other social event, I enjoyed the story. I would have liked for the search for Helen to have taken up more of the book as well as the time spent in East End, however most Edwardian novels seem to take place in the ballroom.

From other reviews, it sounds as though the first book, about Julia and William, might have had a better storyline. It would be interesting to find out.

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Emissary- Thomas Locke

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Hyam is a likeable lad who will make a fine farmer someday. But he carries a burden few can fathom. As his mother slips toward death, she implores him to return to Long Hall, where he spent five years as an apprentice. It was there that Hyam's extraordinary capacity for mastering languages came to light--and soon cast him into the shadows of suspicion. How could any human learn the forbidden tongues with such ease? When Hyam dares to seek out the Mistress of the Sorceries, her revelation tears his world asunder.

He has no choice but to set out on the foreboding path--which beckons him to either his destiny or his doom. An encounter with an enchanting stranger reminds him that he is part hero and part captive. As Hyam struggles to interpret the omens and symbols, he is swept up by a great current of possibilities--and dangers

My Thoughts: When I first saw this book up for review, I was not aware that Hyam was to become a mage. Ordinarily, I would stay away from books with wizarding heroes, but since it was from a Christian publisher, I decided to stick it out.

Let me start by saying that Locke has done some fantastic world building. At no time did I feel like this was not a real world that I could somehow enter and move around in. The story was easy to follow and the magic interesting. Yet, as a whole, I could not get into the story.

For most of the book we are given absolutely no insight into Hyam's emotional state. We know his mother just died and assume this makes him sad, but there is no real clue that it does. The mages themselves seem to be the only things which draw an emotional response from him. Because we have no idea of his emotions, I really can not say what his motivations were. It made him difficult to relate to.

Joelle was a much easier to understand. However, it took half the book for her and Hyam to meet and during that time she did relatively nothing important to the plot except give us a better glimpse of the red mage.

Emissary had a great story, I just wish the characters had been more relatable.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Draven's Light Cover Reveal

In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015


ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:


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By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
(coming May 25, 2015)

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.
But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.
The beat of a man’s heart.
He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.
“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”
His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.
“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”
The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.
His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.
Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.
A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”
“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.
But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”
“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?
Tonight or no night.
Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.
Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.
The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.
Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.
“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.
“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.
“Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”
Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”
Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.
The sacrifice was brought forward.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Two Year Blogiversary!

Today is the two year Blogiversary of my first post! To celebrate, I'm giving away either a $5 Amazon gift card or an eCopy of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's new book Golden Daughter.

 The contest is only open through midnight on the sixth, so make sure you get in your entries!

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