Friday, May 29, 2015

Exodus- Cliff Graham

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Caleb and Joshua Roar to Life in this High-Impact Old Testament Saga

Two men were brave enough to tell the truth about what awaited the Hebrews in Canaan. This is their story. From the slave pits of Egypt to the efforts of an eighty-five-year-old Caleb as he drives out the last of the giants, Shadow of the Mountain is a vivid portrait of two of God's chosen champions, and a meditation on masculine mentorship and the challenges and blessings of growing older.

For the sake of his new God and his loyalty to his friend Joshua, Caleb will not spend his twilight years resting, but taking the battle to the enemies of God's people until his dying breath. From his early days as a mercenary for Pharaoh in Egypt watching the Hebrews suffer under the yoke of slavery, all the way through a desperate fight with giants in the dark forests of the hill country, this is a story filled with epic battles, gritty intensity, and supernatural events that made Graham's Lion of War series a hit. Shadow of the Mountain is sure to ignite a love for the Old Testament in popular culture.

My Thoughts: I am pretty sure this is a book that men will absolutely love. As Caleb describes it, the first part of this book is War, Women, and Wine. It is battle scene, after detailed battle scene, challenging these characters to attain a set point of manhood. I enjoyed reading about Caleb's exploits and the battles he was in, as well as his perspective of the plagues from a stance of prominence in Egypt. At one point, Caleb talks about how the Egyptians were often good people ruled by a stubborn king. It was refreshing to see a note of sympathy for these people, while still remembering that they were idolators.

That said, there were things I did not care for. At first, I found Graham's writing style difficult to get into. While this is a personal opinion, I found the narrative rather dense and difficult to like until I got farther into the story. As well, I did not care for Caleb's seemingly cavalier attitude toward the deaths of other trainees during drills. At points he exults in their deaths because it meant he beat them, as though they had merely lost a match, not their lives. This drew me out of the story at points, making me question whether I liked Caleb or not.

Overall, the story was engaging and fun to read. I'm sure if I loan it to my brother, he will love it. I look forward to reading more by Cliff Graham in the future.

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Attractive Nuisance- Jenniffer Griffith

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Camilla Sweeten is serious about her job in the County Attorney’s office. She’s even working up the courage to ask her boss to consider her for promotion to deputy.

Then, into court walks the gorgeous Zane Holyoake, and disaster strikes—in the form of a total brain fog right in the middle of her closing arguments. In front of both her boss and the meanest bear of a judge in the county, Camilla hears herself saying, “Like, I totally made my point,” as though she’d flown in from1980s California in a time machine airplane.

Now her boss will never consider her for deputy—especially since Zane turns out to be a new lawyer, possibly brought in to steal her dream job.

But when a notorious criminal is caught in their county, Camilla must focus on getting the thief convicted and not on Zane, who smells heavenly and is bent on distracting her with lunch offers and wacky Boy Scout stories that may melt her many resolves.

It’s going to take incredible willpower to ignore this attractive nuisance. 

My Thoughts: Attractive Nuisance is a fairly straightforward read. Camilla is a workaholic with no hope for romance, suddenly bombarded with attention from an attractive man who she fears will be lost to her like all (like four) the others she has dated. The story was a nice, sweet read, where Camilla insists that she wont "put out" because she has seen too many people hurt by doing so. I like that she stuck to that, there just was not much else of depth in the story. It is very much a romance, with a good 95% of the story dealing only with their romance. I would have liked there to be a little more going on and to have better known the characters.

I received this ebook in exchange for an honest review through I'm A Reader, Not A Writer's review program.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Wood's Edge- Lori Benton

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: At the wood's edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald's wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood's edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin's absence, another unaware of his twin's existence. And for Anna, who loves them both--Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

My Thoughts: Lori Benton's novels have some of the most beautiful writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Somehow, she is able to capture the voice of the past and make it comprehensible to the modern reader. Having read numerous first-hand accounts of this colonial time period, I am able to appreciate how close Lori is able to make her story sound.

Like her other works, The Wood's Edge has an element of romance, yet it deals with so much more than the development of two peoples' affections. It deals with all the actions and heart-ache associated with their families and cultures, and the history of New England.

I do not believe I have the words to express how much I loved The Wood's Edge, and how disappointed I was to see it end. All that kept me from despair was the knowledge that this is the first of a series (and the next better have Two Hawks in it, who has made it to the top of my favorite hero list).

My one dislike about this book was that the second part (I believe there were four) probably could have been condensed more. There were a lot of scenes from the point of view of Lydia, who I could have done with less of. While she was a nice character, she was not the most compelling and I would have prefered most of her scenes from the Major's point of view.

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Numbers Game- Rebecca Rode

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Treena is nervous for Rating Day. A single number will brand her forever—a valuable citizen, or a pathetic waste of space. Her top-Rated boyfriend is confident their scores will coincide so they can attend the academy together. But when the big day arrives, her true number shocks everyone.

To get her life and boyfriend back, she must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone wants her dead. And then there’s Vance, the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and beautiful brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. Treena must join up with Vance if she is to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within her heart.

My Thoughts: Numbers Game begins like most any other YA dystopian, with a right of passage into society at the age of sixteen which propels the characters into the adult conflicts of their world. For the first quarter of the book, I have to admit that I was far from enamored with the plot line, however, toward the end, I liked it enough that I am really looking forward to reading the next book.

To begin with, I found Treena's goals and motions to be rather shallow. The things she did to, as it says in the description, get her boyfriend back, were rather foolish. That, and Vance's open disgust for all people, made me question if the Numbers Game was going to be worth finishing.

I'm not sure at what point exactly my opinion of the characters changed. Probably some where when Treena realized the stupidity of her motivations and Vance actually started to be civil. At that point, I found Treena to be one of the most relatable heroines I have found in YA dystopians and Vance became a hero worth rooting for.

Numbers Game is by no means perfect. But I think it is one you can love despite its flaws. And when looking at my rating, remember that every book is more than its numbers (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist).

I received this e-book through I'm A Reader, Not a Writer's review program.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tiffany Girl- Deeanne Gist

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

Description: From the bestselling author of It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play comes a compelling historical novel about a progressive “New Woman”—the girl behind Tiffany’s chapel—and the love that threatens it all.

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the New York Art Institute. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girls is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

My Thoughts: To begin with, I flew through this book pretty fast. While it is over 500 pages, a good number of those are illustrations or else the first half page of every chapter (a lot of the chapters are only four or five pages). So don't be intimidated by its sheer size.

When I first started reading, I liked Flossie and hated Reeve. However, by the time the book was finished, I had come to respect Reeve as I recognized his character arc to be much like my own life. Towards the end, I appreciated his complete 360.

The title, Tiffany Girl, lead me to believe that her being a Tiffany Girl played heavily into their romance (such as him being another worker or else a costumer). Instead, it felt as though Flossie and Reeve had two completely different plot lines, which only met at certain times, and then were separate from each other again. This made for great personal growth, but very little relational growth.

As to some other reviews comments on the intimacy in Tiffany Girl, I actually would say that this is one of Deeanne's more tame novels when it comes to such. There is a kissing scene (compared to the usual two or three), and a wedding night scene where they take off their outer garments (but nothing else). I have never had an issue with this as, while they might say they are in their undergarments, to me, they are wearing more than I do in the summer.

As a historical, this novel is well researched and entertaining. I loved the details of old games, the beginnings of basketball, and boarding houses. However, I would not have categorized this as a romance novel. More time seemed to be spent on the historical aspect (her being a New Woman and such) than on their relationship. If I had been aware of this from the beginning, I am sure I would have absolutely loved reading Tiffany Girl. As it was, I was disappointed that it was not like Deeanne's past novels.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy as part of the Deeanne Street Team in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 1, 2015

To Win Her Favor- Tamera Alexander

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie’s father––aging, yet wily as ever––makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail––Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

My Thoughts: To Win Her Favor is amazing. I have been a fan of Tamera's for a while now, but I have to say that this is probably my favorite of hers. (Did I mention that I am pretty sure this book ties back to Within My Heart?)

Tamera obviously likes to deal with tough situations and characters who have suffered much. To Win Her Favor is one of the most difficult so far, dealing with the racism of the South towards both African Americans and Irish immigrants. If you have a weak stomach for violence, I would not necessarily suggest this book, as it deals with lynchings and other heinous acts. What built up this book for me, though, was the characters' courage and faith through these situations.

While an unfortunate truth of the past, it was refreshing to read about a heroine who (in the beginning) believed most of the racism she had been brought up in. It gave me a good sense of just how much she had grown through the book and made the hero all the more likeable since he was able to put up with her prejudices.

As other reviewers have pointed out, there is a good bit of reference to the enjoyment of marital intimacy, and a few scenes that end with the strong implication of sex (though there are no actual sex scenes). For this reason, I would not suggest the novel for younger readers or those who take issue with sort of content.  Since I read an ARC, I am not sure if this has been toned down in the final copy.

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