Friday, December 30, 2016

The Raven- Mike Nappa

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience's pockets while they watch. It's harmless fun--until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn't seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his "personal assistants," The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, "Nevermore." 

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues--and their complicated feelings for each other--to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge.

My Thoughts: Within the first couple of pages, you can definitely tell that the author has a degree in English Lit. All of his descriptions are what my Lit professor would have called "top-shelf" details, or things that are more than common descriptions. They're the kind of details that fans of Literary Fiction absolutely love.

I'm not sure what I think about the two "main" characters, Trudi and Samuel, being a divorced couple. It does make for good conflict, though it also seems to give Trudi some bad habits when it comes to trying to prove to Samuel that she can live just fine without him. Since I imagine their's is a relationship that will take the rest of the series to wrap up, I won't pass judgement on it yet.

As to the rest of the book, the Raven is a pretty amusing character, with an internal dialogue that served for some much needed comic relief after reading about all the other horrible things taking place in the story.  At times, I thought the story went far too long without coming back to him. Even though the Raven had his secrets, he still felt like the only character I truly understood. However, some people may not enjoy the Raven's personality as his thought process tended to be completely ridiculous.

On the whole, I think this novel is one worth reading. The Raven is an enjoyable character and the suspense in the novel is pretty intense. Still, I would check out other reviews before making a final decision.

I have provided an honest review after I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray- Dorothy Love

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

My Thoughts: This book is honestly not what I thought it was. From the description, I assumed that most of it would be set during the Civil War, with a few chapters at first building up to it. Instead, a large portion of the story is about the two women's lives long before the war starts, beginning when Selina is still a child and before Mary and Robert E. Lee were married. At times this was interesting. Selina is a very well written character with a compelling voice, particularly in the beginning when she is still struggling with what she wants in life versus what the Curtis family demands of her.

Mary's voice was not as compelling, however. First, the beginning of the book seems to be her floundering about in life, unsure of how to behave. This may have been interesting if it were a fish out of water scenario, but this was a life that she was raised for and it seemed to be willful ignorance that kept her from knowing what to do.

The writing itself is beautifully done, again particularly in Selina's scenes. Her voice seemed to continually grow and change, first from a childish perspective with ill grammar to an increasingly more refined tone as she spent more time in the main house and continued to read. There was much about this novel to be commended, and I think that if it had focused more on Selina than on Mary then I would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, there is a lot of dull day to day activity recounted by Mary, a lot of which is then retold from Selina's perspective.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Seven Brides for Seven Texans- Erica Vetsc, ect.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Meet the seven Hart brothers of the 7-Heart ranch in central Texas. Each man is content in his independent life, without the responsibilities of a wife and children—until their father decides 1874 will be the year his grown sons finally marry, or they will be cut from his will. How will each man who values his freedom respond to the ultimatum? Can love develop on a timeline, or will it be sacrificed for the sake of an inheritance?

My Thoughts: For a collection of novellas, this one is pretty good. Each takes about an hour to read, making them perfect for those days when you want to enjoy a story but have limited time to do so. The premise is a little farfetched, as I find it hard to believe that a father (at least one who wanted his children to be happy) would require all SEVEN sons to get married in one year.

As with other collections of works by multiple authors,  some of the Hart stories are better than others. For instance, Chrisholm's story was engaging, despite the length, and most of the stories followed suit. However, one issue I found with a series of novellas told about one family yet written by more than one author is that the depiction of the family differed from story to story. Most everything was the same (personalities, characteristics, ect.) but, particularly with how the father related to his sons, there where some differences that bothered me.

If you enjoy these collections, then this is a fun one to pick up and the length of each story makes it a lot easier for busy people to enjoy. And unlike many others, these novellas actually read like complete stories rather than a compilation of writing samples.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Cautious Maiden- Dawn Crandall

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents' New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks; but when Violet's own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance; Vance Everstone.

As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust and who to leave behind.

My Thoughts: I am fairly torn on this novel. The first few chapters were not as interesting as I had hoped (outside of the hair repining scene) because Vance and Violet's brother continuously refused to tell her information that they should have, seemingly all in the name of building suspense.

Once Violet and Vance's engagement came about, the story quickly turned around. The relationship between the two was amazingly realistic and dealt with the issue of temptation before marriage, which I think is an important subject matter. As well, the author managed to show the role faith should have in someone's life without preaching or really even talking about it. The reader knows that Vance is different than he used to be and that Violet now often sees him reading his Bible, which allows the reader to actually SEE just how large a part God plays in his life instead of having to be told.

Yet the ending of the book was also not my favorite. It seemed to suddenly splinter into a number of different conflicts when only one of them was really necessary. For most readers, this ending will not matter as much as it did to me (obviously, based on the novel's ratings). However, in my opinion it was far too many sudden changes in how the characters were behaving for me to enjoy it as I had the rest of the book.

Because of how much I enjoyed the middle of the book, I will likely pick of the rest in the series. They should still be worth the read and I have hope that I might enjoy them more.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through the Bookfun network and the author.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Child of the River- Irma Joubert

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.

My Thoughts: This is an absolutely fantastic book. I can't remember a novel that has ever left me teary eyed before this one, and I usually hate any that have brought me even close because the characters lives where typically futile, with little hope in the end. But even though Persomi's childhood, and even parts of her adult life, where heartbreaking, there were very few moments which felt hopeless.

Persomi is the kind of person who never lets life crush her. Though she has her broken moments, she soon rallies and moves forward, refusing to back down from her convictions. Dealing with the politics of WWII, in which Irma realistically portrays a society which more or less sided with the Germans, and Apartheid, Child of the River not only shows a woman with incredible strength of character but also revels a time in history where social strife mirrored current social issues in the US.

Originally published in 2010, there is no way the author could have foreseen just how relevant this work would be years later and in another language. But I think that this book can teach a lot about holding on to ones own convictions while still putting major differences aside to love and care for those around us.

I highly recommend this work, both for the history and for Persomi herself. I can't wait to see more of Irma's novels translated and will be eagerly looking for them on shelves.

I have provided an honest review of this novel after having received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Scarlet Moon- S. D. Grimm

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: The land of Soleden is dying because the sorceress queen hunts and kills the people who cared for all nature, the Feravolk. Through their special bond with animals, the Feravolk have become more than men. Faster, stronger, masters of camouflage and stealth. Only a Deliverer born the night of the Blood Moon can save them from extinction.

According to prophecy, Jayden is a Deliverer, but it’s not a destiny she wants. She has no sympathy for either side. The Feravolk killed her family, so they can die for all she cares. And fighting the queen with nothing but daggers and her special abilities—storm predicting—is a suicide mission. Destiny can pick someone else.

Except hiding from destiny proves difficult; Deliverers attract powerful Protectors. Jayden’s is one of the Feravolk, so he can’t be trusted. But he makes her feel safe. Makes her want to save his race. If she chooses to keep hiding, he’ll remain one of the hunted, but he’ll protect her even if it means his death if she faces the queen. Making the right choice has never been so excruciating, especially since the prophecy says nothing about the Deliverer’s success, or survival.

My Thoughts: I took an entire day to think through just how I felt about this book and what I wanted to include in my review. It was difficult because I both loved and disliked it, a fact which lead me to decide that in my opinion it is simply okay.

The story in this book is amazing. There is so much danger and honest emotions, with each character being completely distinct. It did take me a while to fully appreciate these characters simply because there are at least five point of view characters and because while Jayden's is in the first chapter, it then takes another six or so chapters before we come back to her. Once I knew that there wouldn't be any more POVs, I was able to engage with those that had already been introduced.

But while the story is fantastic, there is a lot that is left unexplained. While a number of my questions were partially answered toward the end, I spent most of the book trying to figure out how things worked and what everyone's purpose was. Grimm sprinkles information throughout in a way that is really easy to miss, leaving me with the feeling that I still don't fully understand how this story world functions and that I might have overlooked something important.

Certainly not everyone will feel this way. The issues I found will likely mean nothing to a lot of readers and Grimm's story will shine through for them. I still hope to continue with the series and maybe I will figure everything out the next time around.

I have provided an honest review after having received a free copy of this book through the Bookfun Network and the author.

Guest Post on Go Teen Writers

Hey guys,

       Wanted to let you all know that today I am guest posting over at Go Teen Writers. The topic is on how to handle anxiety and depression. Please stop by and join in the discussion!



Monday, November 21, 2016

Saffire- Sigmund Brouwer

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: I reminded myself that once you start to defend someone, it's difficult to find a place to stop. But I went ahead and took that first step anyway.

For President Teddy Roosevelt, controlling the east-west passage between two oceans mattered so much that he orchestrated a revolution to control it. His command was to 'let the dirt fly' and for years, the American Zone of the Panama Canal mesmerized the world, working in uneasy co-existence with the Panamanian aristocrats.

It's in this buffered Zone where, in 1909, James Holt takes that first step to protect a mulatto girl named Saffire, expecting a short and simple search for her mother. Instead it draws him away from safety, into a land haunted by a history of pirates, gold runners, and plantation owners, all leaving behind ghosts of their interwoven desires sins and ambitions, ghosts that create the web of deceit and intrigue of a new generation of revolutionary politics. It will also bring him together with a woman who will change his course or bring an end to it.

A love story set within a historical mystery, Saffire is brings to vibrant life the most impressive and embattled engineering achievement of the twentieth-century"

My Thoughts: Saffire likely would have been more accurately titled Panama, since a good portion of the novel is scenes in which the POV character mulls over the ambition and ingenuity that went into the construction of the Panama Canal. The plot centers around the greed and political maneuvering which took place during that time, with the hero being drawn into it both for his own financial needs and concern for the young girl Saffire.

The story has its ups and downs, shifting between scenes of high intrigue to others that read more like a historical reflection. Police corruption and an encounter with the "alligator" kept the plot moving while Brouwer's extensive research painted a picture of the entire construction, from idea to partial completion.

The book is well written, with a setting history lovers will adore. Yet for those who are only mildly interested in history, Brouwer's research into the canal is far more a focus of the story than it is just a setting. As a historically focused novel, it was interesting, but the plot did little to draw me back into wanting to pick it up and read it.

I have provided an honest review after having received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gratitude Giveaway HOP

Thanks to Bookhounds for hosting this HOP!

This year I have much to be thankful for. I graduated college and will hopefully soon start a new job. Now it's my turn to share with you! Enter below for a chance to win either an ARC of Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer or an ARC of Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson.

Both tell the stories of those searching for someone lost, yet each is set in a different time period. Saffire takes place during the construction of the Panama Canal while Karolina's Twins is set during the Holocaust. As such, Karloina's Twins is a much darker tale, though both will leave you thankful for what you have in life. This giveaway is US only.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Shadow of the Storm- Connilyn Cossette

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira's gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

My Thoughts: Even though I was not a huge fan of the first book in this series, I am really glad that I decided to give this book a go. The story of Israel's time at Mt. Sinai was far more relatable in my mind than was the depiction of the plagues in the first book. As well, Shira's struggle with self-condemnation was much easier for me to relate with, and thus drew me into the story.

Much of what happened in the daily lives of the Israelites is left unspoken in the Bible. Outside of major events and people, there is no mention of how individuals coped with their sudden flight from Egypt. In this story, I believe that Cossette did an amazing job of bringing Biblical events to life and showing how these would have affected someone on a personal level.

However, some of the actions and opinions of her characters did not seem to fit well with the culture that was depicted. <spoiler> For one, in a culture that requires the stoning of an unfaithful wife, Leisha should have been sentenced to death long before the events of this story. </spoiler> While our own culture depicts this as a harsh sentence, it is none the less what would have been required in that time period. This, along with other cultural issues, made the story less accurate in my mind. Though I can understand the author wanting to make the story more palatable for a modern audience, it felt false to me.

I have provided an honest review after having received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Convenient Christmas Wedding- Regina Scott

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Proposing a marriage of convenience to a rugged logger is the boldest move of Nora Underhill's sheltered life. In return for Simon Wallin's protection from her overbearing family, the unassuming seamstress offers prime frontier farmland. But their paper marriage changes when Nora's greedy brother tries to draw her back into a life of drudgery. Her only option: move to Simon's farm, and into the center of his loving, unruly family.

Years of shouldering responsibility have left Simon cynical and reserved. But little by little, Nora's warmth opens his shuttered heart to joy. With their marriage claim under threat, can this practical arrangement blossom over the holidays…and become a love for all seasons?

My Thoughts: I've not yet read the other books in this series and it has been some time since I have read any of Regina Scott's other books, however this one has reminded me that I really should rent all of her work from the library here soon. This story really pushed hard on the theme of just what a marriage should look like, with both partners helping and respecting each other while still encouraging the other to grow.

Simon was by far my favorite character. Throughout, he struggles with feeling accepted and needed, and with Nora he finds someone who is more than willing to show him that he is. Though Nora at times came across as juvenile, she did make a good match for Simon.

My only complaint, though it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story in any way, was that the ending had seemed a little rushed and predictable. I saw what was coming long beforehand, so while I was not disappointed in the conclusion, I do wish it had gone a different route.

I have provided an honest review after having received a free copy of this book from the author.

Biography: Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn't actually sell her first novel until she had learned a bit more about writing such as vocabulary, sentence structure, and plot. After numerous short stories and articles in magazines and trade journals, she got serious about her novel writing. The Unflappable Miss Fairchild was her first novel to be published (March 1998).

Besides her novels, Regina Scott has had published three Regency novellas ("The June Bride Conspiracy" in His Blushing Bride, "Sweeter Than Candy" in A Match for Mother, and "A Place by the Fire" in Mistletoe Kittens). Two of her novels, A Dangerous Dalliance and The Twelve Days of Christmas, have been translated into German. A Dangerous Dalliance and The Incomparable Miss Compton have been translated into Italian. Starstruck and Perfection have been translated into Dutch.

Regina Scott and her husband are the parents of two sons. They reside in the Tri-Cities of southeast Washington State and are members of the Church of the Nazarene. Born in 1959 and raised in the Seattle area, Regina Scott is a graduate of the University of Washington. She comes by her writing talent naturally--both her parents are excellent writers in their vocations as teacher and electrical technician. Her mother envisioned the plot for "Sweeter Than Candy," the novella which was written as a tribute to her.  Regina Scott is a devout Christian and a decent fencer; owns a historical, fantasy, and science fiction costume collection that currently takes up over a third of her large closet; and has been known to impersonate an independent consultant specializing in risk communication.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Centurion- Ken Gire

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: An ambitious Roman soldier. A stunning crucifixion. An unlikely romance. A long war and a chance reunion—the moving parts that make The Centurion a gripping story of love, duty, and sacrifice.

Lucius has always dreamed of military conquest and Roman glory. Little does he know how a routine crucifixion will change him forever.

Curious about this “King of the Jews,” Lucius seeks out His followers and falls for one Mary Magdalene. But all is interrupted when Lucius is called to lead military campaigns. There the hardships of war, year after year, wear him down to nearly nothing.

When Lucius finally returns to Rome, the city has lost its allure. A chance encounter tests his allegiances, and he must decide who he is, what is real, and what is worth dying for.

My Thoughts: The Centurion is a fast paced novel which juxtaposes the life and training of a Roman soldier (Lucius) with that of the burgeoning Christian church through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. The rapid pace comes from Gire's magnificent use of short scenes in order to depict only what is necessary. In the first part of the novel, this serves well to mimic the chaos soon after Jesus' crucifixion.

However, at times these short scenes became too intense, treating the drunken discussions of men as earth-shattering observations and Lucius' training speeches as though they came from Braveheart. The consistently epic tone could be wearing, especially since there were few reprieves.

Like many novels in this vein of fiction, Biblical fiction surrounding the crucifixion, The Centurion is told in omnipresent which allows for various character perspectives. Particularly in the beginning, some of these perspectives were muddled, with few of the secondary characters introduced in any way before they were suddenly acting.

The Centurion does offer some unique content. The writing style is almost cinematic in nature, making it similar in cut scene format to The Passion. As well, the story is told in a historic light, depicting an early church that fully expected the return of Christ in their lifetime. Not everyone will appreciate the make up of this novel, however there are those who will adore it.

I provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Love's Faithful Promise- Susan Anne Mason

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: When her mother suffers a stroke, medical student Deirdre O'Leary makes the difficult choice to put her career on hold to care for her. Dr. Matthew Clayborne is renowned for his amazing results with patients, but when Deirdre approaches him about helping her mother, she finds him challenging and surly. Deirdre has had enough of complicated men in her life. After her fiance left her, she vowed never to give a man that kind of power again. 

Widower Dr. Matthew Clayborne is devoted to two things: his work with wounded soldiers and his four-year-old daughter, Phoebe. He won't abandon either of these priorities to care for one older woman. However, when Phoebe suffers a health scare, they're offered respite at the Irish Meadows farm, where his daughter's weakened lungs can recover--but only if he cares for Mrs. O'Leary.

Matthew intends to hate Irish Meadows, yet he immediately feels at home, and soon both Mrs. O'Leary and Phoebe are showing improvement. But since he has no intention of leaving his life up north forever, and Deirdre has sworn off marriage in favor of her career, how will they deal with the undeniable attraction between them?

My Thoughts: I love these books! Mason does an amazing job of portraying realistic characters with believable struggles. And where most authors lose steam the farther they get in the series, Mason's books have instead gotten better with each one. I am so sad to see this series end and really hope that she decides to write another series for these characters' children.

Truly, the only thing I think could have been done better was Connor and Jo's story. Unlike in the previous two books, where both couples received nearly equal attention and page space, Connor and Jo were maybe a fourth of this story. While I had been immediately interested the moment their POVs came into the picture, I still felt that there was more that could have happened with them. Matthew and Deirde's story was fully engaging, but I ended the book feeling like I barely knew Connor and Jo.

Everything about this book is interesting and though I wish there had been more of the one story line, both were still engaging. The book presents a number of questions that are still applicable today and will most likely touch close to home with many readers, especially those who have ever questioned whether or not they should balance both a career and a family. I highly recommend this series and look forward to anything else this author may write.

I provided an honest review of this book after having received a free copy from the publisher.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Forever Doon- Carie Corp and Lorie Langdon

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: With the witch of Doon on the throne, Jamie believed dead, and Duncan and Mackenna trapped in Alloway, Veronica has no choice but to put her grief aside and prepare her remaining followers for the impending battle against the false queen and her forces. But while on a covert mission to steal a powerful elixir from the castle, Veronica discovers her true love may actually be alive, and fighting a battle of his own.

With the Brig o’ Doon destroyed and the portal fragmented, Doon’s forces are not only divided, but also isolated in different dimensions. With the help of a storyteller as ancient as the witch herself, Kenna and Duncan learn they must rebuild the bridge to have any chance of crossing back into Doon with their ragtag army. But when Mackenna insists on fighting as well, Duncan soon realizes the only way he can ensure her safety is to turn her into a cold-hearted killer.

For Vee, Jamie, Kenna, and Duncan, saving their kingdom while keeping their lives intact will take a miracle.

My Thoughts: If you've made it this far in the series, then there is something about this fairy tale like story and its quirky characters that sucks you in. This final installment of the series holds no shortage of that, though this time around the fairy tale is a bit darker. Compared to the last book, this one ups the tension as well as the danger, allowing the characters to finally show just how much they have grown through their struggles.

However, many parts of the story felt forced. Kenna and Vee suddenly started manipulating their calling to communicate with each other, something that previously wasn't a possibility, and the rings of Aontacht ended up as an ex machina, with Vee basically saying, "I don't know if the rings can do this, but lets try it... oh look, it worked!".

The addition of Jamie and Duncan's POVs was also something that I wasn't sure of in the beginning. While I never did warm to Duncan's POV, I did find that Jamie's added a lot to the story, mainly about God's grace and forgiveness. That, along with the allegory of the Destined having kingdom shaped holes in their hearts, made me appreciate this story over the last one. And while this series is not my absolute favorite, fans of this series will love this conclusion.

I have provided my honest opinion of this book after having received a free copy from the publisher.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Time to Rise- Nadine Brandes

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: 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?

My Thoughts: As always, Nadine's writing style is one that makes her books really hard to put down. Everything moves quickly and Parvin's internal thoughts often come in short burst of sentences that truly feel like actual thoughts instead of a literary idea of them. As well, the faith element is strong throughout, with Parvin trusting God far more than she did in the other two books.

I can't say that the story was perfect. When it was over, I was still left with a lot of questions that I would have liked answered, though toward the end  I started to realize that they never would be. These pertained mostly to world building, with Nadine's story world so large that I started to notice a few holes.

Her character building made up for a lot of this, particularly when it came to the way Solomon handled Parvin's past "relationship" with Jude. There was a sequence of scenes which dealt with this that were probably my favorite part of the entire book. This, along with with the theme of forgiveness, was particularly powerful.

In a genre steeped with teenagers who are selfish and bent on doing life their own way, A Time to Rise is a refreshing read for Christians, reminding use that obedience to God is the greatest adventure of all.

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

A Time to Rise

Monday, October 3, 2016

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life- Lori Stanley Roeleveld

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we look, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?

Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalk explores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith: 

- Faith
- Goodness
- Knowledge
- Self-control
- Perseverance
- Godliness
- Affection for others
- Love 

In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.

My Thoughts: I don't usually read non-fiction, mostly because I find that the themes and messages found in fiction stick with me longer. But when I heard of this book, I was interested in how the author used a fairly simple fairy tale to draw allegory to the Christian faith, especially since it is one that most people already know.

However, Roeleveld does not simply rely on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to make her points, she consistently backs them up with scripture and personal experiences. The references to scripture were perhaps my favorite parts of this book, as comparing Jack and the Beanstalk to the verses in 2 Peter served to remind me just how magnificent and marvelous our God really is and that slaying giants isn't just for storybooks and Old Testament David.

The draw backs I found were that not all of Roeleveld's personal stories made sense to me in the context of chapter in which she had used them, and there were also some chapters that seemed to drag the point on longer than necessary. However, I do recommend this for those who love fiction and are looking for a book such as this.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Karolina's Twins- Ronald H. Balson

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: From the author of Once We Were Brothers comes a saga inspired by true events of a Holocaust survivor’s quest to fulfill a promise, return to Poland and find two sisters lost during World War II.

Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland. At the same time, Lena’s son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate—and independence—for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena’s dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life. In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past.

Karolina’s Twins is a tale of survival, love, and resilience in more ways than one. As Lena recounts her story, Catherine herself also recognizes the unwavering importance of family as she prepares herself for the arrival of her unborn child. Through this association and many more, both Lena and Catherine begin to cherish the dogged ties that bind not only families and children, but the entirety of mankind.

My Thoughts: This story is told in two intersecting narratives, one being Lena's current search for Karolina's twins and the other being where she tells Catherine about her life during WWII. As such, most of the book is told in a first person dialogue from the perspective of Lena. These portions of the book were by far the strongest, capturing the day to day struggle of Jews under Nazi Germany while also showing instances of true courage on all sides.

Yet the modern day portion of the story fell flat. I constantly found myself questioning why I needed Catherine and Liam's input, as most of what they say in regard to WWII is commonly held knowledge. As well, the dialogue in their scenes was often stilted and centered around comic relief pertaining to pregnancy and feminism. Instead of reading like actual people, both seemed more like projections of modern society.

The shift back and forth between the two narratives can be frustrating. To go from intense scenes from the Holocaust to those of courtroom drama creates moments in which the temptation to put the book down is strong. For the historical aspect of Karolina's Twins alone, I would suggest reading this book, as it is the majority of the story. However, be prepared for some scenes that will most likely slow the story down.

Also, as a note for those who prefer to read books without it, there is a fair bit of language, some of which felt unnecessary.

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

King of the Friend Zone- Sheralyn Pratt

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem. The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . . he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.

Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.

When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.

They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.

Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?

My Thoughts: The cover of this book is a little deceiving, making it look like the characters are college age and that this story would have NA themes. Instead, the characters are older and far more mature than I had expected. Which is a good thing.

I absolutely loved this story. Esme and Hunter are very sympathetic and I loved Hunter from the very first scene in his point of view. He is a strong lead who completely respects Esme's independence while still being an arm for her to cry on. And despite Esme's becoming engaged to someone else, I didn't find myself disliking her like I often do with these types of stories. Instead, I understood her point of view and liked that she tried to work through her engagement even when her fiancé insisted everything had to be his way.

One thing that took away from this story was the number of missing words, usually "not" and "no", that were necessary for the sentence to make sense in context. While not a horrible distraction, it did pull me from the story more than once as I had to go back and re-read the line. However, after reading this, I plan to pick up any others by this author.

I received this book through I'm a Reader, Not a Writer and the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ- Carol Wallace (based on that by Lew Wallace)

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: As one of the bestselling stories of all time, Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ has captivated and enthralled millions around the world--both in print and on the big screen. Now Lew's great-great-granddaughter has taken the old-fashioned prose of this classic novel and breathed new life into it for today's audience.

Coming to theaters in August 2016 as Ben-Hur, a major motion picture from MGM and Paramount studios, the story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman whose childhood friend Messala betrays him. Accused of trying to murder the new Roman governor in Jerusalem, Judah is sentenced to the galley ships and vows to seek revenge against the Romans and Messala. But a chance encounter with a carpenter from Nazareth sets Judah on a different path.

Rediscover the intrigue, romance, and tragedy in this thrilling adventure.

Also included: the inspiring story-behind-the-story of Lew Wallace--Indiana lawyer, author, and Civil War general.

My Thoughts: I had actually never heard of this book until I saw the 2016 movie trailer. But that trailer captured my attention and so when I saw this book I was really excited to read it. That said, since this edition is a modern adaptation, my review will include both my opinion of the story as is and my opinion of it as a modern story, though I cannot fully compare it to the original.

If you love Biblical fiction, as well as the more wandering tales found in classics, and yet are less comfortable with the language of many of those classics, this should be a good fit for you. Ben-Hur is an intriguing read that follows Judah through a number of different settings and situations. The history is phenomenally woven in, as are the Biblical aspects. Taking into account that it was originally written more than a hundred years ago, back before today's standard of editing, I found the story itself to be well worth the hype surrounding it.

It is difficult to critique this as a modern adaptation, as I have not read the original to know how much as changed. However, the book did not live up to my interpretation of a modern story. From what other reviewers have said, the edition is considerable shorter, with much of the descriptions and internal musing removed in order to make the story more palatable and also to fix pacing issues. Yet there were other issues that Carol Wallace did not fix. One that stood out to me were the number of times that the story would contradicted itself in ways that could have been remedied by the change of a sentence or two.

Ben-Hur is a great story, one I am still glad to have read. However, there is still much that I think could have been improved upon in a modern adaptation.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Courageous- Dina L. Sleiman

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Inspired by the vision of the young Lady Sapphira, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a group of men, women, and children as a defender of the cross, seeking to free captives from prisons near Tripoli. She gladly gives herself to the cause, as she's haunted by a tragic mistake and no longer deserves such joys as marriage and family might bring.

Sir Randel Penigree was reared to serve in the church, but dreams of protecting the innocent as a knight. Joining a crusade to escape humiliation at home, he finds himself drawn to Rosalind as they partner to train and protect a group of young adolescents. When they face political machinations, danger, and an unknown enemy bent on their destruction, they are forced to reconsider their priorities and the very nature of the God they serve.

My Thoughts: Crusade stories can be hit or miss for me, as I do not always agree with the author's interpretation of what happened. This story started out a bit shaky on that ground, though as the story progressed I found more that I agreed with. While I cannot say I was satisfied with all the characters' decisions and conclusions toward the end, I can say that I was overall satisfied with the story.

Randel and Rosalind are two characters who have committed tragic acts in the past and continue to punish themselves. Like many people who went on Crusade in history, their goal is to find some form of absolution. Instead, they come to terms with the realization that there is nothing they can do, only God's grace is sufficient. It was a worthwhile message, along side that of Lady Sapphira, who struggles with the weight of following God's call on her life.

Overall, the story is less a love story between to characters and instead a love story between the characters and God. That is what I most appreciated about this story and would recommend it to anyone looking for more than the typical romance.

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sword of Deliverance- Anne H. Campbell

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: It takes an assassin’s sword to cleave open the past and pierce the evil of magic and murder, betrayal and revenge. Twenty-year-old Brandan, Lord Wulfgar’s notorious chief assassin, has become repulsed by his ruthless killing of innocent people and vows to desert. But he is sent on a mission to conduct Meredyth to Wulfgar to be his wife, a fate worse than death for her. Brandan convinces her that the only way to thwart Wulfgar’s scheme is to flee with him. But then she discovers that Brandan killed her fiancé. Now her desire for revenge threatens his efforts to keep them one step ahead of their pursuers and the magical forces Wulfgar unleashes to capture them. All while Brandan grapples with overwhelming guilt and disturbing revelations about his past and his true identity—and the reality that they may not survive.

My Thoughts: This is an enjoyable first book from Anne Campbell, one that is fantasy with a pretty historical feel to it. The story combines enchanted forests with a portrayal of feudal rule that few medieval fantasies manage to capture.

There were times where certain magical elements felt as though they emerged out of nowhere. At one point, Meredyth is attacked by moss, something that I had not been aware was a possibility in this story world up until the moment it happened. I would have appreciated the story more if some of these fantasy elements had been mentioned or alluded to before they came into play, however this was a minor irritation of mine.

The theme of forgiveness is important in this story; particularly when it comes to forgiveness that is not necessarily deserved. Though the reader is sure of both Brandan and Meredyth's changes of heart, they themselves are not able to accept these changes in each other at first. Through this theme, both characters were very relatable.

I look forward to reading the next in the series and received an advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Loyal Heart- Shelley Shepard Gray

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda's home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip's name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.

Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He's mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn't prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

My Thoughts: My favorite thing about this book was that it dealt with the crippling issue of depression. Miranda's situation has driven her to her lowest point, tempting her to simply end it all. Those scenes where Miranda struggled were rather powerful and emotional, as was Robert's admittance that he had once thought the same.

However, while I really liked the characterization of Miranda and enjoyed her relationship with Robert, I found myself wondering why it took so long for her situation to be resolved. No explanation is given as to why it took Robert so long to show up, and then once he does, he manages to solve most of her problems in around a week just by asking simple questions of people who Miranda already interacted with regularly.

As well, toward the end, two of Robert's war friends arrived, both of whom had seemed to have little reason to be there other than to remind the reader how good of a person Miranda's dead husband, Philip, was. The end itself felt somewhat off when a number of unnamed characters started out unwilling to help Miranda, only to suddenly change their tune once they were informed of how great Philip had been.

There were definitely parts of this book I enjoyed, and I will likely try the second especially since I have read other books by this author and really liked them. While it is not perfect, it does have its good moments and despite some of the darker points, it is a fairly easy read.

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Soundless- Richelle Mead- Fantasy Friday

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.

My Thoughts: Soundless did an amazing job with the question: What if no one you knew could hear? And what if you were suddenly the only one who could? I was interested in and captivated by both the way Fei originally described her soundless environment and then later how she coped with suddenly knowing sound and being unable to explain just what all these sounds... sounded like.

The relationship between Fei and Li Wei is also well done, coming across as real rather than forced for the plot. But they are also not so hopelessly in love that the story becomes all about their relationship. The story is clean, with only a couple of non-descriptive kisses, and there is no bad language.

What took the story down from five stars was the ending. Up until the final chapters, it seemed as though Fei was going to be able to convince their village of the danger in staying where they were and thus rescue them from death. Instead, <spoiler> the village is saved by Pixiu; up-until-then mythical guardians which the people managed to wake by passionately screaming <spoiler>. While this had been hinted at, it still felt out of place because of the lack of supernatural events prior to that. It also made me question why Fei had been needed in the first place.

While I didn't like the ending, I would still say that Soundless it worth the read. If for nothing else, the way sound is dealt with makes it interesting.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter- Carrie Fancett Pagels

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: In a land fraught with religious strife, they must break the barriers between status and faith to forge a fresh future in a new world… After her Huguenot father is arrested, aristocrat Suzanne Richelieu escapes Versailles. Handsome German peasant, Johan Rousch, risks his life to bring her to the safety of his family’s farm in the Palatinate duchy, but when Suzanne’s brother and the French army arrive with a warning that they plan to burn the area, she and Johan are forced to flee.

With no money or options, both become indentured servants in exchange for safe passage to Philadelphia. Suzanne falls gravely ill aboard ship and marries Johan, only to survive with no memory of the wedding—a reality made worse when Johan spots the “priest” who married them working as a surveyor and later in Quaker cleric garb. Are their wedding vows valid? When Suzanne's former fiancé arrives in port, planning to abduct her, Johan must save her again—but can he do so before Suzanne is lost to him forever?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the relationship between Johan and Suzanne. The way he always sought to protect her was endearing and the way she finally declared her feelings to him was perfect. From a large picture stand point, the story was really good, with enough danger to keep it interesting.

However, along the way, certain things stood out and lowered my esteem of the story. Johan's brother would switch from hateful to kind from scene to scene, and it seemed at times that Suzanne's understanding of German would change from proficient to sorely lacking. As well, the conflict about who would accompany her to the colonies felt largely unnecessary.

The story was what kept me interested. While at times the writing did not flow as well as it could, Johan was a great character and I wanted to find out how he would win both Suzanne's love and her trust. I would recommend it to those who love good characters above all else in a novel.

I received this book through the Book Fun Network in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 12, 2016

S. D. Grimm's Upcoming Novel- Scarlet Moon- Fantasy Friday

While at Realm Makers this year, I was able to take a class from Kirk DouPonce from DogEared Design, in which he showed a video detailing how he had made one of his latest book covers. It was a pretty awesome, five or so minute video, showing the process for Scarlet Moon by S. D. Grimm.

Now, the cover for this book is amazing and I am excited to see if the book itself will be just as good.

Description: Destiny can pick someone else.

Evil is slipping through the cracks of its prison, and all Soleden trembles in its wake. Yet some would harness that evil to their own ends, and first among them is Idla, the sorceress queen bent on distorting the world.

Only one can stand in her way: Jayden. Upon realizing her mark as the prophesied Deliverer, Jayden conceals herself from her enemies and her Feravolk countrymen. But after the harm the Feravolk caused to her family, she is loath to rescue the not-so-innocent.

Hiding her mark was never easy, but now that Jayden knows both Queen Idla and the Feravolk are after her, hiding her gift of the Blood Moon will be impossible.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Delilah- Angela Hunt

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: A Complex and Compelling Glimpse at One of the Bible's Baddest Girls.

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself. 

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.

My Thoughts: Delilah is my favorite of the Dangerous Beauty novels as Delilah has far more agency in this narrative than either of the previous female leads. Instead of the plot happening to Delilah, she reacts to and shapes much of what occurs. While Delilah is more of a villain, Hunt is able to portray her in a more sympathetic light which makes the book worth reading.

Samson's perspective is also present in the novel, the first time in this trilogy in which the Biblical male lead was a point of view character. This worked well to show both sides of the story, with both characters alternating between observer and enactor of the plot.

Overall, the story itself was engaging with a good balance of Biblical content and original story. The beginning is particularly strong on this front. Unfortunately, while the central conflict picked up toward the end, Samson and Delilah's logical faltered in places. As well, Delilah's decision to betray Samson seemed to come about rather suddenly.

The story was still wonderful, as Hunt did a really good job of making these characters likeable. However, it was not without its weak points.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

Realm Makers 2016- Fantasy Friday

Last Thursday through Saturday (July 28-30) was the 2016 Realm Makers, which I was able to attend this year. For those who have never heard of Realm Makers, it is a conference held every year (this was the fifth anniversary) for Christian writers of speculative fiction. This year had 180+ attendees and will most likely have more next year. Keep reading to the end to see where it will be held next summer.

This year had Thomas Locke, or Davis Bunn to the non-speculative world, as keynote speaker. Previous keynoters have included Tosca Lee and Robert Liparulo, and this time around Locke shared the disciplines he has used to develop the writing career he has today. Other conference speakers shared on tropes, writing habits, ect.

My favorite classes were Patrick Carr's Character Tropes Within Fantasy and Kirk DouPonce's How to Make a Bad Book Cover. The prior was informative and the later hilarious. Patrick Carr even signed all four of his books for me!

I was able to meet some really great people this time around, including Nadine Brandes (author of a Time to Die) and my table mates at the Gala Awards dinner. Though I didn't take many pictures, I did bring back a few more books to read!

Gala Awards

Now, I'm not one to say that you have to go to a conference, because I know it can be daunting and stressful to plan for. But if you are interested in attending one, Realm Makers in a lot of fun. It is the only one of its kind in the Christian market and gets better every year. Not to mention, next year's keynote speaker is....

What the video for dates and location!

Monday, August 1, 2016

When Calls The Heart- Season 3 DVD Promotion

My sister and I love watching When Calls the Heart together, so I was really excited to see this promotion from Fishflix, a site which sells christian movies. Seasons 1 and 2 were amazing, so don't miss out on the When Calls the Heart Season 3 DVD Set. Keep reading to find out how to not only preorder the new season, but also how to receive Season 1 for free.

Free DVD Set for all Preorders
For everyone who preorders the Season 3 Collector’s Edition from, we’ll send the Season 1 “Episodes” set as a free gift. We believe that this set is a great item to give away to friends who are not yet familiar with the When Calls the Heart brand. With the release timed for October 11, this bonus item is a great Christmas gift for any fan of family-friendly romantic programing.

Win a $100 Gift Card
Another promotion we’re running is a drawing for a $100 gift card. In order to enter the drawing, one needs simply to leave a review of Season 3 on this page: and send an email to verifying the “nickname” used on the product review. A drawing will take place on Sept 1, 2016 and one lucky winner will receive a $100 gift card to

About the Season 3 Boxed Set

We’re really excited about the When Calls the Heart Season 3 boxed set because it provides some truly unique bonuses for committed fans of the show (#Hearties.)

As with the When Calls the Heart Season 1 and Season 2 Collector’s editions, this 10 DVD set contains both the film versions and the TV episode versions of When Calls the Heart Season 3. You can watch the series as 10 hour-long episodes or 5 feature films. As in previous years, fans will enjoy finding small differences between the film versions and the individual episodes.

The really exciting elements of the Season 3 collectors’ edition are the three bonus Discs. Disc 8 features the typical bonus material one would expect from a project like this – behind the scenes footage, interviews, etc. Disc 9 is a special product devoted to the fans that have made When Calls the Heart such a grassroots success - featuring footage from the #Hearties gathering in Vancouver in January of 2016. The 10th disc is a When Calls the Heart trivia game that devoted fans are sure to love.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Three Wishes- Lisa Bergren- Fantasy Friday

My Rating: 3.5 Stars


Zara Ruiz is a normal California girl on the verge of graduating high school and thinking about her dawning future. But when dusk brings a shattering loss—and she discovers a priceless object in the shallows of a tide pool—she is thrust a hundred-and-eighty years into the past. There she meets handsome ranchero Javier de la Ventura—who has big dreams and bigger secrets—along with his enchanting family, in a land that is at once familiar, and yet utterly foreign.

Between cattle rustlers, pirates and a growing call for statehood, it is not a peaceful time to be a Mexican settler in young Alta California. But it is in that time and place that Zara must decide if she can find what she longs for most in the past, or if her heart's THREE WISHES can only be resolved in the present.

My Thoughts: Three Wishes is a little hard for me to rate. There was so much in this story that was reminiscent of the River of Time that I am having a hard time evaluating it on its own. As well, because of the short length of it and the lack of any true outward conflict such as in River of Time, I felt more like I was reading a prequel than the first book in a new series.

The story has some amazing relationships between characters, ones that I definitely look forward to reading more about in the sequel. The history also felt very well researched, offering a lot of potential to the series. While this book was not as exciting as I had hoped, I do look forward to the next book, especially after having read the first two chapters at the end of Three Wishes.

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.