Monday, October 30, 2017

Ninth City Burning- J. Patrick Black

My Rating: 3 Stars

DescriptionFor fans of Ender's Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the world--until we learned to seize the power, and use it to fight back.

The war has raged for five centuries. For a cadet like Jax, one of the few who can harness the enemy's universe-altering force, that means growing up in an elite military academy, training for battle at the front--and hoping he is ready. For Naomi, young nomad roaming the wilds of a ruined Earth, it means a daily fight for survival against the savage raiders who threaten her caravan.

When a new attack looms, these two fledgling warriors find their paths suddenly intertwined. Together with a gifted but reckless military commander, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a wild and beautiful gunfighter, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose--they must find a way to turn back the coming invasion, or see their home finally and completely destroyed.

My Thoughts: Ninth City Burning is mostly a sum of all the novels it is toted as emulating. There are children who are integral to winning the war, yet they are not the only key players and are backed up by adults who will do whatever they need to to protect them. There are settlements that supply Ninth City while themselves living in ignorance and poverty, however this arrangement is out of perceived necessity rather than cruelty. And then there is science that is magic... and yet not.

Thelemity is a concept that is fun to read about and explore, particularly since the author spent so much effort to ensure that something that behaves so much like magic could be broken down into a science. Exploring the uses of this power through Rae's perspective is amusing in how relatable her struggle to learn its properties is. And Torro's perspective does a good job of tugging at heartstrings when he learns just what this war will cost him.

However, there were a number of other POV characters that could have been done without, and at times the explanations of thelemity drifted from showing to paragraphs of telling. The narrative opens with Jax, whose opening couple pages were hilarious despite the seriousness of the situation. However, he soon disappears from the forefront until much later in the story, after Naomi has stepped in and filled his place as the child with the weight of her people on her shoulders and future she is less than sure of. Vinneas and Kizabel also fill nearly identical roles in the narrative, both offering the perspective of people entrenched in this war since childhood who now seek to give mankind a leg up in the war but are largely ignored and outright hindered by those who are offended by the manner in which they go about it.

While all of these characters are able to show the readers events that the other characters are not privy to, the lack of diversity in roles and, to a lesser extent, personality, creates characters that it is difficult to invest in. Even Torro and Rae, who I felt stood better on their own, still filled the role of foot soldier who doesn't really want to be there but has their own reasons for not leaving AND who is a horrible failure at the majority of what they are being trained to do yet have an extraordinary and uncanny ability in some other area of training that is deemed just as valuable.

The more I think about it while writing this review, the more problems stick out to me. There are nomads who sound like they learned to read with a thesaurus for no apparent reason, characters who are far too knowledgeable on things that they shouldn't know unless they are social scientists, and an unwavering insistence that everything bad in the world is directly caused by the Valentines and once those aliens are defeated everything can be fixed. However, even with everything that I could pick apart, I didn't hate it. There was enough that was interesting and engaging (see the second paragraph of this review for some of those) for me to keep reading. And after seeing the that the alien big bad is referred to as "Romeo", I knew that I would have to take the story with a grain of salt anyway. While I personally do not see myself continuing the series (if there is one) I cannot say that I do not see this novel finding appeal for someone else.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Rhinestones on My Flip-Flops- Jane Jenkins Herlong

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: RHINESTONES ON MY FLIP FLOPS offers the message Jane lives by: prove people wrong and laugh while living your dreams.

As a nationally recognized Southern humorist, wife, and mother, Jane provides scriptural take-home wisdom and common-sense timeless truths. The purpose of RHINESTONES ON MY FLIP FLOPS is two-fold: to remind readers about biblical women who faced change and to provide life lessons about handling change that will benefit every woman. This book is designed to hit the heart with teachable stories that will encourage, inspire, and create laughable, honest moments. The book's common-sense, biblical answers will help women confidently face another day with empowerment and to pass their wisdom to the next generation.

My Thoughts: This is the first book I have read by this author, one I picked up in search of inspiring stories told with a sense of humor. The format of each chapter is that Jane introduces woman from the Bible who messed up in some way and then tells stories from her own life that relate. In the end, Jane then sums up how woman can take these stories as examples of how to find grace in life's flip-flops.

I found some of these stories entertaining. Her mishaps brought a touch of humor and Jane in no way shied from telling stories that had embarrassed her in the past. However, I found the majority of the snippets unrelatable as almost all of them had to do with either her life as a beauty queen or her domestic failures, both of which are subjects I was unable to connect with. I also failed to find the  way in which she told these stories amusing.

A running joke throughout is the phonetic way in which people she has known spoke. This mode of comedy is one that I have never enjoyed when it comes to reading because it forces me to read the joke at a much slower pace than I am used to. And once part of a funny story is ruined for me, the rest usually falls flat as well. However, I do realize that my preferences when it comes to humor do not ring true for all, and that many woman will likely relate to Jane's stories in a way that I was unable to. And I still may recommend it to woman who I believe might find inspiration from reading about Jane's flip-flops.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Keeper of Her Heart- Guest Post

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Keeper of her Heart
by Stacy Henrie
Inspirational Historical Romance
ebook, 271 pages
September 26th 2017 by Beyond the Page Publishing

If you like the novels of Deanne Gist and Lauraine Snelling, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie’s inspirational romance set against the backdrop of World War One!

Even at a young age, Ada Thorne knew that she would marry only for love, never money. So when she finds herself irrevocably drawn to Ned Henley, the lowly gamekeeper on a neighboring estate, she defies her parents and society by eloping with him to London to build a new life.

Without her family’s support, life in the city is far more difficult than the one of ease and privilege Ada has always known. She’ll find herself relentlessly tested in ways she never imagined—especially when Ned, answering the call of duty, enlists to serve his country in World War One.

Alone and near poverty with a child to raise, Ada’s resolve will be strained at every turn. And as she struggles to remain true to her convictions and live life on her own terms, Ada will embark on a journey of courage, faith, and love that will surpass even her own humble dreams . . .

Advanced Praise for the Book

“Stacy Henrie possesses superior storytelling skills, her historical accuracy and attention to detail are unsurpassed, and she knows how to create characters we can identify with and whom we really care for.” —Fresh Fiction

Desperation strangled Ada’s breath, making her light-headed. “If I am not to marry for love, then what is the purpose of such a union?”
“To maintain the life you have always known,” her father said, his voice rising again. “You will marry a man of good breeding and fortune who will see that you want for nothing.”
An image of a content and pampered lap dog came to her mind. No wonder she preferred horses and their strength and power to other creatures meant to sit silent and look lovely.
 “Do you understand what we are asking of you, Ada?” This time her father’s tone was softer and more placating.
Rising to her feet, she nodded. “I will not ride out alone anymore, and I will become the well-bred young woman you wish me to be.”
“Very good.” Charles looked relieved. “You may go on up to bed now.”
She kissed her mother, then bid them both good night. But as Ada rushed up the stairs, eager to escape to her room, she felt a heady rush of determination. She would follow through with her word about the riding and her ladylike training, but she would never settle for a marriage without love—never. No matter how rich or poor or well-bred the men who came to court her, she would marry for love or she would not marry at all.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids.

Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive a $40 Amazon e-gift card and an e-book copy of any of Stacy's books (winner's choice)
- Open internationally
- Ends October 25th

Monday, October 16, 2017

Heart on the Line- Karen Witemeyer

My Rating: 4 Stars

DescriptionGrace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My Thoughts: It is not everyday that an author of romance writes a hero with more brain than brawn... and even has that brain win out against a typical ladies man without much contest. Amos is a likable character who, unlike most heroes, is not overly confident in his ability to win the girl's heart. He knows that he is not the most handsome or the strongest man in town, but what he lacks for in more masculine traits, he makes up for in heart and courage. It was sweet to see him fight for the woman he loved even when he knew he couldn't hold his own in a fight. But he was still willing to stand between her and danger, which is what matters.

Honestly, Amos out shined Grace. While he was ecstatic to find that she was more beautiful than he had dared to dream, she was disappointed that he did not live up to her imaginings. Though she soon put aside her initial impression of him in favor of one that reflected his character rather than his appearance, Amos had already shown himself to be the better character of the two.

Though the description makes no mention of it, the book also contains a second romance, that between Helen and... well, that would be a spoiler, now wouldn't it? While this story was sweet, and did play somewhat into the greater story as a whole, I honestly did not think that it needed to be included. Helen's story would have been better served as a separate short story, where the focus could have been on her and her hero rather than their having to compete with Amos and Grace.

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Hitler's Cross- Erwin W. Lutzer

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: When Hitler was ruling Europe, where was the church of Christ? “Deine Reich komme,” Hitler prayed publicly: “Thy Kingdom come.” But to whose kingdom was he referring? When Germany truly needed a savior, Adolf Hitler falsely assumed the role. He directed his countryman to a cross, but he bent and hammered the true cross into a powerless substitute: a swastika. And many Christians followed him there.

In Hitler's Cross, Erwin W. Lutzer helps us see how. Outlining a number of lessons from this dark chapter in world history, he teaches us about:

The dangers of confusing church and state
The role of God in human tragedy
The parameters of Satan's freedom

Hitler's Cross is the story of a nation whose church forgot its call and discovered its failure way too late. It is a cautionary tale for every church and Christian to remember who the true King is.

My Thoughts: I believe that a better title for this book would have been Hitler's Cross: How the Cross was Replaced with the Nazi Agenda, as that is what this book is truly about. Through much of the book, Lutzer discusses how Hitler was able to turn people away from the truths of Christ to those the Nazi regime instated. Other chapters detail the history of Hitler before the war as well as the fate of Christians who apposed him during.

As an anthropologist with a background in history and research, Hitler's Cross is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, Lutzer discussions of church history is well researched and honestly portrayed, going so far as to admit to the antisemitism of Martin Luther and many medieval churches. For the most part, I found these portions to be enlightening, however I wish that Luzter had not tried to lessen the stench of those events as simply a mark of their times.

When it came to events during the war, Lutzer also had some good information. Yet it was in the first few chapters, which described Hitler's childhood and interest in the occult, that I found problematic. From the first, I found many of the assertions came across as gross exaggerations, particularly since so few of them were cited. And citation was a major issue for much of the book. While all of the scripture used was cited, along with any direct quotes, very little of anything else was.

Part of the reason I appreciated the portion on church history was that Lutzer used direct quotes to back up his assertions. However, this was not the case for hardly any of the sections discussing Hitler, forcing me to doubt his arguments as to Hitler's occult practices. As well, there instances where he made statements that show a lack of true knowledge in that area.

When I first chose to read this book, I had thought it would be a true work of historical research. While there was some of this, it consisted mostly of assertions that were not defended, as well as criticisms of present American culture that at times seemed to conflict with earlier statements about the failings of the church in Nazi Germany. Ultimately, these failings forced me to lower my rating of the book, despite Lutzer's engaging writing style and knowledge of early church history.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Many Sparrows- Lori Benton

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…

In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son...especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

My Thoughts: Reading this, it did not take long for me to realize that this was going to be one of Lori's best novels. Despite my feelings about Clare in the beginning (more on that later), the level of conflict and grief was already well established within the first pages, promising an enthralling read.

There is no end the heartache within this book. Even at the end, after the characters have learned the novel's lesson, there still remain tender wounds that only a faith in God can keep sealed. Nearly every character has a backstory of pain that only God can heal, no matter how much time has gone by. The intersection of conflicting cultures required very in depth research that is apparent in every detail and strained conversation.

The Christian moral to the story is also well instituted and applied without coming off as merely a fictionalized sermon. Instead, the theme is woven into each character's interactions with both Clare and Jeremiah in a way that is abundantly realistic.

When it comes to Clare, my one complaint for the novel was her attitude in the first portion of the book. From the moment the reader enters her POV, she is negative, refusing even to return her husbands' declaration of love or to put any thought behind her new daughter's name. Though I understood that her mind was set on finding Jacob, her behavior still made it difficult to fully sympathize with her. However, by the time she encounters the Shawnee, Clare's heart has changed for the better, and the rest of the novel (including those scenes with Jeremiah in the beginning) made up for most of my irritation with her.

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