Monday, November 27, 2017

The Space Between Words- Michèle Phoenix

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn't left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they'd planned before the tragedy.

"The pages found you," Patrick whispered.

"Now you need to figure out what they're trying to say."

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before--her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

"I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival."

Determined to learn the Baillard family's fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn't understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica's survival?

My Thoughts: When I first started reading this book, I was not sure that I would like it. The pace was slow and somewhat wordy, and I was not a fan of Jessica's roommate, Vonda. However, one the Paris attacks took place, the slower pace felt like the only speed in which the story could possibly unfold as it allowed me to feel as though I was going through the process of recovery with her.

Antiquing is not something that I have a lot of time for, however it is an activity that I appreciate. Envisioning other peoples' lives and histories through the items they left behind can be cathartic. I could picture the shop where Jessica found her journal and the air of history that would have soothed her after everything she had been through.

Other than the prologue, this book did not contain any long passages from the journal Jessica found, nor did it jump back in time in order to tell two stories that intertwined. I appreciated this, as I feel that a story should always stick to one timeline (unless it is a timetravel novel), because one timeline is always more interesting than the other. Michèle manages to tell the story of Adeline Baillard, without it taking away from the story of Jessica.

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

Egypt's Sister- Angela Hunt

My Rating: 3 Stars

DescriptionFive decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria's royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what--but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery.

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God's will for her life.

My Thoughts: It is interesting that, though this series is titled The Silent Years, the conflict in Chava's life revolves around a promise she heard from God. I found it interesting how strongly she held on to this promise and how little she questioned its origin from God, though that was perhaps because it was one she wanted to hear.

Though the first part of the novel was slow going at first, the narrative picked up pace once Cleopatra became Queen and Chava's loyalty to her promise was tested. It was then that more of the historical elements played a larger part in both woman's lives, replacing the childhood games of their younger years. And though it took Chava longer to see that the world was a much darker place than she had known before, she soon came to see every bit of betrayal that can reside in men's, and women's, hearts.

Two things stood out as something that may many people might find off putting when reading this book, the first being that there is very little romance, and the other being that much of the narrative deals with recounting events that took place in the history of Rome and Egypt rather than those that directly involved Chava. Instead, the reader is told what happens to Cleopatra through rumors and hearsay, while Chava's life is mostly unimpacted by those events. And those events which impacted Chava's life rather than Cleopatra's at times seemed far fetched, such as a her learning to be a midwife without any experience.

I must admit that normally, the way this story is told would have bothered me. I am not often interested in reading a novel where the true main character is not the one narrating. However, Cleopatra has always been a fascinating historical figure to me, and I am not so sure many authors would do justice to the historical Queen as a main point of view character. However, even with these potential issues, I found myself engaged in the story, wondering how Chava's promise would come about and what all she would survive in order to see the promise through.

Though not for everyone, I found Egypt's Sister to be an enjoyable read.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Every Serengeti Sunrise- Tour, Giveaway, and Review

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Every Serengeti Sunrise
(From Kenya, With Love #4)
Rula Sinara
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 368 pages
December 1st 2017 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Elephants, Africa’s wild savannah and three best friends…

When attorney Maddie Corallis returns to Kenya to fight a humanitarian vs animal rights case, the last thing she expects is for her childhood friend, wildlife veterinarian Haki Odaba, to be the very man she’s up against. Loyal and protective, Haki would never turn his back on the elephants he’s devoted to saving, any more than Maddie could abandon the native tribes she’s come to protect. An impossible battle…but nothing compared to the fight they face when old feelings surface and the soul-deep connection they’ve always shared threatens the worst kind of betrayal...that of their dearest friend Pippa. The one Haki is expected to marry.

Denying their feelings is torture, but giving in is not an option. Not with the suffering it would cause. Besides, Maddie left Kenya once and she’ll be leaving again soon. An ocean, a case and a friend between them. Maybe love can’t always find a way…or can it?

My Thoughts

It is not everyday that a novel set in Kenya pops up in my review feed. Most American authors stick to the US of A, or else some of the more "romantic" countries of Europe. So it was a joy to find something that was a little more unique. And since I had read an anthropological study in college that dealt with Kenya and the tribal laibons, I was excited to see where the author took this story.

To begin with, Sinara did a great job of depicting Kenyan culture. She mentioned greetings and gift-giving, all without making these parts of the culture seemed forced to the story or else needlessly exotic. And she included simple details, such as the correct gifts to bring, without stating that those were the expected gifts, creating a sense of normality to the exchange between characters that I appreciated.

However, the romance itself felt like something that was forced in between the conflict of farmers killing elephants in retribution for destruction of crops. Though the narrative hints that there were feelings between the two as children, it seems to come out of nowhere that they suddenly love each other so much after only a few days together, days in which they have been on opposing sides of a legal battle.

There is also a lot of backstory to the characters that is largely glossed over, which I assume is because it was part of the other three books, which made it difficult to get a sense of just who this cast of characters are as people. Why do any of them have such a drive to protect the elephants? And why does that drive result in Haki being judgemental and sometimes callous to the local tribes people when it comes to their livelihoods?

I think that if I had read the rest of the series beforehand, that I would have enjoyed the romance in this one much more. However, reading it as a standalone left me wishing for more when it came to the characters' history and relationship.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through I am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

National and USA Today Bestselling author Rula Sinara lives in rural Virginia with her family and crazy but endearing pets. She loves organic gardening, attracting wildlife to her yard, planting trees, raising backyard chickens and drinking more coffee than she'll ever admit to. Rula's writing has earned her a National Readers Choice Award and HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, among other honors. You can discover more about Rula at her blog A Writer’s Rush, on Twitter, on Facebook as RulaSinaraAuthor or on her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

Tour Schedule

November 13th: Launch Colorimetry
November 21st: Wishful Endings
November 22nd: Heidi Reads... & I Am A Reader
November 23rd: underneath the covers
November 24th: Becky on Books
November 25th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

Prize Pack #1: (one winner, U.S. residents only)
- A set of three, 15X15 in cotton canvas ‘From Kenya, With Love’ tote bags
- A handmade wooden ‘Believe’ star ornament
- A set of 3 plush wild animal TY Teeny Tys (great stocking stuffers!)
- An autographed copy of A Heartwarming Christmas Craft & Cookbook
- An autographed copy of After the Silence
- An autographed copy of Through the Storm
- Every Serengeti Sunrise bookmark

Prize Pack #2: (one winner, open to U.S. and International residents)
Amazon Kindle (gifted) copies of The Promise of Rain and After the Silence (Winner may substitute a different backlist book by Rula Sinara, if one of the above titles is already owned. No other substitutions apply.)

Ends November 29th

Monday, November 13, 2017

Christy-Catherine Marshall

My Rating: 5 Stars

DescriptionThe train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

Yearning to make a difference, will Christy’s determination and devotion be enough?

My Thoughts: The last time I read this, I was in middle school in Michigan, reading novels meant for much older readers. Now, I'm finally the target audience and am reading the 50th anniversary edition in a city mentioned on the Cutter Gap map. How times have changed!

One of the most upsetting things for me as a child reader was that there had never been a sequel to Christy. I'm even more heartbroken about that now that I have read this over and fallen in love once again with the setting and the characters who are both familiar and yet foreign. Living in the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia has given me a new appreciation for Christy's many jaunts into the forest and her desire to stay even when her family would wish her home.

Something I was unable to fully grasp in my childhood was the faith journey that Christy embarked upon. Now that I have passed the age she was in the narrative, I have found the questions she grappled with to be just as important and thought provoking as she did. What does it mean to love thy neighbor? Especially when that person is someone who you feel lives in a world of ignorance and hate. Do you have to like them still? And what is the best way to live and preach the gospel when you know your neighbors are engaged in illegal and dangerous acts?

Christy was a courageous woman, one that many of us can only hope to be like, as she dove not only into a culture alien to her, but also into deeps of faith she had never dared tread. While there are portions of this new edition that could have used updating, such as where there are two people speaking in one paragraph without much distinction between the two, there is a wealth of storytelling that stands on its own as a classic that will remain for generations to come.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Unraveling- Sara Ella

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

DescriptionWhat happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?

Eliyana Ember doesn't believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what's right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she's trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about--like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua's finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something--or someone--is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections--and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

My Thoughts: I am aware that most people awaited this novel with high anticipation. However, despite my moderate enjoyment of the first, I was not one of them. I suspected that the things I enjoyed about the first would be undone and, unfortunately, I was right. The complex love triangle that so intrigued me in the first book, now felt forced as I  wondered why she felt drawn to either guy. Both are at times emotionally distant and their "love" seems to come as a game of who "owns" her. While I ultimately prefer Ky over Joshua, I could not find it in me to care if they ended up together. Because while they are concerned with who her heart belongs to, the world is literally crashing down around them, and all the reader gets to see of it is a few crashing stones and some powers that no longer work.

As with the first, the same issue exists where characters refuse to share pertinent information with each other. And as with the first, this creates conflict where there never should have been one. While the fact that Joshua does this can be explained as the Void causing him to make selfish and harmful decisions, the same excuse does not hold up for anyone else, especially when they keep information from their Queen who otherwise could be working to fix the problem if she knew just what the problem was.

The true place where I felt that this novel failed its predecessor, however, was in the organization of scenes. While the previously mentioned issues are common for YA fiction, and honestly will not be a problem for many people, the scenes were something that only made the story all the more confusing. Throughout, both El and Joshua tell parts of their POV's through memories. However, while a few of these memories add to the story and are well led into, most of them are poorly inserted, leaving confusion as to whether they are current events or ones in the past. And very little, if anything, would have been lost if Ky's POV had been cut out all together.

The story is meant to be like a real life fairytale. But unlike a fairytale, there is very little whimsy to the story world or the plot. In the first, there was some, but in this... I don' know, I just could not get behind the Kiss of Infinity or the origin of the Verity and Void that is supposed to explain why love is such an all important force in this universe. Rather than feeling whimsical, it felt forced. But while I would not recommend this, there are many others that would.

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