Monday, February 27, 2017

The Silent Songbird- Melanie Dickerson

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

My Thoughts: Melanie's latest novels have been hit or miss for me. I loved The Beautiful Pretender and The Golden Braid, but this one felt overly forced and simplistic. I couldn't relate to the characters and though I finished it, I didn't at any point really enjoy it. From the first, Evangeline was a Mary Sue with her only "issue" being that she believed herself to be too selfish. Yet this never seemed to affect the way she behaved or the decisions that she made.

The villains of this story were also fairly lackluster. Evangeline's evil betrothed is something we have already seen in Melanie's other books and the other villains felt as though they were evil for evil's sake. The only character with much depth seemed to be the friend Nicola, who stood up for Evangeline as well as forgave her deception.

I might suggest this for younger teens, or even preteens. There is enough conflict and romance to entertain children in those age groups, while also containing only a couple kisses and little so far as described violence. I myself just could not get into it.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope- Texie Susan Gregory

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Trapped beneath 400 years of Egypt’s injustices, the Hebrew people await deliverance from generations of Egyptian slavery. But while it is still dark, God is at work. Young Jochebed is unaware the Master Weaver is preparing her to mother three formidable leaders: Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Shiphrah, the half-Egyptian midwife tasked to kill Hebrew male newborns, remembers childhood stories of a merciful God and cannot resist His call on her life.

Two women, each following the dangerous path God has set before them—this is their story

My Thoughts: When I first picked this up, I expected it to be like most Biblical Fiction. That is, a main character's romantic story woven into a Biblical narrative. Slender Reeds is nothing like that.

In ways, this is good. It is far more realistic to the cultural setting and time period, where survival outweighs romance. The slavery of the Hebrews is also more realistic, with the characters' daily lives filled with pain and drudgery as they seek out a glimmer of God's hope. Hope is slender as a reed in this story, with arranged marriages, barrenness, and ever breaking friendships. This is not the story for someone looking for a light-hearted read.

On the other hand, Jochebed's lack of a romance leaves Pharaoh (you know, murderer of Hebrew children) with a far better love story. Amram is virtually ignored in this story of Moses' humble origins, which disappointed me as I would have loved to see how all of this affected him. Instead, friendship was the main relational conflict of the novel, one which unfortunately seemed to repeat the same pattern.

Gregory's depiction of Hebrew slavery is likely a very honest one. While the full extent of their suffering is not detailed in the Bible, it is none the less known that the people suffered greatly. However, there were things I think could have been written better and I wish Amram had played a larger role. I would keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to read this.

I have provided an honest review after I received an ecopy of this book through Netgalley.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Royal Christmas Wedding- Rachel Hauck

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: It’s been five years since Avery Truitt and Prince Colin of Brighton Kingdom fell in love. But he broke her heart with no explanation.

Fast forward to present day, and Colin is Brighton’s most eligible bachelor now that cousin Stephen has married. When Avery’s father dies of a heart attack, she puts her life on hold and returns home to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to help Mama with the family restaurant. But Mama misses Avery’s sister Susanna, who lives four thousand miles away in Brighton Kingdom—and is expecting her first child. So Mama insists she and Avery spend the Christmas season in Brighton.

Colin and Avery are going to see each other a lot while she’s visiting. But she can’t forget the way he hurt her, and he didn’t expect his feelings to still be so strong.

Avery is torn between considering a future in Brighton and taking a coaching job in Georgia, and Colin is finally pushed to pursue what he really wants. Is it too late to convince Avery that she is his true love? And even if he does, will she make it to the chapel on Christmas Day to give him her heart?

My Thoughts: I've never been a huge fan of Hauck's books, though I seem to continually end up with them on my review list. So A Royal Christmas Wedding was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that I actually enjoyed it. It is fairly short and sweet, a great read for anytime of year, and not just at Christmas.

Colin and Avery are incredibly mature about their past. While most novels dealing with characters who were once almost married usually devolve into petty arguments between the two, these characters managed to refrain. This made the story all the more enjoyable and made their relationship worth cheering for.

I might have rated it higher had there been a little more to the story. The length doesn't allow for any subplots or deeper issues. Yet I think the simplicity of the story compliments the joyful feel of Christmas and makes this a nice relaxing read for a normally hectic time of year. And with Valentine's Day coming around, maybe we could all use some simple romance.

I have provided an honest review after having received this book through The Fiction Guild.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Mark of the King- Jocelyn Green

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict. 

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on? 

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

My Thoughts: The Mark of the King is an incredibly well written book that grabs a hold of your attention and wont let go. Detailing the struggles underwent by the original colonists of New Orleans, the novel follows Julianne through a life of heartache as she learns that only God's opinion of her matters and only following his will is able to bring her joy. This message is woven into the history of the colonies, a time when faith was heavily regulated by the church.

Green's research into the time period is astounding, as she truly brings this colony to life. Though I already knew a few of the details she uses, other facts were completely new to me. I am always impressed when an author is able to impart so much history without beginning to read like a textbook.

My one complaint is that the conflict which arises toward the end was one that could have been avoided if the characters had not kept secrets from each other. Though their reasons are understandable, they also showed a lack of trust in the other. I would also like to warn that this is not an easy book to read. Some of the events portrayed are stomach churning and I would not recommend it for teenagers or those who dislike reading about some of the more horrifying aspects of history. That said, I will personally be looking for any upcoming works by this author.

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