Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Cover Reveal!- Romanov by Nadine Brandes

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Doesn't that sound amazing?! If you would like a copy of Romanov, you can pre-order it from one of the websites linked here.  The book releases May 7, 2019 as a standalone, YA,
historical fantasy, Anastasia retelling.

Monday, September 24, 2018

What Blooms from Dust- James Markert

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Description: Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, a tornado tears down the prison walls, and he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.

After one jolt in Old Sparky, Jeremiah sees things more clearly and begins to question the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders he was accused of. On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy who follows him the rest of the way, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by fearful townspeople. When the Black Sunday storm hits the very next day, the residents of Nowhere finally begin to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust.

Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the townspeople from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of flipping the coin on those men who died.

Filled with mystery and magic, What Blooms from Dust is the story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

My Thoughts: This book started off really well. Markert has way of writing that brings the early nineteen hundreds to life, as though the photographs in textbooks started moving. Jeremiah Goodbye's first glance of the Dust Bowl felt like our first glance of it too, while his initial quirky demeanor had me guessing just how reliable of a narrator he was. And since this story has a supernatural twist, that uncertainty made it all the better.

But then Jeremiah made it back to Nowhere, and his quirkiness started to disappear. Knowing that he did the things that he did while still sane made it harder to like him or to empathize with his character. Especially when it came to his relationships with his brother and sister-in-law.

There was also a fair bit of repetition, both in word usage and in scenes. There is not a lot happening in Nowhere, other than the characters digging out from their houses and then going to Orion's after dinner. What changes are the conversations that are held at these points, but even those repeated certain stories as though the characters (and the readers) would suddenly understand the significance after the fifth time hearing about Jeremiah's nightmares.

That is not to say that interesting things did not occur. The description of the Dust Bowl and a what it would have been like to live through it were spot on, including the hoards of jackrabbits and insects. But sadly, I did not feel that this book lived up to the expectations I had for a Markert novel.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions- Lisa Bevere

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: By ancient definition, the adamant was known as both a diamond and a mythical stone of indestructible wonder. In more modern terminology, it describes a posture of unshakeable resolve and determination. If there was ever a time for us to be adamant about love and truth it is now. God is Love. God is Truth. Both love and truth are timeless, transcending our current trends and opinions. Sometimes the most loving thing we will ever do is to speak the truth, but speaking truth begins with living it.

Using the mediums of Scripture and story, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Bevere takes readers on a journey into the Mountain of God, to the one place they can learn not only to abide in God's unshakeable truth and love, but become adamant--people who are unmovable, determined, and steadfast. With conviction and passion, Lisa unpacks the concept of the adamant for readers, linking together the grand story of Scripture and God's purpose in their lives. Readers will see that God's plan is revealed as we dwell in him, it is there that we are forged and shaped. As we abide in Christ our Cornerstone we are shaped into the image of the adamant.

My Thoughts: For truth to be real, it has to be true universally, without regard for opinion. In the Christian faith, God is that truth and so this book is about understanding, trusting, and living in the will of God. The author reminds us that God is adamant, unchanging and uncompromising. It is a great reminder for those who think that God makes an exception to his word for them, whether in their favor or against.

I think that everyone can learn something from this book. How much will be new to you will depend on your background, however. Some people already have a firm image of who God is, while others have never experienced that knowledge. For myself, this book served more as a reminder. It was encouraging to read about the author's own experiences with God and how her past has shaped her ministry.

Since this book is more theological, there are very few examples of real life application. This is something I would have liked to have had, particularly in the chapter on hating what God hates. But maybe it would be another book entirely to discuss righteous displays of anger.

Adamant is a great read for both newer and younger Christians, particularly those facing uncertainty in their faith and their future. The world often tells use that truth is changing and that we must change with it. What a relief for us to know that TRUTH isn't changing and that we will find it if we seek it.

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Weaver's Daughter- Sarah E. Ladd

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Kate's loyalties bind her to the past. Henry's loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions? Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder --including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father's pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather's goals to modernize his family's wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family's livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry's side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village's future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls - even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Thoughts: Probably my favorite Ladd novel so far, The Weaver's Daughter is about the conflict between tradition and innovation, preserving old jobs and creating new ones. It feels like a great topic to discuss, considering the same conflicts are working out in modern society as well. Conflict always arises when there is change, especially when there are good and bad points (and people) on both sides. And no matter how many times this happens, the cycle always seems to progress in the same way, with some people embracing it and others fighting back.

Now, the romance of this story is more of a side note, with these "star-crossed" lovers' relationship often sidelined for the overshadowing issue of their families' ideas of what the future should look like. And I honestly preferred that the focus was on that rather than them. It showed that there were more important things in their lives than whether or not the characters would have a chance to flirt.

On the downside, this meant that once the characters did get together, it felt kind of rushed. Overall, I think that the story takes place over about a month and then the epilogue ties everything up in a little too neat of a bow. However, without that epilogue, I really enjoyed this story and the way that it ended because these characters had managed to find happiness despite the messiness of their situations.

Personally, I would recommend reading this without the epilogue. The story is stronger without it.

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

Spice Bringer- H.L. Burke

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya's known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

My Thoughts: Starting out this book, I was not sure that I would enjoy it. The lizard, Alk, has a fairly obnoxious attitude through most of the story and it was the first thing that stood out to me while reading. But I had seen another review that mentioned this, and they had said that it got better, so I gave the story another chance. And the story did get better, though not because of Alk.

Both Niya and Jayesh were strong characters, more than making up for Alk's peevishness. I enjoyed Niya's strength in persevering despite the fact that it would be so much easier for her to just give up. And even though she personally gains from her successes, she is not given a cure-all, easy win the way most protagonists are in fiction these days. Which gave her and Jayesh's relationship all the more depth.

However, there were some other things that, while they didn't make me dislike the story, did hamper my enjoyment of it. The first is that, for a YA, I thought there was too much thought and discussion of sex. In the author's novel, Coiled, I had appreciated the discussion because it came as part of the theme of inward vs outward beauty, but in this it was just something that Niya was upset about the thought of not having done before dying.

The other was my confusion over the religion. There was clearly an Indian polytheistic set up to the world building, however it relied heavily on a Christian point of view. Having only three gods: the Kind god, the Just god, and the All-knowing god, made it seem like the author took the idea of the trinity and transferred it into polytheism. My problem with this wasn't that it was too Christian or else not enough, but that it no longer felt like a true religion to me, as polytheistic pantheons come with a much grayer outlook on life that results in at least one deity ruling over a darker side of human nature.

What made Spice Bringer stand out, however, were the conflicts. Beyond Niya's struggle with the rasp and her quest to protect the vitrisar, was the Princess's goal to protect her sister and the kingdom from a despotic ruler. And though these goals were set up to cause one or the other to fail, neither's motives were wrong. Wanting both to succeed meant that I was more engaged to find out what happened in the end. So, though I did not love this read, I did enjoy it.

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