Monday, February 18, 2019

Of Fire and Lions- Mesu Andrews

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin's Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series.

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she'd perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. Now, as Daniel's wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she's safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear--until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar's palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Belili's tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone?


Ultimately, Yahweh's sovereign hand guides Jerusalem's captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.


My Thoughts: Daniel has always been one of my favorite men from the Bible, due to his honor and the many miracles that occur throughout his life. But while there are plenty of books were Daniel is a side character, those stories often leave Daniel appearing inhumanly perfect, without fears or regrets. Whereas Mesu's novel shows him to have been just as human as the rest of us, though perhaps with a bit more faith.

I'll admit that I was hesitant when I first picked up this book. It starts off in Daniel and Belili's old age, leading me to believe that I was not going to be able to see the miracles from Daniel's life but only read as he recounted them. Fortunately, this was not the case as the story drifted back and forth through time, anchoring the narrative in the ending period of Judah's seventy years of exile before shifting back to detail everything that happened in those seventy years.

Belili is not my favorite of Mesu's heroines. She is not as likeable or as upright as some. However, I felt that I could relate to her struggles with belif. Like all of us, she has seen moments of God's goodness, but easily forgets them when faced with hardship. And it is only a long and hard road which leads her to trust Yahweh no matter the consequences to herself or others.

Despite my initial trepidation, Of Fire and Lions has become my second favorite of Mesu's novels (I think The Pharaoh's Daughter will always be my favorite) because of its honesty in portraying the characters' failings and regrets even as they seek to follow God in their daily lives. Trusting God is not an easy path, but it is rewarding if we take courage in God and see it through.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ARC through the author and publisher.







There is also a pre-order sale going on! Read this message from the publisher: We have some serious fun planned for you on release day, March 5th! You are going to want a copy of the book in your hands early that morning to participate in the Of Fire and Lions Launch Day Palooza! (More details to come on this 12-hour event in the March 4th Book Lover Newsletter.)

How do you get a book in your hot, little hands on launch day, you ask? We have three easy options for you!

- Pre-order your copy from WaterBrook Multnomah during their Pre-Order BOGO event. (Pssst...this option includes a free 2nd book!) https://waterbrookmultnomah.com/ofalbogo/
 
- Pre-order a copy from your favorite on-line retailer. Click here for options: https://mesuandrews.com/books/of-fire-and-lions/
 
– Visit your favorite local bookseller when it opens on launch day!

Regardless of which option you choose, you will want to be ready to start answering questions at 8:00 AM (Eastern Time). Make sure to check out the March 4th newsletter for more information!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Cover Reveal for The End of the Magi by Patrick Carr!!





There is a cover for Patrick Carr's new book!! This one is a bit different than his last few novels (it is a Biblical Fiction novel rather than fantasy), but is sure to be just as amazing. Keep reading to see the short blurb available on Goodreads.



 
Fleeing for his life after his adoptive father is put to death by a ruthless Parthian queen, Myrad, a young magi acolyte, escapes the city. There he begins an epic journey filled with peril, close escapes, and dangerous battles. Over everything shines the dream of a star that Myrad can't forget and the promise that the world will never be the same.


Monday, February 11, 2019

The Sound of Rain- Sarah Loudin Thomas

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: In the Dark of the Mine, In the Face of Rising Water,
In the Shadows of the Hills, Faith Will See Them Through

Judd Markley knew he could never set foot underground again. The mine collapse that nearly killed him and claimed his brother's life meant leaving West Virginia forever. Although that hard Appalachian world was all he knew, he put it behind him and headed for the open sky of the thriving town of 1954 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Larkin Heyward's life in the beach town is uncomplicated, mostly volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more and being more--maybe moving to the hills and hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she's never even met someone who's lived there--until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father's timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a hurricane that changes Myrtle Beach forever, Judd's and Larkin's dreams pull them in divergent directions. It will take a significant sacrifice to keep them together--or maybe, it will take a miracle.


My Thoughts: I was pulled back and forth with this book. On the one hand, I really like Judd's character and reading his scenes was enjoyable. Judd was a really sweet guy who never tried to force his opinion on others, only stated his mind and left it at that. And though this seems to be a growing trend in romance, stepping away from the alpha male heroes, it is a trend that I fully enjoy.

On the other hand, I was not a fan of Larkin. I felt that she was fairly immature and that the book gave her easy outs to her poor decisions. Rather than having to learn to make better choices, she is only encouraged to "follow her dreams", even though these dreams are ill defined and could be followed out where she already is rather than her having to runaway to the mountains. That's not to say that her character did not grow. I did prefer her toward the later half of the story and the way she was with Kyle and Granny. But by then, she willingly turned over the dreams she had worked so hard to achieve.

As to the book as a whole, the pacing is slow, which I liked, but it also meant that most all of the conflict came from the characters themselves. The hurricane that the description of the book mentions hardly makes an impact on the story itself and the conflict hinted at throughout which related to Pete ends up happening mostly off screen. As a character driven story, Judd is a compelling character whose scenes always read with enough conflict to keep the story interesting. And his romance with Larkin is a sweet one. I just wish that Larkin could have been more responsible.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Letters to an American Chrstian- Bruce Riley Ashford

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Description: What does it mean to be an American Christian?

In Letters to an American Christian, Bruce Riley Ashford, author of One Nation Under God, addresses overarching issues of the relationship of Christianity and politics, speaks to the way historic Christian belief informs specific hot-button political issues, and challenges readers to take seriously both our heavenly and earthly citizenships. Written as a series of letters to "Christian"—a young college student who is a new believer—Letters to an American Christian will help every reader think carefully about how Christianity informs what it means to be an American.

In the midst of a rapidly changing national and political landscape, Letters to an American Christian reminds us of two important truths: we cannot afford to shrink away from our earthly citizenship, and we cannot afford to lose sight of our heavenly citizenship.


My Thoughts: This is one of those books where my opinion of it seems to have scattered across the board. In some ways, I would recommend, while others would cause me to hesitate in offering it to someone. The most important area of this is is the content of the book itself.

Personally, I agree with most of the points or stances that Ashford takes. And I appreciated that he had the guts to call out some aspects of right wing politics that venture into the realm of idolatry, though he does have more to say on issues of liberal politics. Yet, I also found certain arguments weak or else completely Americanized, with little scriptural backing (not that there IS no scriptural backing, but that he did not point to any).

However, I think what might have hindered Ashford's message was the delivery. While the narrative implies that "Christian" is a real person, none of his letters are included. And while many of Ashford's explanations are necessary for those without a political bent, they seem to explain things that someone heavily invested in politics (as Christian is) would already know. Especially since the tone of the letters reads less like something one would write to an acquaintance and more like an essay written to a larger audience.

Because this book reads more for a large audience than an individual, it actually loses its ability to make strong cases for or against certain opinions. Each topic discussed could have gone further into depth, with more real life examples, but instead the letters only grazed the surface as numerous pages were devoted to explaining things which did not need to be explained or else repeating stories from "Christian's" letters (which should be unnecessary if Christian is real and already knows what it was that he wrote).

Ultimately, I do believe that the book could offer some moral challenge, particularly to those who fall in the trap of idolizing the government instead of trusting in God. However, I do not believe that it will be overly effective in convincing anyone to change their opinions or actions, only strengthen the stance of those who already agree with Ashford's position.

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Gone Too Soon- Melody Carlson

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: An icy road. A car crash.
A family changed forever.

Hannah Josephson had always been the “perfect” daughter. Kiera couldn’t live up to her before, and she certainly can’t now that her older sister has died in a car accident. But the image she carried resentfully of Hannah is challenged when she finds her dead sister’s diary and begins to read. Apparently Hannah’s final year wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought.

Caught in a pattern of blaming each other, the Josephson family is falling apart. Their father has left, their mother is mixing opiates and alcohol, little sister Maddie has been shipped off to spend the whole summer with their grandmother, and Kiera feels utterly alone with her grief and anger. A summer job helping at a park in a poor section of town provides a friend and a purpose.

But it’s Hannah’s diary that fills her thoughts. For the first time in years, she feels close to the sister she’s lost. But can the knowledge she gleans about her possibly help her patch back together the family that seems determined to implode?


My Thoughts: Gone Too Soon is not an easy book to read. The Josephson family has, and still is going through really dark times. There is depression, addiction, abandonment, forms of verbal abuse, and so many other things that this family is dealing with. And everyone of those issues is spelled out, right on the page where the reader is unable to misunderstand what happened.

Some of that can be hard to swallow. I honestly had a hard time reading the scenes from Moria's perspective, as I found it difficult to relate with her character or her actions. But I can also see where her thought process could very well be that of someonde in real life who has gone through a loss and is searching for escape. And the reader is never supposed to like the way she behaves at those times.

The bright point in this story is Keira, who despite all of her family believing her to be a moody loser, is actually taking charge of her life amidst her family's tragedies. And though she can give nearly as good as she gets when it comes to harsh criticism of her other family members, I have to say that I don't blame her. Her mother is truly aweful.

As far as the actual writing of the story goes, I think that it could have been edited a little better. There are a few spelling mistakes throughout, as well as a couple areas were the internal thoughts of the character turn a little dramatic, more like the hype in a blurb to make a story sound more interesting that it actually is. As well, I felt that the ending resolved too many of the family's problems without any real consequences to the horrible things that the three main characters did.

I still feel that the message was a good one: that forgiveness is important, including for family members who do not deserve it. And that that forgiveness can lead to complete healing where Christ is involved. So despite the books issues, I would still recommend it. Just not to anyone who may find the mentioned issues difficult to stomach.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Freedom's Light- Colleen Coble

My Rating: 1 Stars

Description: Hannah Thomas left the South and all that was familiar to marry her beloved John. But the fact that she’s never been quite accepted by his mother and sister and that she doesn’t quite fit the strict Massachusetts Puritan community only becomes more difficult when John is killed in one of the first battles in the war for freedom. Hannah is allowed to continue to serve as lightkeeper for the twin tower lighthouses on the lonely coastline, but it is grueling work for a woman alone.

One of the first shipwrecks washes ashore a handsome captain she thinks is a Tory, but she soon finds out he’s working as a spy for Washington. Much stands in the way of their happiness including the need to protect his secret, pressure from John’s family to marry another, near-constant disapproval from the townspeople, and the appearance of Hannah’s wayward sister. Coupled with the strain of war, Hannah isn’t sure she’ll ever see the light of freedom.


My Thoughts: I've read a few books by Coble and never really loved them. However, all of those books had been some of her contemporary novels, which has never been my favorite genre. So when I received this book for review and saw that it was historical fiction, I had hoped that it would be a much more enjoyable read.

Though the description makes it sound as though the book is about Hannah and Birch, the plot is driven far more by Hannah's sister, Lydia, and Hannah's ex-suitor, Galen, both of whom are selfish and will betray anyone to get what they want. Yet both seemed more fleshed out than either Hannah or Birch, the first of which was so unassuming and unwilling to make waves, that she had little agency or desire to stick up for anyone else outside of a word or two.

As for the content of the story, most every character is sexually promiscuous or else highly judgemental of those who are. And the narrative of the American Revolution fell almost to the way side because of this. The reader is told about the fact that there are spies and that Hannah's lighthouse is key to the war, however almost all of the scenes are of people arguing over whether or not, and in what situations, it is wrong to be promiscuous and then how punishment for such behavior will be exacted.

And while this kind of content would not normally be a problem for me, as I enjoy novels which delve into harder issues, I was frustrated with this one. While Hannah herself has opinions on all that I mentioned above and refuses to bend in her own actions, she also takes no stand on them when it comes to her dealings with others. She defends the judgemental church leaders who condemn her sister, while describing them as judgemental. And even after describing her father as an abusive alcoholic, she only tries to bring one of her sisters out of that situation once she decides that she is lonely living by herself. At the same time, she dismisses the idea of trying to help the other sister with one sentence, claiming the task to be impossible.

Had Hannah truly stood up for her sister, either in giving up her secrets about Galen or else sacrificing her lighthouse, I might have liked her character. But as the story was, I did not find anyone that I really cared for.

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Handmade Hearts Blitz and Giveaway


Handmade Hearts blog blitz

Welcome to the Blog Blitz & Giveaway for Handmade Hearts by June McCrary Jacobs, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Handmade Hearts & nbsp;
Author: June McCrary Jacobs  
Publisher: JMJ Story Stitcher Books  
Release Date: December 18, 2018  
Genre: Historical Romance 

Handmade Hearts 

Cover.jpg
'Handmade Hearts' is an historical romance short story set in New Orleans during World War II and was inspired by a true story.

Toward the end of his life, the author asked her Uncle 'Allen' how he met his wife. He shared about how he met ' Irene' at a church social in their neighborhood in New Orleans in the early 1940s. He had been seriously wounded in Guadalcanal in the South Pacific as a young Marine and was using crutches to get around as best he could.

He had many inner wou nds which needed time to heal, too. He had no way of knowing when they first met that Irene had suffered her own wartime tragedy. She bravely sought to keep her grief locked away deep inside because thinking about her loss caused her even more sorrow. She needed to be strong because she was the breadwinner for her small family.

Times were tough, but these two unique individuals made it through each day with inner fortitude, determination, and the sincere hope of something greater just over the horizon.

This inspirational short story follows the growth of Allen and Irene's relationship beginning with their chance meeting and leading forward to a lifetime spent together. 'Handmade Hearts' was created to honor this unique couple 's love for and devotion to each other in a relationship which spanned seven decades.  


PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon

EXCERPT


As she walked the short distance to her home, Irene realized this soldier had a broken heart in need of healing. Although Allen did not know it, he and Irene were kindred spirits in that respect. Warm memories of the evening spent with Allen Bradford filled her mind and caused her to smile to herself all the way home.
The week marched on as usual for Irene. She helped her mother and sister with housekeeping chores around their small bungalow. She worked eight hours each weekday, including four hours on Saturday at the local savings and loan association. As secretary to the institution's president, Irene performed myriad professional responsibilities, including scheduling her bachelor boss's social calendar and coordinating other personal details for him such as his dry cleaning and grocery deliveries.
Irene felt fortunate to have secured a stable job so that she could assist her mother with the monthly house note and light bill. Along with her younger sister Frances, Irene had lived at home and contributed to household expenses since their father passed away almost two years earlier. The war years had not been easy on any American family, but losing their father to pneumonia at age fifty was a tragedy none of the Carstons anticipated.
For a while, the three women drifted aimlessly through life until Irene was hired for the bank job. The job was a blessing for them all. Her salary and working hours were regular and provided the family with some financial stability during uncertain times.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author photo_black & white

June McCrary Jacobs was the winner of Cedar Fort Publishing's 2013 Holiday Tale Contest for her debut novella, 'A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom'. 'Robin's Reward', her first full - length novel, was set in her favorite location in California — th e Mendocino coastal region. This book is the first installment of the 'Bonita Creek Trilogy'.

June's debut middle - grade novel, 'RES - Q Tyler Stop', an historical novel set in Sonoma County, California, in 1968, will be released in the spring of 2019. The second installment of the 'Bonita Creek Trilogy', 'Penny's Promise', will be released in late 2019 or early 2020.

June's original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred b ooks, magazines, and on sewing industry blogs in the past decade. When she's not writing, reading, blogging, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, visiting art and history museums, and touring historic homes and gardens.

CONNECT WITH JUN E: Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Goodreads Blog | Amazon

TOUR GIVEAWAY


handmade hearts giveaway

(1) winner will win an ebook copy of Handmade Hearts + $15 Amazon Gift Code 
(2) additional winners will each receive an ebook copy of Handmade Hearts

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight January 15, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm January 22, 2019. Open internationally except where prohibited by law. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the give away and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.




Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!
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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Unknown Hero- Isaac Philips

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: "Something had flinched in the darkness. He scanned the scene, his eyes straining to penetrate the walls of rain and mist. Then he saw it, a giant form as pitch black as the night…”

Why have they come? Fear and speculation ripple across the solar system when an immense war fleet shows up out of nowhere. The leaders of the seven inhabited worlds must scramble to determine a course of action. Together, they can stand against the threat, but their own underhanded schemes divide them.

Swept into the political panic, a timid, young rancher will have to unravel the secrets of the solar system that he holds dear. He will come face to face with the invaders and witness the first acts of war. To survive will take bravery, strength, and more than a little cunning.


My Thoughts: Often with sci-fi, the narrative is focused more on the science and how cool space travel is. At least that is how it has always seemed to me. And for that reason, I have preferred to read space operas, because I felt that I was able to get a better grasp on the story without being bogged down in terms that I didn't really understand. And so, with this story, I felt that it was a good middle ground between hard sci-fi and space opera in that it has the many worlds and deep world building of sci-fi with more of the simplicity of space opera.

The story did take some time to delve into. I was not able to picture the different species of characters as well as I would have liked, or even how those characters interacted with their world in ways that were different from humans. However, the story shown through those issues and Kiiyeepo stood out as a character who I could relate to. Adventure was not something he sought, but something he undertook because his world needed him.

I do not know how more devoted fans of sci-fi would take this story. The Unknown Hero does not seem to latch onto the typical genre staples of blasters, lasers, warp drives, or particle reassembly that can be found in other books. The science is closer to ours, just used in another galaxy with perhaps a few creative liberties. For that reason, I do not think this book fits into a solid box and that for anyone looking for that type of story, this may be for you.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the author.


Friday, January 11, 2019

JellyTelly Press Board & Coloring Books- Spotlight and Review




FaithWords is announcing a new children’s book imprint by the creator of VeggieTales called JellyTelly Press! This new line teaches children about the Bible in a fun and unique way. They’ll be publishing coloring books for preschoolers, picture books, activity books and chapter books for elementary schoolers, as well as Bibles and books for family devotionals.

As part of their announcement, FaithWords sent me the first four board books they have released this month, along with their Old & New Testament coloring books. The board books I found to be nice, short reads, with cute artwork that the kids will enjoy. 


The one real downside I noticed, was that while reading the stories, even I had a hard time keeping straight who was saying what, as some characters' dialogue carried over multiple pages. But with a quick flip through beforehand, the reader can probably figure it out and use different voices or some other means of keeping the characters in order.




As for the coloring books, I was impressed with the one on the Old Testament. The stories are there and are creatively illustrated (though sin is depicted as a little monster that attacks people, which may or may not be an issue for you). And if you would like to download and print a sample page for that, you can do so here.

However, I was not quiet as pleased with the New Testament coloring book. There seemed to be three different art styles in this, one of which was not  exactly pleasing. As well, there were far more pages that were just block words that the kids could color instead of actual pictures. If you are interest in a sample of this book to download, here is one that is one of the better pages.





Overall, this seems to be a cute series. And it will hopefully continue to get better. If you would like to watch a video which better describes the books and what they have to offer, you can click on the one below.



You can purchase God Made Me, God Made the World, God Made Night and Day, and God Made the Animals from the Hachette website here or from Amazon below (below links are affiliate).


Monday, January 7, 2019

White as Silence, Red as Song- Alessandro D'Avenia

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: International bestseller White as Milk, Red as Blood, has been called the Italian The Fault in Our Stars.

Leo is an ordinary sixteen-year-old: he loves hanging out with his friends, playing soccer, and zipping around on his motorbike. The time he has to spend at school is a drag, and his teachers are “a protected species that you hope will become extinct,” so when a new history and philosophy teacher arrives, Leo greets him with his usual antipathy. But this young man turns out to be different. His eyes sparkle when he talks, and he encourages his students to live passionately, and follow their dreams.

Leo now feels like a lion, as his name suggests, but there is still one thing that terrifies him: the color white. White is absence; everything related to deprivation and loss in his life is white. Red, on the other hand, is the color of love, passion and blood; red is the color of Beatrice’s hair. Leo's dream is a girl named Beatrice, the prettiest in school. Beatrice is irresistible - one look from her is enough to make Leo forget about everything else.

There is, however, a female presence much closer to Leo, which he finds harder to see because she’s right under his nose: the ever-dependable and serene Silvia. When he discovers that Beatrice has leukemia and that her disease is related to the white that scares him so much, Leo is forced to search within himself, to bleed and to be reborn. In the process, he comes to understand that dreams must never die, and he finds the strength to believe in something bigger than himself.

White as Milk, Red as Blood is not only a coming-of-age story and the narrative of a school year, but it is also a bold novel that, through Leo's monologue - at times easy-going and full of verve, at times more intimate and anguished - depicts what happens when suffering and shock burst into the world of a teenager, and the world of adults is rendered speechless.


My Thoughts: I am always up for a novel that has been translated into English, both because it helps support the arts from other cultures and because it allows a glimpse into life outside of the English speaking worldview.

This book is told solely from the perspective of Leo, a teenage boy who starts of the book behaving like all the children who made me give up substitute teaching. And for that reason, I definitely had a hard time getting into the beginning of the story. However, as the story progressed and life started to challenge Leo's perceptions, the personality he had began to change, and this Leo I liked much better.

The narrative of the novel is a poetic one, with most of the story told in introspective metaphors. And this introspection was what drew me to the later part of the story, despite the fact that I usually do not care for poetic narratives. However, while being beautiful analogies, many of the metaphors rely on sound or look alike words. And since this book was translated from Italian, those words no longer look or sound the same. Unfortunately, there was likely a lot that was lost in the translation simply because of the way the author used language to tell his story the first time and not by fault of the translator.

In the end, this book may take some getting used to. The reader needs to be alright with a poetic narrative which does not hold up as well in English. As well as overlook how well the adults in the story recognize Leo's teenage angst for what it is-- a cry for help as he struggles to understand a world that is no longer as simple and colorful as he thought it was, and how easily he accepts their attempts to help him.

I did enjoyed it by the end and would be interested in reading other translated works of D'Avenia's, should any of those be made.

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