Review of the Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos   Leave a comment

 

 

A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price. When a mysterious stranger named Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

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The last time I found a series in Christian fantasy that dealt with people crossing over into other worlds from our own was roughly ten years. Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow, if I recall right (an excellent series too, but I won’t go over this here :P).

So you can imagine my delight in discovering The Crescent Stone, book one in what promises to be an epic series.
Madeline Oliver has everything money can buy. Except the gift to breath. With a disease laying waste to her lungs, simple things such as walking to the mailbox or carrying a basket of laundry she can’t do without collapsing in a heap. With the knowledge that she won’t be getting better, she has accepted her fate and withdrawn into herself. Going to high school classes is her only attempt at some normality in her life. When a strange man offers her the chance to breathe, to live a normal life once more in exchange for a year of service to the Sunlit Lands, Madeline takes it without knowing what the costs of such a gift brings.

Jason Wu carries around a terrible weight inside, despite his snarky attitude and quick wit. When Madeline accepts the deal to travel to the Sunlit Lands, he pledges himself to her service and stays by her side. In the Sunlit Lands, he is the only one in the beginning who questions the magic that surrounds the paradise.

As far as characters go, Jason is going to be the one who steals the story. His humor even in most dangerous situations and his gutsy attitude I totally enjoyed. Think Robert Downey Jr. and you have a pretty good idea of Jason’s personality. And yes, you will definitely love his companion, Delightful Glitter Lady (I’ll let you find out who this is on your own :P). Madeline, I feel didn’t match up as well, but she was still enjoyable. After being given the opportunity to breathe again and live a normal life, she doesn’t want to pay attention to the secrets surrounding this gift but is eventually forced to do so when she sees the suffering she was blind to.

For the story itself, I’ll be honest and say it has a lot of slow spots, but Jason’s antics keep the reader invested. Much of the story has a social political theme running through it. In fact, one could say it is the backbone of this book. Topics such as racial discrimination, immigration, and how many people end up wealthy on the backs of others. At times it feels like it’s a little pushed, especially when we’re supposed to be focused on this new world and the protagonists, but it gets interrupted for the author to go over America’s past wrongs towards people.
But the important thing is that it does make you think, which is something I enjoy in a story. The spiritual elements are presented in a subtle vein that is noticeable but not preachy.

So is it a tale worthy to be read? I think so. Matt Mikalatos has crafted a unique world where magic carries a price, and what one takes, another has to give. Necromancers lurk in the shadows and orc-like beasts are to be battled by glittering elves who claim to fight for truth and justice.

Verdict: Though it’s bogged down at times with its social justice issues, the worldbuilding and humor, along with the message woven into the story, are enough to keep you turning the pages and look forward to the next in the series once you finish the book.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)
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Review of Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar   3 comments

 

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

***

 

I’ve been wanting to read Tessa Afshar’s work for a long time, as I see a lot of her books in the Biblical fiction section. So at long last, I finally got my wish!

The story takes place in ancient Greece and introduces us to a young woman, Ariadne, who is forced to live with her harsh grandfather and a mother who treats her with disdain. When her grandfather tries to marry her off to a cruel man, Ariadne decides to take a risk and run away with her foster brother back to her father in Corinth where she hopes to find love and acceptance. Unfortunately, things are not so easy. Ariadne and Theo both deal have to deal with the pain and trauma left over from their parents’ divorce. Theo, the adopted one, struggles to rise above the stigma associated with an orphan child, and prove himself to be just as worthy as the next person. Ariadne looks for meaning and purpose in her life. First the games, where she develops her athletic abilities, then in parties, and finally is drawn into her father’s lifestyle as a thief. With the latter, she discovers she has a natural talent as a thief with her speed and athletic prowess. Despite the danger, she enjoys the thrill and excitement of robbing the rich to help the poor until a fateful accident occurs that puts a loved one in jeopardy.

The story is a lighthearted one for the most part, but it does explore the damage divorce leaves on children and how it effects their lives growing up. And also the consequences of wrong choices made in life and how they can rip a family apart, which Ariadne’s father has to live with.
But the best part is that God can restore what was lost and heal the broken pieces, which Tessa Afshar does a beautiful job of writing. And as Ariadne discovers God, she finds rest and contentment for her soul, as does the rest of her family.

The romance is light and could have been better in my opinion, but that’s a trivial thing. The characters are well-written and though the story has some slow spots, it keeps things going at a decent pace with the intriguing adventures Ariadne faces.

Verdict: If you are looking for a lighthearted read with great characters and a good story to enjoy that deals with loss and restoration, I highly recommend this book!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of Together Forever by Jody Hedlund   Leave a comment

 

Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children–firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

***

 

Years ago I read another book by Jody Hedlund called Unending Devotion. The story impressed me so much that when I saw Together Forever available to review, I immediately grabbed it. Unfortunately, this latest installment I did not find to be as inspiring.

The story deals with the orphans of New York in the 1800s, and how the Children’s Aid Society endeavored to get them out of living on the streets and place them with families who would give them a start at a new life. It’s a great premise to explore, and Jody Hedlund explores a little the fears of children as they journey on the train to a new life, and how the endeavor was more like selling the children than anything else. But for the most part, these parts are small and glossed over in favor of focusing on the attraction between Marianne and Drew.

Marianne Neumann’s goal is finding her lost sister, Sophie. Joining the Children’s Aid Society not only allows her the chance to find out her sister’s whereabouts, but also to stand on her own two feet and make a difference in life.

Andrew Brady is a former teacher with a Southern charm and good looks to make any lady swoon. He’s got a talent with children, but carries a dark secret from the past that haunts him.

Both characters carry their own burdens and secrets, but are passionate about taking care of the children they are charged with placing in good homes. Most of the story is focused on riding the rails and going from town to town sending children to families and then watching Marianne go all fluttery because of Drew and vice-versa…

I enjoy a good romance just as much as the next person, and that’s something I like reading in books such as these. But honestly, the romance stinks because there really isn’t any. Just mooning over how darn good-lookin’ the other person is. Which can be overlooked, provided the characters are deep and compelling enough to hold your interest. These, sadly, are not. Marianne is just the doughty maid determined not to fall for the charming and smooth gentleman (but does anyway), and Drew, well, he can’t resist a challenge. When they end up getting trapped in an engagement together, I perked up, hoping the story might improve for them…but a murder mystery thrown into the mix for the heck of it spoils that. Which I might add, did not even have the fun of a good mystery.
Reinhold, like a couple reviews mentioned here, was probably the best developed character WITH the best story. It’s too bad his role was so brief. I would have liked to read more about him.

The spiritual elements were okay. There is a theme about learning to forgive yourself and let go of guilt. And of course learning that when you love someone enough, love them to let them go if you have to. Nothing preachy, but I also felt the spiritual elements were not very deep either.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a gentle read, then I think most of you will like this story. If you want something memorable and more compelling, you will probably want to pass.

(I received a free copy of the book from the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of the Shard by Victoria Simcox   Leave a comment

 

 

The Shard, Victoria Simcox’s fast-paced, intricately woven sequel to The Warble, takes Kristina Kingsly and her schoolmates back to Bernovem…and into a thrilling, often dangerous adventure.

Kristina’s stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it’s all because Hester and Davina are there, too, making her life miserable. When Hester’s cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it’s actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land.

In Bernovem, Kristina is excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can’t refuse.

Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn’t get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the “Shard,” Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike hag.

Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it’s in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

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In the Shard, we return to the delightful world of Bernovem and its inhabitants of talking animals, fairies, and dwarfs. Kristina, our hero from the first book, is older now, and at times, she feels like the entire time she spent in Bernovem was a dream. A stay at summer camp soon lands her back in the magical realm where she gets reacquainted with old friends, as well as the charming Prince Werrien for whom she is developing feelings for. And while things couldn’t look more idealic, there is a subtle danger growing. Kristina can’t understand why she is getting sick so often, and Werrien has become enraptured with the Shard, a crystal that allows him to see into other places. And in the shadows, a malevolent creature is plotting the demise of not only Kristina and Werrien, but all of Bernovem.
It’s a tale of adventure and faith, whimsy and magic. Open the door to the next chapter of this enchanting story. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Review of The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr   Leave a comment

 

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

***

 

To say that I was excited for the third and final book of the Darkwater saga by Patick Carr is an understatement. I practically kept my eyes peeled on my inbox for the email from Bethany House listing the book up for review, then hoping I’d make it on the list. And we’ll skip the part with me doing a victory dance once it did. 😛
Anyway….
Though the series has had its rough spots, overall, it’s been a great adventure. The world-building, the characters…. Honestly, I need to read it over again because I miss it. I’d highly recommend reading the first two books in the series, so you have a proper grasp of what is going on.

The story starts with Willet and the other members of the vigil racing to halt the evil of the Darkwater forest that is sweeping over the continent. With people lured by rumors of gold and precious aurium in the forest’s depths, Cesla is building a powerful army with abilities to rival even the gifted. The solution to their defeat? Locked in a vault within the tortured mind of Willet Dura.

So where to start? The plot, despite some lags in places, is awesome. The tension, the emotional journey of the characters, keeps you riveted to the pages. And I must admit, Patrick Carr went deeper with the characters than I was expecting. Anne Elisabeth Stengl is one of my favorite authors because she knows how to bring to life a character’s dark side and still show the redeeming power of love that bring a person back from the edge of the abyss. To my utter surprise, Patrick Carr went this route and succeeded! Mark, the former urchin and thief now Pellin’s apprentice, who shows more heart and depth than a priest in his desire to bring back the mind of a girl who was twisted into becoming a mindless dwimor, capable only of killing; Pellin, who saw how Cesla was snared into exploring the Darkwater. He recognized the man’s pride that could have been his own and led him into destruction. And in spite of all Cesla’s evil, still loved the man that was once his brother and mentor, and strove to remind him of that in the end. These were perhaps a couple of the most moving areas in the story that touched me.

Toria Deel has been a journey in progress. Originally, she was more of a pompous twit than anything else. And definitely willing do whatever it took to further the Vigil’s goal. The end justifying the means, regardless of who was hurt. Losing the man she loved and being teamed up with a former urchin causes her to soften.

Bolt, honestly, you gotta love. The man is like an older version of Batman and Wolverine thrown in there (DC/Marvel reference, I know :P). He always expects something bad to happen, and rarely shows much emotion. But he has such a dry sense of humor, you can’t help smiling as you read.

Willet…Willet has been an off and on character for me. While I like him, he’s not one of my favorite characters, which is odd since he is the MAIN character in the story. But I think the problem lies with the fact that Patrick Carr tried too hard at times to make the character flawed, and a bit of a wise-mouth. But he’s capable and does try to keep his head in tight situations, so he still works.
The gift of domere changed his life. Some might argue it wasn’t for the better, as it grants to Willet an unnaturally long lifespan that will see him still hale and hearty while the woman he loves grows old. But he learns to accept both it and Gael’s love, and acknowledge that he must leave everything in Aer’s hands.

I came across one review that mention how this book has nothing to do with Christianity, wallows in worldly wisdom, and loses touch with truth. As a reader who actively searches for inspiring reads, I respectively have to disagree. Does the story expound Christian beliefs? Yes. Does it whack you over the head with them? No. I have always believed that the greatest thing a story can do is “show” the message through the characters and their actions, instead of delivering a sermon that makes you roll your eyes.

In the Wounded Shadow, you see the consequences of pride and yet the hope for salvation. Mercy, forgiveness, love, and restoration come together in a sweeping epic that truly makes The Wounded Shadow a satisfying conclusion to this series.
Verdict: A definite buy!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of Dagger’s Sleep by Tricia Mingerink   1 comment

 

 

A prince cursed to sleep.
A princess destined to wake him.
A kingdom determined to stop them.
High Prince Alexander has been cursed to a sleep like unto death, a curse that will end the line of the high kings and send the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia into chaos. With his manservant to carry his luggage and his own superior intelligence to aid him, Alex sets off to find one of the Fae and end his curse one way or another.
A hundred years later, Princess Rosanna learns she is the princess destined by the Highest King to wake the legendary sleeping prince. With the help of the mysterious Daemyn Rand, can she find the courage to finish the quest as Tallahatchia wavers on the edge of war?
One curse connects them. A hundred years separate them. From the rushing rivers of Tallahatchia’s mountains to the hall of the Highest King himself, their quests will demand sacrifices neither of them could imagine.

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Greetings everyone! I joined up with the blog tour for Tricia Mingerink. Though events decided to conspire against me, I still managed to finish reading Dagger’s Sleep and get my review up on time. So without further ado, here we go….

Dagger’s Sleep takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and reinvents it with twist. In this tale, it is the prince, not the princess, who is in need of awakening.

Our main characters are Rosanna, the princess chosen for the task, and Alex, the prince in need of saving. The world is populated by Fae and human, but the magical elements are few. For the most part, the world has a decidedly Native American/frontiersman theme going for it.

So first I’ll list my likes. Ms. Mingerink is a good writer and it shows in Dagger’s Sleep. Her writing is clear, and she knows how to effortlessly take the smallest scenes and stretch them into vivid detail without going overly wordy on them. Her characters for the most part are fleshed-out well, particularly her male characters Jadon and Alex, and I loved her take on the Fae. The allegorical elements woven into the story are amazing and, dare I say, even enough to rival Anne Elisabeth Stengl (who happens to be one of my favorite authors :D).

And now we come to the list of dislikes. I really admired how Ms. Mingerink was able to bring to life the trek through the woods, the handling of the canoe, and just the general feel you would get from actually going out there in the wilderness on a dangerous quest. My quibble comes in that it went on for a good chunk of the book without much going on to break up the monotony aside from a couple fights.

My other quibble is the jumping back and forth in time. Personally, I think the story would have worked better for the main protagonist, Rosanna, if we’d kept the scenes featuring Prince Alex few, and started them at the beginning. Instead we start with Rosanna, and then on chapter 4, we’re swept a 100 years back in time to view the journey of Prince Alex. Who also happens to be going on a quest of his own to seek a cure to the curse haunting his steps.

Ironically, it is Prince Alex’s tale I ended up enjoying more, even though he too is trekking through the wilderness. I found the character to have more personality than Rosanna, which made for a more interesting read. Yes, he’s arrogant and will get on your nerves probably with some of his pomposity, but it was fun watching him grow on the journey. And Jadon definitely deserves a medal for being one of the most loyal and dependable bodyguards ever.

Rosanna…honestly, I didn’t really connect with her character until perhaps midway through the story. She’s dependable and quite skilled holding her own without being unrealistic (like Anna in Frozen). And I enjoyed watching her embrace the role she was meant to carry.

So my thoughts? While it’s got a few rough spots, particularly that jumping back and forth in time, it’s an enjoyable read with a great allegory running through it. Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series! 😀

(I received a free copy of the book from author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Blog tour schedule can be found here: https://triciamingerink.com/2018/05/22/dissociate-daggers-sleep-blog-tour/

And here’s something fun for all of you, A giveaway of Dagger’s Sleep, as well as another book, Dissociate by Sarah Addison-Fox. 😀

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Tricia Mingerink is giving away a paperback of Dagger’s Sleep. The giveaway is open internationally where such giveaways are permitted and where Createspace or the Book Depository ships. The book may or may not be signed depending on where the winner lives. To enter, click the link below.

Dagger’s Sleep Giveaway

 

 

 

 

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Sarah Addison-Fox is giving away a paperback set of the first three books in the Allegiance Series. The giveaway is open internationally where such giveaways are permitted and where Createspace ships. The books may or may not be signed depending on where the winner lives. To enter, click the link below.

Dissociate Giveaway

Review of A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason   Leave a comment

 

 

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl’s heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope–believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father’s demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

***

 

Due to my mom choosing this, I ended up picking A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason to read. I believe it falls in the Regency romance section? Technically this is not a genre I’m fond of reading. In fact, the Regency genre on a whole I find to be boring (sorry Jane Austen fans). Sense and Sensibility I like, and Jane Eyre ranks as my favorite (in tv watching, not reading). My eagerness to read this book was next to nil, but seeing as how there was little else to pick from March’s catalog of books to blog on, I went with my mom’s suggestion (since I would be giving her the book anyway after I’m done).

This is my first book by Susan Anne Mason, and I’ll be completely honest and say that I was surprised to find myself genuinely enjoying the story. The plot, of course, is simple enough.

Nolan Price, a simple stable hand, has got everything settled for his life. He’s found the farm he intends to purchase once he quits his job at Stainsby Hall, and got the right woman, a kitchen maid named Hannah, to join in matrimony and spend the rest of his life with. Even better, he plans on taking his mother with him where she’ll be able to spend the rest of her remaining years in peace. Unfortunately, life refuses to stay that simple for him.

His mother falls ill, and before she dies, tells him the truth of his parentage: that he is really the son of the Earl of Stainsby. With that revelation, his hopes of leading a quiet life with the woman he loves goes up in smoke, as he won’t be able to marry beneath his station.

I really did enjoy reading about Nolan. It’s not often you find guys with enough backbone willing to fight for a woman. And Nolan did fight all the way, right down to sneakily eloping behind the Earl’s back, even after being forbidden to marry Hannah since she was a kitchen maid. Although I do have to be honest and say that it did get annoying him with him trying to please his father, who only kept behaving like an absolute moron.
Much of the story focused on the tension between Nolan and his father, with the Earl applying all the pressure he can to force his son to conform to his demands, and Nolan both fighting him and trying to please him as best he can. As for all the rigorous training Nolan must undergo for his new position, that is mostly kept in the background and never delved into. Which I didn’t mind, since the drama between the characters kept you turning the pages.

Hannah, the love of Nolan, is a sweet girl, innocent and very supportive of Nolan. She is Nolan’s anchor in the storm that sweeps over his life, but as time goes on and she is eventually forbidden to even meet with him per the instructions of the Earl, she eventually starts crumble, especially after she overhears a secret conversation. While I admired her willingness to sacrifice her happiness for Nolan and could empathize with her inner fears that she wasn’t worthy to be loved, it did get maddening watching her always taking off on Nolan, then fussing about how he must not want her anymore and will probably get swept away with the money and position. And of course Nolan didn’t help matters. You can’t try to please a demanding and thoroughly controlling father at the expense of your wife.

In the end, it isn’t so much the Earl of Stainsby who is the threat to their happiness, but themselves. Which brings us to the Earl himself. To say he was annoying would be an understatement. Obnoxious is closer to it. However, as the story progresses, he ends up meeting the Duchess of Hartford, who proves to be the one to deliver some common sense to the Earl with her unorthodox ways.

Faith content was minimal. But there were some good lessons, like Nolan learning to let go of his pride and Hannah her insecurities. And above all, learning to put God first in things and trusting Him to work everything out.

So all in all, the story was an enjoyable read, and one I think everyone will enjoy revisiting on rainy days and winter nights.

Verdict: While not the most inspiring, A Most Noble Heir is a story with well-developed characters and good pacing that will please most lovers of historical fiction, so a buy is recommended. (And on a side-note, my mom also gives this her seal of approval. 😉 )

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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