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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.)

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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.)

Book Review of A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith   4 comments

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love, for each other, for their God, and for his tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband’s new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah’s cruelty count for nothing? Why does God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.

***

This is my first book from Jill Eileen Smith. Though this is the fourth book in the series, each book focuses on a certain character from the Bible, so the stories are self-contained. With this book, the author brings Hannah’s story to life.

It’s very rare to find good Biblical fiction. This book joins that list of amazing and beautiful works that you will not only want on your shelf, but want to revisit over and over again. Smith paints a poignant and moving story. Hannah’s greatest wish is to be the mother of Elkanah’s sons. But year after year goes by, and she wonders if God sees her, if He even bothers to listen to her prayers, though she has loved and obeyed Him her entire life. She feels worthless, even though her husband loves her.

Elkanah is a great character who loves Hannah with all his heart, in spite of receiving no children from her. You, like me, are probably going to shake your head and wish he’d grown a spine in resisting his family who pressured him to marry Peninnah. But then again, it’s hard to judge when you’re not in the person’s shoes. And I think we all know how hard it is when you have family pressuring you to do something. From the beginning Elkanah regrets his decision, and with Peninnah’s unpleasant attitude and nasty behavior towards Hannah, you can feel his doubts and grief as he wonders if his family will ever be at peace and why God could not have allowed Hannah to bear his children.

Peninnah is spoiled, demanding, and lives in continual bitterness over the affection she longs to receive from Elkanah, but who instead gives it all to Hannah. No matter how many sons she gives him and how she derides Hannah and points out her barrenness, she cannot gain Elkanah’s love.

I’d already read through half of the book before I decided to just take the day off and blast through the rest because I couldn’t wait for the next part any longer. I enjoyed reading of Elkanah and Hannah’s love for each other, and the drama in Elkanah’s family with the friction Peninnah causes will definitely keep you turning those pages. And you will root for Hannah as, through all her doubts and sorrow, she holds onto God even when she thinks He doesn’t listen to her. And in the end, her faith is rewarded.

You will see this multiple times in the reviews posted on here, but I have to agree with the consensus. It really is a beautiful and moving tale of faith, forgiveness, of letting go of your doubts and despair, and allowing God to make your heart whole again.

This is a book that gets my highest recommendation. And on a side-note, I gave this to my mother to read, and she loved it so much, she’s rereading it a second time.

Verdict: A compelling and poignant retelling of Hannah that deserves its place on the shelf.

(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 The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas   Leave a comment

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the 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 devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

***

After a mining accident that nearly claimed Judd Markley’s life and took that of his brother, Judd decides on a drastic change by leaving all he’s ever known and embarking on the life he would have wanted his brother to have.

Larkin Heyward is a pampered rich girl who dreams of doing something big in the world that will make her feel useful, but feels compelled to stay with her family after the loss of her brother.

I’m always been drawn to deep stories. Those make up some of my all time favorites, so when I read the summary for this, its promise of a haunting and poignant story convinced me to give it a try. Unfortunately, its promise turned out to be hallow, at least for me.

The beginning starts out decent enough, with us trapped in the cave-in with Judd. And even his journey to South Carolina as he tries to mend his broken heart keeps you turning the pages. Larkin is okay, but not what you would call ever compelling. Still, I waited to see her journey of growth and romance with Judd.

Results were less than adequate. Like one reviewer already mentioned here, the premise advertised for this story is a little deceptive. Part of the draw in selecting this story was reading about a hurricane ripping through the town and drawing Judd and Larkin together. That hurricane went by as fast as it came, and left next to zero impact on the characters, unless you can count getting soaked in the rain as something. I didn’t even reach the halfway point in the story before it was gone. Expecting to see the characters rally after the horror and trauma of this devastating ordeal, I was surprised at how quickly the whole ordeal was glossed over. We then move to Larkin attempting an escape away from her domineering father so she can join her brother in bringing help to those “poor Appalachian folks”. And yes, my reaction did mirror Judd’s with that one.

With the hurricane moment gone, I thought we were going to do the whole ‘rich woman goes to the backwoods and learns how to fend for herself’ thing. Again, glossed over.

Honestly, the story wandered. I felt the author really didn’t know where to lead the story, so we kind of just weaved in and out of bits of drama, that were thrown in there just to keep things going.

The part about learning to live your life and healing is great, but you want to see some kind of journey with that and growth on the characters’ parts. Judd stayed as the mild-mannered man always reflecting on the loss of his brother and doing the same thing every day, while Larkin remained as a spoiled and impulsive woman who doesn’t change until practically near the end of the book.

Spiritual elements are about the same. One character will go off spouting a sermon or such, but that’s about the extent of it. You more cringe than feel anything resonant within you, which is quite disappointing. The only positive thing I can give this story is that the writing is good. I just wish the story had measured up to it.

Conclusion: As a mild, light read that takes its time and doesn’t worry about pacing, character growth, or a meaningful spiritual connection much, this is it, and judging from the amount of positive reviews on here, I believe the majority will find this story much more to their liking.

Verdict: Pass

(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.)

Cyber Monday Sale!   Leave a comment

Hello, everyone! It’s Cyber Monday today, which means bargains galore. After putting this off for months, I’m finally having a free ebook sale on The Dark Wolf! 😀 So if you’re curious about the series and been wanting to give it a try, now is your chance. The sale only runs for 5 days, from now to December 1st, so you have a limited time to grab a copy.

Buying from Amazon is easy. Simply create a free account on their site. Once you’re registered, go to the book’s page and press “Buy now with one click”. Done! Now if you don’t have the Kindle app, again, it’s free to download. You can enter your email or phone number to get it straight from Amazon, or just grab it from one of the major app stores out there.
And if none of you mind, please consider leaving an honest review of The Dark Wolf on Amazon once you’re done. 🙂

Click to order The Dark Wolf on Amazon

 

Here are some of the current reviews for The Dark Wolf:

***

Okay.. so overall THE DARK WOLF is something I want to see in a movie. It’s an honest, ‘say yes!’ Characters are well presented, especially with the main two, Darvir and Elaine. There are parts that reminds of LOTR, but I’m happy how you put things together to form a solid and unique turn of the story. – Mary  J

For the Dark Wolf of The Heart Of Trilogy. I’m still in love with the book until these days. How I prayed that the book will become a bookseller in the market and will turn out to be a movie. I’m not just saying this because the author is my friend. Rather, the book is greatly written. It has a very intricate plot but I can see the beauty it withhold. And I didn’t see any loopholes. The author weaved together the story wonderfully. And every character in his book have their own tales to tell. May it be the protagonists, the antagonists and even the supporting characters. You definitely can learn from them and even relate to them. Because it may be a Christian fantasy but it’s also happening in reality for some sort. There are some part of the book that made me so emotional. And what I truly love about the book because it really emphasized that Elosha, or Abba Father in reality will always be powerful, merciful, compassionate, loving to His people. – Whinnlight

Truly a five star rating! Could not put the book down. Loved the plot and the characters. This book had excitement, thrilling build-ups, and twist in the plot. Believe me you will not waste your money. Going to go get the second part right now. – Mike B

J.M. Christian weaves together a masterful tale in The Dark Wolf. The reader feels and empathizes with what the characters feel as they go through their struggles. Christian’s development of his characters allows the everyday person to completely relate to them. The entire world comes to life with breathtaking realness. Prepare to be transported to another world by the magic only a skilled author can create…and there are not many of them. –Kya Lightwing

I enjoyed this book very much. For one thing it was fantasy, (woot woot) and for another it has a deeper meaning to its storyline and characters. The adventures were described well and gave it a real feel. The characters were very round and shifted with the book as their circumstances challenged and changed them. There’s more than one story within this book, and each of them adds a special glimmer to The Dark Wolf’s shine. –Trista Vaporblade (Author of Quest for the Swords of Healing)

It’s epic, amazing—without a doubt, it’s one of the best reads I’ve read in awhile! –Angel (Author of Whispers of my Soul)

 

Click to order The Dark Wolf on Amazon

 

Review of A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden   Leave a comment

 

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

I usually enjoy historical romance fiction, so I decided to give this a try. One thing is for certain. Elizabeth Camden will definitely not be getting added to my favorite authors’ list.

Our main characters are Lucy Drake, a skilled telegraph operator at the AP news agency and Sir Colin Beckwith, head of the rival agency, Reuters. Lucy and her brother have been embroiled in a bitter court battle with their dastardly uncle who managed to cheat their family of a special plumbing valve their father invented. With all their time and money being spent to keep their Uncle Thomas at bay, they have no time to actually live. Lucy keeps them going by reminding herself that once they win the fight, the valve can be offered at cheaper prices so everyone can have running water in New York.

Sir Colin Beckwith is heir to a title, but with no wealth to match it. While he loves his job at Reuters, he feels the weight of his ancestral duty pressing down on him. His only hope for restoring his home in England and taking care of the tenants who live on the estate is to marry a wealthy heiress.

Despite resisting a romance with Lucy, he soon becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding her family.

The time period is 1903 and Elizabeth Camden does a good job portraying the excitement of the telegraph and the way news could be received over it. Plus other historical facts from this time, like plumbing, homing pigeons, journalism.

Unfortunately, it saturates the very beginning, practically the first quarter of the book. And as one reviewer already mention, there was a lot of repetitive writing. From details of why Lucy and her brother were still fighting, to the telegraph itself.

The plot meandered, and I fought to get through it. Finally reaching the halfway mark, things started to pick up, and the plot finally perked my interest. The ending was so-so. I liked where it left the characters, but the resolution of the fight with Uncle Thomas was weak and chopped short. In fact, it was like a passing breeze.

What I like: Honestly, Colin is the character who makes this book shine. His British snobbery and belief that Americans knew zero of culture was hilarious. Even Lucy’s brother Nick proved to be a pretty strong character. I really liked also when Lucy discovered just how much of her life that had been so devoted to the lawsuit with her Uncle, she’d never really taken the time to live.

What I didn’t like: Lucy’s character was just annoying. I won’t go into specifics to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that I wish Colin had someone else to go for.
As for the romance, it was okay, but I’ve read better. Same goes for the spiritual content, which was downright sparse and then shoved in there for the sake of being a Christian novel.

So final conclusion? It’s a comfortable read for the most part, if you’re looking for light reading material. But it’s not really compelling in the characters, romance, or spiritual aspects. I should add that I passed this book on to my mom, thinking this would be something she would enjoy more than I did. Unfortunately, she did not. She actually got so bored trying to press through the beginning that she gave up.

Verdict: Pass

(Disclaimer: 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.)

 

A visual journey into Return of the Valris   3 comments

Yup, I know. I said you wouldn’t have to wait a month for this, and here we are. Although in my defense, having to write up two book reviews to post on here did throw me off a bit. 😛 But enough of that and onto the good stuff.

In between juggling work and my studies on web dev, I’ve been making progress on Return of the Valris and fleshing out certain elements of the plot more. And expanding it.

To quote Nick Fury, “You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

And bigger is precisely where we’re headed, folks.

Crown of Ravens really was a defining moment in the series. It expanded upon the world started in The Dark Wolf and was deeper, darker, and more emotional than anything I’d written before. For me, it was probably the best I had ever written at the time. And there was the intimidation. I’d reached the final book in the trilogy, against all odds, and was now faced with outdoing the previous book. A scary prospect.

So I did what I always do, and decided to say a prayer to the Author of all authors. And wouldn’t you know, that’s when the inspiration struck. 😉 Below, I’ve compiled a list of images that, without giving away any spoilers, will give you some ideas of where Return of the Valris is going and hopefully get you as excited for it as I am. 😀

Eldurin, home of the Valris.

 

 

As you can see, big difference in the scenery between the two. The second image really defines the path this story is taking, and that’s going more cosmic. Arandil is going to be doing a bit of traveling.

 

 

 

Villains, anyone? 😉 Zar’ul isn’t the only force to deal with, as evidenced here. Evil wears many forms.

 

 

A New character who will have a special part in the story. I invite all of you to try and guess her part. 😉

 

 

Wings aren’t edged with gold, I know, but it was too awesome an illustration to pass up on to represent the Great Ravens. And speaking of ravens…

 

 

We’re going to be seeing Elaine a little differently here. You’ve watched her grow in The Dark Wolf and Crown of Ravens. Her journey from an exiled lonely princess to a strong warrior queen culminates in the third book. Suffice it to say, we’re finally going to see Elaine unleashed like never before.

 

 

Of course, the Valris do headline the title, so it wouldn’t be the same without wolves, would it? 😉

And there you are. No spoilers, but hopefully enough visual candy to get your imagination running. I’ll post some updates later, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more recent posts.

 

 

(Disclaimer: Images used are from Pixabay and belong to the respective uploaders on there. None of the images used express support for my work, and 
are used for illustration purposes solely.)
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