Friday, December 30, 2011

Just for Fun Friday- Entwined

EntwinedEntwined
by: Heather Dixon
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Well you can in this case, the cover design is phenomenal and the story is just as good. 

I cannot get over how wonderfully done this book is. Not only the magic and adventure, but also the family relationships. The King broke my heart when I saw how hard he was trying to be a dad, he just didn't know how. Also, as a person with many siblings, I loved how different Dixon allowed each of her girls to be. Each had their own trait and none of them were entirely cookie-cutter characters. It is hard to make 12 sisters not only be different, but each add their own part to the story.

Now what would a fairy tale be without Prince Charming? Well this one had 3 and they couldn't be more different. There was one for each of the oldest, one so serious that he almost couldn't be taken seriously, one so outrageous (especially his last name), and one who might not live up to his name in the end. Each of the oldest girls love stories is unique, precious and wonderful.

I loved the writing style, the characters, the magic, THE ENDING, so much! I am pretty sure that I am going to go out and buy this to add to my collection, probably tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Historical Thursday - Pirate of My Heart

Pirate of My Heart: A NovelPirate of My Heart
By: Jamie Carie
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating 3.5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her cold, money-grubbing uncle's choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. A swashbuckling man doesn't need an English heiress to make him slow down, feel again, or be challenged with questions about his faith-or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk.


My Thoughts:

I liked this book. It fits in the mold of its genre perfectly as a wonderfully, almost predictable Christian Romance. Placed in both England and America close after the American Revolution it was a nice setting for it. 


Kendra was good, strong and not entirely prone to fainting. She does what she can to save herself when the need arises but also is willing to accept the help of others. Her faith seemed sincere not constrained which is always a plus.
Dorian was a pretty standard hero with a tragic past and wonderful family. I loved the descriptions of his family and all of their interactions; they seemed exactly what a family ought to be and were a wonderful addition to the plot.


I do wish that there had been some follow up with the antagonists of the story. They seemed to just sort of fade to the background. They were a couple of loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up. 
Overall I liked the plot, the setting and the characters. It was a very fun read. Many thanks to B&H Publishing for letting me read this book for review.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

YA Wednesday - Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)Amulet of Samarkand
by: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars


Summary:
After being humiliated by a magician, apprentice Nathaniel vows to wreak his revenge. To help him do this he summons Bartimaeus, a djinni to steal the precious Amulet of Samarkand. But this turns out to be more dangerous than Nathaniel planned on and he is whipped into a world of magic, espionage and rebellion.


Told from the point of view of both master and servant this is a wonderful book from Jonathan Stroud.


Oh my goodness! This book was simply amazing. I am very glad I got to finish off my year by reading something so wonderfully done. Part of me is beginning to think that British novelists are really the best ones out there. They certainly seem to beat Americans on almost every literary front (except the short story, we rock at writing those).


I didn't think I would find anything on the same plane as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel anytime soon but this blew me away. Bartimaeus is one of the most entertaining characters I have ever read and one whom I would be very happy to meet someday (as long as you know, he didn't hurt me or anything.) Also I love the new world which has been created by Stroud - the magic, the demons, this new government. I am so excited to read the next books in the series, I will probably just hunt them down tomorrow.

So details as to why I loved it:
I love books that are done with a first person narrative, as long as the author knows what they are doing. Well Bartimaeus tells his parts of the story, with wonderful footnotes at the bottom and I love footnotes at the bottom! The plot itself was wonderfully managed leaving us with enough knowledge to feel satisfied but wanting to read quickly so we could see what happens next.



I must say though that Bartimaeus really is the best part of the book, he deals with a messenger imp so nicely and is so creative in his revenges, and part of me feels that he is more powerful than he has let on to us, the readers.


I am excited to see how he will continue his story.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Misc. Monday - Year of Wonders

Year of WondersYear of Wonders
By: Geraldine Brooks
Genre: Historical Fiction,
Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary:
In 1666 a little town outside of London finds itself dealing with the Plague. Anna Firth finds herself without a family and becoming the healer and helper to those around her. As the year, and death toll, progress she is the voice of reason which tries to keep her village from losing absolutely everything.

I would like to say, that had it not been for the last 20 or so pages this would have deserved 5 stars. It is written beautifully, all of the characters are well developed and there is a vivid recreation of humanity as a whole which is typically hard to capture.

Brooks did a marvelous job in showing how the human condition can sink when faced with extreme difficulty. The research which was put into it, not only into the plague itself but also into how different people dealt with it and the many challenges the village as a whole faced was marvelous to read. The novel was both of historical and psychological dealings which is what made it so well done.

Seeing how different families dealt with the grief of losing everyone, some turning to alcohol, others preying on the panic of their fellows, some simply shutting down completely, illustrated a great diversity in humanity which I loved reading about.

Anna too was a character who was real and honest. She didn't come across as this great super-heroine. She was merely a person who was doing her best to get through each day no matter what it had in store for her. There were some episodes which showed how she too suffered from human frailty and wasn't some paragon of virtue and fortitude.

Had it ended with a nice scene at the official end of the plague in the town I would have been not only satisfied but I would have had to buy the book for my permanent collection.

But it didn't. It was all set up to, it could easily have done that...but she just kept on writing. It went south as the writer put in the seemingly mandatory romance which detracted rather than added to the novel. Had that 6 or so pages not been there, this would have been one of the top 5 books I read this year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fluffy Friday - Belonging

Belonging (Where The Heart Lives)Belonging 
By: Robin Lee Hatcher
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
In the high desert town of Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community's new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with. 

Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his daughter, Charity. Colin wants to give her the educational advantages he never had. The new schoolmarm's inexperience doesn't sit well with him, and if this teacher up and marries like the last one did, Charity's heart will be broken once again. 



Felicia was a nice main character, she had the elements of personality which I find mandatory to have in a teacher. She cared about her students and wanted them to life up to their full potential and knew that there was more to teaching than memorization. Collin Murphy was a great leading male as well. Of the supporting characters I really like Charity, Collin's 9-year-old daughter. Children are very risky things to make main characters in an adult novel. Either they are made too mature or immature for their age. Here though I think that Hatcher did a very nice job keeping Charity at the age she was supposed to be.


The only changes or additions which I would have made to this novel would have been a follow up on the Rolf Kristofferson plot line. I thought it was mentioned enough times that it would have been more involved in the later part of the novel rather than just disappearing. **HUGE spoiler** (highlight to see) It would have been nice to know how they would have reacted to her marriage, since they had been so wanting her to marry Rolf. **spoiler done**
Overall I thought it was a very nice read and am planning on reading a lot more from this author.



Many thanks to Zondervan for giving me a copy for review!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Historical Thursday - Captive Trail

Captive Trail (The Texas Trail Series)Captive Trail 
by: Susan Paige Davis
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Taabe Waipu has run away from her Comanche village and is fleeing south in Texas on a horse she stole from a dowry left outside her family's teepee. The horse has an accident and she is left on foot, injured and exhausted. She staggers onto a road near Fort Chadbourne and collapses.

On one of the first runs through Texas, Butterfield Overland Mail Company driver Ned Bright carries two Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station. They come across a woman who is nearly dead from exposure and dehydration and take her to the mission.With some detective work, Ned discovers Taabe Waipu is Billie Morgan. He plans to unite her with her family, but the Comanche have other ideas, and the two end up defending the mission station. 

Through Taabe (Billie) and Ned we learn the true meaning of healing and restoration amid seemingly powerless situations.



This is the second book a series (I already reviewed the first) but works very well as a stand alone novel. It is nice to see characters from the last one come into play but if you haven't read it you won't be confused.

I have a thing for Indian captive books, I always have though generally it has been during the French and Indian War so this was a nice change of pace. Also this was less about the capture and more about re-acclimating into society after being gone for 12 years. 
I really liked how Davis tried to show the confusion at concepts which seem very basic to those of us who have grown up in "civilized" society. I also loved the side character of Quinta. She is a little 9 year old girl who comes to live with the sisters for a proper education. She is a spitfire and can hold her own in almost every situation that is thrown at her. 
The only thing that I wish could have got from this novel is more background on Ned. First of all, what caused his initial aversion to nuns? And religion in general? I think a little more back story on him would have been an nice addition.
Overall, I liked this book and most likely will read the next one in the series.

Many thanks to Moody publishing for giving me this book for review.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Misc. Monday - Dragonhaven

DragonhavenDragonhaven
By: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Jake Mendoza lives at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild. Keeping a preserve for dragons is controversial: detractors say dragons are extremely dangerous and unjustifiably expensive to keep and should be destroyed. Environmentalists and friends say there are no records of them eating humans and they are a unique example of specialist evolution and must be protected. But they are up to eighty feet long and breathe fire.
On his first overnight solo trek, Jake finds a dragon dying next to the human she killed. Jake realizes this news could destroy Smokehill— even though the dead man is clearly a poacher who had attacked the dragon first, that fact will be lost in the outcry against dragons.
But then Jake is struck by something more urgent —he sees that the dragon has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive. 
I was so disappointed. McKinley is a total hit or miss author. I like some I hate some. This was one I thought  I was going to like....sadly I was mistaken.
The writing style was simply too confusing to decipher. Parentheses all over the place, tangents mid-sentence, overall confusing language. Was she trying to do stream of consciousness? I can't tell, if she was she failed. I am really disappointed too because I have liked a couple other of McKinley's works - Beauty might be one of my favorite books of all time. I really thought that authors were supposed to grow and mature as they continued to work. Sadly that is not the case with this novel. And the premise was SOOO cool too, it's been done (think Jane Yolen or Anne McCaffery) but still it would have been cool with this new twist of modern day.
Also I didn't like her obvious politics, it could be because I am more right wing in my thinking but it just galled me to no-end how evil the corporations are and how the government is against everybody. I understand the problems of most things getting funding, but don't mention it every other sentence please.

Pass on this it will only leave you frustrated.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fluffy Friday - A Vision of Lucy

A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance)A Vision of Lucy
by: Margaret Brownley
Genre: Historical(ish) Fiction
Rating 4 Stars


Summary from Goodreads:

Lucy Fairbanks dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. Her deepest hope is that her father will see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, whose paintings still hang on their walls. But disaster follows Lucy on every photo assignment: a mess of petticoats and ribbons, an accidental shooting, even a fire.When Lucy meets David Wolf-a rugged, reclusive man who lives on the outskirts of town-she thinks she can catch the attention of the town with his photograph. She doesn't count on her feelings stirring whenever she's near him. Two things happen next that forever change the course of Lucy's life. But will these events draw her closer to God or push her further away? And how will David accept this new vision of Lucy?
I didn't know that this was the third book in the series, it does a very good job as a stand alone. I was left somewhat confused as to which character was who in the beginning but when you jump in half-way that is to be expected. 
I thought it was fun and fresh and I could totally relate to all of the scrapes which Lucy found herself in because, Well, I have been known to set the occasional fire and other such mishaps. And how she babbles on and on when she is nervous...that is something that I am really trying to get over. Anyway, what I am trying to say besides revealing way too much personal stuff, is that Lucy was likable and easy to relate to. 
I really liked the quotes which began each chapter and thought that this author had a wonderfully fresh perspective.  The bad guy totally comes out of the blue - a rare thing when you read as much as I do - and was still plausible.
Well done Margaret, and many thanks to Thomas Nelson for giving me this book for review.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Historical Thrusday - Lone Star Trail

Lone Star Trail (The Texas Trail Series)Lone Star Trail
by: Darlene Franklin
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 stars


Summary From Goodreads:
Judson (Jud) Morgan's father died for Texas freedom during the war for independence. So when the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas (the Verein) attempts to colonize a New Germany in his country, he takes a stand against them. 

After Wande Fleischer's fiance marries someone else, the young fraulein determines to make new life for herself in Texas. With the help of Jud's sister Marion, Wande learns English and becomes a trusted friend to the entire Morgan family. As much as Jud dislikes the German invasion, he can't help admiring Wande. She is sweet and cheerful as she serves the Lord and all those around her. 

I like reading about new parts of history, I had no idea that the Germans started immigrating to Texas and it was fun to learn about that and the new German words as well, I have been developing an interest in that language and so this was really fun to read. 

I liked Jud, I could understand why he angry about the Germans coming in and seemingly taking over what he deemed to be his his land, I also liked how he was hard working and down to earth. 
Wande, (I still don't entirely know how to pronounce that name) was wonderful, though somewhat one dimensional. She was strong happy and seemed to learn english at an alarming rate.
Overall I thought it was a cute fresh setting on an old plot. It was a wonderful way to relax and get away from the terrors that are finals.  


Thanks to Moody Publishing for letting me read this book for review.

In the Shadow of Lakecrest

In the Shadow of Lakecrest By: Elizabeth Blackwell Genre: Fiction, Historical, Gothic Rating: 3.5 stars Summary: The year is 1928. Kate...