Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Courageous (Valiant Hearts series #3) by Dina L. Sleiman: A Book Review

Courageous (Valiant Heart series #3)
Author: Dina L. Sleiman
Genre: YA, Christian, Historical Fiction,
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: 2016
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Valiant Hearts: Where Adventure and Romance Meet

     Inspired by the vision of the Young Lady Sapphira, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a group of men, women, and children as a defender of the cross, seeking to free captives from prisons near Tripoli. She gladly gives herself to the cause, as she's haunted by a tragic mistake and no longer deserves such joys as marriage and family might bring.

   Sir Randel Penigree was reared to serve in the church, but dreams of protecting the innocent as a knight. Joining a crusade to escape humiliation at home, he finds himself drawn to Rosalind as they partner to train and protect a group of young adolescents. When they face political machinations, danger, and an unknown enemy bent on their destruction, they are forced to reconsider their priorities and the very nature of the God they serve.

   My Review: Rosalind has sworn an oath to join the Crusade. Among the men, women, and children going is her best friend, Sir Randel. Sir Randel has decided to go so that he can start on his journey to become a Templar Knight. Both Rosalind and Sir Randel train and protect the young adolescents that have become a part of the Crusade. As danger looms near, both Rosalind and Sir Randel find themselves drawn to each other. Can the two forgive their past mistakes and let love in their hearts?

   I was happy that Rosalind was given her own story! She was a tragic figure in Chivalrous, and I wanted to see her have a happy ending. After the act that she committed in the previous book, Rosalind is full of self-loathing and regret. She doesn’t feel she is worthy of love. Yet, while Rosalind may not yet love herself, she loves those around her. She wants to protect the young women from making the same mistakes as she. Rosalind was a very sympathetic figure, and I loved watching her come to terms with herself.

   Randel was a good hero for Rosalind. He also has a tragic past that haunts him. He is also full of self-loathing. He hopes to find redemption for his past mistakes. I also like how Randel was a conflicted character. He had to make tough choices to either follow his family wishes so he wouldn’t be disowned or to follow his own path. Thus, Randel had to trust in God to help him make the right decision.

    I really loved the relationship between Randel and Rosalind. They were a perfect match for each other. They started out as friends. Eventually, their friendship deepened into something more. They truly understood and loved each other. Both of them have been haunted by their sins, and are constantly searching for redemption. They both feel that they are unworthy of love. Yet, it is because of their sins that they are able to love each other and forgive themselves. They are able to see God’s love and that they are worthy of happiness, too. Thus, out of the Valiant Hearts series, I thought that they were the most interesting couple.

   Overall, this book is about loss, regret, redemption, and forgiveness. The message of the book is to love yourself. Courageous was a darker story than the two previous novels, which were very light and fun. Because of the characters and the Crusade setting, this was a more mature novel. Thus, this book is more suited to teenagers sixteen and up. I also thought the setting was perfect for these two characters. They were looking for healing amidst the backdrop of a violent war. This helped make a compelling love story. The only thing I did not like about this book was the switching of the points of view from, Rosalind, Randel, Sapphira, the girl and who inspired the Crusade, and the villain. This was a bit confusing for me, and I would have liked it only from Rosalind and Randel’s perspectives. Also, while Courageous can be read as a standalone, I suggest that you read Chivalrous first to understand the background story for the two main protagonists. Still, Courageous was an excellent conclusion to Valiant Hearts, and it was a great pleasure to read this series! If you love Melanie Dickerson, Jody Hedlund, and Tamara Leigh, I urge you to read Dauntless, the first book in Valiant Hearts, for you definitely do not want to miss out on this series!


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blog Tour: The Spoils of Allsveil by S. N. McKibben



The Spoils of Allsveil
by S.N. McKibben
Genre: Fantasy, Romance


Murder. Marriage. Forgiveness. The kingdom of Allsveil is the chessboard, and the royals are the pieces.
Two noble families meet in a whirlwind of battle, conquest, hate, and passion.
When a neighboring army conquers her home, Princess Alexia is forced to marry her father’s murderer, Darrin, the new king's young prince. While Alexia grapples with revenge and flirtation, finding her own strength in the process, the new king, Goththor, seeks forgiveness from his queen and from himself. Two generations learn that the game of chess is nothing compared to the game of love and forgiveness...
Play chess with a princess...get your copy today!



Slave to a 100 lbs. GSD (German Shepard) and a computer she calls "Dave", you'll often see her riding a 19 hand Shire nicknamed "Gunny" to the local coffee shop near the Santa Monica mountains.
Stephanie reads for the love of words, and writes fiction about Dark Hearts and Heroes revolving around social taboos. When ever asked, she'll reply her whole life can be seen through a comic strip ~ sometimes twisted, sometimes funny but always beautiful and its title is adventure. Come play!







Monday, April 24, 2017

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund: A Book Review

Luther and Katharina
Author: Jody Hedlund
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Waterbrook
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 402
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: She was a nun of noble birth. He, a heretic, a reformer…an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire.  

     In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

     His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself. 

     Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different. 

     But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love. 

    Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever. 

     My Review: Katharina von Bora is a nun who decides to escape from her life in a convent. She and her fellow nuns have sought refuge from Martin Luther. Martin Luther is a former monk, who wants to reform the Church. He gives them a good marriage until all that remains is Katharina. Katharina is still unmarried, for she waits to hear from her betrothed Jerome. Martin Luther feels an attraction towards her. Can Martin Luther admit his love for Katharina and marry her himself before some suitor whisks her away forever?

   Katharina was a fun heroine! She is very prideful and holds onto her aristocratic heritage. Because of her strong-willed personality, Martin Luther is stunned by this girl. He has never met anyone, who is defiant and speaks her mind. Yet, that is also what draws Katharina to him. I also like Martin Luther. He is shy around women. He is insecure about Katharina’s affections for him and often tries to hide his insecurities. He struggles for his feelings for Katharina and postpones his admission by focusing on reforming the church. The couple have their differences, and it shows after they are married, but ultimately they have a deep love and respect for each other.

   Overall, this book is about love, faith, and choices. The message of the book is to be true to yourself. The characters were very realistic and complex. I enjoyed the interactions between Katharina von Bora and Martin Luther because they are very different, yet they have the same goals of reformation. The story is very fast-paced and full of adventure and political intrigue! The only thing I did not like about Luther and Katharina was there were some inaccuracies that I could not shrug off. This would have been okay if they were believable, but the inaccuracies were unconvincing and far-fetched and read like a fairy-tale romance rather than a love story based on real historical figures. For those who like their historical fiction to be very historically accurate, you might want to stay away from this book. However, for those who do mind the author’s numerous deviations from history and want an entertaining tale, then look no further. Mrs. Hedlund crafts a fun tale about the romance between a former nun and a Protestant reformer. Luther and Katharina will please Mrs. Hedlund’s loyal fans. I recommend this book for fans of Melanie Dickerson, Tamara Leigh, and Laura Frantz.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Never Done by Ginger Dehlinger: A Book Review

Never Done
Author: Ginger Dehlinger
Genre: Historical Fiction, Western
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: April 21, 2017
Pages: 290
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Clara, ​14, and Geneva, ​16, are close friends until Geneva secretly marries Clara’s widowed father. Feeling betrayed by her pa and a girl she idolizes, Clara wants nothing to do with her new young stepmother. Geneva retaliates, beginning a clash of wills that lasts from 1884 to the flu epidemic of 1918.

     Years go by without them speaking to one another. Geneva, bolder of the two, lives a life of ease in elegant homes with piped water and domestic help. She shops for the latest in women’s fashions and plays pinochle with lady friends.

     For spite, Clara marries a handsome cowboy Geneva fancies, but ends up living in a freezing cold cabin and a house infested with bugs. She takes in ironing and feeds miners to make ends meet, discovering love and purpose in the process. It takes a tragedy to bring her and her family together again. 

     Can she and Geneva see this as an opportunity to put aside the past? Can they salvage a relationship that was once the center of their world?

     My Review: Clara and Geneva are best friends. One day, Geneva marries Clara’s father, much to Clara’s dismay. The two friends are now enemies. Throughout the decades, the two experience hardships. Yet, despite their trials, they still remain enemies. Thus, the story tells a story of a clash of wills against these two former best friends.

     Clara is the main character in Never Done. At first, I didn't like her. I thought that she was being cruel to Geneva because it was obvious that she married her father against her will. Yet, as Clara matures and experiences hardships, I couldn't help but admire her strong-will. Clara is stubborn and a hard worker. Her strength and determination reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara. She was forced to make hard decisions for herself and her family. Clara was a fascinating character, and I hoped for her to find happiness.

      As for her friend, Geneva, the author didn't develop her character much since she was seen through the eyes of her enemies. Because of this, she is not portrayed in a good light. She is portrayed as selfish and vain. This disappointed me because Geneva was an interesting character, yet the author barely explored her potential. She was in an arranged marriage with Clara’s father, and I would love to know how she felt about marrying someone twice her age. Sadly, she was never given the chance to speak for herself.

     Overall, this book is about family, betrayal, loss, and choices. Clara was a very complex character, but I would love to have gotten to know Clara. Hopefully, the author will write a book from Geneva’s perspective! While I did find Never Done slow in the beginning, it was very well-written. The story kept me interested until the very end because I liked the characters. Never Done will appeal to fans of Westerns, but the family drama will also appeal to those who do not usually like Westerns. I recommend this novel to fans of A Woman’s Choice, Hannah Fowler, and A Lantern in Her Hand.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Blast: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 Nan A. Talese Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

   

READ AN EXCERPT

Synopsis: A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

     Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

     Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”


Available for Pre-Order at

  

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's


Praise for Lilli de Jong


     “Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

     “A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

     “Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

     “A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

     “Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

     “[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

     “The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

     “A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

     “A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

     “I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

     “Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

     “A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

About the Author



     Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

     Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.   



Book Blast Schedule


Monday, April 17 
Bookfever 

Tuesday, April 18 
So Many Books, So Little Time 

Wednesday, April 19 
Luxury Reading 

Thursday, April 20 
100 Pages a Day 
The Never-Ending Book 

Friday, April 21 
A Book Geek 
Caryn, The Book Whisperer 

Saturday, April 22 
History From a Woman's Perspective 

Monday, April 24 
Creating Herstory 

Tuesday, April 25 
The Book Junkie Reads 

Wednesday, April 26 
SJ2B House of Books 

Thursday, April 27 
A Fold in the Spine
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf 

Friday, April 28 
Just One More Chapter 

Monday, May 1 
Back Porchervations 

Tuesday, May 2 
Books & Benches 
Oh, for the Hook of a Book 

Wednesday, May 3 
The Lit Bitch 
Unabridged Chick 

Thursday, May 4 
Beth's Book Nook Blog 

Friday, May 5 
Brooke Blogs 
Trisha Jenn Reads 

Sunday, May 7 
A Dream within a Dream 

Monday, May 8 
Book Nerd 

Tuesday, May 9 
Broken Teepee 
The True Book Addict 

Wednesday, May 10 
What Is That Book About 

Thursday, May 11 
CelticLady's Reviews 

Friday, May 12 
A Literary Vacation 

Monday, May 15 
Passages to the Past

Friday, April 21, 2017

Blog Tour: The Mourning Ring by Sarah Parke

The Mourning Ring by Sarah Parke

Publication Date: October 10, 2016 CreateSpace eBook & Paperback; 350 Pages Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fantasy

    

READ AN EXCERPT

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Bronte lives to tell stories. She longs to improve her fortunes through her writing. Charlotte’s father expects her to leave behind her childish fantasies in order to set an example for her three younger siblings.

     But the Bronte children hold a secret in their veins—a smidgen of fairy blood that can bring their words to life.

     When Charlotte discovers that the characters from their childish stories exist in an alternate world called Glass Town, she jumps at the opportunity to be the heroine of her own tale.

     The city of Angria teeters on the brink of civil war and Charlotte and her siblings must use their magic and their wits to save its people from a tyrant with magic abilities. But entering the fictional world means forfeiting control of their own creations. If they fail, the characters they have come to know and love will be destroyed.

     Charlotte is determined to save the city and characters she loves, but when the line between creator and character becomes blurred, will she choose her fantasy or her family?


Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


About the Author



Sarah Parke writes fantasy and historical fiction (sometimes at the same time) for young adult readers and those young at heart.

She has a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. Her work has been published internationally, most recently in the July 2015 issue of The Writer magazine.

 For more information, please visit Sarah Parke's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Blog Tour Schedule


Wednesday, April 19 
Review at 100 Pages a Day 

Thursday, April 20 
Excerpt at What Is That Book About 
Review, Excerpt & Interview at The Book Junkie Reads 

Friday, April 21 
Excerpt at The Lit Bitch 
Review at Queen of All She Reads 
Spotlight at History From a Woman's Perspective 
Review & Excerpt at Adventures Thru Wonderland 

Saturday, April 22 
Interview at T's Stuff 
Review at A Book Drunkard 

Sunday, April 23 
Review, Excerpt, & Interview at Quitterstrip 

Monday, April 24 
Review & Excerpt at Rainy Day Reviews 

Tuesday, April 25 
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books 
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views 

Wednesday, April 26 
Review at Just One More Chapter 
Review at A Chick Who Read

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters #3) by Lucinda Riley: A Book Review

The Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters #3)
Author: Lucinda Riley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Pages: 512
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Travel through the lush English countryside and explore the magnificent estates of the British aristocracy in this next spellbinding love story in The Seven Sisters series by #1 internationally bestselling author Lucinda Riley.

    Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.

     A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life...

     As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

     My Review: After the death of her adoptive father, Star learns that her father left her a clue to her origins. The clue he left behind leads her to a small bookstore in London and asks for the name of Flora MacNicol. Little that she knows that by befriending the owner of the bookstore, Orlando, that she learns her connection to his family and finds her own independence. The family eventually tells her Flora’s story. As she listens to the story, Star learns the truth about where she comes from and makes tough choices in order to find her happiness.

     Flora’s story was moving and heart-wrenching. In the beginning of her story. She has a carefree life. She has a menagerie of animals, but the animal she really adores is her cat, Panther. However, she goes through hard trials and is separated from the man she loves. She sacrifices her dreams and happiness for her sister’s sake. Flora’s story was very emotional, and I hoped that her story would end in a satisfying outcome. There were times that Flora did some ruthless deeds, but she did them to protect her family. Thus, Flora is a lovable character because she always puts her family before herself.

    While I preferred the historical aspect more than the modern one. Star’s story is captivating also. Star finds herself at ends with her with sister, Cece, and she must choose to be her own self or to be in her sister’s shadow. She is a strong person too and often helps her new friends. She also finds herself dealing with first love. Therefore, Star is a very relatable character, and readers root for her to achieve her independence from her needy sister!
     
   Overall, this book is about family, love, friendship, secrets, choices, and happiness. All the characters were very realistic and likable. The Edwardian setting was very fascinating and we meet many famous figures, such as Beatrix Potter, Mrs. Keppel, and King Edward VII. The story also has a mystery aspect, for there are secrets that Flora has hidden for many decades. I have never read The Seven Sisters series before, and I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t read the others at all. If if hadn’t been for The Shadow Sister, I might have missed out on a really good series. While I am waiting for the sequel, The Pearl Sister, I am definitely going to catch myself up on the first two books! The Shadow Sister is perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Gill Paul,  and Melanie Dobson.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here is a video of Lucinda talking about her book, The Shadow Sister: