Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Merchant's Daughter (Hagenheim Series #2) by Melanie Dickerson: A Book Review

The Merchant’s Daughter (Hagenheim Series #2)
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Christian
Publisher: Zondervan
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 284
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf s bailiff a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart. 

     My Review: Annabel is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. After her father dies, her family is left penniless. Because they refuse to pay their taxes, one of them is forced to work as an indentured servant to the Lord le Wyse, who is famous for his beastly temper, for three years. Her brothers, who do not want to work in the fields or serve the terrifying Lord, eagerly give Annabel away to the decrepit bailiff, Tom, in hopes that her groom would pay the fee. Rather than marry Tom, Annabel decides to serve Lord le Wyse. At first, she is afraid of him. Yet, she realizes that Lord le Wyse is suffering from the wounds of his past. Can Annabel save Lord le Wyse and heal his wounds?

     Annabel is a likable character. While she can be judgemental and sometimes selfish, I found her to be a strong protagonist. She is strong, not only because she is the breadwinner of her lazy family, but also because she is determined to make her own choices. She is resolute in making her decisions and does not back down when others try to make choices for her. She fights for her own freedom and happiness.

     Lord le Wyse is also an interesting character. He has not only physical scars, but also emotional and mental scars. He feels that he is ugly and believes that no woman can love him. Therefore, he distances himself away from women, and is often misunderstood because of his temper and aloofness. However, he has a soft heart. He often helps the people of the village. He yearns to be a man of God and listens to God’s word. This makes him a good fit for the protagonist. 

     Both Annabel and Lord le Wyse are wounded beings. Annabel, because of her beauty, and Lord le Wyse because of his deformity. Annabel believes that her beauty is a care because men treat her as property. She yearns to be a nun because she can be safe from men and to have privilege to the Holy Bible that is only available to cloistered women. Yet when Annabel and Lord le Wyse meet each other, they read the Holy Bible together. God has brought them together and their wounds start to heal and soon they begin to love each other for their inward beauty and not outward appearances.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, love, and redemption. The message of the book is that mercy and love is greater than justice. While this story is a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, it is a more realistic version. There is no fantasy or supernatural elements in this story. This is more of a character-driven story, and the characters are complex. The beginning is slow-paced, but it picks up in the middle. I also thought the ending was rushed. Still, it was a light, sweet story with a happy-ever after. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Christian fiction, fairy-tale re-tellings, and characters that will make you care and cheer for their relationship.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the author's official book trailer of The Merchant's Daughter:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tower of Thorns (Book #2 of The Blackthorn and Grim Series) by Juliet Marillier: A Book Review

Tower of Thorns (Book #2 of The Blackthorn and Grim Series)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 439
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed” Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

     Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

     Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

     As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

     My Review: In the second book in the series, Blackthorn and Grim are trying to bring peace into their lives by healing in Dalriada. Flidais is expecting a child, and she requests that Blackthorn assist her during her pregnancy. However, it seems that happiness and peace is not destined to last, for at the main court of Dalriada, a woman begs for help to expel a howling monster from the old tower on her property. Blackthorn agrees to help. When Blackthorn and Grim get there, they hear the monster’s cries of pain and anguish that haunts the land. They realize that there is more to it than what the woman says. Together, they seek to find the truth of the situation and to end the monster’s anguish.

     Blackthorn has grown stronger than in the first novel. She is still trying to find peace and to be the woman that she used to be. However, we learn a little bit of the woman who she was before she had a thirst for revenge. She runs into her childhood friend, and it brings her memories of sorrow. He gives a chance for revenge, and Blackthorn is often conflicted about whether she should stay and fulfill her end of the fey nobleman’s bargain to not go seeking for revenge or join her childhood friend in a thirst for justice.

     Grim, too, has more character development. Dreamer’s Pool focused more on Blackthorn’s origins. In Tower of Thorns, we get to know more about Grim before he was imprisoned. Grim also has personal struggles that he is trying to solve. However he sets aside his inner conflicts to help Blackthorn and to protect her.

     Overall, this story is about friendship, love, sacrifice, and redemption. While the book is slow-paced, I was interested in the characters. My favorite character was Geiléis. I was enthralled by her story and the origins about the monster in the tower. I also loved the atmospheric setting in Tower of Thorns. It was eerie, sad, and filled with mystery and magic. Those who have not yet been introduced to Juliet Marillier will be enchanted with this novel. However, long-term fans will notice that Tower of Thorns is still very similar to Marillier’s earlier works, and this story still has yet to take flight. I am still waiting for her originality, creativity, and magic. Readers of Tower of Thorns will find themselves swept away in a magical land filled with fantastical creatures, secrets, and a love story that spans centuries, leaving them breathless and eagerly anticipating the next installment in the Blackthorn and Grim series.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dreamer's Pool (Book #1 of The Blackthorn and Grim Series) by Juliet Marillier: A Book Review

Dreamer’s Pool (Book #1 of The Blackthorn and Grim Series)
Author:  Juliet Marillier
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 464
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: Award-winning author Juliet Marillier “weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page” (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland....

     In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

     Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

     With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

     My Review: Blackthorn, an innocent prisoner, has been freed by a fey nobleman. In return for her freedom she must travel up north to the kingdom of Dalriada and to not seek revenge on the person who has ruined her life. She is accompanied by Grim, a fellow inmate. Together, they try to rebuild their lives by healing the people of Winterfalls. One day, Prince Oran asks for their help. He claims that something is wrong with his soon-to-be bride because she seems to be a different woman than when he was courting her. Blackthorn and Grim begin to look into the mystery and to solve Prince Oran’s problem.

     Blackthorn is an interesting character. She is an emotionally distraught woman. Her heart is so full of anguish that she has turned her heart to hatred and to have a thirst for vengeance. Revenge is her main goal that she does not care what happens to her. However, the penance that she made with the fey nobleman seems to do her some good. For while she still wants revenge, she is beginning to heal spiritually, psychically, and emotionally. She is trying to recover and to have a new start with her life. She is even starting to make friends and to care about others’ well-being. Grim is also a likable character. The book does not mention his past. However, he is caring and loyal. He feels that he needs to protect and take care of Blackthorn. The only main character that I did not like was Prince Oran. He was childish and selfish.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, love, and redemption. The message of this book is to be yourself. While I did like Blackthorn and Grim, I did not really care for the other characters. This book is slow-paced and dragging. I thought that it should have been shortened. I felt this story to be lacking. It did not have any of its magic that I expected from Juliet Marillier. I also felt that the problem was very similar to the other works that she had written. Still, I recommend this to anyone who is interested in historical fantasy and a light story.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Silver Eve (Guardians of Tarnec #2) by Sandra Waugh: A Book Review

Silver Eve (Guardians of Tarnec #2)
Author:  Sandra Waugh
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 381
Source: This book was given to me by Rockstars Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The Healer Evie saves two herbs for herself—yew, a quick and painful poison, and heliotrope, for the deep, deep sleep that never ends.

     After the death of her beloved, seventeen-year-old Evie Carew wants nothing more than to lose herself forever in the wilds of Rood Marsh. But when the old seer Harker tells her she’s meant for a greater task, Evie’s curiosity keeps her going. What is this shell that Harker insists she must find? And why can’t she stop thinking about the handsome Rider Laurent, the young man who saved her on the worst day of her life? 

     Soon Evie discovers that she is the Guardian of Death, the second of four Guardians who must awaken to their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in balance. To take back the shell that is Death’s amulet, Evie has to learn to challenge her Healer instincts and understand that love never dies.

     My Review: In the sequel to Lark Rising, Silver Eve follows Evie Carew, a healer who is Lark’s cousin. The story picks up after Evie has left Merith. After the death of her fiance, Raif, she plans to follow him to the afterlife in the Rood Marshes. However, she is saved by Harker, who gives her a quest to find the amulet of Death. She is soon joined by Laurent, who was sent to find her and assigned to protect and guard her. Little does Evie know that she is the Guardian of Death and that she is hunted by people who want to destroy her and the amulet.

     This story is very different to Lark Rising. While Lark Rising was light, happy, and takes place mostly in the day, this story is much darker, sad, and takes place mostly during the night. Lark Rising felt like a fairy tale, but Silver Eve felt like an eerie siren’s song. This is not because Lark is the Guardian of Light and Evie is the Guardian of Death, but because Evie may still be in mourning over the death of her fiance. She is at the lowest point in her life, and she is still trying to find happiness and love.

     Evie is a difficult character. She is very uncontrollable. She makes reckless decisions. While she is easily manipulated by Harker, a mysterious seer, I still thought that she was in control of her own actions. Her curiosity leads to many consequences, and she wants to do the right thing. She was selfless because she was always looking out for others welfare, and not herself. Even though she made reckless decisions, she believed that she was acting out for the greater good.

     I really loved Laurent. Unlike Evie, who is very impulsive, Laurent was very practical. He was also very selfless. Laurent risked his life many times to save Evie. Laurent was also very stubborn and stood by her side even if he disagreed with her decisions or when she kept telling him repeatedly to leave her. I thought Laurent was a strong protagonist and a good fit for Evie. Evie needed someone she could rely on and trust throughout her quest, and Laurent’s loyalty encouraged her to succeed.

     Overall, the story is about sacrifice, love, friendship, and redemption. With complex characters and a dark setting, the story was much more interesting than Lark Rising. I thought the world-building was much more vivid in Silver Eve, and the book was fast-paced. However, while I did like the story, I did find the ending a bit unsatisfactory. The epilogue ended in a cliffhanger, and I felt that it should have given the reader an ending that tied everything up and show us its direction for the next book in the series as it did in Lark Rising. Still, because of Silver Eve, there is hope that the Guardians of Tarnec may be a promising series after all.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Blog Tour: Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh: A Book Review

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh 
(The Historians #1)
Published by: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication date: September 29th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Time-Travel, Young Adult
Source: This book was given to me by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

     If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

     Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.


     If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?


     Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.


     Or would you have the strength to watch him die?


     But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.


     My Review: This story takes place in the far future. There has been a tragedy where Earth is no longer fit to live on so Earth natives have settled on different stars. Kaia is about to graduate from the academy to be a Historian. Her job is to go back to Earth’s past and to record its main events. She is to observe history, but can not interact with the people of the past because if she does, then it may change Earth’s fate. However, when she learns that her soul mate is destined to be Caesarion Ptolemy, the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, she abandons the rules and travels back in time to have a relationship with Caesarion. Little does she know that her romance with the Egyptian prince would soon have unforeseen consequences.


     Kaia is a strong protagonist. She has a troubled past. Her brother was a traitor to the academy, and she is afraid to follow in his footsteps. She is very curious, and when she learns who her soul mate is, she is willing to put everything at risk to meet him. However, she is very observant and suspicious of those around her. She senses that there is a bigger problem around her. She is aware that her teachers are hiding something from her. Kaia is willing to break the rules and get in trouble to find out what they are up to.

     Overall, this story is about friendship, love, family, sacrifice, and duty. While I’m not really big on sci-fi, I found this story compelling. I found the plot to be original and unique. I like the message of the story that history is important for the future. I really loved the historical aspects in this novel, where Kaia gets to travel back in time. I loved not only Ancient Egypt, but also the scene in Ancient Rome where Julius Caesar is assassinated. I also found the scene about the Triangle Fire to be powerful and moving. The characters were all lovable and each of the characters are helpful to the plot. I also love the world-building in this book. It had a nice ending, and I can not wait to read the sequel to the book. Thus, Return Once More is a delightful feast for fans of sci-fi and historical fiction lovers alike.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles

AUTHOR BIO:



      Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.


     Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who are numerous, loud, full of love–the kind of people that make the world a better place. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories–made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

     Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

     To learn more about Trisha Leigh, please visit her at http://trishaleigh.com/.

      If you enjoy New Adult books or a good contemporary romance, please check out my pen name, Lyla Payne! Find me on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Giveaway:










The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor: A Book Review

The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World
Author:  Adrienne Mayor
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 530
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Amazons—fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world—were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.

     But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.

     Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons—Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.

     Driven by a detective’s curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic.

     My Review: For centuries, Amazons have captured the imaginations of millions. Eleanor of Aquitaine accompanied her husband, Louis VII, during the Crusades dressed as Amazons. Just recently, Anne Fortier wrote a novel about the Amazons. Stories of certain Amazons have been retold again like Penthesilea, Atalanta, and Hippolyta. Even though the Amazons seems to be a myth, were they in fact real? If so, who were the real Amazons? What is the origins story to the legend of the Amazon? In this nonfiction work, the author attempts to answer our questions and provide us information to what the real Amazons might have been like.

     This book traces the theories that the Amazons were the Scythians. The Scythians were Iranian horse riding nomadic tribes. The women in the tribe were given more freedom than the Greek women. The women rode horses and fought in battle. They fascinated and frightened Greek society. For while the Greeks idealized them, they did not want their women to be like them. So, they spread many legends to warn the women to not be like the Scythian women.

     Overall, I found this book to be a very compelling account about the Amazons. The author has separated archaeological evidence from Greek mythology. I liked how she separated fact from fiction and how she explained the origins of the legends surrounding the Amazons. These women that she describes are strong and fascinating. They were equals to men. Because Greece was a patriarchal society, the men could admire them from afar but at the same time they feared they were a danger to society. While I did find the book to be dry, I found the topic to be very interesting. This book answers a lot of questions about the myths of the Amazons that I found to be very satisfying. I recommend this book to anyone who has always been fascinated by the legends of the Amazons and wants to learn the truth about them, those interested in Greek society and their views of women, or anybody who loves reading about a strong race of women.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars




Monday, November 23, 2015

Blog Tour: The Oracle (The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three) by D.J. Niko

02_The Oracle_CoverThe Oracle (The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three) by D. J. Niko

Publication Date: November 10, 2015 Medallion Press Paperback; 456p ISBN-13: 978-1605426273 Genre: Historical/Archaeological Adventure

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     In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world.

     When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world.

     Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire.

     But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?

 

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIE BOUND


About the Author

Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

     Daphne Nikolopoulos in an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer. Under the pen name D.J. Niko, she has written two novels in an archaeological thriller series titled The Sarah Weston Chronicles. Her debut novel, The Tenth Saint (Medallion Press, 2012), won the Gold Medal (popular fiction) in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. Her follow-up release, The Riddle of Solomon, continues the story of British archaeologist Sarah Weston as she seeks the relics—and mystical secrets—left behind by the biblical King Solomon in remote Israel.

     Daphne is currently at work on The Oracle, book 3 in The Sarah Weston Chronicles, which releases in 2015. Also slated for publication in 2015 is her first historical novel, The Judgment, which is set in Israel and Egypt in the tenth century BCE.

     In addition to writing fiction, Daphne is editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine and editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group. Prior to that, she was a travel journalist who logged hundreds of thousands of miles traveling across the globe, with emphasis on little-known and off-the-beaten-path locales—many of which have inspired her novels.

     Daphne frequently lectures about her research on the ancient world. She is an instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society, teaching on the subject of archaeology. She has also spoken to audiences at the Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches’ Academy for Continuous Education, and several libraries and private groups throughout Florida.

     Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne now resides in West Palm Beach with her husband and twin son and daughter. You can find her on the Web at djnikobooks.com and connect with her on Facebook (AuthorDJNiko) and on Twitter: @djnikobooks.

04_The Oracle_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blog Tour: Lumiere by Jacqueline E. Garlick: A Book Review

Lumière by Jacqueline E. Garlick 
(The Illumination Paradox #1)
Publication date: December 12th 2013
Genres: Steampunk, Young Adult
Source: This book was given to me by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Even in a land of eternal twilight, secrets can’t stay hidden forever.

     Seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth is no stranger to living in the dark. She’s hidden her secret affliction all of her life—a life that would be in danger if superstitious townspeople ever guessed the truth. After her mother is accused and executed for a crime that she didn’t commit, the now-orphaned Eyelet has no choice but to track down the machine—her last hope for a cure. But Eyelet’s late father’s most prized invention, the Illuminator, has been missing since the day of the mysterious flash—a day that saw the sun wiped out over Brethren forever.

     Alone and on the run, she finds the Illuminator—only to witness a young man hauling it away. Determined to follow the thief and recover the machine, she ventures into the deepest, darkest, most dangerous part of her twisted world.

     My Review: Eyelet is the daughter of an inventor, whose greatest invention was the Illuminator that has been missing since she was a young girl. She has been having seizures that are known to be caused by the illuminator, which to the Victorian people is a symptom of madness. If her affliction is revealed, she will be sent to an asylum. Eyelet is determined to search for the illuminator in hopes that it will cure her. She ends up being pursued by her father’s nemesis, Professor Smrt (sic). This leads her to a mysterious boy named Urlick. Eventually, they team up to find the illuminator.

     This story is told in first person by Eyelet and Urlick in alternating chapters. I found both of the characters to be very odd but intriguing. Both of them were engaging narrators. Eyelet is a sympathetic character. She has had it rough in the very beginning of the story. She had just lost her mother and finds herself to be on the run, which leads her to Urlick. She is very curious and inquisitive. She is also quick to make judgments. I also liked Urlick. He is very mysterious, and harbors many secrets. Throughout my read, I was excited and impatient for his secrets to be revealed. I also loved the interaction between the two characters, for I found it entertaining, humorous, and engaging.

     Overall, this story is about love, family, friendship, and acceptance. This story started out to be fast-paced and action-packed. However, the middle portion, when Eyelet arrives at Urlick’s home and washes his dishes, I found it be very slow. The middle storyline reminded me a lot of Beauty and The Beast, and I felt like I was reading a fairy tale. At the end, it picks up its pace and leaves a cliffhanger ending. I found the world-building of the Victorian setting to be very muddled. Still, this book has definitely made me excited to read the sequel, and maybe the author will elaborate more on her world. I recommend this to anyone who loves steampunk novels, fairy tales, and strange characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy Links: AmazonBarnes and Nobles

AUTHOR BIO:



     I'm Jacqueline Garlick, author of young adult and new adult fiction. I love strong heroines, despise whiny sidekicks, and adore a good story about a triumphant underdog. (Don't you?)
I love to read, write, paint (walls and paper). I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate, grammar, and technology and would rather hang out with a dog, than a cat. I prefer creating things to cleaning things, and believe laughter is a one-stop-shop solution to all that ails you. You will always find a purple wall (or two) in my house (currently in my writing room), and there may or may not be a hidden passageway that leads to a mystery room. (Okay, so you won't find a hidden passageway, but a girl can dream, can't she?) Oh, and tea. There will always be tea.

     My writing style has been described as edgy and rule-breaking, and by some--a touch Tim Burton-esque. Because of this, I am often referred to as the Quentin Tarantino of YA among writing friends.

     In my former life, I was a teacher (both grade school and college-don't ask), but more recently I've been a graduate of Ellen Hopkin's Nevada Mentor Program and a student of James Scott Bell, Christopher Vogler and Don Maass. An excerpt from Lumière earned me the 2012 Don Maass Break Out Novel Intensive Scholarship.

     Lumière--A Romantic Steampunk Fantasy--my debut novel, is the recipient of an indieBRAG Medallion!!! B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree October 15, 2014) I am so proud! (LUMIERE by Jacqueline E. Garlick is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!) Book II of the ILLUMINATION PARADOX SERIES, is out January 26th, now on pre-order.

     Also, check out my young adult contemporary romantic/mystery serial, IF ONLY, where reluctant telepathic sleuth Kyla Cooper must embrace her powers and risks all to solve the mystery of what happened to her boyfriend Denver Munro, becoming his voice of truth, before he has no voice at all...

     I love hearing from READERS! Please contact me, either at my website: www.jacquelinegarlick.com, or catch up with me on twitter @garlick books, or on facebook: http://bit.ly/jegarlickfb

     I'm open to reviews and interview, requests for skype visits, guest blogs, pod casts and book club meetings! I LOVE TO HEAR FROM READERS!

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston: A Book Review

A Thousand Nights
Author: E. K. Johnston
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

     And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

     Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

     Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster

     My Review: A Thousand Nights is a loose retelling of Scheherazade, the storyteller of Arabian Nights. In this tale, a king has been possessed by a demon. He has killed his wives on their wedding night or within a month of their marriage. The unnamed protagonist knows that her sister will be the king’s next chosen bride because she is very beautiful. To save her sister from being killed, she decides to take her sister’s place. She survives her wedding by telling stories to the king. As she spins her tale, she realizes that she is getting a magical power. With her power, she may be able to defeat the king’s demon and to bring back the man he once was.

     The protagonist reminds me a lot of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. She dreams of marrying for love and to be happy with her sister. Yet, she is willing to sacrifice her happiness and her life to save her sister. I found her to be strong, independant, and confident. She knows how to survive. She is also bold, fierce, and courageous. She is a perfect heroine that can save herself and everyone she loves.

     Overall, this book is about family, friendship, love, courage, and redemption. The message of the book is that there is always hope. The story is beautifully-written, evocative, vivid, and lyrical. It is told in first person from the main character. Yet there are some scenes where the main villain gets his chapter. I thought that the world of A Thousand Nights was well-built. This novel also had fascinating and complex characters. I am looking forward to reading more works by this author. A Thousand Nights is a magical novel that will leave you breathless and will linger even after you read the last page. Read it, and you will be mesmerized by its world and its protagonist. I recommend this book to anyone who likes strong, intelligent heroines, fairy tales, and selfless sacrifice.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Esther by Rebecca Kanner: A Book Review

Esther
Author: Rebecca Kanner
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Howard Books
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: From the award-winning author of Sinners and the Sea comes a breathtaking new look into the timeless tale of Queen Esther.

     A glittering Persian king has a vast empire that reaches farther than where the sun meets the horizon. He is bathed in riches and commands a frightening military force. He possesses power beyond any other mortal man and rules his kingdom as a god. Anything he desires, he has. Any woman he wants, he possesses. Thousands of them. Young virgins from all across his many lands.

     A Jewish girl is ripped from her hut by the king’s brutish warriors and forced to march across blistering, scorched earth to the capitol city. Trapped for months in the splendid cage of the king’s palace, she must avoid the ire of the king’s concubines and eunuchs all while preparing for her one night with the king. Soon the fated night arrives, and she does everything in her power to captivate the king and become his queen.

     But wearing the crown brings with it a new set of dangers. When a ruthless man plies the king’s ear with whispers of genocide, it is up to the young queen to prevent the extermination of the Jews. She must find the strength within to violate the king’s law, risk her life, and save her people.

     This is a story of finding hidden depths of courage within one’s self. Of risking it all to stand up for what is right.

     This is the story of Queen Esther.

     My Review: Queen Esther has always been one of my favorite heroes in the old testament. I love how a girl from humble beginnings rise up to be the most powerful woman in the Babylonian empire in order to save her people from genocide. Rebecca Kanner’s Esther is a gritty, darker, and more realistic retelling of this biblical queen. Esther must maneuver through the dangers of the court intrigue in the palace in order to save her people.

     Esther is a very complex heroine. Unlike the biblical version of Esther, she is not wholly good and innocent. She knows of the danger of the court and trusts very few people. She can be merciless and ruthless if it is required. However, she is very wise. She knows what it takes to get what she wants, which is to be queen. She is also strong, bold, and independent.  While Esther has some flaws, she is still a worthy heroine to save her people.

     Overall, this story is about love, friendship, and courage. This is a story of a girl who is willing to sacrifice herself to save her people to do God’s will. There are some slow parts in this story. There are very few appearances of Mordecai and Haman in this novel. Also, Esther is the only character I thought that was well-developed. All the others are one-dimensional. However, this novel was very well-written with vivid historical details. This novel is full of drama, danger, and court intrigue that will keep the reader interested. While this book is not my favorite of the Esther re-tellings (my favorite being Hadassah: One Night With The King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen), I found this Esther to be the most realistic, interesting, and complex. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Christian biblical fiction, historical fiction, and those who love reading about strong female protagonists.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel, Book Two) by Angela Hunt: A Book Review

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel, Book Two)
Author: Angela Hunt
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: One of Ancient Israel's Most Famous Women-- As You've Never Looked at Her Before

     One of the Bible's most misunderstood and misjudged women, Bathsheba comes to life in this new biblical reimagining from Angela Hunt. Combining historical facts with detailed fiction, this is an eye-opening portrait that will have you reconsidering everything you thought you knew about her. 

     After receiving God's promise of a lifelong reign and an eternal dynasty, King David forces himself on Bathsheba, a loyal soldier's wife. When her resulting pregnancy forces the king to murder her husband and add her to his harem, Bathsheba struggles to protect her son while dealing with the effects of a dark prophecy and deadly curse on the king's household. 

     My Review: Most everyone knows about the story of Bathsheba and David. It is one of the most scandalous moments in the reign of King David. Yet, it is also a story of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a story that shows God’s love for us. Yet there has been a controversy as to whether Bathsheba was a willing participant or a victim. In this retelling, Bathsheba is a victim, and it is a journey of forgiveness.

     Bathsheba did not have it easy in this novel. It was prophesied in the beginning that she would give birth to a great son who would rule the Israelite land. Yet, she does not know how the prophecy will be fulfilled. She marries Uriah, and the marriage is happy until David spots her. Because he is the king, Bathsheba is forced to do David’s bidding. This has traumatized her and when she is found pregnant, she knows that she is doomed. She hates David for what he has done to her. Over the course of the novel, she goes on a quest to forgive him.

     David in this novel is guilty for what he has done. He knows that he has to kill Bathsheba’s husband to protect her reputation. He makes her his wife and decides to make Solomon his heir out of guilt. His guilt becomes love. Throughout the novel, he is not only seeking forgiveness from God, but also from Bathsheba. Therefore, he is on a quest to redeem himself.

     Overall, this novel is about repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and love. The message of the story is there is always hope and redemption. The story is told in first person from Bathsheba and Nathan, the prophet. I did feel that this story was slow moving. There were some unnecessary details that did not contribute to the plot or to the characters and should have been left out. I also felt like there should have more character-development, especially with Nathan. Still, this book is very meticulously-researched and well-written. I recommend this to anyone, not only interested in Christian and biblical fiction, but also to those who want to read a unique retelling about the legend of King David and Bathsheba.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn: A Book Review

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

     London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

     But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth. 

     My Review: After the death of her aunt, Veronica is almost abducted. She is aided by a German baron, who warns that she is in danger. He enlists his reclusive friend, Stoker, to ensure her protection. Shortly afterwards, they learn that the baron is dead under mysterious circumstances. This forces them to go run and hide. While they are suspicious of each other, they must work together to uncover the truth about the baron’s death.

      Veronica is a lepidopterist, who is interested in the natural history of moths and butterflies. She is independent for a woman of her age and does not like to conform to the norms of Victorian society. She is very intelligent and is observant. She pays a lot of attention to the little details to others. However, she can be a bit judgmental. She shoots down other people’s ideas if they do not correlate with her own. This sometimes makes her arrogant. 

     I did find her partner Stoker to be more interesting than Veronica. While he seems to be temperamental, it is obvious there is more to him than what he seems. He is a man who has faced many tragedies, and it is because of his past that he is hardened. It is hard for him to trust others and is suspicious of them. Yet, he is a good partner for Veronica. He knows many things and is also intelligent. Unlike Veronica, who is judgmental, he is very open-minded and sees things differently than she does. Without Stoker, Veronica would have lasted long in this novel, and she definitely would not have solved the mystery.

     Overall, this novel is about two people coming to terms with their past. This book is pretty slow. There is more dialogue in this book than action. The mystery is mostly in the background until over halfway through the novel, and I found it very predictable with no suspense and loose ends. While this is not Deanna Raybourn’s best work that I have read, nevertheless, it was still a light, entertaining read. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mysteries set in the Victorian era.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint (Women in Antiquity) by David Potter: A Book Review

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint (Women in Antiquity)
Author: David Potter
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: November 4, 2015
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Two of the most famous mosaics from the ancient world, in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, depict the sixth-century emperor Justinian and, on the wall facing him, his wife, Theodora (497-548). This majestic portrait gives no inkling of Theodora's very humble beginnings or her improbable rise to fame and power. Raised in a family of circus performers near Constantinople's Hippodrome, she abandoned a successful acting career in her late teens to follow a lover whom she was legally forbidden to marry. When he left her, she was a single mother who built a new life for herself as a secret agent, in which role she met the heir to the throne. To the shock of the ruling elite, the two were married, and when Justinian assumed power in 527, they ruled the Eastern Roman Empire together. 

     Their reign was the most celebrated in Byzantine history, bringing wealth, prestige, and even Rome itself back to the Empire. Theodora was one of the dominant political figures of her era, helping shape imperial foreign and domestic policy and twice saving her husband from threatened deposition. She played a central role trying to solve the religious disputes of her era and proactively assisted women who were being trafficked. An extraordinarily able politician, she excited admiration and hatred from those around her. Enemies wrote extensively and imaginatively about her presumed early career as a prostitute, while supporters elevated her, quite literally, to sainthood.

     Theodora's is a tale of a woman of exceptional talent who overcame immense obstacles to achieve incredible power, which she exercised without ever forgetting where she had come from. In Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint, David Potter penetrates the highly biased accounts of her found in the writings of her contemporaries and takes advantage of the latest research on early Byzantium to craft a modern, well-rounded, and engaging narrative of Theodora's life. This fascinating portrait will intrigue all readers with an interest in ancient and women's history.

     My Review: Empress Theodora was one of the most powerful women in the Byzantine Empire. However, history has not been favourable to her because she has garnered much negative criticism because of Procopius, a writer writing works about his times. Procopius is the only primary source about Theodora. In this biography of Theodora, the biographer sheds some light on his subject focusing on her positive aspects. While she does have some faults, Empress Theodora did have some accomplishments.

     Empress Theodora is a remarkable woman. Unlike many royalty in her day, she actually had to work herself up the ropes to become Empress. She was the daughter of a bear trainer and she became an actress. However, it was because she was of lowly birth that she was able to emphasize with the lower social class. She made many friends who were of her social status, and when she became empress she helped them. She also helped many women in the lower social class.

     Theodora was loyal to all those around her. It was her loyalty to her husband Justinian that they worked together to rule their empire. While both of them had completely different personalities and disagreed on different issues, they still had deep respect for one another. While their relationship was not based on romantic love, they still loved each other intellectually as equals. Together they helped make decisions in their empire and would often listen to each other’s viewpoints on issues.

     Overall, this was a very compelling biography about Empress Theodora. It is clear that the biographer admires his subject because he chooses to highlight her accomplishments. In a man’s world, Theodora was tough and hardworking. She, not Justinian, who wanted to run away, saved her throne. I also thought that the author does a good job in portraying the politics and the social aspects of the time. This biography is very engaging and comprehensive, and I liked how the author shows us how Theodora is portrayed in popular culture. This is a good portrait to those who want to see Empress Theodora in a positive light. This biography is an excellent tribute to a powerful empress who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful women of her age.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Blog Tour: Lost Princess (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 2) by Dani-Lyn Alexander: A Book Review

Lost Princess (Kingdom of Cymmera Trilogy Book 2)
by Dani-Lyn Alexander
Release Date: 10/13/15 Lyrical Press 
Synopsis: Ryleigh Donnovan’s life changed forever the day she met Jackson Maynard, a Death Dealer, and followed him home to the kingdom of Cymmera. Now she is trying to care for her sister while saving a realm she knows nothing about...

     Jackson has reluctantly accepted the throne of Cymmera, in place of his father. But his world is in turmoil, the kingdom under constant threat of attack. Worse still, Jackson suspects there is a traitor among his court. A powerful prophet has suggested a way to protect the realm, but that solution may drive Jackson and Ryleigh apart forever... 

     When a magic relic goes missing, Ryleigh has no choice but to journey in search of it. When Jackson discovers Ryleigh is missing, he must make a choice that will either claim their destiny, or bring an end to the only home he’s ever known.

     My Review: Lost Princess is the sequel to Reluctant Prince. Jackson is now King of Cymmera, and Ryleigh is his future prospective queen. Yet, not all is happily ever-after because there is still danger. It is suspected that within his court is a traitor.  In order to protect their realm Ryleigh agrees to go on a mission to recover a magic relic, keeping her mission secret from Jackson. When Jackson discovers her gone, he goes in pursuit to find her.

     Because I was disappointed in the first book, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Lost Princess. This is because the author seemed to fix her mistakes in the first novel. There is more character development to both the characters, Ryleigh and Jackson. Ryleigh grows in this book. She is strong, determined, and must rely on herself. She is also more mature. Jackson is insecure because he feels that he does not live up to his father. He is also trying to come to terms with his fate.

    Overall, this book is about friendship, love, courage, and family. There were a lot of cool scenes in this book, my favorite being Ryleigh riding a dragon. I absolutely adored the cliffhanger ending, and I love Ryleigh’s last line in the novel. This ending is setting up for the final trilogy. If that is the case, then Ryleigh is definitely a woman you would not like to mess with. I loved the expanding world-building of Cymmera. The characters are fleshed out, and I felt that there is more build-up to their romance. There is a lot of tension between Ryleigh and Jackson in that they do have their rough moments, but eventually they make up for it. The book did start out slowly, but it picks up when Ryleigh goes on her mission. Lost Princess is definitely better than Reluctant Prince, and the author has shown massive improvement in her works. Because of Lost Princess, I am looking forward to reading the last book in the trilogy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in epic fantasy with dragons, perilous quests, royalty, and magic.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Buy Links: 

Amazon, Nook, iBooks

Excerpt:

     The soft brush of something against the carpet outside Ryleigh’s bedroom door intruded on her restless sleep. Her eyes shot open. Her heart drummed wildly in her chest. Blood rushing in her ears drowned out whatever sound had woken her. With the Kingdom of Cymmera at war, even though she was in her own realm, human traitors or monsters could attack from anywhere at any moment. Goose bumps rushed across her skin, prickling her nerves. The memory of savages invading her home taunted her.  

     Wait. There it was again. The slightest whisper of something brushing against... something. She slid quietly from the bed, got caught up in the blankets, and almost lost her footing. She bit back a curse, untangled her foot, and grabbed the baseball bat from beneath the bed. Although she had her choice of weapons now—sword, bow and arrow, flail, axe— the bat still felt the most comfortable in her hand, the most familiar. She switched off the small bedside lamp. No sense backlighting herself when she opened the door. She’d be an easy enough target if something waited out there.  

     She tiptoed across the bedroom, pressed her ear against the door, and held her breath. The rhythmic pounding of her heart slamming against her ribs masked any sound that might come from the hallway. She blew her breath out slowly, careful not to make any noise, and gripped the doorknob. 

     No good. Her hand was too slippery. She wiped her sweaty palm on her pajama pants and tried again. Turning the knob as soundlessly as possible, bat held at the ready, she eased the door open, just a crack at first, and peered into the dark hallway. 

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About the Author:




      Dani-Lyn Alexander lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping--especially in book stores. Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She's an incurable insomniac and has an addiction to chocolate. Visit her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

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