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