Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Perspective of Fantasy Fiction

Heartless (A Different Perspective)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl

So I thought that it would be really cool to get another perspective on Heartless from a friend I lent the book to. You can see that we stand on two ends of the spectrum when it comes to fantasy fiction. My review of this book is somewhere down the page. Here it is: 

This book was suggested to me by a highly-esteemed colleague and I trusted her judgment as I dove into Heartless. However, as a person who reads action/adventure novels and dabbles only occasionally in fantasy, Heartless was definitely a difficult read. I guess I didn’t quite know what I was signing up for. When they say fantasy, they mean a complete and total lack of realism to the point of conflicting with the book’s own natural logic (or so I assumed there was). The plot was slow and there were definitely some characters I wanted to strangle (*ahem* Lionheart…). Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable book…why the contradiction? Despite the missing element of fast-pulsed action, mystifying suspense, and the fact that the main character was one of the most pompous, overly critical, shallow expression of feminism I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about, I was deeply enthralled in the surrealism of Princess Una’s situation and the unconditional love of Prince Aethelbald (even though she treated him like trash).

As far as plotline goes, things move pretty slowly in the beginning and lag in the middle. Nothing really heart-pounding occurs until much, much later than I was expecting. Aside from her beautiful descriptions and vivid scenery, Ms. Anne Elizabeth’s early plot sequences put me to sleep – many times. Keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t normally read fantasy so your mileage may vary. As the action did begin to pick up and the dragon swooped in, I was majorly confused and had to re-read several times in order to get a clear-as-mud idea of what was going on. Maybe it was the fact that I kept dozing in and out of sleep or maybe it was the fluffy description of just about everything that I need clarity on or maybe I’m just stupid. In any case, the lack of any kind of familiarity in this genre drove me batty and I still don’t think I have a very clear picture of what exactly happened.

Overall, Heartless, was a good read for those who are more inclined toward the world fantasy where just about anything can happen. For those of us who enjoy books with a solid foot in the real world, this book will seriously make your question your sanity and make you loathe the name Una…or Lionheart, for that matter.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Part of Lionheart

Goddess Tithe

Anne Elisabeth Stengl


The Vengeful Goddess
Demands Her Tithe
When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home.
Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.
Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?
     Lionheart was a great character, fleshed out, with faults a plenty and good intentions to counterbalance those bad habits. In Veiled Rose, we get to see Lionheart's journey all over their world. It was wonderful, however, We didn't get an in depth look at the other culture's because Lionheart is a bit obtuse. Goddess Tithe allows us to see through the eyes of someone else. In this case, Munny, a young man who works on a ship that Lionheart stowed away on.
     Munny was cute, he had his own little back story that we got to fully explore, and he was realistic. The author accurately portrayed what I have learned is average ship life. Nothing about the realism was confusing, and it added to the plot. I would recommend reading Veiled Rose  first because this is about Lionheart's journey during the plot.

     
In addition, right now on Amazon Heartless is free. All the other novels are $1.99 and Goddess Tithe is 99 cents. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Every Writer's Dilemna

The lines have been drawn. Where do you stand? What is your favorite font?

I watched this video and cracked up. I hope you enjoy it the same as I did.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mail Order Bride

A Bride for Keeps

     Melissa Jagears

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him. 

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas. 

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

    The idea of a mail order bride in this day and age is a foreign concept that has been massively romanticized. I thought Ms. Jagears did an absolutely wonderful job portraying the awkwardness that would accompany such a situation. I loved that Everett Cline lost a mail order bride time and time again, and in so many different ways. I had to laugh when encountering his misfortune, because he was adorable in how awkward he was when he had to talk about/interact with his previous mail order brides. 

     I only had one major problem with the book, and it was one of the loose ends never got tied up. Or at the very least I was expecting some huge cliche' ending, and it just never came. It doesn't detract from the story, it just bothered me a little. 

     What the characters have to go through is amazing and they happily triumph. I would happily recommend this to anyone looking for a happily-ever-after (or just a good love story).

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Red Head on the Cover


     


A Home for My Heart

     Anne Mateer

A sweet story of hope and love set against the poignant backdrop of a 1910 orphanage

Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children, pouring all her energy into caring for the boys and girls who live there and dreaming of the day she'll marry her beau, Blaine, and have children of her own. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the esteemed job of running the orphanage.

There's one glitch. The matron cannot be married. She must focus her attention on the financial, legal, and logistical matters of the Home. Sadie's heart is torn. Should she give up her plans for a life with Blaine in order to continue serving these children who have no one else? Does she, a young woman who was once an orphan herself, have what it takes to succeed in such a challenging career? And when the future of the Home begins to look bleak, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?

      I have to be honest. Out of all the books that I have read this one is just not cutting it. It is a good book. The story is technically well written, it was just really angst-y. I know that sounds whiny, but I couldn't help but think that the characters were over extending themselves. They went beyond what we could see is their stopping point, they were constantly overreaching themselves and we never got away from that. 

     On the flip side, you could say that this overreaching is only human and that it is a relatable quality, that we as humans are never satisfied. I found this annoying. When I read books I don't read to read the same faults I see in myself (although if you like this, you might enjoy the book). I read to see the other positive qualities and abilities other characters possess, I read for the story. 

     The novel was well written, with a mildly interesting plot line that was done correctly, and actually wasn't just fluff. If you really enjoy reading soul searching, not fluffy books than this might appeal to you. Overall, I just wasn't satisfied with what happened. 

I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Third in the Series...Again.



  The Miner's Lady    

     Tracie Peterson 

When Chantel Panetta's younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope. The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families. Yet, unable to resist Isabella's pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando...only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando's brother. The older, more handsome one. 

Chantel can't deny the attraction that flares when she's with Dante. But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel's hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?

     The Miner's Lady is the third book in the Land of Shining Water series, again. It might not surprise you at this time that I haven't read the other two. I didn't have a hard time reading and understanding so they are pretty standalone. 

     The main characters are Italian and in a romeo and juliet-esque feud. I thought the idea was cute, every one likes star crossed lovers once in a while. When I say Italian though, I mean Italian. Tracie Peterson went above and beyond. My mouth was quite literally watering through most of the book. Real Italian recipes and boy did they sound good. Italian wedding traditions, and realistic broken English all helped create the perfect tone. However, the characters spoke in Italian. I don't know Italian. I had some issues in that regard. It wasn't to bad, but still pretty annoying. I wanted to know what they were saying, and I had to spend extra time trying to find clues or look it up. 

     Other than that it was pretty good. I found that while we are introduced to one couple, we see no real development there, and there isn't a lot of relationship development with the other forming couple either. But, there was tremendous individual character development, that was done realistically and well. Overall I was pleased with the book. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to the Past: Reading Novel One

Heartless

     Anne Elisabeth Stengl


The Dragon King Seeks His Princess



Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.


     Heartless was great! I have to be absolutely honest, I read Dragonwitch (the fifth book) first. When I told my friends, they about tore me to pieces. Reading in order, so last century. Anyway, I loved Dragonwitch so much, that I had to go back and read the rest of the Goldstone Woods series.

     I am happy to say I wasn't disappointed. The format was still a little odd, with unknown slightly menacing characters having their time in italics once every chapter or so. Creepy. I still haven't figured out who they are or what roles the play, and I probably won't stop reading until I get there.

     When I heard the story was Christian Fiction, I didn't get it. It was by a well respected Christian publishing house, but I didn't understand how it ties in. So I went a looking on the internet, and found that it was supposed to be allegory. A lot of the reviews were angry, because they thought it was forced, and that it didn't flow right. Meanwhile, here I'm sitting and it isn't obvious to me. I finally get it while talking to my dad at the grocery store. I explain what is going on and he points out that sometimes allegory is split into two different people. This gets me thinking, maybe it is more than one person. When I finally got it a half an hour later, I realize that the people are merely mist in comparison to who they are supposed to allude to. I liked that. I could finally see the symbolism. It isn't overly obvious, but personally I don't think that that effects the story in any way. It just added another layer to think about. This book has plenty of layers. I have never had to do so much thinking since I read Sense and Sensibility and finally had to look it up.

     Great read, definitely recommend it. If you like fantasy, romance, or interesting twisting plot lines than this is probably a good choice for you. Heartless  has a blog: http://heartlessnovel.blogspot.com/. If you like this book it has a lot of interesting information about the book. In fact, I found the following on it.

     These are some covers that could have been:
Aren't they super cool?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Search and Rescue 101: Get a Good Dog

Critical Pursuit

     Janice Cantore


Officer Brinna Caruso has built a reputation at the precinct as the cop to call when a child goes missing. For Brinna, it's personal because she was once one of them. Brinna and her K-9 search and rescue dog, Hero, will stop at nothing to find a missing child, no matter the stakes.

Detective Jack O'Reilly isn't ready to return to his homicide duties, after losing his wife to a drunk driver. He's on the downside of his career, and bent on revenge, when he's assigned as Brinna's partner. While on patrol, Jack struggles between his quest for personal justice and his responsibility to those around him, especially his partner.

Skeptical of Jack's motives, Brinna isn't sure she can rely on her new partner, whose reckless abandon endangers the safety of those around him. But when a man surfaces with an MO similar to the criminal who abducted Brinna twenty years earlier, Brinna and Jack must cast aside previous judgments and combine efforts to catch the kidnapper, and finally allow Brinna the peace stolen from her as a child.


     If you're into crime television, you've probably heard of Rizzoli and Isles. Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles work homicide cases in Boston. Jane is a cop and Maura the medical examiner. This book's criminal was just as creepy as Hoyt. In fact, when I pictured the child molester it was Hoyt's creepy face that I saw. Needless to say, it creeped me out. The book was so realistic, I had a hard time finishing it. I'm a bit of a sally, and had to take time to reassure myself that the book wasn't real. That is Hoyt in the gif. 

     Other than the creepy realism, it was a good read. It was fast paced and I just had to know what happened. I'll be honest. I peeked. It's not a crime, and I barely read a paragraph, but it reassured me. 

     Janice Cantore switched point of view frequently. It was mainly Jack's and Brinna's, but every three to five chapters or so creeper would get his own chapter. I have to say, reading his point of view was really worthwhile, it was well done and gave some insight.   

     If you're ever looking for something to take the place of television, this is a great stand in. I had never read a crime novel before, I've read mystery and some Dirk Pitt novels, but nothing that could compare to this. The characters were so real, and I could see them. Which generally doesn't happen for me, but it was hard not to see them. 

     I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

 
   


Plus, I really liked Brinna's dog Hero. 
   This is only what he could look like. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Almost Foster House

What Once Was Lost

     Kim Vogel Sawyer


A woman meant to serve, a child in the dark, a man standing apart—can these three souls
embrace a God with new plans for them?

On a small Kansas farm, Christina Willems lovingly shepherds a group of poor and displaced individuals who count on her leadership and have come to see the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor as their home. But when a fire breaks out in the kitchen leaving the house inhabitable, she must scramble to find shelter for all in her care, scattering her dear “family.”

With no other options, Christina is forced to approach Levi Jonnson, a reclusive mill owner, to take in a young blind boy named Tommy Kilgore. Levi agrees with reluctance but finds himself surprised by the bond that quickly grows between him and Tommy. As obstacles to repairing the farm pile up against Christina, she begins to question her leadership ability and wonders if she can fulfill the mission to which she's dedicated her life. And when an old adversary challenges Christina, will she find an unlikely ally—or more—in the aloof Levi? Can Levi reconcile with the rejection that led to his hermit-like existence and open his heart and life to something more, especially a relationship with a loving God?


     Let me tell you something, I love getting books in the mail. I'm a little old fashioned, and anything that comes through the mailbox has me smiling. But getting books, those I dance for. Right out in the middle of the street when I see them. I just cannot help it. With that  being said, seeing books with a Advance Reading Copy sticker just make me giggle. I love it. What Once Was Lost is one of those books. For right now at least.

     I was really excited to read this book, the romance seemed pretty clear on the back cover and I practically quaked with what I thought I knew. Let me tell you, I was wrong. Wrong. I went into this book with what I thought was right, and every few chapters I was surprised. I could see many of the smaller plot twists a couple of chapters ahead. Some managed to surprise me, and the main point is that the big one did. I have never really put much stock into knowing what happens and that ruining the book. I don't care.

     This book made me think about what happened to the poor and homeless in the nineteenth century. It definitely shed some light on the situation. I liked that. I also enjoyed that the book explored the after shocks for the residents of the Asylum. It didn't go in to far, which had its ups and downs. I liked the little foray.

     The book was based on a lot of past burdens. In some of the books I read, they flashback. I don't particularly like the lengthy flashbacks (and so I skim), but this was better. Not much better. I would have liked a little more information. The back stories were so complex on first look that I wanted so much more. They were more like reminiscences of the main characters than a true back story. I hadn't seen this style before and I thought it was interesting.

   Overall I thought the book was worthwhile.  I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     If you are really interested in this book (maybe once you've read it) I've included a link to the publisher's website that include an interview with the author and other things if you're so inclined.



Monday, August 19, 2013

Break the Caste

Her Good Name

     Ruth Axtell
Add caption

In the 1890 thriving coastal town of Holliston, Maine, the leading lumber baron's son, Warren Brentwood, III, returns from his years away at college and traveling to take up his position as heir apparent to his father's business empire.

Esperanza Estrada is the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant fisherman who has grown up surrounded by a brood of brothers and sisters and a careworn mother. Unable to pretend she is anything but "one of those Estradas," Espy has no chance with Warren, no matter  how striking she is. When she overhears of a position to clean house at a local professor's home on Elm Street, she jumps at the opportunity, hoping to be able to run into Warren Brentwood now and again as well as to imbibe the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of the Stocktons.

When rumors about Espy and this respected, married gentleman of the community begin to circulate, the entire church congregation and then the community pronounce judgment on her behavior. The man Espy is in love with, Warren, believes the lie and his loss of faith in her causes Espy to give up without a fight. She leaves her family and hometown for the nearest city with little money and no acquaintances and is forced to spend the night on the street. A man who heads a mission for the homeless finds Espy and offers her shelter. Espy finds the true love of God while working at the mission. Will she be able to forgive the townspeople and return home?

     Her Good Name is a cute romance, but it takes a while. The book takes a long time to get to the point that the summary on the back of the book talks about. It took about two hundred pages to get there and it just dragged out. Also, reading those first two hundred pages made me really uncomfortable because the way Espy's flaws are drawn out makes me feel put on the spot. I nearly decided to skip the parts, because I couldn't stand it. It took me the longest amount of time just to get the courage to keep moving through the book. However, I get embarrassed easily, and any situation the character finds themselves in reflects onto me.

     Once you got past that, I felt like the book really wrapped up quickly. I wanted to enjoy the characters transformations, but it kind of just drifted and skipped past those parts. It was like bang and then two month later she has experienced growth. I wanted to experience that growth with them. Also, that drifting and skipping is always super obvious, which leaves you in the dust. Sometimes just above the first paragraph in a new chapter will have a date. You need to watch those to know where things fit along the timeline. 

     Other than that, I enjoyed the ending. I liked the spiritual aspects of it. It showed the differences in ministries and types of ministers. I wasn't so comfortable with the hypocritical aspects that came with some of the characters in terms of ministry, as I liked to see through rose colored glasses, but it did cast a realistic glow over those parts of the book. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Murder Mysteries

Rules of Murder

     Julianna Deering 


Introducing Drew Farthering From The Tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his stylish cheviot trousers, he's the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered. 

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. 

With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he's learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be--not the butler nor blackmailer, the chauffeur nor embezzler. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer--and trying harder to impress Madeline--Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.

     Good Morning! This past week I read Rules of Murder. Let me tell you something. It was good. I don't usually read mystery novels, but I felt like I had to give it a chance. I read a lot of romance, and I thought a change might be nice. Well, it isn't completely without romance, a good portion of it is. I have never read Agatha Christie books (saw the Doctor Who episode about her if that counts), but the cover said "An enthralling mystery that will satisfy the most ardent Agatha Christie fan." So I decided to give it a spin. 

     To start, Rules of Murder while published by a christian company, isn't overly religious. In fact there is no real mention of scripture until the third quarter of the book. I wasn't sure how the author was going to tie in murder and religion, but she handled it well. 

     Rules of Murder starts in 1930s England, and her vocabulary portrays it. It isn't hard to read, but you have to accept that you aren't reading modern English. I enjoyed it very much, it really helped put me in the setting. The dialogue was great. I wasn't to sure on Drew and Madeline's relationship, it seemed to be moving very quickly, but as it is part of a series I am sure that they will have their own problems to hash out.

     It didn't take long for the action to start, it was really only a few chapters in. I was really excited for it to start, and as I followed the story line I thought he did it, but then maybe she did it, but no it was him. Julianna wove a brilliant tale that kept me guessing. If you aren't paying close attention some of the details will pass you by, so you may need to go back a reread. 

     I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my review. 

Under my review I have included an excerpt from the author, a fun fact about the title, and information about its sequel.

An except: 


Having met just the day before, Drew and Madeline step away from the stylish party being held at Farthering Place to get a breath of fresh air and become better acquainted. A sudden storm comes up.


The clouds burst without warning.

"Quick!"

He grabbed her hand and ran toward the greenhouse. It wasn't far away, but by the time they reached shelter they were both soaked through with cold rain and warmed with running and laughter. The smell of earthy decay in here seemed stronger than usual. There was also the faint odor of fresh paint and another nasty smell, too, but rain did that sometimes. He hunted down a lantern and a dry match and soon they had a small circle of light.

"I'm afraid your lovely dress is spoilt," he said, plucking at her rain-spotted sleeve.

She laughed. "You're not much better." She pushed a lock of hair from his forehead and wiped away the little rivulet of water that had run down from it onto his nose.

"We shall look a sight, the pair of us, going back into the house like this." He dared her with a smile. "We could stay out here and create a scandal. Or, I should say, have one invented for us."

She pursed her Cupid's bow lips and leaned conspiratorially closer, clinging more tightly to his arm. "You mean when they find us out here frozen to death?"

"Oh, I say, what an idiot I am. Of course you're cold."

He began struggling out of his sodden dinner jacket, but she stopped him.

"No, thank you. I'm drenched enough as it is."

"Well–" He held up the lantern, shining its feeble light around the greenhouse. "Ah, just the thing. Come along."

He marched her over to the pile of mackintoshes tossed in the corner.

"We mustn't have you catch your death. It simply isn't done."

He picked up the coat on top of the pile and held it up for her to put on, but she wrinkled her nose, shrinking back. The nasty smell was stronger than ever now.

"It doesn't look entirely clean, does it?" he admitted, a bit embarrassed.

She took the lantern and examined the next one down. "This one's worse, I think. Smells sort of sickening."

"Hold that closer," he said, puzzling over the dark stain.

Something had spilled or soaked over the coat, and he pulled it back to see if the rest of the pile were in the same state. Madeline gave a sudden, stifled cry, and he grabbed the lantern and set it down before she could let it crash to the floor. She didn't make another sound, but she clutched his shoulder painfully hard, her breath coming in little smothered gasps.

He flung the coat back into place and stood up, as shaken as she.

"Come on. Let's go back inside."

"Drew, that's–"

"Come on," he urged, and he led her back to the house, through the kitchen door, and into the chair nearest the fire.

"Are you all right?" he asked, dropping to one knee on the stone floor beside her. "Here, give me that, if you please."

He snatched a drink from the tray Anna was taking to the guests and pressed Madeline's hands around it.

"Drink that down. You all right?"

"I don't–"

"Drink it," he insisted, and she managed a sip.

"Is the young lady ill, sir?" Anna asked.

Drew looked up, distracted. "No. Yes. Go and get Mr. Parker straight away, if you would, please."

"Yes, sir." She bobbed a tiny curtsy and disappeared through the kitchen's swinging doors. A moment later, the doors swung again and Mason came into the kitchen.

"Drew? Madeline, my dear, what is the matter?"

Drew got to his feet. "We just found Lincoln in the greenhouse. I'm afraid he's taken a load of buckshot to the head."

And read the new excerpt from Rules of Murder below:

A FEW DAYS LATER . . .


It was almost midnight when Drew and Madeline returned to Farthering Place. A fast drive in the cool night air had put a glow in Madeline’s cheeks and an extra brightness in her eyes. Dash it all, she was fetching.

“Oh, that was wonderful. The poor baron. What a tragedy! And Garbo was divine as the ballerina.” She sucked in her cheeks and leaned her head back in seductive languor. “If only I could be so beautiful,” she mourned in a heavy Swedish accent.

He shook his head. “I like women with a little softness to them. Surely with her money she could afford a few hearty meals.”

She squeezed his arm, laughing. “She was glorious and you know it. Next you’ll be saying Barrymore can’t act.”

He stopped short. “No,” he said, lifting one cautioning finger in mock reproof. “I may say he’d do better with some fewer nights at the pub, but never, never will I say he can’t act. I saw him do Hamlet in London when I was, oh, seventeen, I suppose I was. Gave me a new appreciation for the Bard.”

Madeline’s face turned abruptly sober, and he pulled her closer to his side.

“What is it, darling.”

“Oh, nothing.”

“It most certainly is something,” he said. “Come, now, tell me. Even the confessional could not afford better protection for your secrets.”

“It’s silly of me, I suppose, but I got a post card from Carrie and Muriel. From Stratford-upon-Avon.”

“Did you?”

“Muriel especially told me to keep my eye on Adorable Drew.”

“Oh, dear.”

“And they wanted to know if we’d heard about Lucy Lucette’s disappearance.”

“Nothing but.”

Madeline sighed. “I don’t know. I always wanted to see Stratford – Anne Hathaway’s cottage and where the Globe Theater once stood and all the other sites we had planned. I suppose I’ll never see them now.”

“Nonsense,” he soothed. “Once we get things here sorted out, we’ll drive up to Stratford and see all the touristy places and perhaps even a play or two. Nick can come along as chaperone and low entertainment for the journey.”

She laughed. “I don’t know if Aunt Ruth would approve of him. Of course, she didn’t really approve of the three of us girls knocking around Europe alone either. I don’t dare tell her what’s happened here. Not now. She’d probably row herself across the Atlantic to drag me back home.”

“She sounds rather formidable. Of course, we wouldn’t want her to think these awful things happen here on a regular basis. Farthering is such a placid place and we never–”

A shriek pierced the night. Drew and Madeline both looked up towards the darkened house, then Drew ran up the steps and flung open the front door. He switched on the light in the entry, then bounded up the stairs only to be nearly knocked down by Anna fleeing for her life.

He caught her by the arms. “What is it? What’s happened?”

“I saw him, Mr. Drew! I saw him!” Her face was ghost white. “I saw him!”

“You saw whom?”

“Him that was killed! Mr. Lincoln! I saw him!”

“Don’t be a little fool!” Drew snapped, and Madeline hurried up the stairs to them.

“Shh, Anna, it’s all right,” she said. “Whatever it is, it’ll be all right.”

Lights were coming on all over the house.

“Let’s go down into the parlour and sort this all out,” Drew said, keeping his voice low.

Dennison, in his most forbidding robe and slippers, was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs.

“Is there some trouble, sir?” he asked, the look in his eye harsh censure of the maid’s considerable lack of decorum.

“It’s all right, Denny,” Drew said. “ Go up and see to it that everyone goes back to bed. We’ll look after Anna here. She’s just had a scare.”

“A rodent of some sort, sir?”

“Very likely. Very likely.”

“It wasn’t no rodent, Mr. Dennison,” the girl protested.

“Thank you, Denny,” Drew said. “That will be all.”

“Very good, sir.” Dennison bowed. “Miss.”

Drew hurried the girls into the drawing room and shut the door.

“Now, Anna, tell me what you saw.”

“I told you, Mr. Drew,” Anna wailed. “I saw him!”

“Don’t badger her.” Madeline helped the other girl over to the window seat and sat her down. “Just take your time and tell us what happened.”

Anna took a shuddering breath. “I was finishing up the laundry, putting the linens in the upstairs bathrooms and all. That’s usually Beryl’s job, but she was up in the Missus’ sitting room listening to ‘Gert and Daisy’ as usual. Mr. Parker said he didn’t mind her doing it, it was what Mrs. Parker would have wanted, but I don’t know that I wouldn’t feel all peculiar-like up there now at night. I mean after, you know. It just wouldn’t seem right.”

“So you were upstairs,” Drew prompted.

“I was up in the back hall putting away, like I said, and I heard something behind me. So I looked round and wasn’t anything there. So I go on, listening like and not hearing anything until I heard someone creeping about. I called out because sometimes Tessa, she does the washing up, and sometimes, bless her, she has pain all down her leg and has to walk it off before she can sleep, so I called out, ‘Tessa, is that you?’ But it wasn’t Tessa. So I called out again, ‘Is someone there?’ and the hall went dark.” Anna’s voice quavered. “Black as pitch it was, and then . . .”

“Then?”

“Then I saw him!” She burst into tears. “It was Mr. Lincoln, sir. I know it was.”

Madeline slipped into the seat beside her, putting a comforting arm around the girl’s shoulders. “It’s all right.”

Drew paced in front of them. “Now, be reasonable, Anna. You know it couldn’t have been Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln is dead.”

“I saw him. Oh, Mr. Drew, I saw him. He was lurkin’ down at the end of the hallway, down by the door to the lumber room. And then– Then he just wasn’t!”

“Mr. Lincoln couldn’t possibly–”

“He was lurkin’!”

“Did you see his face?” Madeline asked.

“No. Oh, no, miss. I couldn’t see his face because he didn’t have a head!”

This brought another torrent of weeping.

“Shh,” Madeline soothed. “Don’t think about it now.”

“No, you must think about it now and sensibly.” Drew pulled a chair over and sat so he could look into the girl’s face. “If he didn’t have a head, how could you know it was Lincoln?”

“It was because he didn’t have a head,” Anna insisted, her chin quivering. “It couldn’t be no one else, not after what was done to him in the greenhouse. And after what Mr. Peterson seen.”

“You mean the poacher?”

Anna sniffled. “He says poacher. There’s others would say different.”

“Did Peterson tell you more than he told me?”

Anna dropped her eyes. “Not as such, Mr. Drew, but I could tell from what he didn’t say. He said the man was all in black. Sounds to me it could have been evening clothes. What poacher goes about in evening clothes?”

“Just because he wore black, that doesn’t –”

“And Mr. Peterson said he couldn’t see his face. Nor tell what color of hair he had.” Anna nodded wisely. “Well, how could he of a man without any head? And what’s a poacher doing at the greenhouse, I’m wondering, except he’s Mr. Lincoln haunting the very place he was murdered?” She shuddered. “Now we’re sure to be plagued with spirits and groanings and tappings in the night.”

Three soft taps broke the silence, and Anna stifled a tiny cry.



Just for fun- 

The title of the book is based off of the 'ten commandments' of murder mysteries written by Father Knox. 
     

   
1.The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2.All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3.Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4.No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5.No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6.No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7.The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8.The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9.The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10.Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.


The Sequel of the book (scheduled to release in Spring of 2014) is called Death by the Book.


Monday, August 5, 2013

From India to England

The Governess of Highland Hall

     Carrie Turansky



Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help? 
 
Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?



     The Governess of Highland Hall is a cute romance. There is no swearing, no inappropriate behavior, no sexual situations. So to start it is a healthy christian book. Go figure. Now that we have the basics covered, it is easy to say that the book was pretty predictable. I don't usually stop and try to guess what the end is going to be, but I saw this one coming in the time it took to flip the pages. Not that being able to tell is a bad thing, there were some mild surprises and it was a good book.

     The thing that surprised me the most about this book was Julia's faith. A few decades ago, the Christian faith made a massive change in its belief system. A lot of Christians changed how they thought about themselves and their relationship. Before that, religion was mostly 'woe is me', and 'he gave and shall take away'. Historical christian fiction generally includes some of that, and quotes bible verses that the characters apply to their life. An example of the latter can be found in Karen Witemeyer's fiction. Julia's faith is so modern in how much power she has. I was shocked. A couple of months ago, a friend of mine told me that she didn't read historical fiction because she didn't like the difference in faith between her and the heroine. I cannot wait to tell her that the faith is so similar.

     The book has several minor characters it follows in addition to the main characters. They don't have a lot of time and words dedicated to them, only about half a page, but they provided a little variety to the story. I enjoyed following the smaller characters. The point of view does change a couple times to various characters in the book. The book mainly focuses on Julia and William's points of view. It was very easy to follow, which I was grateful for as I stayed up real late to finish it. Practically Captivating.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. The Governess of Highland Hall does not come out until 10/15/13.

If you scroll down you will find I have included the book trailer, an interview with the author, and an excerpt.











The Science of the Reader

When I saw this post on pinterest, I knew that I had to share it with you. It doesn't take long to find your place, but be wary; many are cross species.

I would love it if you would leave a comment and tell me who you turned out to be.

Enjoy!

What Species of Reader Are You?--Infographic

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lands of the Near and Far: My First Foray into Fantasy Fiction

Dragonwitch
     Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Who Will Dare to Face the Dragonwitch? 

 
Submissive to her father's will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet the future King of the North Country and a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves.
 
But within the walls of his castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta's tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the entire nation.
 
And far away in a hidden kingdom, a flame burns atop the Citadel of the Living Fire. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice...and for the hero who can wield it.




     Welcome to a world that is not limited by reality. Welcome to fantasy fiction. I know that this doesn't fall in line with my new fiction, but when I received an e-mail and this book was on the list it immediately caught my attention. The cover had this absolutely gorgeous red-headed female on the front, and looked King Arthur-esque. I do enjoy fairy tales so I thought I would give it a whirl, and here I am. Let me begin by saying that if you do not find fantasy appealing, than you it probably isn't your cup of tea. There are dragons, fairies, different worlds, mortals, immortals, talking cats, and shape shifting beings. 



     When I saw the title, I have to admit I was a little scared off. It did come from Bethany House Publishers (one of my favorite publishing companies, that just happens to be christian), however so I was willing to give it a go. Just so you know, when I read a book I don't put it down. I pick it up, sit down, and read it. Sometimes I am interrupted, and when I am I don't usually feel any real compelling force drawing me back to the book in wonderment thinking of what will happen to the characters, just me wanting to read the happy ever after. But, when I put the book down I couldn't stay away from it. I had no clue in which direction it was going in, it seemed to be a mystery. 

    When I finally started connecting the dots, I was amazed at how deftly the author had weaved together so many different characters and their own goals and failures. When I started the book I felt like so many things were going to happen, and when I got the subtle hints that maybe they weren't going to happen that way, I was pretty upset. But when I got there, I fell in love with the story and I knew the character's hearts. It is beautiful. 

     As for the way the book is set up in general: You need to be aware that at the start of every chapter there is anywhere from one paragraph to a page of italic text that tells a different story. The story does weave in, and the further you read the more it makes sense. You just need to wait it out, because when you get to the end, you will be glad you did. Also, many times when the chapter changes so does the point of view. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of all the names (especially as several of them are similar), but if you are reading these books in series order it will be easy for you to handle.

     Dragonwitch is the fifth book in a series called the Tales of Goldstone Wood. The previous books are (and in order): Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower. I haven't read those yet, I was introduced to Dragonwitch first. If you would rather read these in order, I applaud you. It would be much harder to just pop in. You have to take a lot of time to understand the mere basics of the reality Ms. Anne has just dropped you in. 

     I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Here is an excerpt of Dragonwitch




The Twelve came to the doors of Omeztli Tower and their voices carried from the ground to our high perch above.

"Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn."

I clutched Tlanextu's arm in terror. I could not bear to lose him! He took my hand and held me gently.
Then we saw a powerful form rising up from Itonatiu Tower. It was Citlalu, our father. He flew across the city, his wings like a griffin's, like a roc's, blocking the sunlight from view they were so vast! He landed before us, and I shivered with fear and love at the sight of him, for he was King. A true King.

Not like the foolish little kings we see nowadays wearing crowns, waving swords and scepters, ruling by feeble kinship-rights. He was King of Etalpalli, bound to the realm by his own blood, by the beat of his heart. He was strong as the nation itself, stronger, I thought. The pinions of his wings were like daggers, like swords, and he shouted down to the Twelve below:

"Be gone, back to your master! You will take none of mine into that Mound, not while I have life yet coursing through my veins!"

His voice shook the foundations of Etalpalli. I thought the Twelve would run, would scream with terror, would flee the storm of his gaze.

They did not. They merely turned and retraced their path to the Mound and the concentric circles of bronze.

But the next day, they returned. Once more they called up to the heights of Omeztli: "Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn."

Once more, my father denied them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Those Stupid Charming Smiles of His

End of the Trail 

      by: Vickie McDonough

He enters a poker game and wins a new life
She loses the only home she has ever known
Two hostile adversaries must work together

     It didn't take long for Brooks Morgan to make a name for himself in Shoofly. A high stakes poker game ends with Brooks holding the deed to his new friend Will's ranch, a vague promise to "take care of Keri," and Will's mysterious demise.

     When Brooks finally rides to the Raven Creek Ranch, he is greeted by a rifle pointed straight at his chest. This is the "Keri" he promised to take care of- Will's niece- who believes Raven Creek is promised to her. Keri and Brooks have only one thing in common, they both want to save the ranch. Will their differences make that impossible?

Doubt meets hope, and fear gives way to faith in the Morgan family. 


   End of the Trail starts out with a prologue that begins ten years before the start of the book. Brooks Morgan is cocky and spoiled. At sixteen he doesn't want to do any work, and when pressure is applied to do his part, he bolts. The book picks up Brooks Morgans story ten years later, when he has become a drifter. During this period of time you would expect that Brooks would have matured, as drifting is such a hard life, but you find that he didn't really change. I was slightly disappointed in the lack of change, because I feel that you would expect changes to happen over ten years, instead of the few months over which the book took place.

    The book is completely appropriate, not mentioning any untoward things. The book also incorporates well weaved verses into their complete turn around. I loved how the book showed how God can mend all things, if you will just give him the reins. The book is totally worth the reading. 

     It was a quick read, that left you guessing at most every new plot twist. I didn't have to guess, as I picked it up and read it in one sitting. I was also impressed at the author's switching point of views. Sometimes you find that when author's switch the point of view as often as every other chapter, you find yourself lost or having to repeat scenes. However, in this book it was done so beautifully that there was no confusion during the transition at all. 

     I didn't read the other books in the series. I was surprised by how easy it was to get into the flow of the book without having to read the others first.  I was so wowed by this story and the author's style that I think the other books are definitely worth checking out. 

     I was given a copy of this book by Moody Publishers in exchange for a review, either good or bad. 


Monday, July 15, 2013

An Unfortunate Detour

Excerpt
A cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw's daughter who wants to change his mind.

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can't believe it when he's forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He's determined to escape--which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.

For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?


      Stealing the Preacher is a continuation of Karen Witemeyer's last book Short Straw Bride. Crockett the second oldest, has finally struck out and is becoming a preacher. In Short Straw Bride, Crockett has moved from the farm and gotten a mentor who has secured him an interview with a parish. In the first book, we only get a peek at who Crockett is. We see a little winking and teasing and talking out of turn, but that is about it.

     In Stealing the Preacher we see a hardworking cowboy turned into a minister, and the incredulity that comes when people realize he is a minister. This really puts the oddness of his position into perspective for us. We don't think anything of a minister answering his calling, no matter what his background. Cowboys in Texas did not become ministers, and Crockett's transformation from cowboy to minister is exceptionally portrayed.

     Karen Witemeyer dangles the blooming romance in front of our faces until we have no choice but to positively groan in desperation. I loved the way she tied in the most horrid woman in all the realms into the happy plot line.

     This book in particular, my girl-friend and I both felt Silas' character maturity deeply. (Silas is Joanna's ex-outlaw father- who stole Crockett). We were absolutely touched at how Karen weaved in the reality of the struggle that people face. We could relate to it personally. As someone who reads books in such a short time, it is really hard to emotionally connect with anyone, but Silas just spoke to me. I could see so many qualities in him that I could see in my own father (the over protectiveness) I almost wept. Which really is hard for me. This book definitely sent me into tears. However, I was also sent into peals of laughter. This book is really an amazing find, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next one (hopefully soon!)

Have an absolutely amazing day, and enjoy your book!

     P.S. Bethany House & Karen made a book trailer. I generally think them irrelevant, but this one was just so cute, so you can see it here:



Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Gathering of Western Writers


Hello Readers!

I want to welcome you to a gathering of western christian writers that all come together to publish a blog called Writes of Passage.

You can locate them at http://writespassage.blogspot.com/2013/07/welcome-to-my-writing-space_9.html.

Most of the books I review are by some of these authors, and the ones that I have read are really very good. I have recently started following them, and I love reading it! Karen Witemeyer is also a part of a few other blogs, which you can find the names of on her website.

When I was on the blog not just this past week, I found a few books for free as e-books for only a few months longer. They are called A Daughter's Inheritance and In the Company of Secrets.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I hope to. Until next time.