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Tessa Afshar’s Thief of Corinth

Thief of Corinth by [Afshar, Tessa]

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

Be transported back in time by this gripping tale of adventure, bravery, and redemption, and discover why Debbie Macomber says, “No one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”

Review

I always read Tessa Afshar’s books when they come out and I was very excited about this one. My thoughts:

What I liked

History. Tessa Afshar really is able to bring alive cultures and worlds that I’ve read about in the Bible in such a way as to make them real. I think it’s easy to forget that these were real people with real lives and it’s so fascinating to see it come alive on the pages. I always learn so much.

Secondary characters. Theo, Justus, Dionysius, the Claudias, the rest of Ariadne’s family…all of them are very unique and present a different look into the times and place in which they lived. Not to mention the hero in this story. Afshar writes great heroes! Though this book isn’t necessarily romance focused, it has a very sweet romance that envelopes slowly on the pages.

Spiritually, I thought the way the author incorporated a faith in Jesus really worked seamlessly with the narrative. I particularly liked how the book doesn’t just end with salvation…the characters must learn to walk and live it out!

What I didn’t like

For me, it felt like I kept waiting for this book to get started. So much of it in the beginning is the laying out of what’s happened and watching Ariadne grow up. I think because the book is titled the Thief of Corinth, I read the book waiting for specific events to happen and actually didn’t get them until much later. For this reason, it felt very slow in the beginning.

Also, strangely enough, I did not connect to Ariadne. I think due to some of the author’s detailed explaining, a distance was created there.

Lastly, my favorite character kept getting the short end of the stick in the book. The author tried to put a positive spin on it, but I just wanted him to really win for once.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a good book, though not my favorite from the author.

** I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

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Reviews in the Queue

Here are a few books I’ve picked up and will be reviewing soon:

Thief of Corinth by [Afshar, Tessa]

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

Be transported back in time by this gripping tale of adventure, bravery, and redemption, and discover why Debbie Macomber says, “No one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”

Take a Chance (The Bridgeport Social Club Series) by [Shelley Shepard Gray]

Kurt Holland wants the best for his younger brother, which is why he moves Sam to Bridgeport, Ohio. It’s a bigger town with a well-known high school. Just the place to give his little brother more opportunities—maybe even a scholarship to college. Kurt hopes his gamble pays off, since Sam’s future isn’t the only thing riding on it. Kurt’s put most of his savings into a new landscaping business there, too. But when Sam gets in trouble for fighting at school, Kurt isn’t so sure it was the right decision … until he meets Sam’s English teacher.

Emily Springer is passionate about helping all of her students succeed, but there’s something about Sam Holland that makes her want to go the extra mile. When he’s caught in a fight at school, she goes to bat in his defense, and during a conference with the principal she meets Sam’s rugged older brother—and guardian. Emily has a strict no-dating policy when it comes to her students’ parents, but Kurt isn’t technically Sam’s parent. It’s OK to bend the rules a little bit, right?

In an effort to make some friends and find a place in the Bridgeport community, Kurt starts up a weekly poker game in his garage. It’s not long before everyone wants in, and they all soon discover that these Friday night poker gatherings are about more than just the game.

Shelley Shepard Gray’s new Bridgeport Social Club series is about men who need a place to call home, a community in need of hope, and a group of women who are special enough to help both things happen. This first installment is genuine and heartfelt. It’s filled with hope, warmth, and the belief that love and acceptance can overcome any tough situation.

 

An Hour Unspent (Shadows Over England Book #3) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence, but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge–and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger–and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape.

Which one are you excited about?

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Dani Pettrey’s Dead Drift

Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor Book #4) by [Pettrey, Dani]

Burning debris littering the ground . . . smoke pluming in the acrid air . . . this is just the beginning if he fails.

Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to become part of an elite team set on capturing a deadly terrorist. When Luke returns to face those he left behind, their help becomes his only hope of stopping his target’s latest threat of an attack that would shake America to its core.

Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster.

Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark?

Review

I have had the pleasure of reading all of Dani Pettrey’s books. My thoughts:

What I liked

Not as many povs. I really think book three suffered from the case of too many povs. Fortunately, Luke told most of the story in this book, just like I thought he should. He’s been such a mystery for most of the story that I wanted to know who he was and what he had been up to. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn too much about him personally (see below), but we definitely learn what he’s been up to and why he made the decisions he made.

A suspense and a mystery. This book manages to go back and forth, deftly juggling both a suspense and a mystery. I believe a suspense novel is based on the idea that you, the reader, know who the bad guy is, but you read to see the main character(s) connect the dots. This would be the international issue that was introduced in the previous book. I will admit that I was not as invested in the suspense, as I appreciate a good old-fashioned who-done-it more, but Pettrey does a good job of not overpowering you with information so as to get you lost or uninterested. She also managed to make the bad guy feel more human and not just come across as some evil villain. I was, however, really looking forward to solving the mystery of who killed Jenna, and while some parts seemed to randomly come together fast, I did enjoy Griff and Finley solving that mystery.

Characters. Kudos to Pettrey for creating a cast of characters that each had their own personalities and quirks, so much so that I never got them confused with the others. My favorite two will always be Griff and Finley followed by Parker and Avery, but they were all wonderful fictional people to spend time with.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God and make real efforts to grow and develop their faith.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, this is a matter of personal preference. This is a plot driven book. Something is happening in just about every chapter; places blowing up, people being shot at, clues being stumbled upon (some of the clues were handed to them so quick, I wondered what took them so long to get there). With so much action, there was very little room for genuine characterization. To me, Luke and Kate were very superficial. That’s not necessarily bad, it just leaves for some rather unmemorable characters. I do believe that to a great degree, Pettrey relies on the first two books in her series to tell the stories of most of her characters (I usually adore the first two book), but then that means you mostly get action in the last two. This works for some people, but it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Also, the romance was a bit of a disappointment. It was almost as though the main couple had to get together cause there was no one else left. There was talk about attraction and for once I was like, skip attraction, do they connect on a personal level? I wasn’t sure they did. As a romance lover, I would have liked more. However, if you’re going into this book ready for action, I think you will be satisfied.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, I loved the first two books in this series and am super impressed with Pettrey’s vision by having an overarching mystery and suspense that spans four novels. But, I do think in the rush to do it all, some character development was missing and ironically, some of the suspense/mystery happened too fast.

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Jill Williamson’s King’s War

King's War (The Kinsman Chronicles Book #3) by [Williamson, Jill]

One battle is over, but the war has just begun. They escaped the Five Realms and have found a home, but peace is much harder to find. The aftermath of the Battle of Sarikar should have been a time to mourn those lost in the slaughter. The enemies of Armania are many, however, and when one steps back to regroup, another surges forward in attack.

While the remnant must take responsibility for the evil they brought to Er’Rets, it would seem that something just as dark already existed in this new world. The growing struggle between Armania and Barthel Rogedoth is but a pale reflection of a far more dangerous battle for the souls of humanity.

And so begins this awe-inspiring conclusion to Jill Williamson’s Kinsman Chronicles. The Hadar family and their allies prepare to make one final stand in the name of Arman. There shall be war–in Er’Rets and in the Veil–to vanquish evil or be ruled by darkness.

Review

I love Jill Williamson’s novels. Just love them. I was very excited about this last book in the series, but I’m not going to lie. It took me a minute to get really into it because of all the characters and side stories going on. Unless the character was an absolute favorite, I had kind of forgotten what certain people were doing, their relationships, and what they were involved in. However, once I got pulled in, the book didn’t let go.

I am in awe of the vision that Williamson had as she pulls together all the pieces of the Kinsman Chronicles and the Blood of Kings trilogy. We’ve got King Trevn, who I will be honest and say I knew he would be king (because of the Blood of Kings trilogy) who is learning how to rule a really messed up kingdom. I always liked him in the previous books, but he really shines in this one. You can see how he’s matured from the boy who ran from responsibilities into someone who faces them head on. Then there’s Hinck who grew from Trevn’s shadow to a man in his own right; Oli, Onika, Grayson, Kalanek…the list goes on. There were so many great characters who were allowed to grow and change and make mistakes and still be interesting while doing it. And the great part about all of them was that they felt human. Just because this is characterized as christian fiction, doesn’t mean that Williamson shied away from the realities of life.

Spiritually, I thought the book was on point as an allegory. You really see the difference between magic (i.e. witchcraft) and the power of God. I’m not sure if that was Williamson’s point, but that definitely stood out to me.

What I didn’t like

There was one character, a female, who I did like in the previous books but who completely became a TSTL character. I was guaranteed that if there was going to be trouble, she was going to be right there in the midst of it. At one point, we, the reader, are supposed to fear for her life and I was thinking if she died there would be no real loss. She just got on my nerves and I’m not sure I loved who she became.

Williamson is building towards a great battle starting with the second book in this series. She absolutely delivers. But it got so long and detailed, I did start skimming.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, a great series! It made me immediately pick up the Blood of Kings series and do a reread. I do think the Blood of Kings was a better series, but mostly because it was focused on two povs throughout the series so you really connected with the characters. I’m not a huge fan of the multiple povs. That said, kudos to the author for doing it and doing it well. I hope Williamson isn’t done writing about this world. I’m not ready to let these people go.

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Beth White’s A Rebel Heart

A Rebel Heart (Daughtry House Book #1) by [White, Beth]

Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family’s Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he’ll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to “supervise” while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn’t sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she’d do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

Review

One of the reasons I requested this book is because I love reading about the Civil War and its aftereffects in fiction. My thoughts:

What I liked

Cast of characters. Usually I get annoyed when there are just too many characters on the pages, but White managed to create a cast of characters that were unique and diverse enough that I didn’t get lost or confused as to who I was reading. They also had very distinct personalities, making them come alive on the pages. I enjoyed Selah’s sisters and her cousin and even their relationship with their various neighbors.

Treatment of former slaves. Usually in these kinds of books, the former slaves work for their former masters with joy. I liked that there was some complex feelings here. The former slaves did not immediately jump at the chance to work for their former slave owners and everyone had to deal with hurt feelings on both sides.

Spiritually, the novel deals with forgiveness and how if you let it, bitterness will destroy you.

What I didn’t like

I hate to sound like some kind of creative writing police, but there was a lot of telling and not enough showing in this book. It wasn’t bad. It just felt like the characters didn’t go much past the surface. We are told Selah is brilliant and ‘should have been born a man.’ And yet most of the book she just seems really stressed. She doesn’t make things happen, things happen to her.

Levi is a Yankee who fought in the war and comes to the south. We are told people don’t like him but everyone (other than the obvious villain) does. He also is there to solve a mystery but half the time I wasn’t sure what it was.

The romance was too straight forward for my taste. Not bad, but not exciting.

The book only really dealt with the effect of the Civil War in a surface way. I mean, yes, the villain was a villain because of the hatred he developed as a result of the war, but sometimes the details are in the small things and we don’t really get them here

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, this was not a bad book. I think I went into this book expecting one thing and it just wasn’t as complex as I would have liked.

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

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Karen Witemeyer’s More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #1) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

Review

Karen Witemeyer is an auto-buy author for me, and I think it’s because she never gives me the same story or the same characters over and over again. My thoughts:

What I liked:

This book had, hands-down, one of the most deeply, moving prologues I’ve ever read. I was in tears when it was over and completely invested in several of the main characters right away…one of which absolutely stole my heart and was my favorite person in the whole book: Zach. Witemeyer used his character perfectly. He’s not in every chapter, but whenever he was on the page, the story slowed down for me. He was a very interesting character. I think the next book is going to be about him and I just cannot wait!

I’m going to be honest and say that I did not love Evangeline. There was something about her constant happiness that was a tad annoying. That said, she was a fully developed character. I understood why she was the way she was and why she responded to situations the way she did. She wasn’t happy all the time and the moments when she wasn’t, really added depth to her character.

The secondary characters are amazing. I’ve already touted my love for Zach, but Seth deserves a mention. I love how unique he is for a man living in the west. Even though his role isn’t huge, by the time the book was over, I felt like I really knew and cared about him just as much as I cared about everyone else. Several times I caught myself feeling very protective of him and thinking, Seth, what are you doing? You know how you are!

I really liked the Western feel of this book. There’re saloons and high stake poker games, revenge and shot ’em out situations.

I’ll admit the romance was cute. I kind of wish it had been more complicated. I know…I hate complicated romances and contrived storylines, but this one was so straightforward to me, I didn’t really have to root for anybody or wonder how it was all going to come about.

Spiritually the novel deals with forgiveness, leaving vengeance to God, and learning your own value.

What I didn’t like:

The plot. At first it’s incredibly interesting. And then I got to the second half of the book and I was like, everything appears on the right path of being solved, where are we going with this? And then I saw where we were going with this…and I didn’t care.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a good book. Witemeyer is obviously talented and I will keep reading her novels, but this book tilted a bit in the direction of too slow.

** I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Jody Hedlund’s Together Forever

Together Forever (Orphan Train Book #2) by [Hedlund, Jody]

Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children–firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and I was so excited about the second book. However, this book was a disappointment. It was certainly as well written as all of Ms. Hedlund’s books are. Marianne and Andrew came to life on the pages. Hedlund’s real talent though, was how well and developed the secondary cast was. And let me tell you, a train full of children is a large cast. It’s very easy for the reader to get lost in the numbers, but the author took the time to really flesh these children out (and other characters) and bring them to life. Spiritually, the novel deals a lot of with forgiveness of one’s self and realizing that God is there when you go through the difficult times.

But this book seemed to lack…a plot. It took me forever to get through it. Forever. And with every page I turned, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. I don’t think it ever did. Instead, it felt like a never-ending road trip from…well…you know where. Perhaps if I had never read a book about the orphan trains at all, I would have found this fascinating. But this was not my first train ride, so there was no allure there. The novel starts with Marianne trying to find her sister, and while her sister is clearly on her mind, this is a thread that the story fails to really hold. And then there was Andrew and the more I learned about him, the more I actually didn’t trust him…with anything or anybody (I think the author’s point with him totally backfired). At the end of the book, I still wasn’t certain what kind of person he was. Romantically, at first it seemed like the author wasn’t going to make things complicated, and I was a huge fan of that (though I must say that I was never confident that Marianne really knew the hero that well). But then things got weirdly complicated–to the point where I almost didn’t care and when I should have been basking in the love, I was skimming paragraphs.

Honestly, I felt like this book was just a bridge to get to the third book. It felt like the author was setting up pieces that she plans to move on the chessboard at some point.  Will I read the third book? Probably. But I won’t be waiting as eagerly for it as I did for this one.

Romantic scale: 7

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**