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2 September 2015

Review: The Advocate by Randy Singer


A book at the bottom of my to-read list


The Advocate is the imagined memoir of Theophilus, the man for whom the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts was written. It begins with a memorable opening line:
“I was fourteen years old when I learned what it meant to be crucified.”
The narrator is Theophilus, who is training to be an advocate, a lawyer, a profession which brings him into contact with many of the famous figures from early Christian history. The author truly brings the time and place alive (perhaps too alive at times). Historical characters include Pontius Pilate, Caligula, and Nero, as well as Jesus and Paul.

The first half of the novel was written entirely from the viewpoint of Theophilus, and is excellent. He’s an intelligent man with an engaging voice. He is well able to analyse and interpret the historic events he finds himself part of, especially as he is writing across a passage of many years. I found this brought the days of the early New Testament to life, and provided an insight into the culture and politics of the times.

The story then moves into a combination of first person and third person, and I didn’t find that worked so well. The writing was still good, but I found the movements between Theophilus and the other viewpoint characters weren’t as smooth as I would have liked. But it then switched again, and the final portion of the book was a powerful and challenging read. Recommended.

This book counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book from the bottom of my to-read list … because it was a paperback, and it was literally at the bottom of my pile because it was slightly bigger than most paperbacks.

31 August 2015

Review and Giveaway: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

Will Brianna and Colleen have the courage to stand up to their father's schemes to save their horse farm and instead pursue true love? Don't miss Irish Meadows, the newest book by Susan Anne Mason! As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, their father grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father’s machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Join Susan in celebrating the release of Irish Meadows by entering to win her Kindle Fire giveaway and RSVPing to her September 1st author chat party!


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
  • One copy of Irish Meadows
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 9/1. The winner will be announced at the Irish Meadows Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Susan and other readers, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!


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RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st!


My Review

I almost didn't read Irish Meadows. I bypassed it several times—the description didn’t entice me one bit—but I was captured by the striking cover. The cobalt riding habit. Those eyes. Unfortunately, the cover was the best part, and I should have remembered the old adage about books and covers.

It didn’t start well. The opening scene is Gil confiding his life history to a horse. Original, yes. Good, no. I thought after that unengaging start things could only get better. It didn't. I didn't like any of the main characters, the plot didn't engage me and it seemed as though some of the most interesting parts (e.g. Colleen's character change) were all told, not shown, which didn't make it seem realistic.

I've had a look at the other reviews on Amazon, and it seems I'm in the minority in not loving this book. It got a starred review from Library Journal (but so did another Bethany House historical novel which has recently been hitting the news for all the wrong reasons). I wanted to like Irish Meadows, but I really don't. At this point, I can't even finish it (one reviewer assures me the last quarter is the best, but I don't know if I want to put myself through that).

Thanks to Bethany House and Litfuse for providing a free ebook for review.

28 August 2015

Book Promotion: A Wish Made of Glass by Ashlee Willis

Coming August 14th!


Deep in a forest glade, the fey folk dance with Isidore, a young human child. Their kinship is the very fabric of her childhood. When her mother dies and her world darkens with sorrow, Isidore finds her belief in the fey folk wavering.

The love of her new step-sister, Blessing, proves an unexpected gift in her time of need. Yet even as their friendship blooms, Isidore begins to see that Blessing is everything she herself has always wanted to be, but is not. Jealousy grips Isidore as she watches this beautiful new sister steal away all she holds dear.

Driven to desperation, Isidore turns to the fey folk once more. She has only one wish to claim from them, one chance to make things right. But she must tread carefully. For wishes, like hearts, are easily broken. And obtaining the one thing she desires could mean destroying the one thing she truly needs.

Author Bio:

Ashlee Willis is the author of fantasy for young adults. While most of her days are balanced between writing, reading and being a stay-at-home mom, she also finds time to enjoy forest rambles, crocheting, and playing the piano. She lives in the heart of Missouri with her family.

5-Star Review Excerpt:
"A story of wonder, beauty, heartbreak, healing, a story to remind us that we are not made for this world. This story is a beautifully written, descriptive fairy tale." - Clare Farrelly, excerpt from a Goodreads review

Twitter Page:
https://twitter.com/BookishAshlee

Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/AshleeWillisAuthor

Author Website:
ashleewillisauthor.wordpress.com

26 August 2015

Review: Jaded by Varina Denman

A Book with a Colour in the Title


I passed on this book when I first saw it available for review. The cover looked boring, as though it was about the Amish, or perhaps their Mennonite cousins. The blurb didn’t attract me, although it did make it clear that the book was set in small-town Texas, with no Amish or Mennonites in sight. It looked boring.

But then reviews started coming through, specifically a review from Andrea Grigg. She raved about Jaded … which convinced me that maybe I’d misjudged Jaded, and persuaded me I had to read it (and I’d missed the opportunity to get a review copy, so I actually had to BUY this one!)

I admit that at first I wondered what Andrea was so excited by. Ruthie Turner hates church and works two jobs to support herself and her depressed mother and desperately wants to escape the tiny Texas town of Trapp (although I didn’t pick up on that obvious pun while I was reading). Dodd Turner is the new high school maths teacher, and the new town preacher. The teaching job puts him in regular contact with Ruthie, who he is attracted to but who will barely give him the time of day.

It all seemed a bit mundane and annoying. Ruthie annoyed me because I couldn’t see why she didn’t just up and leave (if she can get two jobs in a town as small as Trapp, surely she can get a job anywhere). The people of the town of Trapp annoyed me because of their small-minded attitudes. And the people of the Trapp church especially annoyed me, for their judgemental and ignorant attitudes (they probably believe King James wrote the Bible).

But I persevered because the writing was excellent. It mixed first person (Ruthie) and third person (Dodd), which is something I’ve seen more novels fail at than succeed at. Once I got past the initial glitch that Jaded was written in both first and third person, both points of view flowed well. Ruthie was a particularly strong viewpoint character: I didn’t necessarily like her, but she had an engaging way with words:
“My uncle was pushing seventy and moved slower than a horned lizard on a cold day.”
Great image.
“I thought how nice it would be to keep inching back, crawling to a place where memories couldn’t meet me.”
That evokes an emotional response, a feeling of recognition. It’s strong writing.
“Loneliness floated over me like a snowdrift. Loneliness so thick I could smell it. Taste it. Hear it. Not even why my daddy left had I felt anything like it. Not even when the church shunned us. Not even when Momma became a ghost.”

Wow. One paragraph manages to pack in Ruthie’s entire backstory as well as several rounds of emotional punches. If only every novel I read had such good lines.

But it’s one thing to say the writing was strong. Great writing is nothing without a good story and engaging characters. And it took a while, but I did eventually connect with Ruthie and the other characters, perhaps a quarter of the way through. After that, I didn’t want to put the book down. It was that good. The writing may have pulled me in, but it was the characters who kept me there. And now I want to read the sequel, Justified.

Thanks, Andrea. I really needed more books on my to-read pile.

This book counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book with a colour in the title.

24 August 2015

Review and Giveaway: A Heart's Home by Colleen Coble

A hidden pregnancy, a promise sure to break hearts, and a tragic loss at Fort Phil Kearny: Don't miss the gripping conclusion in book six, A Heart's Home, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. With the Sioux Wars threatening outside the fort, Emmie’s solemn vow threatens her happiness from within. Will she honor a promise sure to break her heart—and Isaac’s? Or is there another way to find a home for her heart?

Colleen is celebrating the final book release of her A Journey of the Heart series by giving away the entire series and the chance to host Colleen virtually at your book club, local library, or women's group to talk about the series.


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • Books 1–6 of A Journey of the Heart series
  • A chat with Colleen via Skype or Google Hangout
  • A custom book-club kit PDF, featuring Colleen's favorite recipes and group discussion questions
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 31st. Winner will be announced September 1st on Colleen's website.

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My Review

I haven’t enjoyed this series, partly because the beginning of each book has included what turned out to be a plot summary (i.e. detailing what happens at the end) rather than a book description (setting up characters and conflict to entice the reader to read). A Heart’s Home managed not to include the spoilers (yay!), but still didn’t deliver for me.

Basically, my problems have been the same throughout the whole series. It’s been driven by external conflict to the point it’s crossed the line from drama to melodrama, and this final book was no exception. Emmie is now engaged to Isaac, although she still hasn’t told him her Big Secret, and she’s afraid jealous Jessica will tell him first …

Then I-don’t-want-to-tell-you-what happens (because that would definitely be a spoiler, and the series has had quite enough of those already, thank you), which puts Emmie’s engagement in danger … and the whole plot turns and more Bad Things happen and the Big Secret is completely forgotten (as is Jessica, although that might not have been a bad thing).

I got to the end and, yes, there’s a big Happy Ever After and cliché epilogue but no mention of Jessica or the Big Secret (that’s not a spoiler: this is marketed as a romance series, and I’d have hated it if we didn’t at least get the promised HEA ending. As it is, I merely disliked it). At this point, I’m not even clear with the Big Secret was. Unless it wasn’t such a big secret and somehow I missed it. There’s also the implication that Jessica must have Something Horrible in her past to make her into the horrible person she is, but this isn’t followed up on either.

Overall, there was too much drama (melodrama?), too little character development and too many plot holes for me to consider this even okay. It’s a shame—I like Colleen Coble’s contemporary romantic suspense novels. But I’ve read all six books in this series and one or two of her other historical romances, and I have to say I’m not sold. Even discounting my preference for romantic suspense over regular romance, Coble’s historical offerings simply aren’t as good as her contemporary stories.

Thanks to Litfuse and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.