31 October 2014

Review: A Lady at Willowgrave Hall by Sarah Ladd

More Convenient than Convincing

Sixteen-year-old Cecily Faire is sent away from home to Rosemere School for Young Ladies when her blacksmith father finds her about to elope with Andrew Moreton, the scion of Aradelle Park. Six years later, she hasn’t heard from either her father or her twin sister, who she suspects is now living in Manchester. Cecily is given the opportunity to take employment as a lady’s maid at Willowgrave Hall, where she meets Nathaniel Stanton, the young steward, and is reintroduced to Andrew Moreton, who she finds is the heir to Willowgrave and is now engaged to be married.

I enjoyed the first two books in this series (The Heiress of Winterwood and The Headmistress of Rosemere), and while A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is good, I don’t think it’s as good as the first two. The plot, while not completely predictable, isn’t as original as the first two books, I didn’t think the characters had as much depth, the Christian elements weren’t as well integrated, and the ending was a little too neat (there were a couple of changes of heart towards the end that I found more convenient than convincing).

However, I’ll be interested to read the next book from Sarah Ladd, as I do enjoy her writing, and she’s still one of the top authors writing Christian historical romance set in Regency England (the other is Julie Klassen).

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Ladd at her website.

30 October 2014

Review and Giveaway: The Promise by Beth Wiseman

In a daring new novel, Beth Wiseman jumps way outside the box. The Promise will take readers far away from Amish country and small Texas towns to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. Inspired by actual events, this is the book Beth has been working toward for a long time.


Curious? Click here to read the reviews, and be sure to enter Beth's Kindle HDX giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Promise by Beth Wiseman
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 9th. Winner will be announced November 10th here.


My Review

When seventeen-year-old Mallory wasn’t allowed to donate the kidney that would have saved her cousin’s life, she made a promise to herself that one day she would do it. She would save a life. Twelve years later, she has another opportunity, but her parents aren’t going to like this one either, because it involves a trip to Pakistan and a sick teen. And her long-term boyfriend, Tate, isn’t happy either.

I quickly discovered Mallory is my least-favourite kind of fictional heroine: noble, academically bright but naïve, with little understanding of life outside her first-world bubble. She shows herself to be easily led--in the wrong direction--as she makes a vital decision based on some basic internet research, and has no idea what she’s letting herself in for. I hoped I’d be wrong about the way the story would progress, but I wasn’t (although it could have been worse. It usually is, based on the stories I used to read in the London newspapers when I lived there).

However, I really liked Tate. There was a nobility and intelligence about him that Mallory lacked, but he still had two major faults, one being Mallory. My dislike of her aside, Tate is a committed Catholic who attends Mass and believes Jesus is the only way to God. Mallory has no personal faith, and has never read the Bible, yet is happy to start reading the Quran—so why is Tate in a relationship with her? The second fault is that he cries. A lot. I guess that as a music teacher she’s supposed to be the sensitive new age (?) guy, the metrosexual who is in touch with his feelings. Maybe. But it came across as girly (note: this isn’t intended to be a sexist comment. I get equally annoyed by fictional women who cry all the time).

I can imagine a lot of people are going to rave about this novel. It’s based on real-life events the author was personally involved in—but I didn't find that out to the end. Maybe I'd have been able to feel more sympathy for Mallory if I'd known.

The writing is solid (not spectacular, but solid), it’s touching on subjects and issues not usually seen in Christian fiction, and it certainly inspired emotion in my as I read. The first half of the book was a real struggle as I kept hoping Mallory would come to her senses (and knowing she wouldn’t). The second half was a lot better, with a lot more action and suspense, but overall, I found the novel a frustrating read.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. To find out more, visit Beth Wiseman's page at Litfuse Publicity, or her website.

28 October 2014

Review: Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Excellent Foodie Fiction

Elizabeth is the head chef at Feast, a chic New York restaurant. But she’s losing her touch, and when her boss brings in a celebrity chef/marketing expert to restore Feast’s reputation, Elizabeth decides it’s time for a break. She heads to Seattle, Washington, to a home and a father she’s barely seen since she left sixteen years ago. And she heads to an older sister who’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the same cancer that killed their mother during Lizzie’s senior year in high school.

Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was nominated for a Christy Award, nominated for two Carol Awards, and won the 2014 INSPY Award for a Debut novel. I read it, and while I thought the writing and characterisation was excellent, I did wish Reay had written an original story (Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary retelling of the Jean Webster classic, Daddy Long Legs).

Like Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy & Jane has links to Austen, in that sisters Jane and Elizabeth are named for the heroines of their mother’s favourite novel. Unlike Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane is a fresh story, not a retelling of a classic (or if it is, the retelling is unobtrusive enough that I couldn’t see what was coming in the way I did with Dear Mr. Knightley. As a result, I enjoyed it a lot more. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Dear Mr. Knightley, more that I always found the ending of Daddy Long Legs a little contrived, and the ending of Dear Mr. Knightley was even more so.

Lizzy & Jane was different, in a good way. It had all the strong writing and characterisation of Dear Mr. Knightley, with the added bonus of an original and compelling plot. Elizabeth has some deep-seated resentment towards Jane, who was never around while their mother was dying. While Elizabeth is in Seattle helping Jane face her health crisis, Elizabeth is also facing her own personal crisis, a crisis of identity and self-belief around her cooking. It’s the one thing she’s always excelled at, yet even that talent seems to be failing her.

There are touches of romance and an underlying Christian theme, but Lizzy & Jane is very much women’s fiction, Lizzy’s story of personal, professional (and spiritual) rediscovery. Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Katherine Reay at her website.

27 October 2014

Author Interview: Rosie Somers

Today I'm interviewing YA author Rosie Somers. Rosie lives in Florida, soaking up year round sunshine (hey, that's like New Zealand and Australia!). She can often be found in her favourite spot on her favourite beach, nose-deep in a good book.

First, please you tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? 

I’m from Florida. I’m not a native (wasn’t born here), by I’ve lived here most of my life, so I sometimes forget I wasn’t born here. I’m a wife and homeschooling mother, and I have a habit of bringing home stray animals. My life is pretty busy, so I find relaxation in books, both reading them and writing them.

It’s said that authors should write the kind of book they like to read. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not? 

The last book I tried to read was a YA sci-fi that turned out to be not at all my cup of tea, just a few pages in. I didn’t even finish chapter one though, so I’m not sure that counts. I’m currently reading Ted Dekker’s The Bride Collector. If you like darker content that highlights the struggle between good and evil, I’d definitely recommend it.

What kind of books do you write? Where and when are they set?

I mostly write YA, and it’s typically in a contemporary setting. I think there’s something so unique about the whole experience of those years as teens are on the cusp of adulthood. It’s real and raw and so emotional.

Where did the idea of a story about the Seven Cardinal Sins come from? What were your influences?

I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins, but one day I started thinking about what it would be like if there were real, tangible deadly sins. Then I started thinking about what that would be like; would people be tasked with protecting them? What would the sins look like? What would they do? Even though, my beliefs are grounded in Christianity, I borrowed a lot of my deadly sins inspiration from the Catholic belief system. And Pride was born.

The steward of Lust exudes Lust, but I didn’t feel Gabby epitomised Pride in the same way—she seemed a lot more self-effacing than prideful. Was this intentional? (Pride, to me, is epitomised by Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy.)

Actually, I’m glad you picked up on that. From a theological (mostly Catholic) standpoint, the Cardinal Sins are said to be sort of… counteracted, or overcome by the Seven Heavenly Virtues. Since the stewards are supposed to control the sins, keeping them from affecting innocent people, I thought their characters should reflect the virtues which directly oppose their assigned sin. Humility correlates as the antithesis of Pride. The reason Jason exudes Lust when Gabby meets him, isn’t so much a statement about his character, but more a statement about how others are affected by his sin.

What was your motivation for writing Pride?

Mostly it was getting the story bug out of my brain and onto the paper. The idea kept crawling around in my head, demanding my attention. So I wrote it down.

Pride is one of the Seven Cardinal Sins. Does that mean it’s the start of a series? What book is next, and when will it be released?

It is the start of a series. Currently there are a total of eight books planned, one for each of the Seven Deadly Sins, and a bonus book to tie it all together. Wrath and Envy are next and are scheduled for publication Fall 2015 and early Spring 2016.

Who is your favourite character in Pride and why? Do you have anything in common with him/her?

I have a couple of favorites, each for their own reasons, but I think teenage Rosie would have identified most with Grant. I marched to my own beat, existed outside the box, felt deeply, and wasn’t really the best communicator. Oh, and I’m sure at some point, I probably had green hair. :)

Pride is obviously based on a religious concept, but neither Gabby nor the other characters come across as overly Christian. Are you aiming Pride at the Christian or the general market?

My intention from the beginning was just to tell a story of working toward something greater than yourself, of learning to love the kind of love that would make someone risk her life for someone she cares about, the way Christ loves. It was meant to be inspirational and growth-provoking without being overtly “preachy”. The faith element will probably grow throughout the series as it will become more crucial to the overall story arc.

How does your faith influence your writing?

I think it makes me consider my choices more. It definitely affects the direction of my plot lines. Even when my characters go to some dark and worldly emotional places, I try to end everything with at least a tidbit of inspiration, whether it be a message of redemption and healing, or an implied message of learning selfless love. I like to try to mirror real life, showing that yes, ugly happens, but it gets better.

What are you working on at the moment? What other books do you plan to write?

I’m working on more of the Temptations series, of course. I’m also working on a standalone, allegorical YA dystopian, and a contemporary YA suspense is in the pipeline right behind that. All have an inherent message of faith sewn in.

Thanks, Rosie!

You can find out more about Rosie via:

Website: http://www.RosieSomers.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ProsyRosie
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProsyRosie

I have already reviewed Pride, and you can find my review here. You can also see the book trailer:

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Book Links:

24 October 2014

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

Out of the Christian Rut

Publisher’s Description

Melanie and Will Connors are the perfect power couple. Will is the chief campaign strategist for a rising presidential candidate; Melanie is a prominent advocate for protecting children in an over-sexualized culture. Their devotion to one another is admired, even envied.

But their marriage isn’t what it appears to be.

Will maintains an apartment in Washington, DC, and over the years his visits home have grown fewer and farther between. The long-distance marriage has enabled Melanie to avoid intimacy—and has only increased her shame about her secretive past. But then Will issues an ultimatum: We work on the marriage . . . or we work on the divorce.

The Connors commit to marriage counseling in the most brutal of environments—snowy New Hampshire, a tiny state that is first in the nation for presidential primaries and a prize to be won at any cost . . . and the price of victory keeps rising.

As Melanie sifts through the debris of her past, she obsesses over the fear that she hasn’t done enough to protect her teenage daughter. When Melanie sees her facing some of the same temptations, she knows she must intervene . . . but how can a woman with so many veiled secrets guide a
daughter honestly?

While the country struggles with threats to its integrity and security, Melanie can no longer ignore the dangers looming in her own world. She can never undo the mistakes of her youth, but perhaps she can still save her marriage and family—if she can surrender her guilt and learn to open herself to her husband once again.

My Review

There is a sameness about a lot of Christian novels. The characters are “good” Christians, whose main faults are emotional, not physical. Veil of Secrets is different. To be blunt, it’s about sex (not that there are any sex scenes. It’s more about the consequences of bad decisions around sex). These are characters who live in the real world, where otherwise intelligent people still sometimes do stupid things, and then have to work out how to live with the consequences. I liked that. Not that the characters did dumb things, but that the authors showed a realness not often seen in novels from Christian publishers.

Veil of Secrets was a more complex book than most I read. There were a lot of characters, and it probably took longer than it should have for me to work out who was related to whom and how. This might have been a bit easier if I’d read the first book in the series (To Know You), but reading the first book isn’t necessary for the story—Veil of Secrets can be read as a standalone novel.

The other layer of complexity in Veil of Secrets was the plot. As well as the obvious political background of the beginning of a presidential campaign, there was the issues plots: the “good Christian” career woman who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand, and the broken marriage of a Christian couple. Shannon Ethridge has an extensive background in ministry around healthy sexuality and spirituality, and this comes through in the counselling scenes.

Recommended for mature audiences (meaning that a lot of Christian fiction appeals to a wide age group, from teens to grandparents. This won’t. The target reader is probably people like me: young professionals, married women, or parents of teens).

Thanks to BookLookBloggers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Shannon Ethridge at her website, and more about Kathryn Mackel at her website.

23 October 2014

I'm reviewing Every Tear a Memory by Myra Johnson at ACW

Lovely Historical Romance

Every Tear a Memory is the third book in Myra Johnson’s Till We Meet Again series, and I hope it won’t be the last. It follows When the Clouds Roll By and Whisper Goodbye, and is also set in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We get the opportunity to catch up with the characters in the previous books, but Every Tear a Memory can easily be read as a standalone novel.

To read my full review, please visit Australasian Christian Writers.

You can find out more about Myra Johnson at her website, or visit Seekerville, where she is a contributing blogger.

21 October 2014

Review: Bound by Blood by Scott Springer

Book Description

Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that's fine with him. Let the games begin!

What he doesn't realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.

Julia's brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn't understand why Julia won't simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn't listening. It may already be too late.

BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments and guns a blazing.

What a killer combination!

My Review

I recently read an article on gender bias in fiction—whether men are more represented as published writers, as reviewed writers, and as characters. It got me thinking, because I predominantly read and review titles written by women. I suspect, after reading the article, it’s because I mostly read and review in two areas—romance and Christian fiction—which are dominated by women (the membership of writer’s organisations such as RWA, RUAus, RWNZ or ACFW are 80% women or more).

I’ll also make an admission: I’ve discovered I prefer novels written by women, because I like the internal conflict, the character development and relationship, and I think that on average, women write people better than men. My reading history shows men are more likely to write shoot-em-up novels with little or no character development (e.g. James Patterson, Dan Brown). Yes, they make good movies. Yes, there are exceptions.

So Bound by Blood is a novelty for me: a novel written by a man. A man who knows how to write good characters with strong internal conflict who change and grow by the end of the novel. Yes, there was a lot of action in the novel, but it was action driven by the plot, not action for the sake of filling a chapter or two.

Bound by Blood has a different setting than most Christian novels. I find most of the novels I read are set in a sanitised middle-class America, where even people whose lives go wrong have strong Christian support networks to help them get back on their feet, whether family or friends. If people have financial or health problems, it’s because it’s a plot point, not a reality of daily life.

Bound by Blood is different, in that it’s showing a side of American life that’s representative of how many people live, and it’s not pretty. It’s gritty and edgy, and offers a real insight into the difficulties new Christians can face in moving away from their old lives and on in the faith. Well done.

Release Date: September 23, 2014, from Anaiah Press.

Rafflecopter (only open to US residents):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio:

Scott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did. You can find him at his website, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.

Bound by Blood is available to buy at
Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.

20 October 2014

Trailer Reveal: Hunter by Renee Donne

Hunter trailer reveal banner

Anaiah Press is proud to present the trailer reveal for YA novel HUNTER by Renee Donne.

Hunter coverMoving across the country isn’t Hunter’s ideal start to her Junior year of high school. She has no friends to hang out with, no beaches to lounge on, and she’s living just a few miles from the secluded hiking trail where her father died when she was a baby.
Living in Wyoming isn’t all bad, though, thanks to Logan, the handsome veterinary assistant at the animal clinic where she lands an after school job. And he seems just as interested in her as she is in him.
As Hunter begins to settle into her new home, she learns more about the circumstances surrounding her father’s tragic death, and it may not have been the accident everyone believes. Something dangerous lurks in the woods, and Hunter might be the next victim.

Release Date: June 9, 2015
Add HUNTER to Goodreads!
And now for the trailer...

About the Author
Renee DonneRenee Donne is a native Floridian with a penchant for writing books with a western theme. In her head she's a world traveler and an amateur chef. In real life, she's a hometown girl with an affinity for fine wine and good friends. Her favorite place to write is sitting on her veranda, overlooking the beach.


Review: At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

Excellent Contemporary Christian Romance

When advertising executive Kate Sherwood and her grandmother, Sally Fuller, arrive at Rainbow’s End resort in the Texas Hill Country, it’s nothing like the beautiful Christian resort her grandmother had described. It’s not even like the brochure’s “faux-tography” (I like that word!). She meets Greg, who she thinks is the resort handyman, but soon finds out he’s another guest. So why is he repairing the cottages? Why is he even at Rainbow’s End?

We find out Greg’s secret background soon enough: he’s a Silicon Valley boy wonder who sold his majority share in an extremely successful software company for an obscene amount of money, and now he’s staying at Rainbow’s End while he works out what God wants him to do with his life. This initially caused me some concern, because the “Career Woman meets Secret Billionaire” concept had the potential to become a cheesy cliché.

It didn’t.

Yes, it seemed at first that Kate was the archetype of the driven career woman who resents the fact that she’s being made to spend a month at this run-down resort, at the expense possible of a much-desired promotion. And there was the potential for Greg to be little more than the software nerd he saw himself as, but Kate saw more in him. As a result, what could have been a cheesy romance turned into something more complex as Kate and Greg got to know each other, and subtly challenged each other to rethink their long-held beliefs about career (Kate) and family (Greg).

I’ve read a couple of Amanda Cabot’s historical romances, but At Bluebonnet Lake is her first contemporary novel. Not all authors can write both historical and contemporary fiction convincingly, but Amanda Cabot can, and I’ll certainly be looking forward to reading Firefly Valley, the sequel to At Bluebonnet Lake, when it releases next year.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Amanda Cabot at her website.

17 October 2014

Cover Reveal: Bricks by John Davidson

Bricks Banner

Today Anaiah Press is proud to present the cover reveal for John Davidson's YA novel BRICKS!
Sixteen-year old Cori Reigns learns that not all tornadoes take you to magical places. Some take your house, your school, and life as you knew it. Struggling to put the pieces of her life back together, Cori learns to rebuild what the storm destroyed by trusting a family she didn't know she had and by helping friends she never appreciated.

BRICKS release February 3, 2015 but you can add BRICKS on Goodreads today!
And now for the cover...

Bricks cover

About the Author:
John D authorMarried to my bride for twenty-four years, I have an amazing son and a wonderful daughter.

Born and raised in central Oklahoma, I work in education, first as a teacher now in technology curriculum. I write. I read. And in the summer I make snow cones. 

Find John on Twitter @jdavidsonwrites or connect with him at his website and on Goodreads.

16 October 2014

Review: The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

Too Many Glitches

I liked the concept of The Covered Deep: It's set in 1877, and follows a young woman from a small town in Ohio wins a competition to travel to London, and on to the Holy Land. Bianca Marshal is twenty-five, well-read, and holding out for True Love (encouraged by her father). It’s soon apparent to the reader, if not to Bianca, that Sir Adrian Hartwith has selected his travel companions based on their unknown relationships, and this is what provides most of the conflict in the story. He has an ulterior motive, but I thought this didn’t come out until too late in the story.

I had two main problems with The Covered Deep. The first is common to many American authors who use historical English settings and characters: they get the details wrong, to the point where it detracted from the story. Bianca can’t have read Sherlock Holmes, because the first Homes novel wasn’t published until 1887, ten years after the setting of The Covered Deep. English girls wear plaits, not braids, there has been no national flag of Great Britain since 1801 (when it became the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland), and the British were subjects, not citizens, in 1877. And Bianca’s assumption that Paul Emerson is single because he doesn’t wear a wedding ring is anachronistic: British men only started wearing wedding rings in the 1960’s. Pedantic? Maybe. But these are the details which pull me out of the story.

That’s not to say the writing isn’t good: some lines are brilliant. But parts of the story felt as though the author was trying too hard, often because she used a word in the wrong context (e.g. bee’s knees, which dates from 1922), or used the almost-correct word (e.g. “her acute eyes” or “howbeit” where “albeit” would have been a better choice). This brought to mind a Mark Twain quote:
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Although, in hindsight, Madeline referring to herself and Bianca as “women” not “ladies” might have been deliberate …

My second problem was with the character of Bianca, as illustrated by this conversation between Sir Adrian and Madeline:
“Have you ever met anyone so uncultured? So innocent? So naïve?”
Bianca is twenty-five, unmarried, and this is the first time she’s ever left her home town. But she’s spent those twenty-five years living with parents who barely like each other, a mother who has continually encouraged her to marry, a father who has encouraged her to hold out for true love, and with books. How could she have read authors like Shakespeare, Austen and the Bronte sisters, and not realised that some people will lie, cheat and scheme in order to get what they want. (Not to mention reading The Bible, which is full of object lessons in what not to do.)

The result is I found it hard to care for Bianca, and harder still to care for any of her travel companions. Finishing The Covered Deep
was a chore, not a pleasure. I liked the concept, and the spiritual applications were excellent, but the characters didn’t resonate with me.

Thanks to Worthy Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Brandy Vallance at her website.

14 October 2014

Review: My Mother's Chamomile by Susie Finkbeiner

Women's Fiction Touching Real Issues

My Mother's Chamomile is written in the first person from two alternating points of view: Olga and Evelyn, Olga’s oldest granddaughter. It’s an unusual and ambitious choice (in that it’s hard to do well without constantly reminding the reader that it’s only a story), but it works. That’s a testament to the quality of the writing, and the strength of the individual character voices.

The family operate the only funeral parlour in a small town, which means they are an odd combination of essential and pariah. Essential, because it puts them at the centre of local tragedies, and pariahs, because most people are uncomfortable around death, which makes it to make friends, especially for Evelyn.

The first part of the book establishes the location and the relationships, but it takes a while for the actual plot to become apparent. In that respect, I’d classify My Mother's Chamomile as women’s fiction (and possibly a saga), because it’s more about the development and change of relationships than it is about actual events (although events, particularly deaths, do play a significant role—which shouldn’t be a surprise in a novel about a family of funeral directors).

This is a slight spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know. I’ve recently read The Fault in Our Stars, which has several support group scenes featuring the unintentionally hilarious Patrick (hilarious because he was someone no one would want to be). My Mother's Chamomile has a similar scene, with Debbie as the unintentionally funny character, particularly with her interactions with Stacy.

Overall, I enjoyed My Mother's Chamomile. It has strong characters, and a poignant plot which examined some of the more difficult aspects of family relationships. My one complaint was around the writing of the passage of time: in some cases, days or weeks passed between chapters, but this wasn’t immediately apparent.

Recommended for those looking for something a little different in terms of plot, and who don’t mind reading a novel that’s a little sad.
I don’t want everyone to remember me for the way I died.
Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

13 October 2014

Book Review: Pride by Rosie Somers


Seventeen-year-old Gabriella Pierce is used to taking care of herself, but she’s about to become responsible for a whole lot more. When she gets a visit from three men claiming to be defenders of fantastical rings imbued with the powers of THE CARDINAL SINS, her life is changed irrevocably.

Gabby is the steward of PRIDE.

To make matters worse, she’s falling hard for fellow steward, Grant Barnett, and he hates her guts. Now Gabby has to learn to protect Pride without letting her feelings for Grant get in the way.

Release Date: September 9, 2014

My Review:

Gabriella Pierce thought life was tough trying to evade a lecherous foster father, but things are about to get worse: she’s the female steward of Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, and the forces of evil are out to get her and the other stewards. Although they are all supposedly safe inside The Sanctuary, their secret underground home, certain events suggest they have a traitor in their midst …

Pride is aimed at the YA market, and is the first in a planned series (presumably one for each of the seven deadly sins). It incorporates elements of other well-known YA series such as Harry Potter and Divergent, (an orphan who is the ‘chosen one’ fighting the forces of evil). It has that fast pace and addictive quality which makes it hard to put down.

While elements of the plot are similar to those of other popular YA series, the seven sins idea is unique, and provides an underlying Christian theme to the battle between good and evil. Having said that, the plot isn’t overtly Christian, no more so than the Divergent series. There were some minor writing issues (e.g point of view shifts and run-on sentences), but nothing that detracted from the story—which indicates how compelling I found it.

The one possible fault was the characters: the fast pace of the plot and the (relatively) large number of characters meant there wasn’t a lot of time devoted to the development of individual characters. However, as I’ve mentioned, it is the first novel in the series, and I would expect that now we’ve been introduced to the concept of the sins and the stewards, future books will be able to show more in the way of character development.

Thanks to Aniah Press for providing a free ebook for review.

Book Links:

Author Bio:

Rosie Somers is a YA author who lives in Florida, soaking up the year round sunshine. She can often be found in her favourite spot on her favourite beach, nose-deep in a good book. You can Rosie at her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

9 October 2014

Review: Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter

Under a Turquoise Sky is Christian Romantic Suspense, usually my favourite genre, but this really didn’t gel with me. I found the characters too stereotypical, and the plot verging on melodramatic. It didn’t help that I kept being pulled out of the story by writing glitches (I was reading an unproofed version of the manuscript, but it wasn’t typos and spelling mistakes that annoyed me, but sentences that didn’t makes sense. I don’t mind the advance review copy having a few typos, but the writing should still sing. This didn’t).

It didn’t start well. In fact, it started three times: Kailyn meets Rafe/Aaron at a party; Kailyn watches her best friend get murdered by her drug lord husband; Kailyn in witness protection where her care is entrusted to Aaron. I didn’t like Kailyn as a character, and that didn’t help. I can’t exactly pinpoint what I didn’t like, but I think it was that I didn’t see any depth to her. She came across as somewhat dim.

Aaron was a more complex character, a half-Navajo child who’d been mistreated by his white stepfather then adopted by a white family. He had rejected God, but this is a Christian romance, and we all know that means the hero and heroine both have to be Christians by the end of the book. This was another big failing for me: I didn’t see any development in Aaron’s faith journey throughout the book, which made the inevitable conversion seem unrealistic.

What was good? I really liked Aaron’s Navajo grandmother. She was brighter than she let on, with a wicked sense of humour and large doses of tribal and Christian wisdom, even if it tended to be delivered as cliché dialogue. But the good wasn’t enough to make up for lacklustre writing and a main character I was unable to empathise with.

As an aside, this book illustrates why I no longer pay any attention to author endorsements. Under a Turquoise Sky has been endorsed by DiAnn Mills, who says, “only lightening can strike faster than the action in this thrilling romantic suspense.” Yes, the same novel I found slow and predictable. I won’t be reading any further novels by Lisa Carter, and I might think twice about DiAnn Mills as well.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lisa Carter at her website.

7 October 2014

Review: Driftwood Tides by Gina Holmes

Something Special

Libby Slater is planning her wedding when a routine medical test reveals a secret from her past: that she’s the daughter of a stranger named Adele Davison, not Caroline and George Slater. Libby hasn’t seen her father since he left over twenty years ago, and her relationship with her mother has always been difficult. She determines to find Adele, if only to find a father to walk her down the aisle, but her attempt to reconnect with her birth family doesn’t go according to plan.

Holton Creary is a talented artist, but is also still grieving the loss of his wife in a car accident five years ago. His grief drove him to gin, and despite the help of his assistant, Tess, he’s about to go bankrupt. However, out of respect for his late wife, he grudgingly agrees to give Libby a summer internship … although he has no idea of the real reason she wants to work with him.

Driftwood Tides is the first Gina Holmes book I’ve read, and I was impressed. She’s an excellent writer, with the ability to create a cast of flawed but likeable characters (with the possible exception of the over-controlling Caroline), and to have them react in realistic ways to the challenges they are presented with. She has also managed to develop a plot with a strong Christian theme of forgiveness, yet keeping the Christian themes light and not at all preachy (if I had one complaint, it would be that I would have liked to have seen more of Libby spiritual development).

Driftwood Tides is more than a story of forgiveness. It’s the story of one man struggling to overcome grief with gin, of the woman who loves him enough to stick by him even when he barely acknowledges her existence, of another woman who changes both their lives, and of a young couple attempting to plan for a future together. It’s a plot with layers of complexity, and one with an element of unpredictability that turns it into something special.

Thanks to Tyndale House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Gina Holmes at her website, or at Novel Rocket, the website for writers.

6 October 2014

October 2014 New Releases

It's a new month, and Ellie Whyte has all the Christian fiction new releases up at her website, Soul Inspirationz.

US and Canadian residents can enter to win one of up to 30 new release titles, and there's the choice of one Kindle title available for those outside the US and Canada. I've read it already--will you agree with my thoughts?

I'm planning to review several of these over the coming weeks, including:

- Promise to Cherish by Elizabeth Byler Young
- A Lady at Willowgrave Hall by Sarah Ladd
- The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance
- Every Tear A Memory by Myra Johnson (excellent)

I'll also be catching up on some of the reading I didn't get to do on my recent holiday (can it really be a holiday if I'm too busy to read?).

What about you? What are you looking forward to reading this month?