Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge 2015

So the idea to join this reading challenge was pretty last minute. Fantasy was one of my first YA loves, but I've gotten way away from that the past few years. I've got a friend who has been on to me to read so many series {Darkest Minds, The Raven Boys, The Grisha Trilogy, to name a few} but because they were fantasy, I've been putting them off. BUT. This is my year to finally read all these fantasy series people have been pushing on me that I've put off. This reading challenge is hosted by the lovely Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books and Rachel @ Hello, Chelly.


  • The challenge will run from January 1-December 31, 2015. 
  • We’re welcoming all readers to join us in this challenge! In order to sign up, readers must link to their blogs or Goodreads profile in the Linky on Hello, Chelly or on Alexa Loves Books. We need to see where you’ll be sharing your reviews of the fantasies you’ll read!
  • You can read as many fantasy novels as you like. No levels for this challenge! 
  • We're going to host 2 giveaways, one at 6 months and one at the end of the year. More details when it's closer to those dates.
  • Please help us spread the word! Feel free to tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #flightsoffantasy, or to grab the button and link to the challenge on your blog.

How to Participate:
  • Challenge yourself to read a certain # of fantasy books and share this number on your blog, in the comments below or a tweet. 
  • On the last Sunday of each month, we'll be posting updates on how we're doing with the challenge and we'll include a Linky in case you decide to do the same. (This is optional!) 
  • As mentioned, we will have giveaways! And if you want bonus entries into said giveaways, read any (or all!) of our favorite fantasy books listed below:
  • Joint Faves: Throne of Glass, Harry Potter, Fire and Thorns, Snow Like Ashes, The Queen of the Tearling
  • Alexa's Faves: Eona duology, Daughter of the Forest, The Elemental Trilogy, The Hobbit, Song of the Lioness quartet
  • Rachel's Faves: The Grisha Trilogy, Harper Hall Trilogy, The Fever series, The Winner’s Curse, Graceling

Okay, confession time: I've never read Harry Potter. I know, I know, most of you just had a heart attack. So, I will definitely be challenging myself to read that.
I will be challenging myself to read at least 20 fantasy books. There are 5 series I definitely want to get to before the end of the year: Harry Potter, The Grisha Trilogy, The Raven Boys, The Darkest Minds, and Falling Kingdoms. (Since these are the series that my friend, coincidentally also named Rachael, has been pushing on me the most.) But my main goal is just to incorporate more fantasy into my reading schedule. Progress will be updated here.

2014 Series Challenge: December/Year End Checkpoint

Wow. I haven't done a checkpoint since July. Oops. I for some reason, veered more towards standalones. I had plans this year to binge a lot of series that ended this year, but that didn't happen. So this checkpoint is for the series I've completed since July.

Unwind is one of my favorite books of all time, and I loved this series. Each book got 5 stars from me. While I am sad to see it end, I did love the journey it took me on. 

So with that, that makes 10 series I've read completely this year. I was hoping for more, but I still think that's a pretty good number. And in recap, those series were:

Not going to lie, I hardly remember some of those at the beginning, it feels like so long ago. But I am going to stay happy with my 10, and continue to try to binge-read some of the series everyone insists I must read ;)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A New Season {by Al and Lisa Robertson}
Title: A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption
Author: Al and Lisa Robertson with Beth Clark
Genre: Christian, nonfiction, memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

Alan and Lisa Robertson, members of America's favorite back woods family and the Duck Commander Clan, take on the topic of relationships as they share the secrets that saved their marriage.
Infidelity, deceit, distrust, and shame. Unfortunately, these are recurring themes in many of today's marriages in America, even in the family-values-promoting, Christian-based Robertson family.
With a romance that began in junior high, the couple got off to a rocky start but soon settled into married life and had two baby girls. Alan became a pastor in the church where his family had been members for years. Then, when Lisa had an affair, the heartache and the tension was very public.
But this is not a book about a marriage gone wrong. It is a candid story of rescued love and renewed commitment. After nearly getting divorced, Alan and Lisa came to terms with what went wrong in their marriage and both began the hard work of making it right. Now married for twenty-nine years, Alan and Lisa counsel couples in trouble and speak across the country--openly sharing their hardships, their journey to renewed commitment, and a thriving marriage.

I think I am way too invested in a family whose show I don't even watch, but I've mentioned before how much this family fascinates me. They could choose to live secret and private lives, but instead choose to air even not-so-positive things about their family, in hopes to inspire and bring hope to others.

Al and Lisa have a tough story to tell. But they do so with such openness and honesty. They don't hide, or try to cover up, and I find that inspiring. They started from their childhood, and went through the actions and events that made them into the people they are today. Who thinks that they're going to actually marry the guy that they had a crush on in middle school? But the road they took was not an easy one.

Lisa mentions quite often that the reasons behind some of the bad decisions she ended up making weren't excuses, but just the facts, which I also think is an important thing to realize. They aren't trying to make excuses for anything that happened. They take full responsibility, but also share how these experiences shaped them into the God-fearing, upright people they are today.

This was a brutally honest, compelling story. Al and Lisa have been through a lot, and made a lot of bad decisions in their life. But they share this story to bring hope to others who are struggling, and they definitely inspire.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Al and Lisa Robertson:

Alan's Twitter | Lisa's Twitter

Monday, December 29, 2014

Me Tarzan, You Jane {by Camelia Miron Skiba}
Title: Me Tarzan, You Jane
Author: Camelia Miron Skiba
Genre: Clean Adult Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Received from eBooks for review

Moving on doesn’t always have to mean goodbye.
Widowed makeup artist Jane Sullivan is more comfortable keeping her husband's memory alive than dating a pool full of sharks. Ella, her 4 year-old daughter, is her whole world.
When Jane meets Lucas Oliver, famous cover model, it’s hate at first sight. His playboy persona rubs her the wrong way.
Accustomed to every woman fawning over him, Lucas is drawn to the shy, uncompromising single mom and completely melts at the sight of Ella. He is determined to convince Jane that sometimes a second chance can mend a broken heart.

This was…interesting, to say the least. I did go back and forth in my feelings for it as the book progressed, although ultimately I did enjoy it. I don't think it was quite what I was expecting, but it was still a good story.

Jane is a single mother. Since her husband's death, she has focused less on dating and more on her daughter. Lucas is the opposite of her type--arrogant, irresponsible, playboy. But when they're thrown together, she realizes there's more to him than she thought.

I feel like I didn't really get Jane. She was often rude and judgmental for no reason. Her actions didn't often match up to what she said. While I admire her spunk and independence, she was also just a pain. While Lucas turned out to be a pretty okay guy, he also didn't really match up. I loved the scenes between him and Ella, and his banter with Jane was pretty amusing. But the romance seemed more contrived, and never really fit. I wasn't buying it.

The writing was also choppy and stilted, taking away from my reading experience. Jumps of space in time were not made clear, which was also confusing. However, I did find that the plot went deeper than I thought it would, and it made for an entertaining read.

This was a cute story. Even with its few problems, if you're looking for a light and fluffy read, then this is the one.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Camelia Miron Skiba:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Henge {by Realm Lovejoy}
Title: Henge
Author: Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay, #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Received via CBB Book Promotions

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.
Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.
Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.
But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

This was an interesting book. I love my King Arthur legends and retellings, but I think this was the first I've read that was modernized Arthur. The story doesn't actually revolve around Arthur, though, as it actually follows the story of Morgan Le Fay in her competiton to be Arthur's Maven. I wasn't sure how I felt about the book for the longest time, but then it completely sucked me in at the end.

Prince Arthur is thirteen, and it is time to find his Maven. Morgan's father has prohibited her from using her magic, so she sneaks away to enter the preliminary competition. To their surprise, she is chosen as one of the Round, who will go to Camelot to compete to become the Maven, and her father can't stop her. But there are more powers at play than Morgan ever could have imagined. 

This was an interesting concept of a world, as its a modern-day Camelot. Yes, there's a king, and Knights, but the Knights carry guns, and there's cars and computers and such. Then, add in the magic. There are four kinds of magic users, and Morgan is a fire user. I loved the explanation of magic, as well as the descriptions of them using it as it made it seem real yet, well, magical. It brought a different sort of mystical appeal to the story. 

Morgan is befriended by the charming and handsome Merlin, a water user. Except something about him doesn't quite add up. Morgan isn't sure who to trust, since it is a competition. I thought this was an interesting representation of Merlin. I also liked the appearance of other characters we know and love, such as the original Knights from mythology. Some have roles, like Lancelot, and others are only mentioned in passing, like Gwaine, but it was nice to see them. 

But there are a lot more things working than just a magic competition. The reason Mordred has it out for Morgan, what actually happened with her mother all those years ago. While the beginning lagged a little, to the point where I didn't even know if I would continue, once it picked up, it hooked me. I was so entranced by the things that were being revealed, and the things that weren't. There are a lot of little intricacies, and loose ends, and things Morgan discovers that kept this so interesting, that I found myself needing the next book. 

If you love the legends of King Arthur, or a magical world in general, this is a great story full of plot twists and turns that will keep you interested.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Realm Lovejoy:

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Mini Reviews: If the Shoe Fits, In the Field of Grace

Title: If the Shoe Fits
Author: Sandra D. Bricker
Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

Julianne used to believe in fairy tales; she's been watching for Prince Charming to come charging in on his white steed ever since the day her mother read her Cinderella for the first time. But she's never come close to finding the perfect man-instead she's always tripping over her childhood best friend, Will. And who finds their Prince Charming on a 10-speed bicycle on the other side of the cul de sac? Well... Julianne does. Only she doesn't have a clue.
She and Will are attorneys now, and they've joined up in private practice in a beautiful Cincinnati office building that overlooks the Ohio River. And then one day Julianne is on her way to court, and runs right smack dab into Prince Charming. But when she looks again, all she finds is a metaphoric sign she is certain came straight from Heaven: The Prince's toolbox has fallen off the back of his truck, and a work boot along with it. What better way for God to grab the attention of a Cinderella-in-training than to show her a glass slipper...errrr, work boot?...waiting to be reunited with its owner?
So she sets out to track down the mysterious Prince Charming. He's the most gorgeous guy she's ever seen...and a caring animal rescuer, too. Surely he must be the soul mate God has prepared her for.
But, Julianne's prince is starting to look less and less charming all the time. No matter how she tries to romanticize him, he just keeps tumbling down off that dumb pedestal. And with the Bar Association dinner coming up that will honor her for her outstanding charity work over the year, Julianne wants so much for her friends and colleagues to see her with someone besides her best friend Will. To make matters worse, Prince Charming has no designs on wearing a penguin suit and attending a stuffy old dinner. With her pride pressing in on her like sticks from a cactus, Julianne sinks to the bottom of the proverbial barrel and actually offers to pay Paul to be her date.
Julianne is on a collision course with God's perfect plan for her life...if only she could open her eyes and see it before it's too late.

This was a cute and hilarious story. I love my modernized fairytales, and this was no exception. It was light, fluffy, and sweet. Of course, it wasn't all fluffy, as it had deeper themes and meanings, but it was a quick, fun read.

Julianne is looking for her Prince Charming. After a run-in with a handsome guy who rescued a dog, Julianne is convinced that he is the one and sets out looking for him. To her surprise, she actually finds him. She has romanticized this idea of him, and won't listen when her best friend, Will, tries to reason with her.

Although Julianne is a quirky, kind, fun person otherwise, her obsession with this guy--Paul--was more than slightly annoying. The way she kept holding on to him even when he proved they probably weren't meant to be. Will himself provided angst as everyone but Julianne knows he's in love with her, and yet he still doesn't do anything.

Bricker has such a witty and hilarious writing style, and this time was no different. The antics of the characters will have you laughing out loud. The light, humorous way that Julianne and Will figure out exactly what they want, and how to get there, will have you sympathizing and shaking your head at them at the same time.

This is a sweet, fun book that is a quick, but entertaining read, especially for those who like their best friends romances.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Sandra D. Bricker:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Title: In the Field of Grace
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

Without wealth or family, the widow Ruth left her people and followed Naomi, her beloved Hebrew mother-in-law, to rebuild Naomi's home in Israel. Provisions gone and starvation at the door, Ruth used all that she had left--a strong back and a willing heart--to gather grain in a field, abandoned after the harvest.
Tormented by others, Ruth is shocked to find the owner of the field watching her. Talking to her. Bringing food to her and Naomi. Boaz tells himself his kindness toward Ruth is repayment for the love she has shown to his cousin Naomi. But his heart knows better.

I've read quite a few Ruth stories, but this one still managed to seem different and unique and captivated me. I love my Biblical retellings, and this one was no different.

I liked how this one veered from some of the other Ruth stories that are out there to stand out. I love how Afshar added in Boaz's first wife, which I hadn't seen before. I also liked how Afshar reimagined Ruth's growing up/family life as not-so-positive, which I also hadn't seen done before. And the epilogue, skipping all the way over to David and Solomon, was interesting and a great way to end the story.

The writing style captured me from the beginning, and captivated me the whole way through. I liked how it switched perspectives from Boaz to Ruth, to add another dimension to the story. The culture was well researched, and made me feel like she knew what she was talking about, which I've always found important.

I respect the creative license the author took with the story, as she still made it seem true and respectful to the Biblical account. I felt like Ruth and Boaz were real people, with real emotions and feelings, instead of just someone from so long ago, that we only hear stories about.

Retelling a Bible story can be hard, but I think Afshar did a great job not only creatively but emotionally, bringing a new depth to the story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Tessa Afshar:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mini Reviews: Love at Mistletoe Inn, A Brush With Love

Title: Love at Mistletoe Inn
Author: Cindy Kirk
Series: A Year of Weddings Novella #1
Genre: Christian Holiday Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

An owner of a Victorian inn and charming rustic barn is used to creating the perfect setting for other couples’ nuptials. But when she falls head over heels for the new man in her life, will she be prepared to walk down that aisle?

Can I start off by saying that the descriptions for the stories in this collection don't actually describe anything. They're either too vague, or frankly, wrong. I'm not saying that it takes away from the reading experience, but it would be nice to know what I'm going into. But this was a cute little story.

10 years ago, Hope and John skipped their senior prom to get married. Hope immediately regrets it, is assured by the man that performed the ceremony that he will make it so that it never happened, and Hope and John go their separate ways. But 10 years later, Hope finds out that their marriage is actually legal and that she and John are still married. Oh, and guess who just happened to come back to town that day? (See what I mean about wrong synopsis? John was not a new man in her life, at all. In fact, they go way far back.) 

This was a cute story. While I was a bit wary about some parts of it (like the whole reason they couldn't get it annulled which I'm not going to spoil but come one, take a guess). But Hope and John decide to give their marriage a shot before getting divorced. 

I wouldn't say this moved that fast, although it is a novella so I can understand why the timeline was a bit sped up. But they were in love before, so seeing them fall in love again, this time in a more mature way, was cute and sweet. Even in this short amount of time, both characters went through a tremendous amount of growth. I had issues with Hope, but she does change throughout the story.

Although I have to wonder how the two were so dense they couldn't see right through Aunt Verna. I loved the background characters too, and how they added a depth and air of humor to the story. This is definitely a fun, romantic read perfect for the holidays.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Cindy Kirk:

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Title: A Brush With Love
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: A Year of Weddings Novella #2
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley

This hair stylist has adorned many a bride with the perfect bridal tresses. Now, she must overcome her past in order to realize that she, too, can find true love this January.

Ginger was burned in a trailer fire as a young girl. The physical scars--and emotional ones--have stayed with her for her entire life. Now, she is a talented hair dresser. She has a huge wedding to style, when the best man ends up being none other than the guy who stood her up when they mysteriously left town, Tom. After 12 years, Ginger should have put it past her, but she couldn't get over the hurt and rejection of the only guy who has ever paid her any attention.

This one was a little more deep. Ginger has many self-esteem issues. She can't see past her burns, and imagines that others can't either. She can't imagine anyone, especially a man, thinking of her as beautiful. This one was a little more religious, as Tom is a pastor, and Ginger comes to know Jesus.

I loved how this one progressed. Again, it might have been a little fast because the timeline was sped up for it being a novella. But the two rediscovered what they liked about each other all those years ago. They were also able to get to know the people they had become and fall in love all over again.

There was a lot of growth in this one, as Ginger starts to let go some of the thoughts and insecurities that have plagued her for so long. As she starts to understand exactly what happened 12 years ago, she starts to move on and open up to Tom.

I enjoyed this one so much. It was also definitely more emotional (to me) than some of the others in this collection. This was an amazing story, cute and sweet and romantic.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Rachel Hauck:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads