Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hope and Red {by Jon Skovron}

 Hope and Red by Jon Skovron
Title: Hope and Red
Author: Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms Trilogy #1
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. 
A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance.
A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist.
When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.
It's been a long time since I've really red a true fantasy novel, much less an adult one. However this was just what I needed. It was interesting, it was fast-paced, with unique characters, and kept me intrigued the whole time.

My biggest issue with fantasy is often that I can't keep all the world-building straight, but I did not really have this problem. I found it interesting, this world of biomancers. I also enjoyed Hope and Red. They were worlds apart, and written distinctly. Hope is set on vengeance, payback for what happened to her village years ago. Red wants power. But when they have to learn how to work together.
I feel like Hope went through more growth and transformation than Red (but of course their story isn't over). She is still bent on vengeance, but she learns how to redirect it for a greater good. Both of them learn things about themselves and about what they want, for themselves but also for their world. I also loved all the secondary characters. They were fleshed out, and just as important to the story. I liked seeing the intertwining storylines. While most of the book is told from the POV of either Hope or Red, sometimes we get a different perspective that adds a whole new dimension to the story.
The story was fast-paced, and kept my interest the whole time. I think the end was a little too fast, and not as well put-together as the rest, but it was still good. It isn't so unpredictable or anything, but it is still a good story. This is a little more adult than I usually review, just throwing that out there.
All in all, I thought this was an excellent story, and I will be looking forward to the rest of the series.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads
Jon Skovron:

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Land of Silence {by Tessa Afshar}

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar
Title: Land of Silence
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Before Christ called her daughter . . .
Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .
Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.
No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

I enjoyed this story so much. When it comes to Biblical retelling, we see so many of the same ones over and over again, so I thought this was an interesting take on someone we've never really seen before.

Like always, Afshar's writing is vivid and beautiful, down to the details, making the reader feel immersed into this world. I love seeing different cultures and history, and I thknk that is something Afshar always does so well.

I loved the characters as well, and I feel that Afshar really brought them to life. Elianna's case is unusual, that she would be allowed so much freedom to work, etc. (although this is made clear), but I felt that she was written very well. It felt like reading about an old friend, and I got sucked in, feeling the highs and lows of every emotion along with her.

I admire Afshar's ability to take a few sentences from the Bible, and weave a beautiful, thrilling tale from it. No longer is she a nameless character, but someone full of beauty and life. Afshar is such a talented writer, and as always, I look forward to her next work.

Tessa Afshar:

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mini Reviews: A Daring Sacrifice, The Beautiful Pretender

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
Title: A Daring Sacrifice
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: An Uncertain Choice, #2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

The only thing harder than fighting for what’s right…is fighting their feelings for each other.
For three years, the Cloaked Bandit has terrorized Wessex, robbing the nobility by knifepoint and a well-placed arrow. But little dos anyone know, this bandit is in fact Juliana Wessex, the rightful ruler of the land and a girl her tyrannical uncle—the current Lord Wessex—believes was killed along with her father.
Juliana has become skilled at hiding from Lord Wessex in the forest, using her stolen goods to provide food and shelter to the peasants her uncle has taxed into poverty. But when she robs Collin Goodrich, her red hair betrays her true identity. Lord Collin remembers Juliana from their childhood—and challenges her to stay on his estate for a week in hopes she will leave her thieving ways and become a proper lady once more. Juliana is intrigued by Collin and his charms, but only time will tell if he can overcome her distaste of the nobility—as well as win her heart.

I love my Jody Hedlund books, and am very glad that she has ventured out into the world of YA. I adored the first book in this series, but unfortunately this one did not quite cut it for me. There was just something lacking, and it was not up to par to what I have come to expect from one of her books.

I did wish, after reading the first one, that we would get stories about the other two knights, and so I am glad that we got that. It was fun to see a story about Collin, get to know him a little more. As for Juliana...I liked her, I did. However, we were told that she was basically a female Robin Hood and yet I did not see that. I'm not sure how she survived as the Cloaked Bandit for years, because Collin seemed to rescue her at every turn.

I also did not really connect to either of the characters. Collin was nice, and funny, but also arrogant. I was very bothered by his ideas of needing to show Juliana that she "belonged" with the nobility and protect her, not taking into account what she wanted. It came from a good heart, sure, but very overbearing. I think both of them had the potential to be great characters, but they felt a little flat.
There was some insta-love, which led to some plot points that I felt were too fast/too much for the point these characters were at, but its Christian Fiction and that's how it goes so I won't even touch on that.

It was a fun, enjoyable read, although it could have been so much more. Of course, our favorite Sirs Derrick and Brennan also made an appearance, which was nice. Although this book felt a little short, I will be continuing with this series, because I do very much enjoy this author, and I am excited to continue Sir Brennan's story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jody Hedlund:

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Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson
Title: The Beautiful Pretender
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Thornbeck #2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating:4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?
The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.
Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

I love Melanie Dickerson's books, and this one was no exception. From the medieval setting, to the Bachelor-esque feel of the book, and just how cute it was. I didn't get a particular fairy tale vibe from this one - I could see Beauty and the Beast elements, I guess? Although I felt more Queen Esther-vibes, actually. 

Lord Thornbeck is a gruff, angry, and generally reserved. But when the King commands him to find a bride, he has no choice. So, he invites the daughters of ten nobles to his castle, to get to know them. Unbeknownst to them, he also puts them through a series of tests to see who would be the best fit for his bride. Then we have Avelina, who has been sent in the place of one of the ladies, and is only trying to make it through without anyone noticing her deception.

I really liked all the characters, especially Avelina. I felt as if they were fleshed out, and that we got to know them individually. The friendship Avelina forms with Magdalen, the deep conversations between Avelina and the margrave, and even the soft side of himself that the margrave showed sometimes all led to help create complex and interesting characters. 

I would also say that the climax happened sooner than I would have thought it would, or what we would assume would be the climax, leaving room for more things to happen in the story, which I very much enjoyed. We got to see more of them, working together, and I loved that the story did not end where we thought it would.

This can be read as a standalone, although our favorite Jorgen and Odette from book 1 are recurring characters. I fully enjoyed this book and cannot wait for the next one.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Melanie Dickerson:

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