Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bread of Angels {by Tessa Afshar}

Title: Bread of Angels
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.
But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.
With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

I really enjoyed this one. One thing I love about Tessa Afshar is that she chooses characters to write about that aren't really talked about or written about. I don't think much thought is given to Lydia, a seller of purple briefly mentioned in the Bible as one of Paul's friends, so I really enjoyed this story and getting to envision her life.

Lydia helps her father, a renowned seller of purple. When they are betrayed, Lydia has no choice but to flee to Philippi, the only place in the empire where a woman can run her own business. I liked Lydia. Her being "fearful" is I think what we would today think of as anxiety, so it was nice to see that represented in an era where it really isn't talked about. She was just trying to do the best she could in a world that didn't afford her many opportunities. She worked hard, and I think she was a great character.

This book spans over 20 years, which I thought was refreshing. It wasn't just a story about a young girl, it shows her life, shows her as a middle-aged woman. It also wasn't a romance, although there is a slight bit there at the end, which was nice.

This was probably my favorite Tessa Afshar book to date. I loved the world she has crafted, the characters, and this story. It was a beautiful book that captivated me from the start.

More books by this author:

Tessa Afshar:

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wings of the Wind {by Connilyn Cossette}

Title: Wings of the Wing
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: Out from Egypt #3
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

I loved this one. I'm not sure if it replaced the second book as my favorite of the series, but it sure came close. This one takes place quite a bit after the first two (I thought I saw 40 years later somewhere but I could be making that up).

I said this with book 1, but one thing I enjoyed about this series is seeing the events from the perspective of other nations. I think we focus so much on the Israelites, and forget that they slaughtered whole nations. What did that feel like? So I did appreciate seeing the story from the perspective of a Cannanite. Alanah wants revenge on the Hebrews, so she disguises herself and goes to fight. Tobiah finds her among the wounded, and brings her back to camp, with unintended consequences.

Dislike-to-love tropes are one of my favorites (I freely admit) so it is probably no surprise that I loved this one. I loved Alanah and Tobiah. She was sassy and strong, but Tobiah wasn't intimidated by her. I loved their banter, as it was fun.

I won't say much about the plot, because #spoilers. I wasn't expecting the Bible story that the author brought in, but I liked it. It was an interesting perspective and a creative way to tie it all together. I enjoyed the story, flying through the book just to find out what happens to these characters I very much enjoyed. Definitely a series I would recommend to those who love Biblical/historical fiction.

Connilyn Cossette:

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Wrap-Up

Not as much as past months, with finals and then a trip I took at the end of the month (even though I took way too many books, didn't really get time to read). I did read quite a bit of nonfiction this month though, which I'm proud of.

Music: John Reuben came out with a new album after years and I am so excited *praise hands*. Much nostalgia.

Hope everyone is having a lovely summer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Branded {by Eric Smith}

Title: Branded
Author: Eric Smith
Series: Inked #2
Genre: YA Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

Eric Smith returns to the world of Inked in this adventurous new sequel. No longer a sheltered farmboy, Caenum is caught in the crossfire of the rebellion he ignited. As the final battle with the Citadel approaches, he must choose his own destiny one last time…or let the Citadel choose it for him.

I loved Inked, so when I heard there was a sequel I was very excited to continue this story. Unfortunately, this story fell way flat for me. Although it kept me interested enough at the time to continue reading it, even now trying to write this review I find that I'm having a hard time even remembering what happened.

The story starts a few months after the ending of the first. Caenum is leading the rebellion, and they are going from town to town, spreading the rebellion and freeing the conduits. Unfortunately, nothing really happened? Inked set up for some great worldbuilding, but that wasn't really expanded on in this one, which was some really wasted potential.

The other thing was that I was kind of confused on the rebels and what was going on with them. I kind of felt like no one was really...doing anything? Also the prejudice against Inked/unInked/whatever was really confusing. They hated you if you had Ink, but they also hated you if you didn't?? Huh?? Whatever the difference may have been, it wasn't explained well.

While this was a quick read, it ultimately felt like a let down. Although I will continue to read more of Eric's work, as I think he has potential and a great writing style, this one was a no from me.

Other books in this series:

Eric Smith:

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Names They Gave Us {by Emery Lord}

Title: The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Genre: YA Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Oh man, I loved this one. Now I haven't read all of her other books (only 1 1/2 others) so this may be premature, but it is probably my favorite of hers. I flew through it, that's how invested in it I was.

I loved Lucy. Emery Lord does such an amazing job of crafting such complex, deep characters. They are flawed, but real. Lord isn't concerned with making them "likable" per se, but allowed to be deeply human and complicated. Lucy was strong, even when she didn't think she was or could be, and I think she is a character so many girls can relate to.

Also, we definitely need more YA that talks about religion. Teens are religious too and it was SO great seeing that on page. Lucy is figuring out what she believes in vs. what she has always been told to believe in and I think that is such a huge part of life for a lot of teens. Lord shows it in a nonjudgmental way; what and how you choose to believe is up to you and there's nothing wrong with that. I loved how she showcased that throughout the story. Not a religious book, but a book about a girl, who is also religious. Definitely something that we need more of.

As with any Emery Lord book, it will also give you all the feels. It is very much a character-driven book, so the plot does fall a little flat. I also felt that there were maybe too many secondary characters in that they didn't really get fleshed out the way that they deserved, just existing to move along Lucy's story. But I did still enjoy them and what they brought to the story.

Of course there is a romance, although that is not the main focus. I felt it was there in the right amount, not taking away from the focus of Lucy and her story. Lord also writes grief really well; although Lucy's mother has cancer, it isn't a "cancer book", but does bring in those themes of Lucy having to learn to deal with her mother's diagnosis.

I feel like there was a lot that happened at the end too quickly, and it does end a bit open-ended if that's not your thing, but I did really enjoy this one.

Other books by this author:

Emery Lord:

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Noble Servant {by Melanie Dickerson}

Title: The Noble Servant
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Thornbeck #3
Genre: Christian YA Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted.
Since meeting Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg, at Thornbeck Castle, Lady Magdalen has not been able to stop thinking about him. She knows—as a penniless lady with little to offer in terms of a dowry—she has no real hope of marrying such a highly titled man, so it comes as a great surprise when she receives a letter from him, asking for her hand in marriage.
But all is not what it seems at Wolfberg Castle. Steffan has been evicted by his scheming uncle, and his cousin has taken over the title of duke. Left for dead, Steffan is able to escape, and disguised as a shepherd, hopes to gain entry to the castle to claim the items that will prove he is the true Duke of Wolfberg.
Journeying to the castle, Magdalen has no idea what awaits her, but she certainly did not expect her loyal maidservant to turn on her. Forcing Magdalen to trade places with her, the servant plans to marry the duke and force Magdalen to tend the geese.
Without their respective titles—and the privileges that came with them—Steffan and Magdalen are reunited in the shepherd’s field. Together they conspire to get back their rightful titles. But they must hurry . . . or else they risk losing it all to the uncle’s evil plan.

If you've been here long enough, you know that I love my Melanie Dickerson books. They're fun, easy to fly through, and I love anything fairy-tale related. This one was based off of The Goose Girl, which I don't think I've seen done all that much, so I was interested to see how she would take this one.

We first met Magdalen in The Beautiful Pretender. She had Steffan had hit it off, but she hasn't heard from him in the few years since. Until, one day, she randomly gets a marriage proposal from him. While Magdalen thinks it is a bit suspicious, she will do anything to help save her people from poverty (not like her mother would give her a choice anyway). Until she is thwarted by her maid, and forced to tend to the geese. Only to discover that the man posing as the shepherd is none other than the Duke himself. They work together to be restored to their rightful positions.

Honestly, this was probably one of my favorites of her books. I had been feeling...less than excited about some of her newer ones, so it was great to find what I loved about her books again in this one. The characters themselves, however, were nothing really special. They were the typical for this genre: sweet, perfect "good girl" heroine; supposedly masculine love interest with a hero complex. Honestly, I'm tired of reading the same characters over and over again.

But I did enjoy the story. Like I said, The Goose Girl was a fun one to base it off of and the story was fun and easy to read. It kept me engaged the whole time, and seemed a little more exciting plot-wise than some of her others. All in all, it was just a fun story that I enjoyed reading.

Other books in this series:

Melanie Dickerson:

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Starstruck {by S.E. Anderson}

Title: Starstruck
Author: S.E. Anderson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

After an incident with a hot-air balloon causes college-dropout Sally Webber to lose her job, she sets off to find direction in her life. Crashing into a teleporting alien, however, is not on her to-do list. 
Now she’s on the run from TV-drama-loving aliens, and things are just getting started. Zander won’t stop reeling her into life-or-death situations to save her planet, as he waits for his laser-wielding sister to search the universe for him. Though Sally isn’t quite sure if he wants to save Earth from annihilation, or just quell his curiosity of all things human.
On top of this, she’s got to find lost alien emissaries, as well as a job, and stop the planet from getting incinerated in the process. But with Zander as her roommate, what could possibly go wrong?

I am just getting back into scifi, and this was such a fun one to help get me back into the genre. It was a pretty short and fast read, one that I truly enjoyed.

Life is not going well for Sally. She's aimless, just trying to figure out where to go in life. Then, she loses her job. And meets aliens. All in the same day. I loved Sally. Partly because I could really see myself in her, but also because I think she's easy to relate to. She's straightforward, no-nonsense, but she also doesn't accept all this alien stuff blindly. She was a great character to read from the perspective of.

This plot isn't super intense, in the way that some scifi can be over-the-top. It was still interesting, as they do go on a few adventures to save the planet, but overall it was just a fun story. Nothing too serious, nothing too crazy. The story was also diverse in cast, but it didn't feel forced. It was just a great story. There were a few plot holes (like the balloon that started the whole mess?) but they leave the story open enough for a sequel, which I much prefer over a gaping cliffhanger (which there wasn't, so barring the few unexplained plot things, this could stand alone).

Something that had previously turned me off of scifi is how intense and extensively detailed they are. Like you have to have a background in science just to understand what they are talking about. This was not like that at all. If you aren't a usual scifi reader, or just wading into the genre, I think this one would be great. It almost reads like a contemporary, just with aliens. Again, just an all-around super fun story and I can't wait for the next installment.

S.E. Anderson

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Wrap Up

I tried to sneak in quite a few little books this month just to feel like I was reading haha #noshame ;)

5-star Reads: A Conjuring of Light
Other Notable Favorites: The Handmaid's Tale, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Hidden Figures, Black Panther

TV: Okay, this isn't really TV, but I (re)binge-watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and wow I think I loved it even more the second time. The first time, I had only watched Lizzie's videos, but this time I watched all the videos (Lydia's, Maria's, Gigi's) and read the book alongside it and wowowow it added to much more to the experience.
Music: New Foster the People EP!!!