Review of The King's Hand by Anna Thayer

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The King's Hand is the second in a fantasy trilogy- The Knight of Eldaran. It's a powerful and moving story, and, while excited to see the action move along, I was very sad to reach the conclusion. And I cannot wait to read the third book in the series- The Broken Blade.

I read the first book in this series- The Traitor's Heir- last year. And while I really enjoyed that one as well, The King's Hand topped it. The series of books features Eamon. He's trained as an officer in the forces of the one known throughout the land as The Master. But Eamon soon finds out that The Master isn't truly the rightful leader of the land. Throughout the books, he struggles with loyalty for the true king he discovered and the master he pledged his allegiance to.


From The King's Hand description:

Every man has a destiny. His is to betray.
Like many from his village, young Eamon Goodhand dreamed of joining the Gauntlet, the army of the overlord Eldered. Now he is about to complete his training and swear his loyalty to Eldered and his commanders, the Hands, who uphold Eldered s tight control of the land.

Entering into the service of the Gauntlet, Eamon s gifts, particularly his potent Sight, quickly become valuable to his superiors and he advances to the command rank at a speed that arouses the suspicions of fellow officers.

However, Eldered s bloody rule, and Eamon s personal friendships, start to challenge the young soldier s assumptions about what might be true, and worthy of service. And soon Eamon must conceal a fatal secret: he is sworn to both Eldered and to Hughan, the rightful king of the land. Yet he may not forswear the vows he has uttered in all good faith so however he serves, his name will be traitor.

As tensions and military skirmishes increase, Eamon finds himself trusted by both his masters. How can he possibly maintain his integrity, act justly to his fellow officers of the Gauntlet, and act on behalf of all the warring people of the land?

The characters in these books are excellently developed. There is a perfect balance of getting to know the characters and moving action. There is suspense and drama. There is victory and joy. Although the books are published by Kregel- a Christian publisher- there is no mention of God. But it is very easy to catch glimpses of a Christian worldview throughout. And, even though this isn't a true allegory (as far as I know) there are definitely comparisons that can be made between Eamon's story and the struggles we face as Christians in a fallen world.

Great fantasy can strengthen and empower your worldview. It can give the reader courage and inspiration. The King's Hand is great fantasy. And I look forward to finishing out the series and seeing the conclusion soon.

I give this one 5 stars and a PG-13 rating (for violence). You can find The King's Hand on Amazon here.



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Review of The Hawk and the Dove Series by Penelope Wilcock

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The Hawk and the Dove series by Penelope Wilcock was originally published in 1990. The books center around St. Alcuin's Benedictine abbey. Inspired by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and the Fioretti of St Francis of Assisi, the first two books in the series- The Hawk and the Dove and The Wounds of God are a collection of stories instead of one narrative. The other books, including The Long Fall which is one I received for review, follow the pattern of a traditional novel and are one narrative story.  About the books:


The Hawk and the Dove- "14th-century Yorkshire, the time of Chaucer Father Peregrine is appointed Abbot of St. Alcuin's Benedictine abbey. An arrogant, impatient man, a hawk trying hard to be a dove--his name in religion is "Columba"--he is respected, but not loved. A sudden, shocking act of violence changes everything. As the story unfolds, this community of monks, serious about their calling but as flawed and human..."

The Wounds of God- "Has Peregrine been broken? Injured in an attack by old adversaries, Father Peregrine transforms from a steely, articulate, impressive leader into a humbled, crippled, wise mentor. Relying on the kindness of his fellow monks, the fiercely independent, hawkish abbot begins to regain his feet. But he faces a fresh challenge. The Augustinian Priory of St. Dunstan lies three days' ride to the southwest,..."

The Long Fall- "14th-century Yorkshire, the time of Chaucer Peregrine, strong and beloved abbot of St. Alcuin's monastery, suffers a stroke. Now incapacitated, he begins an arduous recovery with the help of his brothers in the infirmary. Brother Tom, the young monk closest to him, is horrified by the suffering Peregrine's illness has inflicted. He keeps his distance, out of his depth. How will he find the courage..."

These are a really good read. I love the style of the stories- in the tone of classics like Canterbury Tales. The characters are very well-developed and interesting to get to know. Although they lived long ago, the themes that repeat through their lives are the same ones repeating in ours. And to read of their lives is inspiring and thought-provoking.

These books are definitely different. Don't expect a traditional novel. But they are compelling and touching and will be favorites to read and share.

You can find the books on the Kregel website here. You can also find the first three books- the ones I was able to read- as a trilogy on Amazon here. 




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Review of When Hope Rises by Dora Hiers

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When Hope Rises is a light, easy read. It's a Pure Amore Christian romance story. From the Pure Amore site: "Pure Amore romances are sweet, hope-filled tales of youthful Christians who are striving to live their faith in a way that honours God's plan for lovemaking. Be whisked away to a world of romance and hope and help us to spread the message of chastity and purity." The story seems to really focus on that message with constant, overt mentions. It makes the story somewhat awkwardly written, and it really doesn't flow well.

There isn't very much character development. We do learn a little about the main characters throughout the story, but it is mostly through their actions, not through commentary on their thoughts and feelings. The story is pretty straightforward, focusing on the relationship between the main characters- often mentioning their desire for purity.

All in all, it's a light read. There isn't much depth here, but it can make for an easy summer read. I give it 3 stars and a G rating.





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
When Hope Rises
Pelican Book Group (May 2015)
by
Dora Heirs


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. When her youngest son no longer wanted her hanging out at school with him anymore, Dora started writing Heart Racing, God-Gracing romance. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and her local chapter, Carolina Romance Writers.

Dora and her real life hero make their home in North Carolina. When she takes a break from cranking out stories, she enjoys reading, family gatherings, and mountain cabin getaways. She despises traffic, bad coffee, technological meltdowns, and a sad ending to a book. Her books always end with a happily-ever-after!



ABOUT THE BOOK

Art teacher Shelby Coltman transforms junk into treasure and longs for a place to showcase her creations. She’s thrilled when her friend volunteers to room with her. Shelby can finally buy a storefront. Unfortunately, Kennedi’s brother can't seem to let go.

Abandoned as a teenager, guidance counselor Tate Malone has become surrogate and over-protective father to his sister. Life is great until Shelby Coltman wheedles his impressionable sister into sharing an apartment. Raised in wealth, the beautiful Shelby could never understand poverty or rejection, and Tate doesn't appreciate her uprooting his sister. When Shelby hands over her savings to a homeless student, will God obliterate Tate's fears and deliver all of Shelby’s dreams...when hope rises?

If you would like to read the first chapter of When Hope Rises, go HERE.





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Review of The Wood's Edge by Lori Benton

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The Wood's Edge is a different sort of novel. It isn't a romance novel or a suspense novel but there are elements of love and of suspense in it. Set during the 1700s, beginning during the French and Indian War, it was very interesting to me because of the historical elements which are detailed and accurate.

The novel isn't a light, easy read. The characters are well-developed, and there is much of their thought and feelings woven into the story. Although the story is told from 3rd person point of view, it often focuses on one character or another. As I read I was absorbed into the story of the their lives.

The only sort of awkward thing for me was the time element. Instead of relating the main characters' story through a back story sort of way, the book begins in 1757 and continues through 1776. Personally, I have a hard time following a story through a long time period. It is totally a personal preference, and Lori Benton does an excellent job helping the reader to keep up with what's happening. But it just is difficult for me.

All in all, I truly love the story of The Wood's Edge. It's a beautiful story that is truly well-developed and compelling. I give it five stars and a PG rating (although there is a good bit of war related violence).

You can find The Wood's Edge on Amazon here.





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Wood's Edge
WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
by
Lori Benton


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Benton spent her late teens and early twenties pursuing a career as a wildlife artist, attending the Maryland College of Art & Design before she began painting professionally. When not writing or researching, Lori can be found exploring the mountains of southern Oregon with her husband, Brian. Lori's first novel, Burning Sky was nominated as an ECPA 2014 Christian Book Award Finalist and also received double nominations for 2014 Christy Awards. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is her second novel.



ABOUT THE BOOK

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Wood's Edge, go HERE.




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Review of The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

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I have to admit that with all of the books I review, I sometimes find myself "skimming" through a book without much thought expended. Some books just seem to be light reading, not really requiring much emotional energy. But, every once in a while, a book comes along that absorbs me. I become a part of what the characters are going through. I think about the book throughout the day. I'm moved to tears- happy tears, sad tears, thoughtful tears. The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert was one of these books.

The book is written in first person point of view, alternating between Carmen and her sister Gracie. The two stories are parallel, but there are many similarities- although it takes them much of the book to realize this. There is some romance here, but it isn't the focus of the book. More important are the relationships the characters have with each other and with God.

Although the book isn't "preachy" in the least, there is definitely a thought-provoking message here. And anyone who has had those seasons of life where God feels far away, and they feel dry and discouraged will relate to the theme of the book.

I ended the book in tears- good tears (although I won't spoil it all). It was one I hated to put down. And I'm sure I'll continue to think about Carmen and Gracie and those around them for quite a while. I'll also be looking out for other books by Katie Ganshert.

I give this one 5 stars (Can I give more?) and a PG rating (although there are references to drugs and alcohol that make it a little on the edge).

You can find The Art of Losing Yourself on Amazon here.



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Art of Losing Yourself
WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
by
Katie Ganshert


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Art of Losing Yourself, go HERE.




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The Art of Falling by Julie Jarnagin: A Review

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The Art of Falling is a short but sweet inspirational romance, a Hometown Romance from Redbud Press. From the book's description:


Heather Tornsten needs a man…a celebrity, more specifically, for a fundraising gala for the Dallas art museum, where she works. And what better headliner than bull rider Wyatt Lawrence? Although why people idolize grown men who make their living falling off animals, she’ll never understand.

When his mom was diagnosed with cancer, Wyatt determined to focus on doing what she wants—like visiting some art museum. But when his mom teams up with Heather Tornsten to get him involved in a fundraiser, he knows he’s been set up. The more involved he gets with the pretty events coordinator, the more he realizes falling off a bull is far safer. Because falling for Heather–who has made it clear that she won’t risk her heart on any man who courts danger–might break a whole lot more than his bones.


There's nothing deep or thought provoking about this book. But it is a good, simple, enjoyable read. The characters are well-developed and likable. There is the typical tension between our male and female main characters. She's determined not to love someone in a dangerous job because she doesn't want to get hurt. And he's a bull rider who wants to please his mom struggling with cancer but is worried about the cost to his heart.

This book isn't going to be one you dig into or linger over. But it will make for a nice, easy summer read by the pool. And, although it's a quick read, it's a fun one. I give it four easy stars and a G rating.



You can find The Art of Falling on Amazon here.




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Review of A Chance of Loving You: A Trio of Christian Romance Novellas

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Three of my favorite Christian romance authors have come together to contribute to Chance of Loving You, a collection of romance novellas. In each of the novellas, the main character has a chance for love and one opportunity to take it.

From the book's description:

For Love of Money by Terri Blackstock Trying to launch her own design firm while waitressing on the side, Julie Sheffield was drawn to the kind man she waited on at the restaurant last night . . . until he stiffed her on the tip by leaving her half of a sweepstakes ticket.

The Recipe by Candace Calvert Hospital dietary assistant Aimee Curran is determined to win the Vegan Valentine Bake-Off to prove she’s finally found her calling. But while caring for one of her patients―the elderly grandmother of a handsome CSI photographer―Aimee begins to question where she belongs.

Hook, Line & Sinker by Susan May Warren Grad student Abigail Cushman has agreed to enter the annual Deep Haven fishing contest. She’s a quick learner, even if she doesn’t know the difference between a bass and a trout. But nothing could prepare her for competing against the handsome charmer she’s tried to forget since grief tore them apart.

One chance for each woman to change her life . . . but will love be the real prize?


I love the writing of all three of the authors involved- Terri Blackstock, Candace Calvert, and Susan May Warren. This collection contained some of the trademarks of their typical writing. But all were tied into the theme of taking a chance on a relationship.

Terri Blackstock often writes romantic suspense. But she also writes good dramatic fiction. For Love of Money doesn't have any suspense. But it does have a male and female character who often find themselves at odds and needing to reach a middle ground- another feature in many of Blackstock's books.

The Recipe from Candace Calvert features characters who work in a hospital, as her other books do. I like the hospital/rescue workers theme found in Calvert's books. She always creates characters that are well-developed and likable.

Susan May Warren is probably my favorite Christian romance author ever. I love her characters who are always developed so well that I leave the books feeling as if I made a new friend. Hook, Line, and Sinker is set in Deep Haven, the town that holds many of Susan May Warren's characters, including those from the Christiansen family that I've been devouring lately.

All of these writers produce books that are, while interesting and sweet romance reads, also often inspiring and thought-provoking without being preachy. As novellas, these are short reads that can be read and enjoyed quickly.

I give this collection 5 stars and a PG for content. You can find it on Amazon below. This book is also part of a Tyndale blog tour, so you'll be seeing other reviews around the web this week.




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