Book Reviews- Dee Henderson Special

11 Sep

Over the course of the past months (a year even. if you want me to be truly honest), I’ve been buying books more than I have in the past decade. I normally prefer to check books out from the library, then if I like them enough to own them, I wait until I find them at used book/thrift stores. But with the closing and all of libraries, that avenue was cut off. What was I supposed to do? Not get any new reads?

Surely not.

Instead, I wound up finding this lovely soul on Instagram that sells books at great prices and also have found there can be great deals on christianbook.com. All this to say that my To-Read pile has grown wonderfully long, and that’s aside from the pile that I already owned that I need to read. Check out my Classics Edition and Other books to see what those look like.

ALL of that to say, I wound up with a few more Dee Henderson books, one I’d never read and the other one I think I’d only read once. And since I’m woefully behind on posting anything on here, I decided that a nice, easy welcome-back post would be to review just the Henderson books. So, here we go!

Kidnapped – FBI agent, Luke Falcon, has just walked into a nightmare. Someone has taken his cousin’s wife and son. Determined to get them back, he is searching for the kidnapper and trying to solve the crimes surrounding it. But danger is getting closer to him and the woman he loves. (published 2004, originally titled, True Courage)

~What’s interesting is this is slated as book #4 of the Uncommon heroes series. While it’s been a few years since I read them, I can’t see/remember any link to the other books. Nonetheless, this one is well worth the read. Luke Falcon- first off, a really cool name; second he’s kind of a dream-come-true-kinda guy. His life is seriously thrown for a loop when he gets the call that his family is missing. The twists and turns are just what I expect from her. The discussions of faith were really good, although they didn’t impact me as much as the ones in ‘Taken'(see below). I did feel like I should have known who a few side characters were, so maybe I do need to go back and read the Uncommon Heroes series again, perhaps they are in one of those books. But it wasn’t so much that it detracted from the story.

Before I Wake – The town of Justice, Illinois is small and quiet and Sheriff Nathan Justice loves it. He meets Rae Gabriella as she moves into town, seeking a new start after an undercover investigation went wrong. She’s decided to work as a private investigator with former boyfriend, Bruce Chapel, hoping the quiet town will help her heal. But the peace and tranquility have just been shattered by a string of murders. Women are being found in their hotel rooms, apparently dead in their sleep- no sign of theft or violence in the rooms. When Nathan finds out that Rae is working one of the cases, he’s not happy about it, especially as she fits the profile to be the next victim. Can Nathan, Rae and Bruce work together to find who and what this mysterious killer is before the killer strikes again? (published 2006)

~This was a new read for me. I really liked the small town of Justice, and the history that the Sheriff had, as his family had founded the town years before. The different aspects that were going on in this story were woven together SO well, and all actually mattered in the story. (as opposed to some books that we’ve all read that had parts that weren’t necessary to the plot and just seemed to take away from it.. but I digress). I really liked the side character, Gage Collier. Which, looking up his name just now made me wonder, isn’t he from the O’Malley series!??! Someone please tell me he is. Anyway…. pulling my attention back to this review just got harder– OK. The end was so good and satisfying although there were two things that I was like ‘wait, what?’ when I realized it was the last page. I can’t say more than that because it would be major spoilers but I’m a little surprised at her decisions in these things but I’m also holding out hope that it means she was setting it up for a second book.

Taken – Shannon’s escape was planned to the last detail, as is her plan to capture the ones who kidnapped her -the Jacoby family. Her choosing Matthew Dane, private investigator, as the one who helps her gain her freedom, wasn’t an accident. But the task of finding all the evidence, and what happened to the ransom that was paid all those years ago, is going to be harder than she thought. (published 2015)

~I did really enjoy this book. It is intense and a bit slow moving but it’s theme was different than I’d read before – taking place AFTER the kidnapping. I liked the faith of Shannon and her coming to terms with the events of her life. The romance was a little odd but it grew on me.  this was my original review from 2018. Now, having read it again, I agree with everything I said although the romance wasn’t odd to me. I liked its sweetness and carefulness. Shannon’s faith again impacted me So much. I appreciate how Henderson writes the struggles and theology into her books.

One Suggestion I have before reading Taken is to read Full Disclosure and Unspoken. Just for background on some of the important side characters. I’m sure you can read it and still fully enjoy it without but I think it would be worth it to wait and give those a shot first. They both are also excellent, from what I remember as it’s been a few year since I read either.

Here are my reviews for them from previous posts:

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson – Ann Silver, cop, passes off a case to Luke Falcon, FBI. She’s relieved to have it off her desk, as she’s also the Midwest Homicide Investigator. He’s just been handed vital information that ties to a case he’s been working for years. But soon their lives will collide, getting far more personal than either had anticipated.

~ Whooeeee. I’d read this book years before but didn’t remember much of it. I appreciated how different of a lead female character Anne was – her end goal wasn’t marriage and kids and the white picket fence. This book has so many layers to it that I was sucked in very quickly and stayed that way. It is an intense story, as you follow along on a John Doe case. Perhaps a bit too quick of a wrap-up at the end for me, but thankfully, it didn’t ruin the whole thing. (you know what I’m talking about). 

Unspoken by Dee Henderson – Almost twenty years later, Charlotte Graham still hasn’t spoken about her past. A past that includes her being the center of the most famous kidnapping in Chicago’s history. A past that includes such pain and fear that she’s never risked telling anyone. Can she finally take that risk?

~You might notice that another Henderson kick is beginning… This one is ‘connected’ with Full Disclosure and Taken. While there was a lot of detail about coins, I appreciated how much she researched it out – it didn’t take away from the novel for me. As usual, some of the faith struggles of the characters hit a bit too close to home for me – but that is one reason I appreciate Henderson’s books. She writes not only good fiction, she gives real-life faith struggles to her characters. I highly recommend this book!

And I’ll admit that I have them in an online cart right now, debating if I should break my self-imposed book buying ban and just get them, or not. Decisions, decisions.

Have you read any Dee Henderson? What’s your favorite of hers?

~Laura

The O’Malley Series Review – click to read!

I’ve made a sticky note to remind me to do a separate post for the Uncommon Heroes series sometime soon.

April/May 2021 Book Reviews

30 May

Hello all! I’ve been putting this together for at least a week. Where does the time go, honestly?

There is quite the variety from the past two months, I’d love to know if something catches your interest!

Legacy by Cayla Kluver – Princess Alera of Hytanica is expected to marry now that she’s reached her seventeenth year – and that man will be king. In her country, it’s not her that will inherit the throne but her husband. Her father’s choice of suitor, however, leaves her distressed. Uncertain how to get out of the expectations building up around her, she turns her attention to finding out just who the castle guard captured recently. A boy about her own age that comes from her country’s sworn enemy, and full of secrets and appeal that she can’t understand. But their clandestine meetings will open up intrigue and danger that she never could have guessed.

~This was given to me by a friend and I knew nothing about it, other than it was the author’s very first book and the cover was gorgeous. (Seriously, look at that cover). London (her bodyguard) quickly became a favorite character for me – and I enjoyed the unfolding of who the boy (Narian) was. I found the story with the chosen suitor to be a good backdrop, and with some twists that were surprising. I liked Alera but found her to be a bit too childish at times- however she is only seventeen, so there’s some excuse for her behavior! But, there was far too much descriptions of the palace and other things. I would skip ahead just to get to the story…The other thing that made this not as enjoyable for me was that it could have been edited better. Now, I say that hesitantly and with the most love that I can. I understand just how much work it is to write and edit a book. But it’s got a definite first-book feel to it and it could have really surpassed that. I’m curious to read the sequel just to know what happens with London, Narian and if the writing improves… I recommend this with the proviso that you either prepare to skip lots of descriptions or maybe that sort of thing doesn’t bother you like it does me.

Passionate Pilgrim: The Life of Vincent Van Gogh by Lawrence and Elisabeth Hanson – This biography follows the story of Van Gogh from his birth in 1853 in a small Dutch village through his struggling teen years and onto the years of being supported by his brother Theo while he tried one vocation after another. Finally, he settled on painting. Finding his true calling didn’t exempt him from trials however. He moved from London to Brussels where he fell in love; to Paris and living with Theo and meeting Gaugin; to the south of France in 1888 where he struggled to put all that he wanted on canvas. Ending up alone and struggling for sanity, he said “Oh! If I could have worked without this accursed malady, what things I could have done!” When he died of suicide, his brother soon followed. Theo’s wife alone lived to see the recognition of Vincent’s genius.

~I’d previously read Dear Theo, so had a good idea of how his life went. And the heartache and struggles that went with it. BUT- I’m so glad to have read this as well. It gives a clearer picture on how things really were- from how his parents treated him to many other people and situations. We all see things through our own prejudices and feelings, and even more so for Vincent who struggled with sanity as he got older. He desperately wanted love – but the world could not give it to one who was so rough and abusive and clearly didn’t fit in. He knew that he presented a rough exterior of one who couldn’t be trusted, he admitted it. And yet, his longing was to have a home and a family. Anyway, the Hansons wrote a biography that was engaging all the way through. I did have to read it in small doses simply because the story itself is so overwhelmingly sad. If you are interested in Van Gogh at all, I recommend this biography for sure.

Nicholas St. North and the Nightmare King (Guardians #1) by William Joyce- Nicholas St. North was a swashbuckling warrior- his abilities with his double scimitars had garnered him quite the reputation. He is called to aid a small village called Santoff Claussen and the greatest wizard, Ombric Shalazar. The village is said to hold the greatest treasure in the East but when he arrives, there’s a greater threat that he could have imagined. He has to decide whether he’ll get the treasure or help fight the Nightmare King and his fearlings.

~Okay you guys. Rise of the Guardians is my favorite animated movie, and it’s based, with William Joyce’s help, on this series of his. I’d been wanting to read this series for years but never got around to it. So when this was gifted to me, I was so excited! It was just as good as I was hoping it would be. The writing style! The story itself! I clearly can’t say anything any more coherent than, just read it.

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris- Set in 1931.When struggling artist Ellis Reed sees the sign on a farmhouse porch, he’s stricken with memories of his own family’s dark past. He snaps a picture of the sign and children near it – ‘2 children for sale’ and leaves. He had no intention of it getting published, but when it does and turns into his big break, causing his career to finally get moving, he can’t believe it. He also has no idea that the consequences of that photo will be so devastating. But it’s not just Ellis who feels the guilt of what happened. Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in it, she’s far too aware of the heartbreak of unwanted children. She and Ellis have to decide how much they are willing to risk in order to mend the fractured family.

~This story was inspired by an actual photograph that was published in a newspaper, and man, does it just pull at your heartstrings. I had seen this one flood social media a few years ago when it came out. I’d been marginally interested but no further. Finding it at a thrift store a few months ago, then, I decided it would be worth trying out. And, it was. McMorris wove a story of redemption, suspense and love that I found hard to put down. I got halfway through and realized that I HAD to know what happened. And spent the rest of that saturday afternoon/evening reading. If you’re wanting a book to just captivate you with well-rounded characters, suspense that keeps you turning the pages, and a satisfying ending, go pick this one up. SO GOOD. (I held back on the all-caps for as long as I could, you guys.)

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson-As a Forger, Shai can copy and recreate any item by using its history with magic. Her skill is considered an abomination by many. So when she gets captured when trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she’s certain an execution awaits her. But instead they offer her the chance of freedom if she creates a new soul for the emperor. As she delves into who Emperor Ashravan is, she finds a way to exploit it. But her only possible ally is an old man who is fiercely loyal to the emperor. Gaotana must look past his prejudices and see Shai as a skilled, intelligent young woman who creates art- as well as deception.

~I decided that I needed to read more of Sanderson’s books instead of just rereading the ones I love, and this short story was a good introduction to doing that. I could have enjoyed it as a full book, but that’s how I normally am with short stories. I really enjoyed the idea of Forging- and how it was explained was quite interesting. Shai was unique and fun to read. The twists and turns were So good. Highly recommend if you like a bit of fantasy.

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson – I’m pulling the synopsis from Goodreads for this one – Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad. A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems. . .for a price. His brain is getting a little crowded and the aspects have a tendency of taking on lives of their own. When a company hires him to recover stolen property—a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past—Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions—and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects

~ I felt like this one was quite different from the other Sanderson’s that I’ve read, as well as being out of the norm for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. How Stephen dealt with his different aspects was interesting, as well as how they interacted with him and the world around them. A bit psychological thriller, this was a quick read for me because I simply couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure really what else to say about it. Give it a try, I’m guessing you’ll like it!

Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help you Grasp God’s Purpose in your Suffering by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton – Both Kristen and Sarah know that suffering is real. But they want you to know that so is hope. They have walked -and are walking – in difficult times. They’ve shared thirty truths from the Bible – reflections on how to live through hard times with our faith intact- because hope is here for us.

~I read this with my sister-in-law and we both got so much out of this study. Each chapter has verses, prayers and questions at the end of them. There was something about knowing that the authors truly understand what it is to go through long-term suffering – they truly know what they are talking about in that area. But that they’ve also been able to keep their faith and hope strong was an extra encouragement. That doesn’t mean that one could only benefit from this book if you’re going through long-term suffering. Heaven knows, life in general tosses enough struggles our way. I think anyone could learn from this book. Plus, its cover is pretty.

Twice Shy by Dick Francis – When Jonathan Derry, a physicist, is handed a set of computer tapes by a friend, he’s surprised but accepts them. He doesn’t know what he’s getting into though. The tapes hold a computerized horse-racing betting system. One that actually works. But having them, puts him in a dangerous position. There are those that will stop at nothing to obtain them. Jonathan must think outside the box to stay alive, and keep the computer tapes out of the bad guys’ hands.

~This book was given to me with a decent recommendation. It’s another of those that sat on my shelf for at least a year. Oof. Anyway, I’d never read anything by Francis, so I had no idea what to expect. I was quickly engrossed in the story- it helped that it was about horses and horse racing (something that has always been of interest to me). But the way that Francis wrote was engaging and the twists! Ahhh, I heartily enjoyed this story. However, there were a few swear words sprinkled here and there… which was a shame because they could have easily been left out/replaced with another word. There was also a bit of suggestive material about halfway through that I didn’t appreciate but it never crossed the line so far that I put the book down. Again, something that easily could have been toned down and wouldn’t have damaged the story at all.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill – When Piper Sail’s best friend, Lydia, goes missing, the only thing she knows is that she can’t just sit around waiting for the police to find her. Especially when it seems that they are looking in all the wrong places. She sets out on her own investigation, with the aid of a young detective, into the underbelly of Chicago in 1924. She’s determined to find Lydia, no matter what. But she soon has to decide exactly what that means as the truth just might upset her privileged life.

~I first read this the beginning of last year. My full review is here. My feelings are the same about it, in case you’re curious how I felt after reading it a second time. Also, I decided to just buy it, so now I have a lovely copy of my own.

Currently Reading:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne (It’s taking me entirely too long to finish this)

In My Father’s House by Ann Rinaldi

The Patriot Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #4) by Kimberely Woodhouse

Up Next to Read:

book 5 of the Daughters of the Mayflower series

Watership Down by Richard Adams

OR Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I mean, really, it’s always a mystery what I’ll end up reading next. I’m very much a mood reader.

~Laura

What are you reading?

March 2021 Book Reviews

14 May

Once again, it’s been far too long since I got any sort of post here on SGL. But, at last, I have finished the book reviews for what I read in March. It was rather a stellar month for reading exceptional books, let me tell you. Let’s get right to it!

Redwall by Brian Jacques- At Redwall Abbey, everything is peaceful and the inhabitants prepare to celebrate the Summer of the Late Rose. But what they don’t know yet is that Cluny the Scourge is nearing their valley. Cluny is a vicious warlord, a one-eyed rat who wishes to kill all in his path. He sets plans to kill the peaceful animals and take ownership of Redwall.

~I had never read this nor barely even heard of it, and am so glad that I picked a copy up when I found it at a thrift store. It turns out that my husband read the whole series as a kid and loved it. I quickly understood why as I was whisked into the world of the Abbey- Martin, Bartholomew and the others. Cluny and his army. The owl. Oh, just the whole of it. It was so good and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation #1) by Tamera Alexander – Being the widow of a man who was shot as a traitor to the south leaves Olivia Aberdeen without many options in Nashville. She has been shunned by proper society. But she is relieved to accept the invitation by ‘Aunt’ Elizabeth Harding to be housekeeper at Belle Meade Plantation. When she arrives and finds out from Confederate General William Giles Harding why he agreed to her coming, she is disillusioned and worried. This was not to be the safe haven that she had hoped it would be. But another newcomer to Belle Meade draws her interest, a young man that, although he is from the South, seems anything but a Southern gentleman. Ridley Cooper, branded a traitor and dreaming of learning the ‘gift’ that Bob Green, Belle Meade’s horse trainer and former slave, has with horses, enters Belle Meade with a host of secrets. One of them being that while he was born in the South, he fought for the North. As he battles demons within himself, both of them must deal with fears of betrayal.

~Why did this sit on my shelf for a few years before I ever read it? I’ll never know. I was quickly drawn into the story and was HELD there for the whole thing. I really liked Ridley and Uncle Bob. As well as Olivia and her struggle to overcome not only her long-held fears but the social stagnation that suddenly happens to her. A great book – highly recommend! 

Mary Poppins 80th Collection Edition by P.L. Travers – Travel to Cherry Tree Lane on the east wind and join in on all the adventures that the Banks children go on when Mary Poppins arrives to be their nanny.

~Forgive the super short synopsis but I feel like most people have a general idea of who Mary Poppins is. I had never read any of the stories about the ‘magical’ nanny, my only experience was Disney’s rendition of her with Julie Andrews. I did enjoy getting to see how Travers wrote the character and all the crazy adventures she led the children on. But, I will say, I didn’t end up adoring her, nor the whole of the book. There were adventures that I had fun reading but on the whole, (please don’t hate me for saying this), I rather still prefer Disney’s version of who Mary Poppins is. I am glad I read it though, and think it’s worth anyone who is interested in at least trying it. I will add that getting to know Poppins’ relatives makes it worth it.

Home Work: A Memoir of my Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews – This being her second memoir, she focuses on her years in Hollywood, as an up and coming actress. The highs and lows of working with the giants of cinema at the time as well as balancing her personal life.

~I enjoyed the portion that I read of this. I honestly read maybe a quarter of it but realized that as interesting as it was, there were other books that I would rather be reading. So, I opted to be done with it. But, Andrew’s writing style is engrossing and the stories she shares are interesting. I mainly wanted to read it because of learning about her experiences filming both Mary Poppins and Sound of Music.

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman- In Goredd, the peace between humans and dragons these past forty years has done little to ease the suspicions between them. The dragons have created a way to form themselves into human shape, and their abilities in mathematics are unmatched. The anniversary of the treaty is approaching and tensions run high. Seraphina Dombegh is a new member of court when a member of the royal family is murdered. With sufficient reason to hide from both sides, she is nevertheless caught up in the investigation with the perceptive captain of the guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. As things grow more dangerous, she struggles to hid her secret that could mean her very life, if it is found out.

This gets five stars and I do not do 5 star ratings very often! I was completely enamored with this book. I knew nothing about it when I started – but man, Hartman did an amazing job weaving a story together with dragons in a whole new way. I really liked Kiggs’ character development, as well as Seraphina herself. The only things I feel like I should mention: the word ‘bastard’ is used throughout but in the instance of being a child born out of wedlock, not as a derogatory name. There is a very subtle instance of a possible relationship between two men, but it’s so subtle that I probably wouldn’t have even caught it if I hadn’t looked up the term that Hartman used for it. I am eagerly awaiting reading the sequel.

Dr Fate Vol. 1 The Blood Price by Paul Levitz (from goodreads:) In modern-day Brooklyn, Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, has called up a great flood in order to cleanse the world. If left unchecked, his magic has the power to wash all of humanity away. To turn the rising tide and save mankind, Nabu the Wise, the mystical helmet of Fate, must choose a new champion from among Earth’s greatest heroes—instead, he settles on Khalid “Kent” Nassour, Egyptian-American first-year med student. Unfortunately for the inexperienced and overwhelmed Khalid, instructions for his new abilities can’t be found in any of his textbooks. Unless he can learn to harness the ancient power of Nabu, Anubis will claim everything the new Doctor Fate holds dear, including his family, his girlfriend and the world as he knows it. Yes, the Doctor is in…way over his head.

~sometimes, the goodreads synopsis is just too good. Whoever wrote this one, nailed it. Confession time: this was my first comic book. Not to read of course, there have been a few over the years. But to own. And it is, naturally, about Dr. Fate. (marrying a nerd has had its advantages in getting exposed to some really cool superhero characters). This is a modern retelling of Dr. Fate’s origin and I liked it. I really appreciated that they worked in a (full page) spread of him in his original outfit. (insert girlish squealing). The storyline kept me interested and the artwork was incredible.

What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

Writing Prompt – Deamon the Villain

13 Apr

“What are you doing here?” Daemon spewed the question out of the side of his mouth, the anger and disgust evident. If circumstances were different, he’d sideline the Hero, so that maybe he’d finally learn to stop interfering. But as it was, Daemon had to satisfy himself with a distracted question and turning his back on him. Far worse things were in the dark parking garage with him right now. He could deal with the Hero later.  He cast about, looking for the fiend who had lured him here. The cover of night made it easy for one such as him to hide. But he quickly remembered that it was to his advantage as well and took cover next to a pillar, pulling his long black coat around himself.  To his dismay, the Hero followed him. The insufferable guy slid next to him, his gray clothes melting into the darkness. 

wrtngpromptvillaindaemon

 

“Get out of here. I don’t have time to deal with you.” The side of his mouth twitched in irritation.

“I’m here to help.” The Hero’s voice was quiet and solid, not a waver of fear in it. Despite himself, Daemon felt a flicker of admiration for his long-time nemesis. Disgusted at the emotion, he jerked his collar high around his neck and checked that the safety was off on his gun. Once again, his eyes searched the darkness, sure that at any moment…

“Daemon. Come out, come out wherever you are.” The voice was alluring and dangerous yet deep inside, Daemon wished he could do as the dark voice asked.  He felt the Hero move from his side, but kept his eyes in front of him  – the Shadow would have to move eventually. “Daemon – I don’t like waiting. Come out here where I can see you. There’s no use hiding, I’ll find you eventually. Let’s get this over with, shall we?” 

The voice slithered inside him, planting doubt that he’d make it out of this alive. Daemon silently made his way to the next pillar, hiding behind parked cars as he moved. From the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of the Hero on the other side of the parking garage. Desperate to get a better fix on where the Shadow was hiding, he screwed up his courage and hollered into the night ,

“What do you want with me?”

A low cackle filled the cavernous space, “You know exactly why I’m here. Don’t toy with me, pathetic worm. You haven’t dealt with that Hero like you were supposed to. So.” The voice dropped to a low pitch, so full of malevolence that even Daemon shivered. “You will die. And then he will die.” 

He brought the gun up, ready to shoot the first movement he saw, even knowing the bullet wouldn’t harm his opponent. Instead, a loud crashing noise followed by a startled grunt rent the air. Daemon ran towards it, dodging cars and concrete dividers as he went. The noise of the fight ended in a sharp, angry scream and Daemon slid to a halt as the Shadow fell to his knees. The Hero stood nearby, doubled over.  The hilt of a knife protruded from the Shadow’s stomach, all black with a red stone set in the pommel. Before Daemon could react, the Shadow fell in a dead heap, stabbed by the only weapon that could kill one such as him. 

The Hero turned. And instead of the obnoxious joke that Daemon was certain he would make, the Hero’s face was contorted, and he too fell to his knees. Daemon laid the Hero on his back, his hand beneath his head. The Hero’s blood covered him now but there was no victory in it for him.

“You pulled the Shadow’s knife from your gut? That was suicide!” Daemon’s heavy voice registered shock as he realized what had happened. 

“He was…going to kill…you.” The Hero gasped and coughed. 

“But…that would’ve done it for you. No more villain to your hero.”

“There’s more to.. you than…you know.”

Daemon snorted in derision, sure that the Hero had lost any sense he’d had. He looked over at the Shadow, laying in folds of black fabric, a ghastly look on his face. “That was the only way to kill him, you know. That knife. To kill such a creature…” Daemon shook his head, relieved and confused all at the same time. 

“You are…reborn, Daemon.The darkness will not… haunt you anymore.” With his last breath, the Hero blessed his enemy. And Daemon stayed on his knees, cradling the one whom he’d hated for all his life.

 

Today’s writing prompt was ‘The Hero dies for the Villain’. But I thought it would kind of spoil things if I told you that beforehand.

I hope you enjoyed this sad little short story! I’m plotting away on my book and I can’t wait to start writing it! By the  way, have I mentioned how much I’m loving The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler? Definite recommend, there.

Anyhow, come back on Thursday for this month’s book review! Thanks for stopping by, let me know if you’ve got any writing prompt ideas, or even places to find cool ones online!

~Laura

The Sword in His Hand Book Review

2 Apr

The Sword in His Hand by J. J. Fischer is a christian fantasy novel that I got free for my honest review from Ambassador International. Now, I am so excited that they are publishing more christian fantasy – the other one I received was The Kingdom Above the Cloud.

When I got this book in the mail, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it is- the cover, the map, -etc? Plus it’s a hefty 500+ pages which is always a good thing, especially in the fantasy genre.

When a strange young woman named El, washes up on the shores of Darcentaria, brought somehow by a strange metal craft that is now a burning wreck, there is plenty of suspicion about her. The villagers wonder if she’s an agent of their cruel oppressors, the Dalriadans, sent to spy on them? Or is she from the Outside – the legendary lands that lie beyond their borders. Torsten Eislher has spent the last nine years wrongfully imprisoned. His uncle, the empire’s ruler, used him as an example to any who might oppose him. But now, as a young swordsman, and having escaped the fate planned for him, Torsten is staying alive and one step ahead of his uncle’s soldiers by keeping a firm grip on his sword. He hates anything to do with the Outside; but when he is inexorably drawn to El, he finds himself questioning everything he’s been told about her world. The hunt for Torsten and El is started in earnest when the ruler, Jurien Arminius decides to take the Outside world’s advanced military for his own. But it’s not just Torsten and El that he’s looking for, there were two others that landed with her. And he will stop at nothing to win the war against the rebellion that could destroy his empire.

Now, this is one that is going on my Favorite Reads of 2021, no doubt about it. Fischer carried quite a few different storylines throughout and wove them together so beautifully. I did get a little confused between the bad guys in the beginning, but it becomes clearer once you get into the story more. I appreciated the strength of Torsten’s convictions throughout (even if they aren’t the best *cough*) and found myself a little frustrated with El’s vacillating although it did make sense, with all she went through. There were so many great side characters, I’m not even going to try and name any of them because then I’ll never get stopped.

As I am always curious about how clean a book is, I will share a few things with you. First off, it is very clean – a fact that I just loved, getting to read another fantasy with no ‘ugh’ parts! But, throughout there are mentions of the guards forcing themselves on the women prisoners, and El deals with a lot of suggestive behaviors and more from the strangers that she’s around while traveling through this world. (Thankfully, none from Torsten – that probably would have broken my heart.) There is also talk of how she gave herself to a young man back in her world – but none of this is shared in detail. Another fact that I highly appreciated.

I was engrossed in this novel pretty much from beginning to end and while I was satisfied with the end, I was sad it was over and needing to know what happens next!

I can’t wait for the sequel that’s coming out this summer!

Jan and Feb 2021 Book Reviews

25 Mar

Well, it’s been a minute since I last posted, hasn’t it? As you can tell by the title, I’ve decided to lump the book reviews in two months today. Hopefully I can then get caught up and do March’s book reviews in the next week or so. Let’s begin, shall we?

Photo by Mahendra Kumar on Unsplash

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – English orphan, Maia is sent to live with her distant relatives who own a rubber plantation on the Amazon. Excited to explore the new world of sunshine, bright flowers and butterflies, she is surprised to encounter her cousins who douse the house with bug killer and won’t let her leave their compound. But Maia can’t be cooped up forever and she becomes involved in a mystery about an inheritance, a reluctant actor and a giant sloth

~ This is a children’s story so well written that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fell in love with Maia and her governess, Miss Minton. I highly recommend it to pass on to young readers as well! It was such fun and getting to read about the Amazon just added to the delight.

A Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schaub – when Eve’s eyes were opened to how sugar is hidden in just about everything (bacon, dressings, baby food, etc), she challenged her husband and two daughters to going a whole year without sugar. As they traversed the rocky road through holidays, birthdays and vacations, she learned what the real cost of such sugar consumption is- obesity, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease among other issues. Eve talks about what it’s like for an average American family to kick the sugar habit.

~ Every now and then I love to read food memoirs and this was a good one. I appreciated Schaub’s easy to understand explanations about sugar byproducts, and her honesty about the challenges of cutting sugar out of their diets. As someone who has had to cut out all processed sugars out of my own diet, I identified with a lot of what she talks about. It also motivated me to keep looking at the ingredient lists of anything I buy – which can get wearying after a few years but it’s Worth it. Highly recommend, whether you’re wanting a good kick in the pants to minimize your sugar intake or just a good memoir to laugh and groan along with.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin – We all know that habits are the key to change but Rubin wondered – how do we change our habits? She gives practical advice and theories – that she tested on herself and those around her- mixed with humor and research, on how to improve our lives by intentionally creating habits that help us lead the life we want.

~ This book was so inspirational. I’m tempted to buy it (I got it from the library to read) and actually give some of her ideas a try. This book was such an easy read and kept me turning the pages. (I even stopped reading the novel I was in at the time, it’s that good). I highly recommend!

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes – Raised on stories of the magic of the past and high seas adventures, Lucy Clairmont grew up to be a marine archaeologist. She’s not seen her childhood friend, Dashel, for years. But when tragedy strikes, it’s his knowledge as a forensic astronomer that will help her unravel the mystery that she finds in her childhood home. Somehow, it’s linked with a story two hundred years old- of childhood love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. And so, Lucy and Dashel journey to an estate on the East Sussex coast, where they find a community of gentle souls and long-lost secrets where they both just might find healing.

~ Deep breath, you guys. This novel was Incredible. It immediately went onto my Favorites of 2021 list. I adore when an author can carry two different timelines through the story and weave them so seamlessly together. This was my first novel of Dykes by the way, and I was thoroughly enchanted with her writing style. I wanted to shake Lucy a few times as she let fear or assumptions dictate her actions- but don’t we all do that at times? And really, if you can write marine archaeology into a book, I am probably going to be a fan. If you’re wanting a novel that you just can’t put down, give this one a try! I already can’t wait to read it again.

My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York, 1941 by Mary Pope Osborne – This diary follows the adventures and trials of young Madeline. Her and her mother live in a boardinghouse on Long Island while her father serves on an aircraft carrier on the Pacific Coast. When her and her friend find a German U-boat on the coast, they form “Kids Fight for Freedom” to do their own part in the home front war effort.

~ This is a part of the ‘Dear America’ series. I have read a few, mostly when I was a young teen, and enjoyed them. This was no exception, even if it was written a little simply and I would have loved more details on certain things. But, this is written as a diary, not a novel, so it makes complete sense as to its level. I appreciated the growth of Madeline throughout the story as she goes through good and bad times during the war. Also, it’s a little known fact that a German U-boat was found on the coast in New York. I definitely recommend this for younger (and older) readers.

Books coming up in the next review:

Redwall by Brian Jacques

To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

and more!

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear!

Daughters of the Mayflower Series Review

12 Feb

I ran across this series while perusing the Christianbook site for more novels by Michelle Griep, and the first three were such a good deal that I decided to give them a try. Now, this series is rather unique as it is written by six different authors – and covers the stories of Americans from the Mayflower through World War 2. There are at least twelve books in total. I just found the site for the series here.

The first one is The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse- set in 1620. Mary Elizabeth joins her family and small community of Seperatists aboard the Mayflower in search of a better world. William Lytton is also seeking a fresh start. As a carpenter aboard the ship, he hopes to succeed in this venture. When he’s asked to look out for the interests of the Virginia Company as the community settles in exchange for a goodly sum, he agrees. But the season is late for sailing and even when they do reach land, the people are weak from the journey and building a settlement is a challenge. Will Mary Elizabeth and William survive the natives and the innumerable losses as spring comes? Will William be branded a traitor just when things seem to be turning for the better?

Next is The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’barbo – set in New Orleans, 1725. Maribel Cordova clings to the little she has left of her mother- a shawl that has been passed down through the family since they came to the New World. But she’s lost something else – her father’s treasure. And the one man who can help her find it is attorney Jean-Luc Valmont. When he accepts a position on the governor’s staff, he is certain that he’s buried his past deep enough that it will never see the light of day. But then Maribel walks into his life, and as the daughter of a notorious pirate, she could ruin everything. Will they both be able to find what they seek, and hold onto what they hold most dear?

And last but not least, is The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep- set in  Upper Fort Wilderness in Upstate New York, 1760. Mercy Lytton straddles two cultures that are united in their cause- to defeat the French. Mercy was raised among the Mohawks and has keen sight that makes her invaluable as a scout for the English military. When she is chosen for a mission with three men, she is expecting the physical danger. But the real danger is to her heart. Elias Dubois is condemned as a traitor and awaiting the gallows. At the last moment, he is offered the chance to live a little longer and help guard a shipment of gold. The gold that he stole in the first place. As he sets off with Mercy, an old ranger and a whiny soldier, Elias realizes that Mercy is far more intriguing than any woman he’s met. Will they be able to deliver the gold on time – and will they find common ground amidst the divided loyalties that split the country?

My Review: I enjoyed the first novel but felt that it was quite slow moving in the first half (or even longer) I would have liked to see more of their time in the New World than was shared. Nothing faulting the author here though, personal preference. I also felt that the characters could have jumped off the page more – while I liked both Mary Elizabeth and William, I wasn’t gripped with needing to know how their story ended. A good book but could have been even better, in my opinion. I am not sure that I’ll read it again but give it a try, it’s worth a one-time read!

As for the Pirate Bride, I had only read some short stories of hers in collections (you know, where there’s a handful of similar short stories in one book?). But I was excited about it as it was a book centered on PIRATES. And yes, I needed to capitalize that whole word to get across just how excited I was about it. The above synopsis doesn’t tell you near enough about what actually happens in this novel! I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down. I’ve not read a novel quite like it before, which was so refreshing! I will definitely be looking out for more books by her. But, back to this one – Maribel is a spunky kid- and young woman. Yes, we get to see her in two different stages in her life which really brought her to life. If we had only seen her grown, we wouldn’t have understood her struggles and stubbornness and love for ships. Y’Barbo didn’t overdo it on the information on the details (rigging, masts, starboard, etc) about the ships which I appreciated. But I did revel in what she included. Danger and intrigue; family devotion and betrayal; faith being put to the test; sweet, clean, lovely romance – all are covered in this one, folks. The characters were real and jumping off the page. In other words, give this one a try!

As for The Captured Bride by Griep – I absolutely loved it! I was sucked into the story right from the beginning, and couldn’t stop thinking about it whenever I had to put it down to do things..like life. Mercy was such a great character – her skills and knowledge were believable; her weaknesses true to life and her being willing to learn and live made it so that you could identify with her. I really liked Elias as well- the intrigue behind his story was so good and while, after finishing it, I wondered how I didn’t see ‘that’ coming –the truth is that it’s written so well that I just didn’t! Griep wove so many twists and turns into the story that it’s sure to keep you intrigued, just like it did me! This one is definitely on my Favorite Reads of 2021!

So, as a summary, each book that I read, I enjoyed more than the last one. I look forward to slowly reading more of this series but I’ll probably be trying to get them through the library before buying any more, penny pincher that I am.

Kathleen Y’Barbo’s website is here.

Kimberley Woodhouse’s website is here.

Michelle Griep’s website is here.

My review of Griep’s House at The End of the Moors is here.

Have you read any of this series?

~Laura

What I Read at Christmas Time and Beyond

21 Dec

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have some favorites for certain seasons. Let’s be honest, mainly for winter. I have Winter reads.

During my cleaning out of my library the past few years, this list has gotten shorter, which means that when I was gathering all the books for this photo/post, I spent plenty of time searching for ones that I’ve gotten rid of. Why do I tell you these things? Because I like to feel that I’m not alone in my forgetfulness and book adoration. (Even as I started working on this post again, I realized that I’d forgotten two more books! Up I popped to go grab them.)

An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County by Beth Wiseman – Forgiveness is on the horizon – or is it? – for several people in Lancaster County. Facing some of their deepest fears at Christmastime has the potential to change their lives.

~ A good way to describe these are Hallmark movies set in an Amish community – and that’s not a bad thing. They deal with different struggles, but all 3 stories tie in with each other. They may be a bit cliched but sometimes that’s what you want. It only takes me a few days to read all of them, they are quick, fun reads for anyone. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – If Ebenezer Scrooge could have cancelled Christmas, he would have. But on one cold Christmas Eve, he is visited by his late business partner, who warns him to change his ways before he too has the same fate. Scrooge is visited by three Spirits who show him what has been, what is, and what will be.

~This hardback copy also has : The Cricket on the Hearth, The Chimes, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

~How Wonderful A Christmas Carol is, truly. I enjoy it every year. I’m partway thru The Chimes and it’s intriguing as well.

Wildwood Dancing -by Juliet Marillier – Jenica lives with her father and sisters in the Transylvania woods, in Piscul Draculi – a castle that hides a portal to the Other Kingdom. Every month, with her sisters and pet frog, on the Full Moon, they go through the portal and dance the night away. But at home, in their world, everything is changing, and soon, events will bring their two worlds together and change everything. Forbidden love – Unswerving anger over an act of betrayal – an enchanted frog – and the ultimate test of trust.

~I’ve been thinking about this book for over a month now but love starting it on January 1st..We’ll see if I can make it that long.

The Cricket on the Hearth and Other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens – This Dover Thrift Edition has, aside from the story on the title, The Holly Tree and The Haunted House.

~Had I remembered my hardback edition had short stories as well, I don’t know that I would have picked this up this fall. But, I’m looking forward to reading the two extra in this. So while this isn’t one that I go back to year after year, I anticipate doing so with at least some of these short stories!

Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury – All of Alcott’s short Christmas stories and novellas have been compiled in this lovely treasury. Full of love, hope, sorrow, redemption, strength, joy and goodness, these stories will enchant you.

~Last year I read a few of these short stories and was enchanted. Alcott’s writing is just so wonderful, how she weaves such lessons through her tales.

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman – A compelling love story between a young Irish girl, Katherine Mary O’Fallon, new to the Canadian wild, and Sergeant Mike Flannigan of the Canadian Mounted police.

~This is a yearly – winter read for me. The wilderness and those occupying it – the animals, peoples and nature itself – are described so vividly, it’s a delight. The heartbreak that occurs will tear your heart out just as surely as you’ll rejoice when good things happen. If this book isn’t considered a classic, I’m not sure why. Read it, you’ll be glad you did. 

Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy – When singer Annette Talbot shows up, with trouble following close on her heels, Elijah Walker has to decide if she’s telling the truth or lying. Like his ex- fiancee. Despite himself, he’s drawn to her – and just when he decides to trust her, he finds out she’s a wanted woman. Will he find out the truth before he loses Annie forever?

~ This was my second time reading this sweet romantic mystery. I liked how Connealy dealt with Elijah’s struggle to forgive himself and Annette’s mis-guided belief in ‘bearing her cross’. Faith is central to this novel, and it’s done very well. It’s a great Christmas-time western read.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge – this book was first published in 1865. This story takes place in early nineteenth-century Holland. The description of Holland is fascinating, including some Dutch words which aspects always make me enjoy a book more. There are two connecting story lines – Poor Hans dreams of winning the Silver Skates in an ice-skating race while we also see the lives of other Dutch boys whose families are a little more well-off than Hans’.

~I believe I’ve only read this once but am excited to enter into Dodge’s world again. I remember just being enchanted with the Dutch villages and some of the characters. If you’re worried about how much she describes Holland (a valid fear from what I remember), there’s also a junior edition that I’m assuming cuts some of that out. I have both versions and haven’t decided which one I’ll read this year. Probably the unabridged, because that’s how I do things.

how sweet is this picture?

What are your Winter Reads?

~Laura

Book Reviews- Oct/Nov

14 Dec

Two months of book reviews in one today! I guess it’s just not in me these days to be consistent on my blogging. No matter how much I want to be. I’ve not only shared some novels but I’ve also linked a few reviews below that I shared previously as well as research books for my own novels. I hope you’ll find something to add to your TBR. Happy Reading!

Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson –

Kingdom above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

After reading it, I had to buy my own copy

Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier – Even though working as a lady’s companion is a step up for her, it’s still a small and dismal world to be a part of. So when the heroine of Rebecca meets and subsequently gets an unexpected proposal from Max de Winter, she accepts. She’s quickly swept into a world that she has no experience with. Max takes her home to his estate -overwhelming and set in its ways – Manderley and the staff that comes with it. The memory of Rebecca is kept alive by Mrs. Danvers, Max is haunted by the memory of his late wife and becomes taciturn and our heroine is caught in the middle.

~Over the past few years I have been getting told that I simply must read this book. When I saw that Enchanted Book Club was reading it a few months ago, I decided it was the time to give it a shot and was able to borrow a copy from a friend. And I’m so glad that I did. There were times that I did not enjoy what was happening in the story – why was Max so cold all of a sudden? Why was Frank Crawley so nice and yet seemingly so disliked by Mrs. Danvers? What was Mrs. Danver’s problem anyway? What changed Max so much when they got to Manderely? etc. The Questions were numerous. But they just made me keep reading, needing desperately to know the answers. The unexpected reveals in this story just blew me away. I didn’t see them coming. I did really love seeing the new Mrs. De Winter gain self confidence as the story went on, as she learned more about what was truly going on at Manderley. The writing style was incredible, I’m interested in reading other books by Du Marier now. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers, due to the intensity of the storyline.

the copy on the left was a gift from my 9th birthday!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – We follow the March sisters as they grow up in New England during the Civil War. Feminine and proper Meg, tomboy Jo, spoiled Amy and tender, sickly Beth each go through their highs and lows. Young neighbor Laurie joins in many of their adventures.

~It had been a few years since I read this classic story and I have to admit that I forgot so much of what happened (that isn’t typically in the movies). I liked seeing how Amy grew and matured; Beth’s faith despite everything; Meg’s learning how to be a good, Godly wife and Jo’s independence and realizing love can come, despite your intentions to avoid it. Can readily recommend this for younger readers, the life lessons throughout are just wonderful, for any age.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott – Years later, Jo now has boys of her own, as well as a dozen orphaned boys filling her informal school. And she couldn’t be happier, she loves each one of them and strives to help them grow in all the important ways. But boys will still be boys and they get into trouble and many an adventure.

~ This was only the second time I’ve read Little Men! I think I can honestly say that I enjoyed it even more than I did Little Women. The scrapes the the boys get into are just so interesting and you really root for them when they make the right choices. I highly recommend this for anyone, especially younger readers as it’s so fun and the life lessons are just as good as in Little Women.

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan Severa – Through photographs and writings, we are shown how poorer Americans could wear the current fashions within a year. And how fashion equality really rose in people’s minds as the years progressed. Through ready-made clothing and other inventions, the fashion industry changed the average American’s style.

~I got this book as research for the novels I’m writing and while I only focused on the years that were pertinent to my stories, I highly enjoyed (and took copious notes) it. The detail that Severa goes into is so great for historical information that I would love to own this eventually.

20th Century Fashion 1900-1920 Linen and Lace by Sue Mee – As part of a series that covers how fashion changed – from the tea gown to sportswear- it covers eight ‘looks’ as well as other information about the time period.

~This book was interesting but it wasn’t as in depth as I was wanting. It had some great information though!

Police Procedure and Investigation- a Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland – With this guide, you can get your facts about the inner workings of police departments straight instead of ending up like so many television shows that get so much of it wrong.

~This is yet another book for research, and that I’d love to own eventually. I didn’t need very much information from it but ended up flipping through several chapters just out of pure curiosity. Lofland gives it to you straight and detailed. A very good reference book.

Currently Reading:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

To Read:

Christmas/Winter books (watch for an upcoming post on that!)

What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

Series Review- Skyward

29 Nov

I’ve been meaning to get this review up for quite some time now and lo and behold – I’ve finally done it! Are you surprised that it’s another Brandon Sanderson review, I mean, really?

Skyward – The human race has been chased to one lonely planet -one that is constantly attacked by alien spaceships. Spensa’s dad was a pilot- one of the best. She dreams of being just like him, but as a teenage girl with the label of ‘coward’ attached to her, she is going to have to fight like crazy to fulfill her dream. When she finds a wrecked spaceship, she realizes that this might be the chance she’s been waiting for. All she has to do is get through flight school, fix the ship and convince it to help her. This ship not only talks, but it appears to have a soul.

Starsight – Spensa has made it to the sky, but the journey to her dream was filled with truths about her father and herself that are hard to live with. She’s not only sure that there’s more to the story about what happened to her father, she’s pretty certain that the same thing could happen to her, too. When she broke through the protective shell around her planet, she could hear the stars. And it terrified her. Because everything that Spensa has been told about her world is a lie.. She will go to the other side of the galaxy to save humankind if she has to.

Close up of the amazing cover

A friend loaned me these, knowing how big of a fan I am of Sanderson’s. They had a different feel than the others that I’ve read of his, but I imagine that to be because they are young adult genre. I highly enjoyed this series though – even if some of Spensa’s choices made me wonder WHY she would do that; and made me incredibly sad when I finished it and realized that I’m going to have to wait until sometime 2021 at the earliest for book 3.

To be honest, it’s actually been a few months since I read them, but I still think about them. Something will remind me of a scene in them – or the plot line that completely surprised me (shhh, no spoilers here!!) And that is how I judge how good a book was – still thinking about it months later? Worth reading again.

If you’re interested in seeing the other reviews I’ve written for Sanderson novels, here you go:

Series Review: Mistborn Trilogy

Series Review – Mistborn Era

Elantris: Book Reviews – August 2020

Warbreaker: Aug/Sept 2018 Book Reviews

*finding that I’ve apparently not reviewed The Reckoner’s series! That will have to be remedied!

~Laura

Little Blossoms for Jesus

• Enjoying the old-fashioned & beautiful • • Thankful for grace • Growing in faith • • Learning life • Loving people •

A Musing Maverick

Ilse Davison

Elaine Howlin

lost in the pages of books

See Jayne Run

Navigating with Chronic Illness in a Self Absorbed World