Monday, January 13, 2014

A Passion Redeemed

Author: Julie Lessman

Genre: Romance

Series: Daughters of Boston

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 477 (trust me, the pages FLY by!)

Time period: 1920s

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: Wow. Julie knows how to keep her readers on the edges of their seats! I’m about to start book three and am quite persuaded that the whole series is brilliant and I have NO idea how in the world Julie came up with so many fascinating twists and turns – it’s stunning. My apologies…this review is disorganized. So it goes. I feel like the family situation here is going to be super awkward, and wouldn’t actually work in real life – Faith and Charity were both engaged to their sister’s future husbands at one point or another. Yeah. Awkward. Also, a word up – Julie’s books are on the more passionate end of Christian fiction. Save for older readers. Finally, I don’t always really agree with some of the decision and actions made by or done by the characters, even when the book makes them out to be fine – I feel like they are rather less conservative about some things than they should be. However, despite these few problems, I still managed to LOVE this book and come out giving it a 9.5! Obviously the main character is named Charity (SO COOL), and so this book has been on my to-read shelf for years – only now did I finally get to it! On page 466, I was persuaded that there was no way all the loose ends could be tied up by the end – but by page 477, ta-da! The book was finished and somehow, everything WAS resolved! The whole book was fascinating and impossible to put down. The drama is constant. And can I just say…I love Patrick and Marcy’s marriage (they’re Faith and Charity’s parents) and I want my marriage to be like that when I’ve been married as many years as them. All in all? This book had a few things that I wasn’t entirely on board with. But it’s definitely worth my time and I can’t wait to read book 3 later this week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Author: Colleen Coble

Genre: Romance, life, mystery

Series: A Mercy Falls novel

Number in series: 3rd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 292

Time period: 1800s

Publisher and price: Thomas Nelson, $14.99

My overall opinion: First off, I absolutely LOVE the cover. Seriously. Whenever there’s a discussion about pretty covers, this one comes to my mind first. I did aCover Focus on it awhile back too! And it contains a great story. There were a few scenes that I can only describe as heart-melting – so sweet, and I loved them. Mystery and excitement abound in this book, making it a page-turner the whole way through! It’s a memorable read – I recommend it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Passion Most Pure

Author: Julie Lessman

Genre: Romance, life

Series: Daughters of Boston

Number in series: 1st

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9 high

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 477

Time period: early 1900s

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: Wow. What a book. I had to sit and take a few deep breaths to get my thoughts in order for this review! :) First of all, it was really cool to have a Charity in a book as a main character. She actually stars in the next book (review coming soon), but she was pretty important in this one too. Albeit she wasn’t a likable character here…but her name made up for it (my name is uncommon…finding someone who shares it is awesome). There were SO many intricacies in here that it was mind-boggling in a still understandable way. Faith, the main heroine, is absolutely lovely. And I love their parents, Patrick and Marcy. There were a couple passages in here that I especially identified with – for example, Patrick (the father) once says “Charity, your mother and I love you very much…and it’s because we love you that we are so strict regarding, well, certain things.” (pg 36) I’m pretty sure that’s a direct quote from my parents, name and all! Faith and I are alike in some ways – we both bottle a lot of stuff up and don’t confide easily or quickly in hardly anyone. I love having a heroine I can identify with. All in all, this was a great book, well-written – I love Julie Lessman! It is certainly passionate, more-so than much Christian fiction, so keep that in mind if you decide to read it. Other than that, all I can say is that it was amazing and very good!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Revell Blog Tour: No One to Trust

Author: Lynette Eason

Genre: Suspense, romance

Series: Hidden Identity

Number in series: 1st

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 330

Time period: Present

Publisher and price: Revell, $14.99

My overall opinion: After you read a lot, romantic suspense can become a bit stereotypical. But not this one! Wow! It was jam-packed with thrilling and creative twists and turns. Amazing, and quite enthralling! This is a memorable book filled with page-turning adventures. It’s a must-read and must-own for suspense lovers, and has earned a permanent place on my keepers shelf! I loved the characters, and can’t wait to continue the series. Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of Lynette Eason, of course, or Dani Petterey, Irene Hannon, Dee Henderson, etc.

**I reviewed this book as part of the Revell blog tour, and they sent me a free copy of it. However, I wasn’t required to post positively, and received no other compensation.**

Read my other reviews of books by Lynette Eason by clicking HERE and scrolling down.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bethany House Blog Tour: The Spiritual World of the Hobbit

Author: James Stuart Bell

Genre: Christianity, faith, Hobbit (yes, it’s a genre!)

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Type: Non-fiction (about a fictional book…but also about God and the Bible, so…)

Number of pages: 234

Publisher and price: Bethany House, $13.99

My overall opinion: This was definitely a good book! First thing to note? It’s not a devotional. I had to re-orient my mindset a few times, as I went into this one thinking “devotional” and that’s not really at all what it is. I was very impressed by the amount of research that Bell put into Hobbit and Lord of the Rings – he clearly knew what he was talking about. He draws valid points, without trying to dig too deep or pull in things that aren’t there, and he wasn’t too preachy. I especially liked the character profiles of Gandalf and Elrond – informative and interesting. Good background info there, I thought. All in all? This was an enjoyable book that I learned from and found interesting. Read it in conjunction with The Hobbit!

**Bethany House sent me a copy of this book in return for my honest review. I wasn’t obligated to review it positively, nor was I recompensed in any other way for this review.**

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

GIVEAWAY!!!! and RiverNorth Blog Tour: Shades of Mercy

Author: Anita Lustrea, Caryn Rivadeneira

Genre: Life, growing up

Series: A Maine Chronicle

Number in series: 1st

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5 high

Type: Historical fiction

Number of pages: 259

Time period: 1950s

Publisher and price: RiverNorth, $14.99

My overall opinion: A good book, and as good as I had hoped it would be. It’s about the conflict between the whites and the Indians in Maine – I had no idea they had this kind of tension there in the 1950s! This book provided a fascinating look at some complicated situations that seemed true to life. It’s a growing up story about a young girl of 16 and her Indian boyfriend. The book was full of good writing, and had an excellent story – I would read more, either in this series or by these authors. I especially loved the description of a food pantry in Mercy’s house – it reminded me of the luscious food descriptions in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Farmer Boy. I’m a sucker for food descriptions. ;) But this was a heartwarming and sweet story!

**RiverNorth asked me to review this and provided my copy, along with others for giveaway. I wasn’t required to review it positively, nor was I recompensed in any other way for my review.**

GIVEAWAY! Think you might enjoy this book? (I think you would!) RiverNorth kindly sent me extra copies for giveaway! Interested in winning one of them? Just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 6, 2014

Movie: Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5

Genre: Fantasy, adventure

Series or set: Hobbit

Number in series: 2nd

Primary actors: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage

Length: Two and a half hours or so

Based on: Technically, the original Hobbit book, with a bit pulled from LOTR

Time period: Fantasy

Rating: PG-13

Year it came out: 2013

My overall opinion: A good movie! At the time of writing this, I’ve seen it twice in the theater and will see it once more before it goes out. I liked it better the second time than the first, though I greatly enjoyed it both times! Now, here we go with what I thought of it and specific people/creatures/events/etc, in no particular order.

Be warned: spoilers are not in the least avoided! Indeed, they abound.

Bolg – Another primary orc dude to dislike, in addition to Azog who is making a return from the previous movie. And once again, he has quite a unique look about him – almost like there are bolts in his head, or at least, that was my first impression. While Azog was still the main immediately-visible villain, Bolg was also around quite often to do his dirty work for him. Decidedly despicable.

Gold – There was so much gold in this movie! Seriously. Either I haven’t heard, or I don’t remember how many gold coins were made for these scenes, but it was clearly a lot. The sheer vastness of the dragon’s lair was stunning…but I’ll come to that in a bit more detail later. Anyway. So there was all the gold in the dragon’s lair, and then down in the furnaces and all the gold that was supposed to bury said dragon was also an immense amount. Most impressive!

CGI – Like the vast amounts of gold, there were also vast amounts of CGI – albeit, very well done in my opinion. As my friend pointed out, however, part of the charm and enduring quality of the LOTR trilogy is the fact that so much of it is real, not digital. However, the CGI in this film was done nicely and didn’t detract from the story.

Dragon – One cannot write a review of this movie without a section for the dragon Smaug! He was impressive, and seemed quite accurate to the book, which I greatly appreciated. He seemed quite reasonable as far as dragons go. Certainly very large, very strong, but not impressively wise. So yeah, a good dragon!

Underground sets There were two amazing locations that were underground in this movie – one being Thranduil’s palace with wood elves and the other, obviously, being within the Lonely Mountain. Let’s start with Thranduil’s. After I got used to the idea of elves living underground instead of just in trees (accurate to the book as it is!), I quite liked it. It managed to be underground, yet still spacious and truly beautiful. And light. Elegant curves, making it elvish. A lovely place to live. And then there’s the whole area under the Lonely Mountain. As you may know if you know me (or have read this blog for very long), I have rather a fascination with caves and underground scenes – the Mines of Moria is my hands-down-all-time favorite part in the LOTR trilogy. So going underground again here had me on the edge of my seat. The dragon’s lair is gigantic and awe-inspiring. And then the melting area…but that deserves it’s own section. Suffice to say that I have gained a very deep respect for the work of the dwarves and the area that they have created under there. I’d love to visit – after the dragon is gone and all is at peace.

Forge/furnace/melting place – This part was all so amazing. I was fascinated by how everything worked, and by watching the whole process. It’s quite an ingenious plan in the end, that whole thing with the statue, though how Thorin could’ve ever actually thought it would work is beyond me. Anyway, this was all definitely one of my favorite parts!

Sauron, orcs, and the ring – Because they all go together a lot. Sauron first. I’m not sure if he was ever named or not, but he was definitely there and a rather prominent part of this movie. He even takes on the eye form in a way. Some of that eye part was a little silly, I thought, but certainly very dramatic. Then there was the ring – already Bilbo feels often compelled to put it on and disappear, and experiences a weird world when he does. Played up a little from the book, but not an all bad change. And finally, the orcs. This was a big thing about this movie that I didn’t like – remember the scene where Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur to fight against the evil lurking there and meets Azog and co? At some point, as Gandalf is looking, he is told by the orcs that “we are legion.” There was a lot of darker content in parts of this movie, and that combined with the particular use of the word “legion” (which is pretty Biblical) felt like it was a very direct nod to satanic or demonic behavior. I’m all for a good-versus-evil battle, and think that probably some of this story does definitely correlate to the Bible. However, I really don’t like it when demonic type stuff is in the story, even when it’s clearly evil. SO I strongly disliked that.

Legolas – He’s back! Technically, it’s true, he’s not supposed to be but I think his appearance was more than worth it. It was great to see him again. He wasn’t a character who the audience got very attached to in this movie like he was in LOTR, and you never really got to know him – he spent most of his time doing awesome trick shooting. Speaking of which, I laughed when he stood on dwarf heads as they floated down the river and shot orcs – they all shot orcs. Epic. But yes! Legolas was back, up to amazing tricks once again.

Tauriel – Finally! A female elf who’s a fighter! She was a delight to watch. I did think that the whole thing with her and Kili was a little silly – I mean sure, he’s cute and awesome, but he’s a dwarf and she wouldn’t fall for him. Ever. But all in all, I thought she was awesome and her fighting skills are amazing!

Dwarves in barrels and spiders – The barrel scene was delightful, as I have suspected since the very beginning. While I didn’t absolutely fall in love with it, it was good and certainly enjoyable. And Bombur flying out of the river in his barrel, crashing down a hill, and killing many orcs? That was amazing. The spiders…definitely gross, but a good part of the movie.

Bard – We finally get to meet Bard here! He’s not bad looking, and seems like a nice enough man – I had to keep reminding myself that while he has his good points, he’s a bad guy in the final battle (although Thorin is too a little bit). But here Bard has a son and two daughters who we get quite attached to, and I’m curious to see how they paint him in the third movie.

Fire – Strange to say, the fire in this movie really stood out for me. Lol, it sounds weird – but I walked away thinking “There was so much fire!” Smaug was certainly very fond of it and used it often. Random point.

Nazgul beginnings stuff – To anyone not familiar with the Lord of the Rings movies, much of the fore-shadowing in this movie may go unnoticed and may even seem confusing. However, LOTR fans will be fascinated by the beginnings of the Nazgul. My only drawback is, of course, that this is not really in the book at all and technically shouldn’t have been included in this movie. Their burial place, where Gandalf and Radagast visited, was fascinating though!

Gandalf’s journeyings – I will be the first to admit that seeing where Gandalf went after leaving the hobbits was fascinating, and for the most part, it makes sense to have included it – time-wise, at least. Though I think much of it isn’t learned until LOTR in the books. But it was interesting, for sure, despite the made-up parts.

Peter Jackson’s cameo – Yup, there he was within the first few moments of the actual film, chomping down on another carrot in a distinct nod to Fellowship of the Ring! I was quite excited that I caught his cameo this time. :D

Book faithfulness – Well, as some other person said, about half of it is from the book and half of it is just made up and stuck in and added to make it more exciting. It was definitely exciting. And some of the improvements were indeed improvements – some I didn’t like as much.

Something missing – One thing that hit me really hard to not have was the awesome way that the dwarves are introduced to Beorn. Here they see him as a bear, and then get chased by orcs and all just kind of run into his house. Remember how in the book, they come in by twos following Gandalf’s instructions as he steadily spins a tale, except for Bombur who comes a little before he’s supposed to? It’s such a cool way to do it, and I really missed that here. I also noted that this movie entirely skipped the river with the water that they couldn’t touch (except Bombur touched it and fell asleep and they had to carry him a great distance).
So there you go – a complete run-down of my thoughts concerning Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug! Worth your time and money to see in the theater? Absolutely. I can’t wait to watch it again!

Want more Tolkien and Hobbit things? Check out my Tolkienesque Pinterest board!

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

TV Show: Downton Abbey Season 2

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Genre: Period drama, life, family

Series or set: Downton Abbey

Number in series: 2nd

Primary actors: Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith

Length: I think it’s seven episodes (the first one being extra long) plus the Christmas special (also about two hours)

Based on: I hear it’s based on a real family?

Time period: World War I, early 1900s

Rating: TV-PG, I’m guessing?

Year it came out: 2011

My overall opinion: I enjoyed this season, and finally – a happy ending! Since I have watched many things (including Season 3) since this season, I’m not going to try to ramble on about it more than to say that it was good, I liked the ending, enjoyed getting to know everyone better, and all-in-all, liked it probably even a bit better than Season 1. It helps that I know everyone now. Nothing stood out to me as objectionable! A little about characters…Matthew is mostly annoying, but occasionally quite nice. Lavinia is a sweet girl in a hard position. I still love Cora, and Isobel is more annoying than ever. Cousin Violet is a delight through and through, makes me laugh often. Thomas is horrid, Sybil is a sweetheart…I really like her. Carlisle is despicable, and also recognizable as a bad guy in Wives and Daughers as well. Mary is interesting, tolerable, and not my favorite character. There!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blog Tour: Elusive Hope

Author: MaryLu Tyndall

Genre: Romance, adventure

Series: Escape to Paradise

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 315

Time period: 1800s

Publisher and price: Barbour, $12.99

My overall opinion: I hadn’t really read anything else by MaryLu Tyndall before, but I saw her books
reviewed throughout the Christian fiction blogging world, so I knew I’d better give this one a try when it came up for review. And I’m glad I did! It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The time period (1866, to be exact) isn’t that strange, but the setting (mostly jungle in Brazil) is very unique! Magnolia, the leading lady, is a real pain at times, and I empathized with Hayden’s struggles with her, but she was quite funny and made me laugh several times – always good. I didn’t love her, ‘tis true, but I certainly enjoyed getting to know her. The whole book is packed with enthralling adventures, and I loved the humor through-out! This book does work very well as a stand-alone, though I would like to read book 1, as it has interesting information (pretty sure) about earlier events. There was a little spiritual stuff that also unlike anything encountered in other books, and while it didn’t turn me against the book, it was a bit strange…not quite sure what I thought of it. Or how realistic it is. BUT don’t let that deter you from this most enjoyable read!

** and the author sent me this book in return for my honest review. I was not forced to post positively, nor was I recompensed in any other way for this review.**

Friday, January 3, 2014

Blog Tour: Headmistress of Rosemere

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Genre: Romance

Series: Whispers on the Moors

Number in series: 2nd

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 311

Time period: 1800s

Publisher and price: Thomas Nelson, $15.99

Passage from book: The opening lines: “There was no doubt in William Sterling’s mind. He was being followed. He was an easy target – now more than ever. He knew better than to travel at such a late hour in the moors, when midnight’s haze shrouded the moon’s gray light and the new-fallen snow gave the illusion of an even terrain. An owl’s mournful cry sliced the night’s uncomfortable silence, and with a sharp click of his tongue, William urged his mount into a faster gait.”

My overall opinion: For some strange reason, this book reminded me of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the more I think about it, the more I realize it does have some similarities. An all-girls’ school; a dark, handsome, and mysterious main man; an older heroine…but this book is lighter than Jane Eyre and a quicker read. It’s packed with extra mystery, some great drama, and a delightful romance as well. Patience is a sweetheart with many admirable qualities, and William (or Sterling) is quite dashing. I recommend this book to fans of Julie Klassen and Murray Pura – anyone interested in a sweet 1800s romance with a healthy dose of mystery. It’s delightful, and Sarah is a wonderful author!

**Sarah Ladd sent me a copy of this book in return for my honest review. I wasn’t forced to review it positively, nor was I recompensed in any other way for this review.**

I have also reviewed Sarah's first book, Heiress of Winterwood. Find that review HERE.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TV Show: Merlin Season 5

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5

Genre: Fantasy, adventure, romance, life

Series or set: Merlin

Number in series: 5th

Primary actors: Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, John Hurt

Length: 13 episodes, each of normal length

Based on: The classic legends about Arthur and Merlin

Time period: 1300s

Rating: TV-14, I’m guessing?

Year it came out: 2012

My overall opinion: I can clearly remember that day, not very long ago, when I logged onto Hulu and discovered something that made me ecstatic – there was a new episode sign right there by Merlin. I watched seasons 1-4 earlier this year, and have been desperate ever since to get my hands on season 5 somehow, but it never worked out. Then. Finally. Hulu got it. I was over the moon.

I watched it in a little over a week. And wow. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it – the characters, the music, the setting, the humor, the drama, all of it. It was SO good to get to see 13 new-to-me episodes of what is basically my favorite show! It may indeed be my absolute favorite.

Anyway. So I watched it. If you know anything about Merlin, you know that the last two episodes of this last season go together, and everyone says they’re sad – well, everyone is right. I sobbed. Literally sobbed. And I don’t do that often, and I’ve never done it over a TV show before…but this one was worth it, and I love it despite crying. Definitely really worth watching.

Arthur and Gwen were finally happily married and that made me happy. Merlin was using magic as usual, and I still love Arthur and Merlin and the way they interact. Gwen was still a sweetheart, except when enchanted. Morgana is horrid – who would have guessed from season one that she’d end up so horrible? Downright despicable. The knights are good…I miss Lancelot, but it is for the best that he is gone. We’ve still got Gwaine. And Percival.

Lots of delightful mystery and intrigue throughout this…a grand culmination of everything for the end…and the very last scene? Was a surprise. Even to me (and I tend to read spoilers about things…I dislike being surprised with some stuff). But it made me smile. So! Need a new show? I highly recommend this one for anyone who enjoys things to do with dragons, magic, magicians, humor, romance, adventure, knights, suspense, war, epic battles, or even just anyone with time to watch the five seasons. If you are like me in most tastes…you’ll enjoy this.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Courting Miss Amsel

Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer

Genre: Life, romance

Series: Heart of the Prairie

Number in series: 6th (however, I didn’t realize it was part of a series until I looked it up on Goodreads – so basically, you can read these in any order you like and it won’t make much of a difference)

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9 high

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 346

Time period: 1800s

Publisher and price: Bethany House, $19.99 (hardcover – but it’s currently available on PaperBackSwap!)

My overall opinion: So before this one, I had only read one other book by Kim and that was a long time ago. However, I had really enjoyed it…and now, I’m not sure why I haven’t read more since, because I’ll definitely be reading a lot more by this author in the future! I really enjoyed this book. I loved the Midwest setting and had no trouble picturing it. Joel, the main guy, is a sweetheart and I liked him. Edythe Amsel (ooo-la-la, that name I love!) was a great leading lady. And Johnny and Robert, two young boys who were supporting characters central to the story, were extremely lovable. The whole book had an easy pace and great writing. Kim masterfully presents this sweet story, and I’m so glad I read it! Definitely excited to read more by her in the near future.