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Monday, December 22, 2014

Torn Asunder Blog Tour and Review

Torn Asunder by Alana Terry

Torn Asunder is the newest suspense novel from award- winning author Alana Terry. Torn Asunder is the story of Hannah and Simon, two North Korean refugees who sneak back into their country to serve as underground missionaries. In this world of spies, secret police, and informants, Simon and Hannah learn that staying together won't just compromise their ministry. It could cost them both their lives.

Torn Asunder launches today for just 99 cents, and all book sale proceeds today support the work of Liberty in North Korea, an organization that runs an underground railroad for North Korean refugees. You can get the paperback or the ebook for 99 cents for a limited time only. And remember the best news ~ Your purchase will help save a North Korean refugee!

Review


Torn Asunder, by Alana Terry, details the experiences of Hannah and Simon, two graduates from the Sterns’ missionary school mentioned in Slave Again. Over the course of their year or so long training, Simon fell in love with Hannah. The only problem is, it is too dangerous for them to marry if they continue with their plans to be missionaries in North Korea because of the government’s extreme persecution of Christians; their love for one another could be used against them to betray other Christians if Hannah and Simon are captured. Yet, even as they enter North Korea, neither Hannah nor Simon can stop thinking about one another. Will they meet again? And if they do, will it be the death of them?

            Torn Asunder is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Many horrible things happened to Hannah, Simon, and several of the other Christians they meet. Prison camps, torture, and betrayal make the book intense and tragic. The sad thing is, Torn Asunder, I believe, is based off of things that do happen in North Korea and other nations where Christianity is outlawed. Of course, Christians are not the only people who suffer under the hands of these governments. Torn Asunder reminded me of the realities of the persecution happening worldwide. I remember the verse in Hebrews that tells Christians to remember those who are persecuted for their faith as though we were experiencing those things with them. Therefore, I am challenged to pray for those who are persecuted.

            The characters are very realistic and easy to relate to, despite the tragedies they face. Moses, who posed as a high general in order to rescue Christians from the prisons and camps, was hard for me to comprehend. Like the main character in Beloved Daughter and Soon, Moses assistant, I find myself wondering how a Christian can bear to torture and kill other Christians and human beings. So many people looked to him as a savior and an amazing man, but even he committed atrocities against others. Yet, I know Moses’ situation would be very hard to be in as well as the situation of being tortured for one’s beliefs and find myself quoting a phrase in the book, “Never judge someone who fails a test you yourself have yet to pass.”

            I can’t say much about the plot for fear of revealing it all. I have already stated that many hard things happen to the characters. There are also good things that happen to them, but the bad things then replace them. Near the end, my predictions of the ending were not very encouraging. I am happy to say that the end was lovely.

            Overall, I enjoyed the story. It was hard to read at times, but I grew from reading it.
            I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from Torn Asunder:


Simon gritted his teeth. His head felt like it was sinking. The general kept his voice level and pleasant as he slipped the device over Simon’s pinky. “Now, you just tell me who you delivered your Bibles to, and I’ll let you leave here with everything intact.”

Simon tried to swallow. His whole jaw was swollen from his scuffle in the woods. He shut his eyes and hoped the general couldn’t feel him tremble.

General Sin chuckled to himself. “Silly me. I forgot.” He slid the device off Simon’s finger. “This kind of tool won’t work on a big, strong man like you.” He strode over to Hannah and yanked her hand before Simon could even cry out. He jammed her ring finger into the opening.

Simon struggled against his iron restraints. “Let her go!”

Hannah sucked in her breath. General Sin still glared at Simon. “This is your last chance. Give me the names, and I'll release her unharmed.”

Simon’s field of vision blurred over. He wanted to scream. The metal from his handcuffs sliced open his wrists. He pictured himself breaking free and tackling the general to the ground.

“Better talk.” General Sin yawned. “I hate getting my uniform messy.”

Hannah’s hand trembled, but she didn’t make a noise.

“Three ...”

Simon clenched his jaw, unable to tear his face away from Hannah’s wide, terrified eyes.

“Two ...”





Want more? Buy Torn Asunder</ i> on amazon now. And remember, all book sales today will be donated directly to Liberty in North Korea, a group committed to seeing North Koreans achieve their freedom in THIS GENERATION.

Want to help spread the word? See below to click and tweet, or share this image on your timeline. Then be sure to scroll down to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $100 gift card, surprise grab bag ($60 retail), great CD from Cherie Norquay, and free prizes to everyone who enters! And don't forget to leave a comment and tell us what you think of Hannah and Simon and those like them who sneak into hostile mission fields to share the gospel.




Are you on twitter? Just click to tweet ~

Tweet: Buy a book. Save a refugee. Torn Asunder by Alana Terry. All proceeds today to @libertyinNK. #99cents #suspense http://ctt.ec/QjI3D+

Tweet: New release Torn Asunder, Christian #suspense set in #NorthKorea. All proceeds today donated to @libertyinNK #99cents http://ctt.ec/6io3Z+

Or copy and paste into an email or Facebook status: Torn Asunder is a new Christian suspense novel by Alana Terry about two North Koreans who serve as undercover missionaries. It's on sale for only 99 cents, and all book proceeds today will be donated to Liberty in North Korea's underground railroad for North Korean refugees.

Did you help spread the word? Click below to claim your prizes!

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: Restless Hearts

Hello! Another book review for you. This one is of Restless Hearts, book one in the Gold Rush Romances Series by Mona Ingram.

Description

Restless Hearts
Mona Ingram

Boston, 1849. Denied her dream of attending medical school, Sarah Howard is desperate to leave Boston far behind. Determined to prove that she can make it on her own, she poses as a married woman and boards a schooner bound for San Francisco.

Stuck working in his family’s merchant bank, Jamie Thompson eagerly accepts the challenge of setting up a branch in San Francisco. He’s been restless for some time now, and barely escaped the clutches of the woman determined to marry him.

The attraction between Sarah and Jamie is instant and powerful, yet each has something to prove, if only to themselves. Will their single-minded determination derail a blossoming romance?

By the way, I discovered that Restless Hearts is free on Barnes and Noble. Or you can buy it for $3.99 on Amazon. It can also be found on Goodreads.

Review


Denied her dream of becoming a doctor, Sarah travels to San Francisco to make a life for herself. She may not be able to accomplish her dream, but Sarah would be out from under her father’s roof and able to make her own decisions. For safety reasons, Sarah poses as a married woman planning to meet her husband in California. But when she meets handsome Jamie Thompson on the ship to San Francisco, Sarah begins to regret her decision to lie about her matrimonial state.

Restless Hearts by Mona Ingram was not what I was expecting. Perhaps that is because I was expecting a sweet, Christian romance. I soon discovered that while Restless Hearts is not Christian, it is still sweet. Because I am a Christian, I cannot condone some of the decisions Sarah made during the trip, such as lying or sleeping with a man she is not married to. Neither can I fully comprehend that the characters found fulfillment outside of God. However, I still thought the book was a good story and a worthwhile read.

Sarah was a sweet and determined young woman; she will accomplish her goals no matter what! I enjoyed watching her discover herself and find the love that conquered her restless heart. Sarah’s compassion and love for other people was beautiful to see. Sarah gave and treated everyone kindly, regardless of the way they treated her and without judgment.

The setting of Restless Hearts traveled from the ship to the city to the country and encompassed a variety of people groups and societies. It was intriguing to learn about them. I applaud Mona Ingram for the incredible amount of research that must have taken.

There were also characters you liked and those you did not and those you felt like crying for when tragedy struck, each personable and unique. There were many strong women in the story, some of which became that way because of the circumstances they had been forced into. The men were not all passive either but stood up for themselves and did what they thought was best.

Restless Hearts reminded me that I should not be judgmental. Several of the characters did things that were not correct in my mind, but, just like compassionate people in the real world, Sarah and many of the other major characters did not judge these people for those often detested actions. Instead, they were accepted and treated no differently than anyone else.

Restless Hearts was a lovely romance and a worthwhile read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reviews: The Key and Red, books 1-2 of the True Reign Series

I have been wanting to read the True Reign Series by Jennifer Anne Davis for a while now and finally decided to fulfill that wish, with a little help from the publisher, Clean Teen Publishing.

Review of The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis


Many years ago, a conqueror entered the Kingdom of Greenwood Island. Backed by the Emperor across the sea, this man overpowered the army of Greenwood and murdered its royal family. But one child escaped this new king’s massacre—the baby princess, Amer. Seventeen years later, Amer—now Rema—knows nothing of her heritage; she only knows how unfair the conquering king has been to his people these last years. Rema also knows that she just might be falling for the king’s second son, Prince Darmik, and he for her. But the crown prince, Lennek, will stop at nothing to keep his brother from all happiness.

When I first saw The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis, its cover grabbed my attention. The mysterious key-sword with bright blue eyes drew me in, but the premise of a princess unknowingly falling in love with her enemy and being forced to marry his brohter made me buy the book as soon as it was published. But for reasons I cannot even remember now, I did not read The Key when it was first released, but have read it now, after all three of the books in the series have already been published. Even after waiting all of about a year to read it, I found that The Key did not disappoint my first impressions.

The plot intrigued me and drew me in. I could hardly wait to discover what happened next in the story, and the cliff-hanger ending did not help.

I enjoyed the characters. Rema was a fiery, willful young lady who knew what she wanted and did it. However, I was glad to see that she thought before she acted on many occasions instead of simply acting regardless of the consequences. Yet, she did not even appear to wonder at the fact that she knew nothing about her parents, was always sheltered from the community growing up, and had a complexion unheard of in that part of the world. Perhaps she could have been a little more observant. Yet things most obvious to some can go unnoticed by those who have grown up with them and seen them as normal for years.

In addition, half of the novel was viewed through the eyes of the commander-prince, Darmik. I must admit, none of the books I have read have presented the stereotypical soldier, who is merciless with the rebellious people, as being moral or worthwhile for the main character to get to know. Instead, he is depicted as unfeeling as he murders or punishes the people for small offenses. In The Key, Darmik does execute people for little things with the intention of instilling fear, but his motivation, to serve, please, and obey his father and king is honorable. Darmik’s allegiance is a bit misguided, but he begins to understand that fact throughout the story. In all, Darmik is portrayed as a good man despite his questionable actions.

The romance was interesting. It was not sensual—something for which I am thankful—but a love-at-first-sight kind of romance. Love at first sight is lovely in stories, and I do know that attraction happens at first sight, but I just don’t believe that that attraction is the same as love. As Rema worries to herself whether she really loves Darmik, she thinks to herself “I don’t really know him,” which is the truth. I would have appreciated seeing the characters get to know one another at a friendship level before jumping into the “kissing” side of romance.

I enjoyed The Key for its interesting plot and engaging characters and I hope you will too.
(P.S. The Key is FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CTP. You can also find it on Goodreads.)
 

Review of Red by Jennifer Anne Davis


Red by Jennifer Anne Davis picks up where The Key left off. First of all, Rema does not die, as the cliff-hanger ending of The Key may have led one to believe. Instead, Rema is whisked off to the rebels’ camp which is hidden high in the mountains. Once she has recovered from her illness, Mako, the rebel commander, insists upon her physical training but still does not reveal the secret to her—Rema is the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile, Prince Darmik, Lennek, and an Empiron Assassin scour the countryside looking for her in a deadly competition. But Darmik’s motivation to win the game might not be the same as the others’. Will he reach her in time?

I enjoyed Red. In fact, I enjoy just about every book I read. Red captured my attention and continued an intriguing story. The stakes are raised time and again, a possible love triangle is thrown in, and the romance deepens. I think I enjoyed the character development the most, despite the flaws.

I was disappointed that Rema did not discover on her own that she was Princess Amer but had to have someone tell her. Throughout her life, Rema has had clues as to her heritage or at least the fact that her aunt and uncle were hiding something from her. For example, her family always called her Rema, which is completely different than her given name. However, I was impressed with the way Rema handled learning it. Instead of being angry that her family lied to her, Rema accepted that they meant the best for her and moved on with life. She also accepted her place as princess rather quickly, instead of moping, and took charge, as a princess is supposed to.

Prince Darmik, also, took a while to decide to turn against his evil father. I suppose a lifetime’s worth of loyalty is not easy to turn one’s back on, but the way his father treated him, not to mention the rest of the kingdom, should have raised some red flags before Rema came along. However, I did enjoy seeing Darmik change from a merciless killer to someone with compassion as he fell ever more deeply in love with Rema.

One thing that did not make sense to me was the fact that Rema had not lived in the secret fortress from the time her parents died. It is quite possibly the safest place in the kingdom. Why would Mako not have Rema, possibly the most important person to the rebels, live in the safest place as well as the rebel base? The only reason I can think of is that Mako wanted her to see for herself the horrible way the king was treating the kingdom. Presumably, living with the citizens would show her their need for a better ruler.

I would warn the reader that there are several swear words, violence (they are trying to start a war, after all), and a bit of sensual romance. Neither the violence nor the sensuality is overly descriptive or long, but it is definitely present.

Overall, I think Red could have been written better, its flaws corrected, but I still enjoyed it and could not quite see what would happen next.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Clean Teen Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.
(P.S. You can find Red on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and CTP.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kreation Kween

 

Hello! I just wanted to let you all know that I started an Etsy shop called Kreation Kween. It was long in coming, but I am excited to finally have it open and hopefully running for a significant amount of time. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KreationKween?ref=hdr_shop_menu

I intend to add more, but for now I am selling adorable bookmarks, a plush kitten, two elegant tiaras, a crochet headband, and several pre-made and custom friendship bracelets. I hope you don't mind if I share a few pictures.



I hand-stitched the kitten because I am not able to reach a sewing machine, but it still looks cute!








I made a tiara for my Halloween costume and was given so many compliments that I decided to make a few more. This is one of the two on Etsy. The other is quite different and neither is the same as the one I made for my princess costume.










I found the idea for the bookmarks on good old Pinterest. They fit on the corner of the page and to an extent look like they are eating the page. All of them are animal-themed and super adorable, at least in my opinion.






If you are wondering about the title, a friend helped me come up with it. A few years ago (I did say it was long in coming) she helped me brainstorm ideas and one of the ones I liked the most was changing the spelling of Creation to Kreation. My last name begins with K, my first begins with E, and my middle name begins with A. All three of my initial are present in the name and it signifies what I do: Create. The second word, "Kween," kind of goes with the first in several ways. I thought I would keep in the same fashion and misspell it also. I was Queen, but the letters make the same or a similar sound. I also don't like bragging, so this is a way to slightly disguise the meaning of being a "Kween of Kreation". Were any of you so caught up in the misspelling that you didn't notice the meaning of the name?

Do any of you have shops on Etsy?

Free Ebook Giveaway From Alana Terry!



Torn Asunder is the upcoming release from award-winning Christian suspense novelist Alana Terry. You can pre-order Torn Asunder on amazon now for only 99 cents and have it delivered right to you when it's released in December. As an added bonus, Alana, along with recording artist Cherie Norquay, is offering free downloads of one of the songs featured in Torn Asunder.

Synopsis: After graduating from the Secret Seminary, Hannah and Simon are ready to return to their homeland. Their training has equipped them to carry the gospel to a country ravaged by darkness and despair. If necessary, they’re even prepared to face the North Korean labor camps, but the hardest part of their mission isn’t the hunger, cold, and incessant danger. The hardest part is cutting off contact with one another.

In this world of spies, secret police, and informants, staying together might not just compromise their ministry. It could cost them both their lives.

A Christian romantic suspense from the author of The Beloved Daughter, which won awards from Women of Faith, Grace Awards, Readers' Favorite, The Book Club Network, and more.


Pre-order Torn Asunder for only 99 cents or enter the giveaway below! You can also sign up to get a free mp3 song download from Cherie Norquay, whose work is put out by Grammy-award-winning producer, Phil Naish, and whose lyrics helped inspire certain scenes in Torn Asunder. Click below or get her free song downloads here. (Several of her song lyrics also appear in the novel itself.)

You can also sign up below to help spread the word about Alana's fundraiser to help rescue North Korean refugees on a modern-day underground railroad.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Slave Again

Before I introduce this new book, I would like to share my story regarding it. Recently, I have practically been bombarded with information about human trafficking. In one week in September, three email appeared in my inbox saying that I won three of Alana Terry's books in various formats. The books were from three separate giveaways I had entered three months before. When was the last time you won three books from three separate giveaways from the same author, dear reader? And when did that happen during the same week that your college decides to show a documentary (a really good one called Nefarious) and an informational meeting about human trafficking, a major topic in those three books? I am a little suspicious that God is trying to show me something, perhaps about the future plans He has for me. In fact, another set of "coincidences" regarding the same topic seems to be happening again, now.

In any case, upon Alana's request, I decided to review one of the books I won, called Slave Again. I began reading it with the expectation that I would witness the suffering of those trafficked women and children in a way that facts and statistics cannot--through the thoughts and feelings of a character in a well-written book. I was not disappointed.

Description

Slave Again
Alana Terry

 After escaping a North Korean prison camp, Mee-Kyong is hustled over the border and sold into the Chinese underworld. She vows to survive, but sheer determination and willpower won't save her this time. Is she fated to remain a slave forever?

Slave Again is written by Christian suspense novelist Alana Terry, winner of numerous awards, including the Women of Faith writing contest and the Readers' Favorite gold medal for religious fiction.
Links:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

YouTube (video contains brief violent image)




About the Author


Alana is passionate about human-rights issues in North Korea and has devoted her writing to raise both awareness and funds to help North Korean refugees find freedom and safety. You can find out more about Liberty in North Korea and Alana’s rescue campaign at alanaterry.com/link.











My Review


As you may have noticed, suspense is not my usual genre. However, I found that Slave Again was a wonderful book. I won’t attempt to write a long summary of the book this time because Alana did such a good job of it and I don’t want to reveal any more than I already have to in the review. Suffice it to say, human trafficking is a major theme in Slave Again, and the main character, Mee-Kyong and a few of the other characters are trapped and trying to escape from being trafficked in China and North Korea.

Slave Again kept me on my toes. Everything would be going fine or you thought you knew where the book was going, then BAM! something horrible or unexpected happened. I couldn’t even guess what would happen next. A little over halfway through the book, however, nerve-wracking occurrences calmed down a little bit. The characters were recovering and adjusting. There was a little suspense on account of the overheard phone calls between a government spy and his/her superiors. The ending was suspenseful, I was glad to note, but I won’t give it away.

The way Slave Again ended was more than satisfactory but disappointed me a little because there were so many loose ends. Several characters I had begun to care about were never heard from again within the book, and several instances. However, I assume that many of those loose ends will be taken care of in the next book, Torn Asunder, which is due to be released in December and which I will be reviewing and hosting the blog tour.

Alana Terry showed the characters’ faults in ways I do not usually think about. All the characters were selfish. Even the sweet missionary couple was portrayed as helping others partly only to get something from the situation; the husband helped Mee-Kyong in order to make his wife happy which in turn helped him be happy. This made me think deeply about whether my own motives about helping others are selfish. Also, the missionary woman was often mentioned as being naïve, which makes me wonder whether I too would be considered naïve in such a situation and whether I could still be effective as a missionary if I was naïve.

Slave Again helped open my eyes to the realities of human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking. The women and children who are trafficked suffer more than anyone should. I applaud anyone who helps stop the practice and hope to join the fight myself. I am quite certain that Alana has information for anyone willing to help end human trafficking in the world if you ask her.

Because of the theme is human trafficking, the characters are desperate, and the genre suspense, the book was only relatively clean. Slave Again included non-gory, violent scenes and a few implied sex scenes.

Overall, I applaud Alana Terry for a well-written, informative, and suspense-filled novel.

Giveaway


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Golden Daughter

Another book has been published, or rather, will be on November 10 according to Amazon, by my favorite author Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I was given the exciting opportunity to be one of her influencer readers for this new book. I intend to fulfill some of those responsibilities with this review of Golden Daughter. Enjoy!

Description

Golden Daughter
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS
IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED.

Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.

But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.

Buy Links

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

My Review


In Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Sairu has been trained since birth to be a Golden Daughter, a special protector of the nobility. When her skills are perfected, she will go under-cover as a wife to her master for the rest of their lives in order to protect him from all harm. Except Sairu is assigned to protect a woman. This woman has the special ability to Dream Walk, and someone wants her dead. It’s up to Sairu, now a handmaiden, to protect her mistress and to discover why the assassins want her dead before it’s too late.

Every one of Anne Elisabeth’s novels have enchanted me, earning her the title of “favorite author”. Golden Daughter was no exception. I was super excited when I learned that I was to be given and influencer copy of the book and have subsequently devoured it.

One of the first things I noticed was that Golden Daugher, the seventh book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series, was much longer than its predecessors. It was also set in a different part of the world with nearly all new characters once again. The setting was the eastern parts of the mortal world, comparable to medieval China. It portrays grand palaces, universities, leper colonies, and small tribes on the plains in a believable manner while intertwining a dream world, the Wood Between, and the garden of the moon.

Each character—Sairu, Jovan, Sunan (yes, Captain Sunan from Vieled Rose and Goddess Tithe), Lady Hariawan, and others—was unique, sometimes funny, and well written. They seemed like real people struggling with real problems and romances. There were a few familiar characters, Eanrin for example, but most of the main characters were completely new and amazing. I would mention that Jovan’s story reminded me of Joseph’s story in the Bible, which was a nice touch.

The plot, also, was unlike any story I have ever read. There is certainly the comparison to Joseph, but there are so many other things going on that Golden Daughter is completely unique.

Also, the spiritual element was beautiful. It tells of redemption, of hope even through pain, and of the ultimate defeat of the Dragon both in the character’s lives and our own when we trust in the Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I applaud Anne Elisabeth for another astonishing story.
I received a free influencer, ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Daughter of Highland Hall

Life has been busy, but I now have the review of The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky for your enjoyment.

Description

Daughter of Highland Hall
Carrie Turansky

What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor… what if it isn’t enough?
Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain’s elite.

When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London’s East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love—and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served.

Buy Links
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

Review


The Daughter of Highland Hall is the second book in the Edwardian Brides Series by Carrie Turansky. It begins several months after book one with Katherine’s “coming out” into society, a declaration of her adult and marriageable status to all of London society. Kate dreams of marrying a rich heir by the end of that season, and with her Aunt Louisa’s help, her dream just might come true. But when a family member’s scandal is broadcasted across newspapers, Kate is shunned from society. But as Kate grows in faith, she begins to realize that wealth is not the most important thing to life and that Julia’s brother Jon might be just the man for her, despite his lack of title.
 
The Daughter of Highland Hall was a wonderful book. It portrayed the social customs of the early twentieth century while entwining a sweet romance with plenty of plot twists to keep the book moving and interesting. Not only did it show the wealth of time period but the poverty as well through the characters’ involvements in the free Daystar Clinic in East End, London.

The characters were beautiful and deep with unique personalities and problems. I enjoyed watching Kate and Jon grow in faith throughout the book. They also struggled and grew in relationships with each other and other people, especially Aunt Louisa who was very demanding and irritable.

I most enjoyed the spiritual aspects of The Daughter of Highland Hall. As Kate grew in faith, I was reminded of important principles of every Christian’s life. At one point, Kate realizes that she has spent her time completely focused on herself and finding a husband before the season’s end; Kate then grows to understand that these things are not the most important things in life. She changes her focus from herself to Christ and helping others. This really touched me. It helped me realign my focus as well.

In addition, the many deep conversations provided quotes and principles important to remember, most of which need the context to understand fully.  Because of these things, the book is not just a sweet fictional story; it contains principles that are applicable to daily life.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: King of Anavrea

I hope you enjoyed the interview last Saturday. When I joined the blog tour, I was given the opportunity to review read and review Rachel Rossano's book King of Anavrea.
 

Description

King of Anavrea
Rachel Rossano
 

A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion... 

Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears. 

Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health. 

After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.
 

Book Trailer--  http://youtu.be/gsbTU8hv3QE
Buy Links:

Review


King of Anavrea, Book 2 in the Theodoric Saga by Rachel Rossano, portrays a king, Ireic, who signs a treaty and promises to marry Princess Lirth as a condition of the treaty. Only, Lirth is not where her father promised she would be. In fact, she had been kidnapped several years before and her father had done nothing about it. Ireic then rescues her only to discover another obstacle—Lirth is blind. Will love overcome all obstacles and will Ireic’s kingdom accept a blind queen?
King of Anavrea is a sweet romance that I enjoyed. The story is lovely and filled with deep characters and faith. Lirth is filled with faith in Kurios, the god of this story world, despite all the pain she has had to endure through losing her sight and being kidnapped. Ireic’s faith, on the other hand, grows through the story as a result of his inability to do everything and the impact Lirth’s faith had on him. I appreciated that I could see the growth of the characters in this way and others.
King of Anavrea is better-written than book one, Crown of Anavrea, which shows growth in the writer. One thing I noticed is that there are no non-essential scenes, another mark of better writing. There “scenes” that are skipped which could have been included, but Rachel Rossano fills in the gaps beautifully nevertheless. Also, Rahcel Rossano uses foreshadowing well; she mentions a family manor before using it in the story instead of mentioning it as soon as the characters needed it.
The one problem I had with King of Anavrea is that the plotline and characters are very similar to the other books I have read by Rachel Rossanno, especially Crown of Anavrea. In both books in the Theodoric Saga, the characters slowly fall in love after an arranged marriage, there are political contentions, and several other similarities I cannot include lest I give away the entire plot. Don’t get me wrong, the books are not exactly the same, only similar. The plot and characters are sweet and I love them, I just want to see Rachel Rossano switching things up a little bit more.
Overall, I liked King of Anavrea and hope you will too.
I have received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blog Tour: King of Anavrea by Rachel Rossano

Hello! Today I am hosting Rachel Rossano's blog tour for King of Anavrea, Book 2 of the Theodoric Saga. Rachel's book Duty: A Novel of Rhynan is one of the first books I ever reviewed, and I quite enjoyed it. So I was extremely happy to be able to be a host in her blog tour and interview her. I hope you will enjoy everything!
 

Author Bio

Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virture set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a bit of science fiction.
Rachel Rossano loves to interact with readers.
 

Interview

Welcome, Rachel! Thank you for joining us on my blog Zerina Blossom. Please tell us a little about yourself. Hobbies? Furry friends? Tea or Coffee?
Thank you for inviting me. I am a happily married mother of three children. We are a homeschooling family so my life is very full of teaching and activities. Writing and book cover design are my hobbies/business that I fit around the rest of my life. No furry friends at the moment, though I love dogs. We had two before we had kids, a Chocolate Labrador and a Greyhound. I am definitely a tea drinker. I love a large mug of mint or raspberry tea with honey. I prefer caffeinated tea.
What is your day like?
My mornings are full of schoolwork and housework. My first writing opportunity is usually during my twins’ naptime in the afternoon. Evenings are full of family and church activities. Then after the kid’s bedtime, I spend a couple hours writing or designing book covers. Other book business things usually get stuck in spare moments throughout the day.
 
What is your favorite book, series, or author and why?
I have many favorites. I loved Kathy Tyer’s Firebird Trilogy. The concept of sacrifice despite the chance of death or lifelong consequences for the sake of the glory of God and His greater purpose fascinates me. All too often we lose sight of the eternal in our temporal struggles.
 
Very true. When did you first start writing?
I started writing in my early teens. A serious focus on writing well didn’t come until I was in my twenties when I set about pursuing publishing my books.
 
Is there someone (or something) who was instrumental in inspiring you to begin writing to publish?
My parents taught me to love reading, history, and storytelling. From those loves, I have grown into writing. Without that basis, I think my writing lack dimension and depth.
 
What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome to publish your first book?
My own foolishness and naivety definitely worked against me and publishing my first book, but that didn’t stop me from indie-publishing my second, third, and fourth. It also didn’t stop be from re-publishing my first book (the prequel to this one). Don’t let your own mistakes hold you back. Learn from them and move forward.
 
That is a good thing to remember. I am also glad of your success. Why did you choose to self-publish rather than go through the traditional publishing companies?
Most traditional publishing companies aren’t interested in publishing what I write, at least they weren’t when I started publishing my books. Non-magical non-allegorical Christian fantasy with a historical feel doesn’t really fit nicely into any particular genre and isn’t easy for them to market. Now that I have been indie-publishing for a while, I would be reluctant to go traditional, but I can’t say I would definitely say no to a good offer. I am enjoying my independence.
 
How much research do you generally have to do?
It depends on the book and the depth needed. I am working on the next book in my Novels of Rhynan series and researching medieval painting and art techniques since my heroine is going to be the daughter of a painter. I suspect my hero is going to breed horses so I am reading about that. However, for The King of Anavrea I didn’t do much research at all.
 
What inspired you to write The King of Anavrea?
After I finished writing The Crown of Anavrea, I felt badly for leaving Ireic with all the responsibilities of ruling Anavrea when he clearly didn’t want the job. Besides, I quite liked him. So despite declaring to my friends that I didn’t like writing politics, I spent a whole book writing about the politics of Anavrea.
 
What do you love best about The King of Anavrea?
Lirth’s internal beauty. She genuinely desires to do the Lord’s will in everything she does, even if it means she must die for Him. She doesn’t hate Him for taking her sight or letting her be a pawn in her father’s political games. Instead, she waits on him with a peace and patience I cannot claim to share. She is an example of how I would like to be. I am definitely not, though.
 
Which of your novels is your favorite and why?
Oh, that is a hard question. It is like choosing one’s favorite child. The answer is dangerous to consider, let alone answer. I would say my current is Living Sacrifice, an Epic Inspirational Fantasy.
In a country which values the seventh sons because of their power, Zezilia Ilar began life as the disappointment. She was born the only girl after six boys and he father never let her forget that her gender ruined all chances that she could restore the family honor by becoming the next Sept Son. Now at fifteen, she is poised to bring honor to her family by making a good marriage alliance until she catches the eye of the man who is about to become Sept Son because she is displaying an ability for telepathy and telekinetic movement unprecedented in a woman.
Hadrian Aleron was born the seventh son of a seventh son. As the most powerful talent in fifteen generations, he is more than qualified to assume the responsibilities of the job. On the other hand, many do not want him in the position. In a country devoted to the worship of a goddess, Hadrian has rejected the accepted religion. He follows the teaching of the Almighty. This alone causes for the foremost leader of the official religion to oppose Hadrian’s appointment.
Zezilia discovers that the Almighty has a greater purpose for her. Hadrian learns to lean on the Almighty to navigate a trying situation. As the story plays out they slowly realize the unacknowledged God of the universe has big plans for them, their families, and their country. I love the theme of faith in adversity and living a life of sacrifice to the Lord.
 
Living Sacrific sound really interesting. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write what you love. Be disciplined and systematic toward attaining your goals. Write and read constantly. Accept criticism when it is given, even when it isn’t spoken in love. You don’t have to take it, but it would be wise to evaluate it. Also, pursue God’s will, even when it means going outside your comfort zone.
 
Is there anything you would like to say?
Thank you so much for inviting me here and sharing the news of my new book. I love meeting new people (readers or authors). Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I love talking about writing, reading, cover design, and just about anything book related.
Rachel, thank you for joining me on my blog and for writing such lovely books!
Speaking of which, here is her newest book, King of Anavrea. Enjoy!
 

Description

A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion... 
Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears. 
Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health. 
After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.
Book Trailer Link
 
Buy Links

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Captive in Iran

I thought I would share Captive in Iran, which I read and reviewed this summer as a part of the Tyndale House Publisher's summer reading program. Though I usually don't read non-fiction, I enjoyed this autobiography and hope you will too.

Description

Captive in Iran
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh

Embark on a chilling journey inside one of the world’s darkest and most dangerous places: Evin, the notorious Tehran prison. Here, prisoners are routinely tortured, abused, and violated. Executions are frequent and sudden. But for two women imprisoned for their Christian faith—Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh—this hell on earth was a place of unlikely grace as they reflected God’s love and compassion to their fellow prisoners and guards. Against all odds, Evin would become the only church many of them had ever known.
In Captive in Iran, Maryam and Marziyeh recount their 259 days in Evin. It’s an amazing story of unyielding faith—when denying God would have meant freedom. Of incredible support from strangers around the world who fought for the women’s release. And of bringing God’s light into one of the world’s darkest places—giving hope to those who had lost everything, and showing love to those in despair.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Goodreads

My Review


I enjoyed this book as a refreshing change from fiction. Much of the story gives an account of the women that Marziyeh and Maryam met during their stay in Evin and the temporary prison. The two women shared Christ with nearly everyone they met despite the harsh, discouraging conditions. They were already in prison for their beliefs; what more could be done to them? I appreciated the fact that Marziyeh and Maryam did not spend the book self-focused or complaining about the horrible prison conditions (although they certainly mentioned the conditions), but focus much of their story on the people they learned to love while in prison. This in itself is a testimony to their faith. Part of that focus is to show the world that something needs to be done about the fact that many of the women were in prison under false charges or because of their opposition to the government or Iran's Islamic beliefs. 
The first chapter or two were a little confusing because the story keeps jumping forward and backward in time. After that, there is no problem. I was also a little confused about whose perspective the story was written from many times. Before each change of perspective, there is a name written; however, the authors’ personalities were somewhat indistinguishable, so that there was no other way to tell who was “speaking”.
I loved this book. It helped me grow in faith and see the harsh realities of those living outside my comfy America. Would I truly stand up for my faith if faced with prison or torture? I hope everyone who reads this book will, if nothing else, pray for those in prison for their faith.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Story Behind the Name

So, perhaps some of you have been wondering why I named my blog Zerina Blossom. After all, what does it have to do with books, the main object of my blog posts? It sounds like a name of a flower, not to mention the background is filled with flowers.

Well, I would like to answer that question. You see, I am writing a book. Aside from the book I am writing, which I will tell you about another day, there are several other story ideas in the back of my mind, set in the same story-world. A main character in one of those stories is Princess Zerina. I love her name, and for some reason, I love it more when combined with the word Blossom--just because it sounds beautiful.

I would tell you a little more about Zerina. First of all, I discovered this website called Doll Divine in which I can create a model of a character complete with facial expression, hair and skin coloring, accessories, and clothing. The photo on the left is one such model, featuring Zerina and her counterpart, Roran.

Zerina is the daughter of a king, obviously. When she was a child, her older brother of four years doted on her and, when she asked, taught her the fencing skills he knew. Their parents hired the best tutors in the land to teach the royal children, and both Zerina and her brother became very good at fencing. When the princess was 13 years old, a war came to their land. Not to be outdone by her older brother, Zerina demanded to go to war with her father and brother. When she was denied, Zerina sneaked into the army anyway. Despite her fine skills, Zerina was not up to the challenge of the battle. Her brother found her in the heat of battle, defended her, and gave his life for her. Her brother was given a hero's burial while Zerina was shamed because of her disobedience and part she played in his death.

This is merely Zerina' backstory. Her real story picks up three years later, with a very determined princess and a country enslaved by the very same enemy as in the war Zerina attempted to fight.

Intrigued?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Facebook and Twitter

I am happy to announce that I began a Facebook page for Zerina Blossom! Stop by and like my page--it is filled with books! https://www.facebook.com/ZerinaBlossom

You can also find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KopfEmily

Thank you!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Unexpected Bride Review

I am happy to give my review of Lena Goldfinch's The Unexpected Bride, coincidentally on it's release day. So, if you are interested in the book, be sure to click on one of my links!

Description


What's a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

Rebecca Sullivan has been "Becky" all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a "perfect lady" for a wife--a real Southern belle, who's now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a "perfect lady" for her future husband.

If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he'd have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca's vulnerable eyes...and knows he'll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

This is Book One in the The Brides Series. The books can be read in any order.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Goodreads

My Review


The Unexpected Bride was a sweet historical romance by Lena Goldfinch. Brokenhearted with nowhere else to go, Becky signs up to become the mail order bride of Isaac, hoping against hope that her new romance will be as successful as the Biblical Isaac and Rebecca’s. But, in order to be the perfect bride, Becky has chosen to hide her true self. Will she ever gain the courage to show her husband her “hoydenish” true self?

I am having a very hard time writing this review. I always have trouble giving complements or defining what I like, but I will try. I couldn’t find anything I disliked about this book, but I have to say something in this review.

I certainly like this book. I was so engrossed in it from the start that I read it all in one night. The characters were unique and human-like, the plot entertaining. The setting was realistic and would have been beautiful if I could have seen it. I also appreciated the added drama in the climax. (I’ll leave you, readers, to figure that out. I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending).

The book’s message, self-confidence, is something that applies to everyone—everyone needs to see themselves as valuable and not be afraid to show their true selves. The best friends are the ones who love you no matter what, anyway, and that includes God, who created you perfect the way you are. Many different characters throughout the novel played a role in Becky’s growing self-confidence, which gives realism to the story. How many times in life do we learn everything we need to know at one time from one person?

The romance was sweet, just as the cover said. I love that the characters, Isaac and Rebecca, took time to get to know each other and work through their problems before truly falling in love. It makes the romance seem more realistic than love at first sight would have.

On the whole, The Unexpected Bride was beautiful.

I received a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for a review.