Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: Jackal

Good morning! I hope you will enjoy today's review of Jackal by Heather Gray.


Heather Gray

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn't so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he's inherited? His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?
(Description from Amazon.com) 

Buy Links
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

My Review

A year or two ago, I came across the first book in the Regency Refuge Series by Heather Grey, called His Saving Grace. It contains one of my all-time favorite romantic scenes, which, unfortunately, I cannot reveal because of its importance in the story. Needless to say, however, I was thrilled to discover that the series now has a second and third book. (There was only one book when I discovered the series and I have not been keeping track of the author). This second and slightly longer book is called Jackal.

In Jackal, Juliana is desperate. Because of her uncle’s death, she and her much-younger sisters are thrown out of their home and forced to find their new guardian, a man by the name of Rupert. Juliana is hunted by dangerous men while Rupert is hunted by a man even more dangerous, The Hunter. Will they learn to trust one another before their enemies catch them?

Jackal is the kind of book I like—a bit of romance mixed with danger and set in a time and place far from here and now. The novel moved quickly and intrigued me the entire time. If it was not the developing romance between Rupert and Juliana, it was the revelation of the next part of the mystery.

I enjoyed the sweet romance. The way Juliana and Rupert learned to love each other as they spent time together doing the things of daily life was beautiful. I also loved watching Rupert and Juliana learn to trust one another. I would not have been easy considering the weight of the responsibilities and dangers that trust would reveal.

The Hunter was a mystery to me. I could not guess who he was. However, that might have been because The Hunter’s identity was a man who had only been mentioned once or twice. I wish the author had done a better job of giving the readers a way to guess.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this sweet romance.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Appreciate A Dragon Day

Today, January 16, is Dragon Appreciation Day. The annual event was started in 2004 by Donita K Paul, one of the first authors of Christian fantasy to be published by traditional, Christian publishers. I have been wanting to do something to celebrate it for the past few years, but have sadly forgotten until just after January 16. Today, I have finally remembered and am celebrating by posting a couple of my recent drawing of dragons and sharing some of my favorite Christian dragon books. However, the books I post are not necessarily the first books in the series.

Dragons of the Watch (Book 3 in the Dragons of Chiril Series) is quite possibly my favorite of Donita K Paul's books because the romance is soooo sweet and beautiful. The tiny little dragons are adorable too, don't you think? But keep in mind they are in a city built by giants.
In Moonblood (Book 3 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood Series), the dragons are sadly evil. King Vahe is determined to have is army of dragons, even at the cost of his only daughter's life.
Koren lives in a world in which humans are the slaves of the dragons. Many dragons are cruel taskmasters, but Koren has a power that just might be able to help overthrow their masters. She is a Starlighter (Book 1 of the Dragons of Starlight Series). Note: The cover shown here is not the new and updated version.
 The Dragon in The Book of the King (Book 1 in the Wormling Series) is the archenemy of the King and is bent on destroying all the King's followers, including Owen, a regular teen who finds himself the owner of the only copy of "The Book of the King."
And one more. This one is not Christian, but it's cute and clean and too awesome not to mention.
When Creel's crazy aunt suggests Creel offer herself up to the nearest dragon and hope a knight will come rescue her, Creel has few options but to go along with it. Creel doubts the dragon is even alive since no one has seen him in years. But he appears, alive and well and annoyed at having been bothered by the ridiculous humans. Creel bargains her way out of the situations and ends up with a mysterious pair of Dragon Slippers (Book 1 in the Dragon Slippers Series) part of the dragons hoard.
Have a wonderful Dragon Appreciation Day!

P.S. If you're wondering where I found the information that Donita was one of the first authors of Christian fantasy to be published by traditional Christian publishers, I heard Bryan Davis say that about himself and his first fantasy novel was published the same year as Donita's first.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Chronicles of Steele: Raven


Chronicles of Steele: Raven
Pauline Creeden

This is the complete Steampunk Fantasy novel - all four parts of the serial in one volume! Also includes bonus features not found in the episodes ~

Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.

Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.

Buy Links
AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Goodreads

My Review

In Chronicles of Steele: Raven, by Pauline Creeden, Raven Steele is a Reaper, a highly trained assassin and bodyguard who lives by a code of honor. Unfortunately, not all Reapers live by that code, making them all banished from New Haven. On her way through the city, she saves the life of Darius, the Duke’s younger son. Despite the ban against Reapers, the Duke’s older son hires Raven to protect Darius from his own father and take Darius to the Wood Witch to be cured of his peculiar condition. But Raven and Darius are hunted by the Duke’s guard.
Raven was a very interesting book. Many aspects were new to me and I enjoyed all of very much. For one, the term Reaper made me hesitant about the book at first, but when I realized it was merely an assassin-bodyguard, I accepted it as an appropriate term for Raven’s occupation.
I enjoyed the steampunk world Pauline Creeden created in Raven. From automated horses and Zeppelins to magnetic clothing and crossbows, this world captivated me. Before Raven, I had never read a book in the steampunk genre, only watched a few movies here and there. I love the unique spin on the Victorian era, the new inventions, and the sweet clothing styles. And Darius, with his destructive effect on machines, would surely have caused chaos on many occasions.
At the beginning of every chapter is a principle of teaching that Raven would have learned that corresponded to the chapter’s content. This insight into the things Raven and other trained fighters learn was interesting and might be helpful to relate to warriors in the real world.
The plot never rested long before more danger and action occurred. Because Raven was originally a series of four episodes, there were noticeable climaxes and cliffhangers leading into the next episodes. Each of the episodes was well written and distinct but they flowed together very well to create this completed book.
I appreciated the code of honor Raven and a few of the other Reapers followed. This code stresses the importance of human life by requiring those who follow it to save a life for every one they take. It was supposed to make them see the value of human life as well as humble them by making them realize they are not gods. It is also a kind of redemption. Raven eventually realized that only God can redeem her for the deaths she caused and take away the guilt but that saving a life was still important.
Overall, I Chronicles of Steele: Raven was a very interesting and insightful introduction to the world of steampunk.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: A Most Inconvenient Marriage

I know I usually don't post two times a day, but I decided to make an exception. I hope you enjoy reading about A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings.


A Most Inconvenient Marriage
Regina Jennings

Abigail Stuart Thought She was Jeremiah Calhoun's Widow.
But Jeremiah Calhoun Is Very Handsome, Very Alive, and Very Perplexed.
Most Inconvenient Indeed.

With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he's gone--a practical solution for both of them.
After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain--until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail's story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she's never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn't trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage?
Buy Links:


My Review

When Abigail Stuart agrees to marry a dying soldier to manage his horse farm and take care of his family, she thinks his name is Jeremiah Calhoun. She certainly does not expect a different man named Jeremiah Calhoun to show up on the farm, be recognized by his mother and sister, and threaten to throw her out as a thief and a liar. Desperate to stay on the horse farm, the only home she has, Abigail strikes up a deal with Jeremiah to stay a few more months. Will she convince him to let her stay permanently? And will she end up married to the real Jeremiah in the end?
When I began reading A Most Inconvenient Marriage, by Regina Jennings, I was excited to see what would come of this awkward situation and how, as I predicted, Abigail and Jeremiah would end up together. I found that A Most Inconvenient Marriage was a very sweet and lovely romance.
After the initial discoveries of who Abigail did and did not marry, the story started becoming less interesting. Regina Jennings then created danger and a mystery to draw the readers back into the story: Someone was stealing from and hurting the townspeople. Jeremiah’s fiancĂ© also provided some drama because she was in love with Jeremiah as well as the local doctor and both were determined to win her affections.
A couple of awkward situations between Jeremiah and Abigail and with the neighbors made the story especially entertaining. I can only imagine the stories neighbor kids told their parents! And what their dad saw probably topped everything, especially with Jeremiah and Abigail’s sort-of marriage.
One part of A Most Inconvenient Marriage really touched me. Rachel, Jeremiah’s sister, had an undiagnosed, degenerative disease that was killing her. Even though she was only in her twenties, Rachel had no hope for any future but death. She was bitter, depressed, and extremely irritable because of it. But within the story, Rachel changes from being this miserable person to having God’s joy despite her pain, which is a wonderful witness for Christ. When reading this, I was struck with how similar Rachel’s situation was to that of a few of my friends. It is a tragedy for them, but they have held on to hope in Christ and become amazing witnesses for Him through it. I loved to see their example written into a book for all to read.
A Most Inconvenient Marriage was entertaining and fun. I look forward to reading other books by Regina Jennings.
I have received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reveiw: Storm Siren

I am happy to introduce yet another wonderful Christian fantasy:


Storm Siren
Mary Weber

"I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don't want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you."

In a world at war, a slave girl's lethal curse could become one kingdom's weapon of salvation. If the curse - and the girl - can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn't merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth - meaning, she shouldn't even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she's being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn't want to be the weapon they've all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

Buy Links:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book, and Goodreads


Storm Siren, by Mary Weber, is an action-packed fantasy with a few elements of steampunk and romance. When an advisor to the king discovers Nym’s ability to control the weather, the woman buys Nym and forces her to train to use her skills as a weapon to end the age-long war their country is losing. But Nym does not want to kill anyone. She has done it so many times on accident that being forced into killing others sounds atrocious. Unfortunately, the alternative is death. Will Nym ever learn to control her abilities and come to terms with her power?
Immediately upon viewing the cover of Storm Siren, I wanted to read it. The description made me even more curious. I always love a good fantasy, especially when the main character has special abilities. Storm Siren did not disappoint me. Storm Siren was interesting all the way through, with romance, mystery, and earth-shattering power.
I enjoyed the plot. There was always danger and deadlines hanging over the characters. Threats, betrayal, and secrets came from every side as Nym fought to learn control of her abilities. Nym, Eogan, Colin, and Breck went on adventures into town and the forest and heard all kinds of strange rumors. The climax was amazing and tragic, and the end was a cliffhanger.
One of the themes in the book is guilt. Nym was filled with guilt for the people she killed. Eogan, her trainer, however, makes the point that the guilt is good. Otherwise, people’s lives begin to lose their value in the killer’s mind. Even though war and killing is sometimes necessary, a person must never lose sight of the value of human life.
Most of all, I loved watching Nym grow. At the beginning, she was very depressed and angry because of all the deaths she had caused. She thought she was a monster deserving only death. But Eogan, her other friends, and God taught Nym that she was special, important, and loved. Her power was only complete when she allowed God into her life.
I am happy to say, I fully enjoyed Storm Siren and cannot wait until the next one!
I received a free copy of Storm Siren from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 and 2015


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's Celebration. I certainly did. I visited with my family and friends for a lovely few weeks. We went shopping, four-wheeling, and sledding and went to a movie night, Christmas program, and many other enjoyable occupations. This, of course, explains why I have not posted on my blog for the past month or so.

2014 was a year of big changes and new experiences for me. I moved across the country and in so doing, began a new chapter in my life. I hope it will continue to be a good one. I also met many amazing new people who I am proud to call my friends and family.

As for reading and writing, I read a total of 83 books in 2014 year and reviewed a few of them. This year, I plan to read 100 books and review a much larger percentage of them. I also came across some reading challenges for 2015. I never knew there were such things, though I probably should have. I joined two of them. One is focused on Series Reading and has an interesting point scale--add points for reading a new-to-you book in a series, for finishing a series, and for buying or borrowing a book in the series, and subtract points for beginning a new series. The second challenge is to read a specific number review books from Netgalley and Eidelweiss. I chose to read 25, or 10 if it becomes too much for me.

I wrote somewhat consistently on this blog for several months, as you know, and fully intend to pick up where I left off last December. I plan to write some blog posts other than book reviews and tours to make it more interesting.

I joined the 100-4-100 Challenge in fall 2014 in order to make myself write more on my work-in-progress but sadly failed to complete it. While I was writing consistently for the challenge, I was excited to see real progress in my book, the dream of publishing actually seemed attainable. Despite failing the challenge, I was inspired to write more often. If there is another 100-4-100 Challenge I intend to join. In 2015, I plan to write more, at least finish my rough draft and start editing it.

So, how about you, dear readers? How were your winter holidays? What memorable things did you do in 2014? What goals do you have for 2015? Did you sign up for any reading challenges? Do you have any ideas of what would make Zerina Blossom more interesting or fun? What would you like to see on this blog this year? Do you have anything to share?

~Emily Anne