Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a very unique story. It is Fantasy. It is a Regency Faerie Tale with a bit of satire. I have never read another book quite like it. This book was released on March 29, 2020 and is Olivia Atwater’s debut novel.

The story’s main character is Dora, who has been cursed by a faerie and cannot feel fear, embarrassment, or even happiness. This condition gets her into trouble more often than not until she meets Lord Elias Wilder an outspoken magician, whom most people detest but still invite him to their elegant parties and balls.

This book is very well written. The characters and plot line are well developed and interesting. The story held my interest from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed Dora’s verbal interactions with the other characters, and her interactions with Lord Wilder were unique and delightful.

I fully enjoyed watching Dora discover things about herself that brought her comfort. It was also touching to watch the effect she had upon the other characters throughout the story. The other character’s reactions to Dora evoked many different feelings as I read as well.

The story had some interesting twists and surprises. At times, I found the story reminiscent of a Charles Dickens tale. The story isn’t just an enjoyable, entertaining read. It made me think about people and the way they think, act, react, and treat each other.

After finishing my reading of Half a Soul, I found and read an interview that Ms. Atwater gave to a blogger. In that interview, Ms. Atwater said, “I think a good story either makes you think or else makes you feel. I think a truly fantastic story makes you do both.”

Based on that statement, I have to say that Half a Soul is a truly fantastic story.

This story will be one of my favorites for a long time to come and I look forward to reading more from Olivia Atwater. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, as well as to Fantasy fans, Regency fans, and Dickens’ fans. I rarely take time to reread books because there are always so many new books that keep my To Be Read List always growing, but I think that I should like to revisit this book in the future.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by [Lisa Wingate]

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a story that tells two stories, one from the past, and one from the present and connects the two. It is a historical fiction story.

The historical story line is set in 1939 United States. It tells the fictional story of a family that lives in a shantyboat on the Mississippi River. It’s a sad and tragic tale that, sadly, many people experienced in reality–their children wrenched from their homes and families and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, where they must face many cruelties. I was completely unaware of this orphanage and the cruel woman, Georgia Tann, who was behind it all. It is a heart-wrenching story, and I was appalled at how cruel Georgia Tann could be and how long she got away with destroying the lives of so many innocent children.

The modern day story line was set in Aiken, South Carolina and centered around a well-to-do family involved in politics. The main character in this story line was Avery Stafford, who was set to be married until she meets an elderly lady in a care facility who awakens uncomfortable questions in Avery’s mind and sets her on a journey to uncover her family’s long-hidden past.

The story of the Foss children living in the shantyboat captured my attention right from the start and the children captured my heart. Never having lived near water, learning about their life on the river and the river community was interesting and enjoyable. Ms. Wingate painted pictures in my mind of the Foss family, their neighbors, and their life. The story line of Rill, her parents, and siblings held me captive throughout the book as my heart ached for a happy ending for them.

Avery’s story, on the other hand, took me a while to get caught up in. At first I considered skipping the chapters about Avery to remain immersed in the story of Rill and her siblings, but I didn’t want to miss out on any of the connections between the two stories, so I continued to read about Avery as well. After about the third chapter about Avery, I finally began to be more interested in Avery’s life as well, and so continued to read, both to find out what would happen to Rill and her siblings, as well as how they were connected to Avery’s family.

Before We Were Yours was a slower read for me because it was very different than what I normally read, but it was written in a way that, even though it was slower, I didn’t want to abandon it. I was both appalled and fascinated by the true history of the story and so thankful that orphanages like the Tennessee Children’s Home Society are no longer allowed to function in the United States today. As someone who loves history and loves to learn, I found this book definitely worth reading.

If you are interested in history and enjoy learning about different time periods and the lives of people in those times, I recommend Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, and if you are like me, it will make you laugh and cry, and Rill and her siblings will find a permanent place in your heart.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

Before reading this book, I had heard a lot about it and then it became a movie and I saw previews. Based on what I heard and saw, I formed a presupposition and was afraid this book was going to be a book about race that was going to “bash white people”.

However, being a white woman with adopted black children, I have seen some of the prejudice, heard some of the racist comments, and gotten the “looks”. In all honesty, I also have fears and concerns in regard to the safety and welfare of my children depending on where they go. Also, being one who always does my best to keep an open mind and educates myself on cultural and world issues, I chose to read this book.

The Hate U Give is the debut novel of Angie Thomas and I have to say, it is an amazing story! She obviously knows what it’s like living in a black community as well as a mixed community.

She created such realistic characters and she did an excellent job of showing the struggles they face. She showed the family relationships and dysfunction.

But it wasn’t just a book about “blacks vs. whites”. She also showed how blacks and whites can get along and care about one another. She showed that not ALL people of any one race hate ALL people of another race. She also showed the prejudice some people don’t even realize they have.

Yes, this book is about a horrible issue in our communities — an issue that needs to be resolved. She shows the trauma this issue causes — the heartache and pain, both emotionally and mentally.

This book is powerful and I think it should be read, studied, and discussed. This story broke my heart, but it also showed the love and enjoyment in family and friend relationships in addition to the disagreements and struggles.

This story shows why we need to STOP the HATE and why EVERY LIFE MATTERS!

If you are reading this review, I encourage and challenge you to read this book and take a hard look at how you view the lives of ALL PEOPLE in this world.

King’s City by Jessica Marinos

   

King’s City is the long-awaited and highly anticipated second book of the “Trimont Trilogy” by Jessica Marinos. I first read the first book of this series, Traiven’s Pass, and wrote a review for it in March of 2019. You can read my review of that book here. I reread Traiven’s Pass before reading King’s City.

This is a debut series for Jessica Marinos and, in my opinion, Jessica is destined to become a great writer. The quality of the writing of both Traiven’s Pass and King’s City is outstanding. The descriptions are rich and the character’s very well developed. In addition, she draws you into the story and keeps you there.

King’s City is the continuing story of the Tavish family who live in Traiven’s Pass and the reign of the Steward King, Lord Breemore, who began his rule when King Cordell vanished twenty-six years ago. Lord Breemore resides in King’s City. Lord Breemore appears to rule with kindness and peace, but rumors of war begin to increase throughout the kingdom.

Lydia Tavish’s father was loyal to King Cordell continued to search for King Cordell throughout the first book of this trilogy. He attempted to turn the people in the kingdom back to the Book of Truth.

As King’s City begins, Lydia is a penniless outcast and is sought after as many in the kingdom seek her punishment for her recent choice. However, Lydia is bold and strong and believes what her father taught her. She faces many challenges and dangers but finds her strength in the truth.

Galen, who left his home in Dresden to participate in a tournament in the King’s City becomes renowned in his sword skills. Then a long kept secret is revealed and it turns Galen’s life upside down. He has much to consider in deciding the course of his life.

King’s City, the second book in the “Trimont Trilogy” by Jessica Marinos was just as good, if not better, than Traiven’s Pass. These two books are part of my “Favorites” list and Jessica is at the top of my list of “Favorite New Authors”. I excitedly await the third and final book of the series.

If you’d like to learn more about Jessica — her life and her writing, I had the honor of interviewing her last month. You can read that interview here.

If you enjoy books that grab you from the start and keep you turning pages; books with rich descriptions, well-developed characters, and a story line filled with tension, shocking surprises, and a bit of romance, you will not want to miss the “Trimont Trilogy” by Jessica Marinos. If you haven’t read Traiven’s Pass, I suggest you get your copy today, and if you have read it, don’t miss “King’s City”.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

The Girl behind the Red Rope by [Dekker, Ted, Dekker, Rachelle]

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker, father and daughter paired up to write this book. I haven’t read any of Rachelle Dekker’s  books, but after reading this book, I will be looking to read at least one of her books. I have read several books by Ted Dekker and because of his chosen genre, they’re always on the weird side, and they make me think. I have to really focus when reading a Ted Dekker book, which isn’t hard because they capture and hold my interest and pull me in to the story.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope did the same thing. In the beginning, I found it to be weird and my thoughts were engaged, and it kept me turning pages. The farther into the story I got, the less weird it became and the more realistic and thought-provoking it became.

It’s a story about a community that calls themselves a “Christian” community, but it’s quite clear it’s much more of a “cult like” community. They are steeped in legalism–having lots of rules to live a “pure” life.

One young man’s doubts and questions about the rules lead him to stray beyond the community’s perimeter looking for answers. This sets off lots of events that cause conflict in the community–conflict that builds until a final showdown near the end.

As I mentioned before, this book kept me turning pages. I usually go to sleep no later than 10 p.m. each night, but one night, I just couldn’t put this book down. I stayed up reading until 11 p.m. No, I didn’t reach the end that night, but I was close.

Two nights later, when I had the opportunity to pick up The Girl Behind the Red Rope  again, I finished it. In conclusion, I have to say this book reminded me of a movie I saw years ago, “The Village”. However, this book had a more powerful message.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker was well written and the characters were very well-developed. The story and its message will stay with me for a long time. The ending was well done, although it did leave me wondering about one thing that wasn’t really mentioned or resolved. That is the one thing that I didn’t like about the book. I am the kind of person who likes my story endings completely resolved and concluded.

I do recommend The Girl Behind the Red Rope to all Ted Dekker fans, fans of weird and/or suspenseful stories, and/or stories that are thought-provoking and worthy of discussion.

The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess

Book Blurb:

Jack is a 10-year-old boy ready for a joyous Christmas vacation, but as punishment for a poor report card, he is tasked with cleaning out his family’s long-forgotten attic. Inside, he finds a chest with a treasure map and a letter that transports him to another time, place, and existence.

Jack finds himself living the life of a young man named Niko, an enemy of the State of Ariel, a martyr of the Faithful, sentenced to die during the Independence Day celebrations. When an earthquake strikes, Niko finds the opportunity to escape, discovers a guide known only as the Elder, and teams up with a group of the Faithful to change history.

My Review:

I agreed to write this honest objective review and received a complimentary pre-release copy to do so. It is the first Tyler Scott Hess book I have read.

The story changes time and place every few chapters, some chapters revealing 10-year-old Jack’s life working on cleaning up the attic while missing out on some of his family’s Christmas activities and being fascinated by the treasure map and letter. Other chapters take us into the time and place of the treasure map and letter where the Faithful are in trouble, in prison. Then an earthquake strikes and Niko finds the opportunity to escape. He discovers a guide known only as the Elder and finds a small group of the Faithful who also escaped during the earthquake. They concoct a plan to change history.

I enjoyed this story. Jack is a delightful, typical 10-year-old boy, and the story of Niko’s struggle is believabe and a little frightening.

The story grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept my attention until the end. Jack learned a lesson and learned more about his family. Tyler Scott Hess did a good job of tying Jack and Niko’s stories together as well.

This would be a great story to read aloud to your children. It’s a good story that is suitable for elementary age children through adult, although there is one murder/death near the end, but it is not dwelt upon and it is not graphic.

I recommend this book to families and to those who enjoy stories that include Christmas. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Hess’s books.

Unbreakable by Sara Ella

Unbreakable (The Unblemished Trilogy Book 3) by [Ella, Sara]

I completed my reading of Unbreakable by Sara Ella last night. This is the third and final book in the “Unblemished” series/trilogy. What a ride these books have been. Lots of romance, action, suspense, and struggles. Sara Ella did a fantastic job with her world building and creating fascinating, well-developed characters. These books kept me turning page after page.

However, when I finally reached Unbreakable, the page turning became an act of anxiety and anticipation. Would Eliyana end up with Joshua or Ky? Would she and her friends be able to defeat the Void? Which characters would remain alive at the end of the book? Whose hearts and lives would be intact, and whose would be broken?

I turned each page with trepidation because I wanted a certain outcome/ending. Would Sara Ella deliver?

This entire series was so well-written. The characters and their dialog were so realistic. I was pulled into each book in the series from the very beginning, and I fell in love with certain characters and wanted to see others defeated. There were fascinating connections between characters. There were twists and turns. Sometimes I gasped. Sometimes I smiled. But all the time, my heart pounded and my nerves were taught.

I will say, Sara Ella did do a good job of resolving everything in the end. However, with all the suspense and tension I felt throughout the series, especially the last two books, I have to say I felt like the end was too calm. The characters’ emotions didn’t seem to hold their tension and strength. Though the ending was satisfying, I felt that everything was too calm, quiet, and peaceful like walking out of an epic battle into a high school study hall where no talking is allowed. I guess I expected and wanted something more.

However, I still highly recommend these books to anyone who loves a good YA Fantasy read with incredible world-building, characters you can relate to, and intriguing romance, and I look forward to reading more of Sara Ella’s books.

Locked In by M J Lau

I must confess, it took me quite a while to finish reading this book — not because it didn’t have a good story line, but because I don’t play video games and am not a part of that world. However, MJ Lau did a very good job of capturing my attention with the life of his main character, Everett, and the interesting plot line.

The title, Locked In, alludes to being locked into a video game, and that’s exactly what happens to this group of teens. They play the game with a virtual reality game system and get locked in — they can’t log out. But Everett has an escape (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is), and he believes he is the only one who can save his friends. Things get really interesting when Everett finds out what has caused everyone to be locked in.

MJ Lau created interesting characters, and Everett’s life outside of the game has its own complications. MJ also writes in a way that I could picture scenes in my mind and even though I am not a “gamer”, I understood the scenes and plot of the video game.

If you have a teenage gamer in your life, or if you are a gamer, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Locked In by MJ Lau.

Midnight is My Time by Mike Dellosso

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a Mike Dellosso fan. I’ve written a review of his book, Centralia, and some of his books have been listed in my old Top Ten Tuesday posts. I have also done an author interview with him here on my blog.

So I was excited to be able to read his latest release, Midnight is My Time. I read it in two evenings because it grabbed my attention right at the start and held my attention until the very end. Midnight is My Time is filled with action and suspense, and yes, some violence. There is a mystery that also runs through the book in regards to the two main characters, Andy and Missy — are they freaks or something special?

Ten years after an Apocalyptic event, Andy and Missy meet and decide to travel together. They travel from the southeastern United States to the northeastern United States. But why are they being pursued and threatened? What is their purpose? Will they reach their destination in one piece?

Mike Dellosso’s descriptions paint a vivid picture of people and places. The action scenes are intense and keep the pace of the story moving, just as you catch your breath, another crisis wrenches your breath away again.

This book was an easy read, and as I mentioned above, it was a real page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat. Mike Dellosso has produced another great read and I highly recommend it.

To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe

To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe is a Christian historical romance story set in Oklahoma in the late 1800’s.

Any of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know that, although, I read a variety of genres, Christian historical romance is my favorite. I read this book in four days. It usually takes me two weeks to read a book, but Jodie Wolfe created characters that grabbed my attention and my heart right from the start. She also included some very interesting history — I didn’t know there were “runs” to claim land in Oklahoma in the 1800’s. Therefore, I enjoyed learning about these “runs” while reading the story, and, of course, because some humans make bad choices, there were many complications to getting your land claim in some cases. Such was the problem for Elsie and Benjamin.

Elsie is a young woman who is on her own and doesn’t really behave like a lady. She also has no intention of becoming involved in a relationship with any man. She’s tough and independent, or, at least she thinks she is.

Benjamin is a preacher who wants to build a home and a church, to preach to a community. He’s experienced some tragic losses that have left him determined to remain unattached.

The things that happen as Elsie’s and Benjamin’s paths cross are humorous, frustrating, dangerous, and more.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and fell in love with the characters, not only Elsie and Benjamin but many of the secondary characters as well. I highly recommend this book to any Christian historical romance readers or any reader who just enjoys a good historical romance story that doesn’t contain profanity and explicit sex.

I give To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe five stars and look forward to reading more of her books in the near future.