The Sorcerer’s Bane by C.S. Wachter

The Sorcerer’s Bane by C. S. Wachter, a debut novel by a debut writer. I have to say that this is one of the few fantasy books I have read since reading the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis and the Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien. I loved the Narnia series, but didn’t really enjoy much of the Lord of the Rings, except for a some of the characters. You see, as a reader, I need an interesting plot that keeps things moving, but more importantly to me are the characters — being able to sympathize or empathize with them, feeling their feelings. I need to care about and identify with the characters, and I need to want to cheer them on and need to know how things will turn out for them.

I was introduced to the fantasy genre later in life — in other words, I was already out of my twenties, and I have always been an avid reader of any genre of story that includes some romance as part of the main story line, so fantasy has never really been my go-to read.

However, I have come to have an appreciation for and understanding of good fantasy books, especially Christian Fantasy books because they have a true good versus evil story line that points to the true hope for a happy ending.

Well, imagine my surprise, when I read The Sorcerer’s Bane and found myself quickly entrenched in the worst kind of evil — the enslavement and abuse of a child. Yet, the child grabbed my attention from the start, and held my attention fast so that I was unable to put the book down, even when it made me cringe and flinch, and it disgusted me sometimes.

So, what was it that kept me reading as I fought past these feelings? It was the characters — the boy who had an incredible resolve for one so young, the teacher who desired to teach the boy more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic, the kind young lady who ministered to the boy’s injuries. Even some of the characters that were part of the evil the boy dealt with held my attention because I had a glimmer of something more than the evil they presented that made me hope they may change.

C. S. Wachter has a way of weaving a tale that drags her character through hell but that always exhibits a glimmer of hope and light for something better to come. Even at the end, the knowledge and hope of more to come whets my appetite for the next book in the series of “The Seven Words” by C. S. Wachter.

So, if you love a good tale of good versus evil, I recommend The Sorcerer’s Bane to you, but only if you are a young adult or adult, as some of the violence and situations in the book may be too upsetting to children.

If you have enjoyed my book review for The Sorcerer’s Bane by C. S. Wachter, be sure to stop by tomorrow for a special blog post, where you can read my interview with new author, C. S. Wachter.

Meghan’s Choice by Donna L.H. Smith

This is a new book by a new author, Meghan’s Choice by Donna L. H. Smith, the first in Ms. Smith’s “A Known by Heart” series. After being rejected by a man she thought she loved, her father demands that she work for a year. So Meghan determines to do just that–anywhere but St. Louis.

Soon she moves to New Boston, Kansas to tutor eight children in a wild Kansas railroad town. It doesn’t take long for her to experience the danger in this town. In addition, she quickly catches the eye of a dark, handsome cowboy, as well as an attractive doctor. Which one will win her heart?

In all honesty, I have to say that Meghan is not my kind of main character, (this has nothing to do with the author or the writing, just my personal taste). Therefore it took me a few chapters to really start to care about what happened to her. However, I did take quite an interest in one of the two men who were vying for her attention, and the other intrigued me–that was enough to keep me reading. Of course, I am also partial to stories set in the historic west.

I found this to be a sweet story with a couple of disturbing surprises. Throughout the book, I met many interesting characters and learned some interesting Kansas history. I also found a couple of characters to root for.

Meghan’s Choice is a delightful debut novel from a new author. I look forward to following Donna L. H. Smith on her writing journey.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Allison Shire, a former academic, is now a tour guide for all things Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. She has sworn off love. Then Jackson Gregory steps into her life. He’s on the three week tour with his great-uncle, though he knows next to nothing about Lord of the Rings. He, too, has no interest in love and romance.

So, what happens when the sparks ignite between these two? Lots of mishaps and misadventures.

I really enjoyed this quick, easy read. it’s a really sweet, cute romance story that made me laugh and brought a tear or two to my eye. It was tons of fun with all of the references to Lord of the Rings.

Kara Isaac does an excellent job of writing witty dialogue and original descriptions. I will remember Jackson and Allison for a long time, and I may have to give this another read when I need something light and fun to read.

If you enjoy sweet romance stories or are a Lord of the Rings fan, you may find yourself as drawn into the story as I was. One night, I just couldn’t put this book down and I read past my bedtime. I finished the book the very next night, completed in just one week (I only have time to read for about three hours six nights a week).

This is Kara Isaac’s debut novel and I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait to read her newer novel, Can’t Help Falling, released just six months after this one. Can’t Help Falling includes references to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which are near and dear to my heart.

Shattered Trust by J. Chris Richards

Shattered Trust by [Richards, J. Chris]

In today’s society, sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. That’s what Shattered Trust by J. Chris Richards is all about. Officer Logan Taul has become one of the bad guys, but one night he sees the monster he has become reflected in a storefront window as he brings his nightstick crashing down toward a teen’s arm.

This revelation causes him to rethink the man he has become, not just in his job, but in his life. He decides he doesn’t want to be that monster–but the road to redemption isn’t easy. Facing physical attacks on both himself and those he loves, as well as attempts to frame him, weaken his resolve.

In addition to trying to set things straight, he also tries to reunite with the family he deserted, but they don’t trust him. How can they? He left them, without a trace, years ago. How do they know he won’t leave again?

J. Chris Richards wrote an exciting, intense novel about how a police officer can let his authority turn into a temptation for power and control. She does an excellent job of presenting what can happen when an officer falls to that temptation, as well as how hard and long the road back is (or should be). She creates a character with depth that we all can relate to in one way or another, as we’ve all made mistakes/committed sins we regret and long to be forgiven of; actions we no longer want to commit. She also shows how long and hard the road to forgiveness, redemption and the restoration of trust can be, and how worth it, it is.

Shattered Trust kept me turning pages and cheering for Officer Logan Taul, as well as some unlikely characters who stand behind him, encouraging him along this path. I encourage you to read Shattered Trust by J. Chris Richards. It’s a great debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Friends and Enemies by Terri Wangard

Friends and Enemies is the first book in the Promise for Tomorrow series by Terri Wangard.

The story begins in 1943 and moves through 1944 and touches a bit of 1945. Heidi Wetzel lives in war-torn Germany. She moves to a rural farm to help care for evacuated children and has never been a supporter of National Socialism. She takes pleasure in passive resistance, but must exercise caution around neighbors who delight in reporting to the Gestapo.

Cadet Paul Braedel trains for the U.S. Army Air Force. As a navigator, he is sent to England with a crew that will fly a B-17.

Both Heidi and Paul experience loss during this difficult time in world history. Then Paul finds himself alone in Germany and he hears a gentle whisper, “Find Heidi”. Heidi had lived in America during her high school days and had known Paul during that time, but now he’s an enemy. How much will she risk to help him?

This story drew me in right from the beginning. I love history, especially when it is woven together with wonderful fictional characters. That brings history to life and implants it in my brain much deeper and stronger than any dry history textbook ever has. Friends and Enemies is a 527 page book, but it kept me turning pages and in just one week, I completed reading it.

I came to care deeply about both Heidi and Paul throughout the story and I felt their fears, shared their laughter and their tears in the experiences of life during war; war that touches every aspect of your life. Heidi and Paul will live in my memory for a long time.

Friends and Enemies was very well written and though war can never be without violence, pain and sorrow, Terri Wangard did an excellent job keeping the violence to a bare minimum. The story also taught lessons about what it’s like to live with war right in your own backyard.

I look forward to reading No Neutral Ground (Book Two) and Soar Like Eagles (Book Three) in the series.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I encourage you to pick up Friends and Enemies by Terri Wangard. You won’t be disappointed.

Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen

I received a free copy of Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen in exchange for my honest review for BookLook Blogger.

Jonah has a heart of gold and he would like to be the guy who gets the girl, but Jonah has a physical deformity and suffers from debilitating epileptic seizures, while Stormi is beautiful and seems perfect, although there is something quite unusual about her as well — she seems to know things and many of the adults in Gullery are a bit intimidated by her.

Even though Jonah feels that he can never win Stormi’s love, Stormi prefers Jonah’s company over most other people’s. They seem to understand each other and are able to sympathize with each other.

Jonah has a job taking care of the one prisoner in the town jail but doesn’t know why the prisoner is in jail, and Stormi won’t go anywhere near the jail.

As the story moves along, Jonah and Stormi experience an adventure that reveals a secret that’s been kept for years in Gullery, a secret that could change everything.

You will care about Jonah and Stormi and find yourself routing for them for several different reasons.

Unfolding will keep you turning pages as you travel on the adventure with Jonah and Stormi, experiencing strange occurrences and finding the truth. You will want to turn pages to see if Jonah really can get the girl in the end.

Unfolding is a strange ride, and I did feel that the ending was a bit lacking, but all-in-all Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen is a good read.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in order to write an honest review of the story.

Emily Price is an art restorer. She restores art that has been damaged by fire, water or that has become worn with age while harboring dreams of becoming an original artist, herself, one day. She travels to Atlanta to restore a mural in a home damaged by fire. That’s where she meets Chef Benito Vassallo, who is visiting Atlanta to reconnect with his brother and breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s restaurant, Piccolo. Emily falls in love with Ben as she works with him to improve the appearance of Piccolo, and shocks everyone when she accepts his marriage proposal and follows him to Italy.

Once in Italy, Emily struggles to fit into Ben’s close-knit family and creates problems for some of Ben’s family members when she was only trying to help. She begins to wonder if she belongs in Italy and in Ben’s family.

The story was romantic and it was easy to be swept away on the wings of love with Emily when she spent time with Ben in Atlanta. However, when she follows Ben to Italy and struggles to fit into his tight-knit family I can relate to her feelings and I cheer for her to fight for her place in the family because she and Ben seem so right for one another. Besides, Ben’s father likes her and encourages her.

I love the relationship between Emily and Ben. It’s sweet and romantic and a little bit magical. I love the dialogues between these two.

Katherine Reay does an excellent job of showing the relationship problems in families; not just mixed cultural families. Yes, some of the issues Emily faces in Ben’s family in Italy has to do with their culture, but most of it has to do with the differences in personalities and in the things they choose to keep inside.

I also think Katherine did a lovely job of painting a picture of Italy for her readers. I loved the driving scenes.

The fact that this was a wonderfully realistic romantic story is what endears it to my heart. Ben and Emily have a deep love for one another but that does not exempt them from challenges in their relationship that could separate them.

To read the way that Katherine Reay chooses to deal with the issues that challenge Ben and Emily both startled me, bringing tears to my eyes, and gave me a warm heart and encouragement I can apply to my own relationships.

If you like romance stories, but prefer your romance more realistic and not of the “happily ever after” flavor, I encourage you to read A Portrait of Emily Price.

Unblemished by Sara Ella: Can I Just Say “Wow”?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Unblemished by Sara Ella is a fantasy story about a young girl, Eilyana, in her seventeenth year of life. She has low self confidence due to a large red mark on her face and wishes she was invisible. However, there is a young man in her life that has been extremely kind and encouraging to her, and she is in love with him.

Tragedy strikes and Eliyana’s world begins to crumble. She runs out into the city at night, and that’s when she begins to see that her life isn’t exactly what she thought it was.

I am new to reading fantasy stories. I never really cared for them in the past, and Unblemished is one of two or three recent fantasy stories I have read.

Can I just say “wow”? This book is packed with so many things that make a great story. It has suspense, a couple of scenes are a little scary, and there is plenty of romance. I completely fell in love with a character named Ky. I was also frightened for Eliyana several times, but all of the romance in the story seemed so strong and sweet, and some of it came across as really pure.

Sara Ella did a fantastic job of creating characters that made me love and care for them, want to see them succeed, as well as some that made me hate them and want to see them destroyed, or at least defeated. There were a lot of characters and a lot of plot twists that moved the story along and kept me guessing at what was going to happen next. Ms. Ella certainly kept me riveted, to the point that I was always disappointed when I had to put the book down and wait to pick it up again the next day.

Unblemished certainly made me think about how easily we can become ensnared in things that are not for our good, or for anybody’s good, by the choices we make and in our actions. This is one of the rare books that continues to take up space in my mind as I continue to consider the characters and the things that happened to them, and that may yet happen to them.

Yes, Ms. Ella left an open ending, leaving me with lots of questions. This is the only thing I didn’t like about the story, although I will say, it wasn’t as much of a cliffhanger as some I’ve read. But I do so hope that she’s planning on writing another book to continue the lives of some of these characters.

If you are a fan of fantasy stories, I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy this one.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by [Sloan, Robin]

Description

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

My Thoughts

This is Robin Sloan’s first full length novel, and if you are a book lover, or you love to hang out in bookstores and/or libraries, this book is for you. Also, if you are a techie and/or Google lover, you will love this book.

The story is full of mystery and intrigue and fascinating characters. I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. This is a very unique story and it connects libraries and bookstores with current technology, as well as revealing some interesting historical facts about publishing.

Mr. Sloan wrote great descriptions that brought the places and the characters to life. I never felt the story dragging nor did I ever feel lost.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story because I liked the characters and wanted to see them solve the mystery. I also love history and enjoyed learning the history of a typing font. The story was filled with fascinating things both history as well as some futuristic ideas. I look forward to reading more from Robin Sloan.

Book Series Review

Yes, today I am doing a review on a book series. It is an old series, but a good one. Years ago I read a couple of the books in the series and saw a movie that was based on one of the books, so this year I decided I wanted to read the entire series and see all of the movies based on the series. I recently finished reading the books but have not yet watched the movies.

The series is the  “Love Comes Softly” series by Janette Oke. There are eight books in the series. However, Janette Oke’s “A Prairie Legacy” series continues the stories of the characters from the “Love Comes Softly” series, and “A Prairie Legacy” has four books. Therefore, altogether there are twelve books.

I enjoyed each of the books, but my favorites are the original “Love Comes Softly” series. You see, Janette Oke didn’t plan to write a series when she wrote the first book “Love Comes Softly”. However, it sold so well and readers wanted more about the characters in the book, so Ms. Oke’s publisher encouraged her to create a series.

When she finished “Love Finds a Home”, the eighth book in the series, she decided she was finished and moved on to other books. However, again, readers asked her to continue the series. The characters from the “Love Comes Softly” series are truly realistic, and readers come to love and care about them quickly and easily from the very beginning. So, Ms. Oke wrote “A Prairie Legacy” series a few years after the original.

As I read the series, I could tell that some time had passed from Ms. Oke’s writing the “Love Comes Softly” series to writing “A Prairie Legacy” series. I found it harder to love the characters at first, and because Ms. Oke wrote the stories as time had progressed, as indeed it would have in real life, the issues the characters dealt with were more modern, which just seemed like a big jump to me, but in the reality of time, wasn’t. Ms. Oke is a wonderful writer who went on to write and cowrite many more wonderful stories.

Of course, Clark and Marty are my absolute favorites of this series and I love how Ms. Oke wrote so well of their aging throughout the series, but decided to end the series before their deaths. I’m sure I’m not the only reader/fan who is thankful for that.

Then there was Missie, Clark’s daughter to his first wife who had passed away. When she grew up and married and they decided to move far from Clark and Marty, they all had to adjust to the separation.

Missie had married a young man named Willie, and all through the book, “Love’s Long Journey”, he constantly shows his love and caring for her in such tender, touching ways. There is a dialog in the book that I just have to share because it melted my heart and convinced me that Missie had definitely married the right man:

Willie: . . . “I love ya. I’ve loved ya ever since ya were a little schoolgirl.”

Missie: “And you showed it by dunking my hair ribbons in an inkwell.”

Willie: “An carvin’ our initialls–”

Missie: “And putting a grasshopper in my lunch pail.”

Willie: “An’ tellin’ young Todd Culver thet I’d knock out his teeth iffen he didn’t leave my                   girl alone. An’ closin’ yer classroom window when it got stuck. An’ prayin’ fer ya                   every single day–that iffen God willed, ya’d learn to love me.”

Missie: “You did that?”

Willie: “I did.”

So, yes, “Love’s Long Journey” was another of my favorites in the series. Also, the last three books of the original eight. In “”Love’s Unfolding Dream”, Belinda meets a young man whose family has fallen on rough times. She finds the young man attractive and intriguing. Later in the book, they have a conversation that makes me feel in my heart that they are destined to be together. However, they both want to pursue other things, as they are still young. In the seventh book of the original eight, “Love Takes Wing”, Belinda has two or three young men interested in her, and I was afraid Ms. Oke was going to have Belinda end up with a different man. I felt tortured all through “Love Takes Wing”, and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so you’ll have to read the series if you want to find know all of Belinda’s story and whether or not she ended up with that original boy from her childhood or someone else, and then you will know if I enjoyed the final book of the original eight, “Love Finds a Home”.

I concluded the reading of these two intertwined series by Janette Oke by reading “Janette Oke: A Heart for the Prairie” written by Ms. Oke’s daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. It is Ms. Oke’s life story and explains how she eventually became the wonderful writer that she still is today.

“Love Comes Softly” was published in July 1979 and was Janette Oke’s first book, and her most recent book “Where Hope Prevails” from the “Return to the Canadian West” series was released just last month.