Tuesday, May 2, 2017

THE SOUND OF DIAMONDS by Rachelle Rea Cobb | A Stunning Rogue Romance & Redemption Story

(4.5 stars)

Nay. Hatred would not bar my heart against pain. Hatred would only bar my heart against healing, redemption, love. ~Rachelle Rea Cobb, The Sound of Diamonds

I love a good rogue romance. Unfortunately, most of those romances I hold so dear rarely come true, so to put it (*coughs* I'm looking at you, Guy and Marian). But this... My dear friends, this was so good.

Gwyneth Barrington is on the path to becoming a nun. Living in a convent in Leiden, the Netherlands, she suffers from the memory of her parents' murders, and their promise for her happy future.

And then the assumed murder shows up, claiming that Leiden's convent is under attack, and he wishes to bring Gwyn to safety.

If only it were that simple.

I've been interested in The Sound of Diamonds for a while, now. That gorgeous title, that intriguing cover... As Prince Edward from Disney's Enchanted would say, what's not to like? So when a review opportunity came up, I pounced. 😉

The first chapter begins with action and adventure. Gwyneth, a young, headstrong noblewoman. Dirk Godfrey, a redeemed rogue with a scandalous past. Two of Dirks closest friends, a strict nun, and a sweet postulant.

The characters -- One of my biggest pet peeves in religious romance novels (and probably the main reason I don't read more romance, period) is the helpless (and very beautiful) Mary Sue and the slightly flawed (yet still very handsome) Gary Stu. I love how Rachelle took these stereotypical characters and tossed them out the window. 😄

We have a feisty daughter of nobility (with glasses! *cheers*), a God-pursuing son of a lord and lady, and a cast full of fun characters.

My only complaints in regards to the cast were Cade and Ian, both of whom seemed very similar (though the latter got much less "screen time"); and the villain, who, though his reasons seemed comprehensible enough, felt like he needed a little more motivation.

The romance -- I'll start by saying that the side-romance (between a certain friend and postulant *winks*) was super sweet. There was what was possibly an implication of sorts later on in their relationship that seemed a bit out of place, but it was left open to interpretation.

But the main romance. Our hero and our heroine. (*smiles*) Even though I know the answers, I'm still tempted to scream at them, "What took you so long?!" ♥

The writing -- I've yet to experience a novel so wonderfully historically accurate, yet so well written at the same time. Never in my life have I heard of the Dutch Revolution, but Rachelle brought it to life in wonderful ways, with her little phrases in late-Renaissance Dutch and Spanish.

The setting -- I'm not big on description; in fact, if there's more than one sentence of description in a book, that's the part I usually skip. However, I did feel as if this area could've done with a tad more development.

The plot -- Fantasy lovers, take your favourite fantasy quest -- journeys across seas, through forests, to castles, you name it... Now apply it to a historical romance, with an emotional murder mystery along the way. (*nods*) Remarkable, isn't it?

So, yes, my dear friend -- go read The Sound of Diamonds! Even if you're not big on historical romance, go do it. You won't regret it. ☺

You may want to know: There is violence (murder included) and kissing, as well as a few slight implications.

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy of The Sound of Diamonds from the author, in exchange for my honest review.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

ENJOY THE POODLE SKIRT by Kate Willis | A Delightful Little Short Story


Kate Willis's middle-grade short story, Enjoy the Poodle Skirt, is the tale of Canary and her siblings, who have gone to spend the week working at their newlywed aunt's vintage diner. But when an oddly titled map finds its way into Canary's hands, she is determined to find its owner... and solve the mystery that is at large.

My, what a fun, fast-paced, delightful little tale this was! It brought me back to summers in which my bestie and I would go to my grandfather's house and ride quads, practice archery, go jar "fishing," and, of course, eat ice cream! (Now I want to write a short story of my own... and wear a poodle skirt!) Four stars!

You may want to know: This book was completely clean, and seemed void of anything questionable. :)


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

FOR ELISE by Hayden Wand | A Delightfully Light-Hearted "Spook" Novella

(4.5 stars)

When the narrator of For Elise buys a supposedly haunted mansion, he is disappointed to find it, well, lacking... at least in the sense of inspiration for his novel. But the tides turn when an invisible, Frank-Sinatra-loving grammar Nazi finds a red editor's pen and takes to revising and commenting on his work.

adore Hayden Wand's books, and For Elise was certainly no exception! With a rich, classic prose, Hayden delivers a fun and light-hearted novella on relationships of all sorts. The characters were positively delightful, each with their own little quirks. Though I was unsure where the plot was headed, at first, the characters soon took me by the hand and pulled me into a mysterious, boundless world of friendship, love, romance, and redemption. Go and read For Elise -- you won't regret it!

You may want to know: There is some reference to drinking (and, possibly, getting drunk).


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Once Upon a Summer, by Janette Oke

From the Back Cover:
Sure it's unusual to have a 18 year old mother when you're twelve. But when you're an orphan and she's your aunt- and the only mother you've ever had- well, as I explained, it had worked out real well.

Where do I even start with this book... It was one of the first books by Janette Oke I had ever read, and I was skeptical at first. I mean, there can't be many books from a twelve year old boy's viewpoint, right? But I totally changed my mind after reading it. I could hardly wait to read the other three books! But, before I start on them, let me get back to the book I'm supposed to be talking about.
Joshua Jones is a typical twelve year old. He has friends, gets into trouble with these friends, does his chores and suffers through his grandfather insisting he goes to church each Sunday. When his grandfather and great uncle decide its time to start surveying prospects for his pretty aunt before she chooses a husband for herself, Josh's world is pretty much torn apart. The thought of his aunt leaving the family isn't welcome, especially since she's been his mother and best friend since he lost his own parents.
This book made me cry and, more often than not, laugh. When a spry great-grandfather shows up and teams with Josh to ruin his grandfather and great-uncle's plans, you can expect a lot of comical moments! The story does have it's touching moments; like I said, I cried. Auntie Lou's attempts to help Josh remove his bitterness towards God over losing his parents, and feeling the hurt that Josh feels when he loses his brand new puppy... be ready with some tissues.
And the ending- well, I won't give it away, but if you're like me, you won't stop grinning for days. I've read this book probably a hundred times, and I still can't stop smiling when I get to the end. I definitely give this book five stars, and highly recommend if you like it, read the next three books in the series that go through the rest of Joshua Jones' life!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen | A Regency Tale of True Love & Social Standards

(3-4 stars)

The BBC miniseries remain, to this day, some of my favourite Jane Austen adaptions. Thus I was rather saddened when I first cracked open Emma to find it not at all to my liking, and soon after began Pride & Prejudice to find it much better, but still with its dull bits.

For those of you who are unacquainted with Pride & Prejudice, it follows a year in the life of Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman of marriageable age who hails from a very poor (and rather silly) family. Determined to marry a man who is both sensible and wealthy, she finds herself turning down proposal after proposal from unwelcome suitors... but very soon learns a lesson in love and understanding.

I had hoped to fall head-over-heels-in-love with this book... But alas, it was not meant to be.

Austen's prose was witty and poetic, but not quite to my liking. I found myself lost at times between the pools of words and stray commas.

The love story and the characters, however, surely made for a legend. Pride & Prejudice certainly has the structure of a classic, with all its silly, wonderful, and romantic parts. Mr. Darcy (though the portrayal of his character at the beginning did him no justice) was such a gentleman, and Elizabeth was absolutely perfect for him.

For those who enjoy classics, I would recommend this. For those who do not... Well, I'd still recommend it, even if just for the sake of reading it. 😉

You may want to know: There is very mild kissing, as well as a few stray swear words and uses of God's name in vain. There are also some implications that hint at indecency between an unmarried couple.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BAMBI by Felix Salten | The Tale of a Young Forest Prince


I'm quite the fan of Walt Disney's interpretation of Bambi, but was rather hesitant to hear the original tale, due to the many mentionings of its harshness towards the practice of hunting. Yet I was surprised to find that it was not a disappointment!

Felix Salten's Bambi is the tale of a young stag and the future prince of the forest. Hidden deep in the woods with his mother, he watches as his animal friends grow and explore. All the while, an unknown danger stalks their forest...

I personally do not believe that killing wild animals for survival is wrong. However, I do agree with the book's point that killing off does and fawns disrupts the deer population more than the killing of stags.

As to the book rather than the theme, itself: Though I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the actual story, the writing still came across as direct and only slightly descriptive, but still elegant with that old-fashioned flair.

The plot didn't seem to be entirely there; however, Bambi and his family were interesting enough to let the story flow along on their own.

In the end, Bambi made for a charming (if sad) little story. I wouldn't recommend it to children or tweens, -- mainly because of how it portrays mankind as evil -- but it is a somewhat peaceful tale.

You may want to know: Several characters are killed.


Monday, December 5, 2016

The ONCE Anthology | A Unique Collection of Fairytales


(Note: I received a free copy of Once in exchange for my honest review.)

The Mountain of the Wolf by Elisabeth Grace Foley


Elisabeth's story, The Mountain of the Wolf, is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling set in the old west, following the mysterious history behind a lonely young woman named Rosa Jean.

I hate giving any book a one-star review, particularly the first in a collection. Though the writing style was good, it was a little too descriptive for my taste, and I just didn't love it. I also wasn't particularly fond of the plot, or of any of the characters. Sadly, this was a did-not-finish, for me. ☹

She But Sleepeth by Rachel Heffington


Rachel's Sleeping Beauty retelling begins in modern LA, following the determination of a young set designer and her handsome intern as they venture to Romania to study the complex history of Peles Castle.

I must say, though Rachel's writing style is as rich as fudge, there were a few aspects of the story that bothered me.

For one, the amount of sorcery. Though magical content doesn't typically bother me, the way that it was presented made it seem more realistic than fictitious, and it just didn't sit well with me.

Secondly, the swearing and use of God's name in vain. Though She But Sleepeth was not drenched in such words and phrases, the amount used -- by a Christian author -- did not seem appropriate.

The beginning was a bit slow and the ending rather sudden. I also wasn't a huge fan of the romance, and didn't really connect much with any of the characters.

One of the things I did like about the book was the concept... which I would go on about (as well as Queen Elisabeth, because I would've loved to have seen her story expanded more), but... spoilers. 😉

You may want to know: There was violence, swearing, and the usage of God's name in vain, as well as rather strong magical elements.

Rumpled by J. Grace Pennington

Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. (*whispers*) That was amazing.

J. Grace's Rumpled is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin (or The Miller's Daughter, if you'd rather), little tributes to Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast weaved in. It follows the adventure of Amanda, a young woman whose father is determined to secure her future, from the point when a governor -- looking to hire a scientist who can build high-functioning artificial intelligence -- stops at their mill.

Rumpled was wonderful -- intriguing, clever, and unique.

In some ways, it seemed to nod it's head to Marissa Meyer's Cinder, but... I think this is so much better.

Rumpled was a bit like several of my favourite TV shows had a meeting and decided to turn themselves into one single book: There were elements of Once Upon a Time, Poldark, and even Downton Abbey; yet Rumpled remained a story all its own.

The writing was outstanding. J. Grace's voice is musical and refined, with just the right amount of description.

When it came to the characters-- Oh, the characters! They were so real, so alive, so human. The protagonist was very relatable, and what a bundle of fun she was!

The plot was incredible. I'm not a huge fan of Rumpelstiltskin, but J. Grace won me over completely with-- Well, I'm not going to say what. You'll have to find out for yourself. 😉 I highly doubt you'll regret it. 😊

And the romance was awesome-sauce! (*squeals*) It did seem a little unrealistic towards the very end, it was still splendid the rest of the way through, and oh-so-sweet.

The steampunk setting threw me off a little bit at first, but by the second or third chapter I was obsessed. The elements were handled very well, and I thought it very interesting how the early days of the US were recreated!

Overall, it was wonderful (and I've managed to start repeating myself, now 😜 ). So yes. Just yes.

You may want to know: There was mild kissing, very minor implications, and the use of the "d-word" once.

Sweet Remembrance by Emily Ann Putzke

Oh my stars... Where to begin?

Emily's retelling of The Little Match Girl takes place on the streets of Poland during World War II, where a twenty-one-year-old woman struggles to survive.

I'm not even sure how to write this review; there hardly seem adjectives great enough to describe it.

First off: This book captured my heart from the first page. Emily is an amazing writer. She described everything perfectly, so well that I felt the emptiness, the silence, and the love drifting through the pages; so well that I felt I was there.

Secondly: The plot. Wow-sers. Sweet Remembrance was the perfect length, and the romance was absolutely wonderful. And oh, how it tugged at my heartstrings!

Thirdly: The characters. Each character was so unique, so individual, yet meshed together so expertly with the others. It was outstanding.

You may want to know: There was violence and the one-time usage of the "ba-word."

Death Be Not Proud by Suzannah Rowntree


Suzannah's Snow White retelling, Death Be Not Proud, is set in 1920s New Zealand, and is the story of a young woman with a strange connection to another girl... but what if the other girl was dead?

I really wanted to like this story, but I wasn't a huge fan of the setting, the characters, or the plot, though the writing style was good. Sadly, I'd have to say that this is another did-not-finish. ☹

With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand


Hayden's story is set in renaissance Italy, a Rapunzel retelling of a young maiden locked in a tower, and a prince who just wants to find and rescue a damsel in distress.

I love Hayden's writing voice; it's so very clear yet so very elegant. In With Blossoms Gold, she delivers a story that's true to the original fairytale, but wanders off just enough.

With Blossoms Gold was witty but sweet. The characters were sensible but still a little headstrong, and I loved the quips and good-natured arguments that went on between the two protagonists.

The plot seemed ever so slightly slow at first, but soon sped up, putting an intriguing new spin on the Rapunzel story.

You may want to know: There is violence and warfare. A family is falsely accused of witchcraft, and there is the implied unfaithfulness of a character's betrothed.