26 Jan 2023

2022 Catchup: The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright

 Catching up on posting reviews I read last year, but did not post. 

Genre: Crossover/Duel Timeline
Pyschological Thriller/Mystery

In 1910 Michigan, Perliett VanHilton is a self-proclaimed rural healer, leaving the local doctor, George Wasziak, convinced she practices quackery. It doesn't help that her mother, Maribeth VanHilton, is a Spiritualist who regularly offers her services to help others speak to their dearly departed. But when Perliett is targeted by a superstitious killer, she relies on both George and an intriguing newcomer for help.

In the present day, life has not developed the way Molly Wasziak dreamed. Facing depression after multiple miscarriages, Molly is adapting to her husband's purchase of a new farm. A search for a family tree pulls Molly deep into a vintage web of deceptions, made more mysterious by the disturbing shadows and sounds in the old farmhouse.

Perliett fights for her life, and Molly seeks renewed purpose for hers as she uncovers the records of the dead. Will their voices be heard, or will time silence their truths forever?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Premonition at Withers Farm is probably the first title by this author which has not been made into an audiobook. I can, in part understand why. It covers some very controversial content most notably Spiritualism, which was rising in popularity in the early 20th century.
The protagonist’s mother holds seances in her house for money and publicity. I will say that this content, although explored, isn’t glorified, or encouraged: it’s treated from a biblical standpoint as something people shouldn’t dabble with. The novel also goes into the reasons why many people were drawn to spiritualism, and how the inability to deal with grief and loss in a healthy way could be exploited.

The modern protagonist, Molly, was struggling with postpartum depression after several miscarriages. Except, she didn’t really understand what was happening to her or how the condition could impact her when she had lost her children before birth.
I was compelled by the central mystery of this story (Jaime Jo Wright’s books are always thrillers) which wasn’t predictable at all and the exploration of life, death, guilt, shame, and the secrets within families.

I did think some of the romantic elements felt a bit contrived or inappropriate at times, though. I’ve felt that about some of the other books by this author and I sometimes wonder if the romance is even necessary since her books are good enough as dual timeline thrillers.
That said, the modern protagonist is already married, so it’s not a traditional “romance” in that regard.

This novel also covers matters relating to mental health, in this case the complex and controversial subject of psychopathy. Some have complained that mental illness is used as an “excuse” for behaviour of characters, but I think this represents a misunderstanding of mental illness as whole. In the case of this book the idea that psychopaths are born not made comes into play: this is something which has been explored by psychologists, as psychopathy seems to be the only psychological condition which has no identifiable cause and may be genetic.

I’d recommend this title for all fans of the author and thrillers. I had some major issues with her last book which thankfully are not present here. It managed to be spooky and gripping without resort to graphic violence or descriptions of violence and returns to being more of a psychological thriller.

Thanks to Bethany House for approving my request for this title. I wasn’t required to write a review, and all opinions are my own and given freely.

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2022 Catchup: The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano

Posting some of my reviews for books I read last year, because I have got so behind in updating my blog. 

When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.

The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know. But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?

Fan-favorite Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women's independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era--and now.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Lost Melody was a book which could have been very dark, like a Thomas Hardy novel. His books always leave me depressed. There were certainly Gothic notes, but this book had enough undertones of hope and courage to leave the reader satisfied. It is about a young woman who is convinced she is mad and committed to an Asylum under a false name. Vivienne doesn’t even realize she has been sent there at first, and in the first chapters she is merely searching for someone who was sent to the asylum until it turns out she is, in fact, a patient.

Vivienne knows she’s not mad, but someone wants to make out she is. The longer she stays, the more she finds out there is something strange going on in the asylum. There are “secret” patients they deny the existence of someone is lying about the background of mysterious female patient, and one of the doctors seems to have a connection with her. A connection which he denies, and which he and others will apparently do anything to keep a secret.

Apart from being about the healing and encouraging impact of music, I think I would suggest the other theme of this book is judging by appearances. Vivienne (and others) dismisses many of those in the Hurstwell Asylum as mad or dangerous when they’re not. Many are just struggling with trauma or disability and don’t know how to express themselves. The author’s note also suggests that Victorian Ayslums were not what we think either: the majority of patients were male, not female. It seems like then, as now, mental illness was more common among men.

As Vivienne uncovers the secrets in Hurstwell, she learns that her light can shine even in the darkest of places, and her gift for music can make a difference to any lives even when she does not see its purpose. It also provides a valuable exploration of attitudes to disability, mental health, neurodiversity, and artistic expression. Some beliefs, especially about the former, still have not changed. There are still people who believe people with certain conditions such as PTSD are just bad and dangerous or are simply lazy and need to put effort in to “cure” themselves. Disabled people are still being judged and subject to discrimination now.
Why the slightly lower rating? A few of the usual issues with some language and details which weren’t quite right for the setting, but nothing that was too serious.

I would recommend this for everyone interested in Historical Fiction and clean Fiction with Inspirational overtones.

Thanks to Revell for approving my request for this title on Netgalley. This did not influence my review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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4 Nov 2022

Review Worthy of Legend by Roseanna M. White

 The Secrets of the Isles #3
September 13th 2022,
Ebook, Print & Audio

Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Early 20th Century, Isles of Scilly (Southwest coast of Britain)
After a summer of successful pirate-treasure hunting, Lady Emily Scofield and her friends must hide the unprecedented discoveries they've made, thanks to the betrayal of her own family. Horrified by her brother, who stops at nothing to prove himself to their greedy father, Emily is forced to take a stand against her family--even when it means being cut off entirely.

Bram Sinclair, Earl of Telford, is fascinated with tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table--an interest he's kept mostly hidden for the last decade. But when a diary is unearthed on the islands that could lead to a secret artifact, Bram is the only one able to piece the legends together.

As Bram and Emily seek out the whereabouts of the hidden artifact, they must dodge her family and a team of archeologists. In a race against time, it is up to them to decide what makes a hero worthy of legend. Is it fighting valiantly to claim the treasure . . . or sacrificing everything in the name of selfless love?


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Worthy of Legend was a beautiful and heartfelt conclusion to Roseanna M. White's fourth trilogy set in Georgian Britain. The Isles of Scilly, to be exact. Of course, I loved Bram. He’s a literature nerd with a secret obsession with the Arthurian Legends.

His best friend is an amateur archaeologist with a special interest in the history of the druids and the Arthurian Legends. He's a nerd like me, and he loves animals. He rescues puppies. Can this man get any more adorable? Sighhhs. Emily is great too, she’s a young woman rejected by her family who is trying to escape their reputation and the illegal actions of her brother. She struggles with her duty to love her family (and her sibling) and doing the right thing.

The title of the story is very clever. Legends are a huge part of the story, first there is the Legend of Lyonesse, a stretch of land which was supposed to extended out from Cornwall as far as the Isles of Scilly. Legend has it that Lyonesse was submerged by a giant wave in a single day as divine punishment for a terrible sin committed by the people, and all that remained were the tops of the mountains as the Islands. Yes, I looked it up. I knew nothing about the Legend of Lyonesse before reading this. Better still, one of King Arthur’s knights, Tristan was said to have hailed from the lost Kingdom. As in Tristan and Isolde.

Along with that though there is an underlying theme about the legacy of one’s family and the choices of the past. Legends are not just stories: the legacy of the past can impact the present, and what the artefact they are hunting represents can bring out the best – and worst- in people. In the end, the story is not just about the legends or the legendary artefact. This is best illustrated in a quote from the story:

“I want to believe some bit of the legends are true, and that we can aspire to that nobility. But on the other hand, . . . we’ve seen today what can happen to men thanks to greed and ambition and the lust for fame”

Emily and Bram prove themselves to be Worthy of Legend when they choose to follow the path of mercy, love, faith, and forgiveness even when greeted with hatred, tragedy, and rejection. Even when it is hard- sometimes impossible, to follow and they falter. Oh, and this series is worth it just for the presence of Mamwen, the eccentric grandmother like figure who seems to know everyone and have a certain knack for knowing what is going to happen. She’s not in this much, but any is better than none.

Recommended for all lovers of historical fiction, and those who might want something that’s different from the rest of the Georgian Downton Abbey style stories out there. This one has lost treasure, adventure, and mystery too. Also there are hardly any novels set on the small archipelago in the Celtic Sea known as the Isles of Scilly.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing an EPub of this title. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Review Rise of Betrayal by M.N. Stroh

Tales of the Clans # 2

October 5th 2022 - 365 Pages

Historical Fiction:
Period Medieval: 10th century Ireland

One brash act forced her to flee her clan. Now, after years in hiding, she risks exposure to the man whose brother is dead because of her.

Ireland, 962 AD

Nessa’s father arranges her betrothal to the son of their warmongering overlord. Horrified, Nessa realizes that marrying the rogue warrior will thrust her family into the heart of their clan’s longstanding conflict with the Danes of Luimnech.
Nessa accepts her fate until tragedy presses her to make a desperate escape, though her brash act costs her intended’s life. Now his family seeks revenge.
Sanctuary among distant kindred proves short-lived and Nessa's rescuers entangle her in their schemes. With the balance of power shifting in southern Ireland, her knowledge could pave the way for her former chieftain to claim the provincial throne. Yet, offering that knowledge may expose her identity to her estranged clansmen… and to the man whose brother died because of her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rise of Betrayal was an excellent continuation of the story which began in Man of Sorrows. RoB though is very, very different from that book. Whereas MoS was more of a romance or had a strong romance subplot. This book does have romantic elements, but it is not a romance. Rise of Betrayal is also about twice the length of the previous book and so allows a lot more time with the characters and the story.
It is more of what I call straight out historical fiction, and as such covers much darker and more serious matters including murder, treachery, war, and internecine conflicts. Early Medieval power politics were *not* pretty.

The story begins at a slower pace, but as it builds up with the war, plots and intrigue a more complex web of deception, division and ambition is weaved.
I honestly think it’s hard for authors to write books like this. Or rather to stay within the rules of inspirational fiction whilst representing the nature of events with anything close to historical authenticity. Something has to give, and its usually accuracy or characterization.
What often happens is the protagonists end up being saccharine sweet or totally flawless and spend their time delivering platitudes to the other characters. The villains are people who are simply trying to survive or navigate the treacherous political landscape. This ends up creating, in me at least, more sympathy for the latter.

This might be why a lot of my favourite Christian Medieval Fiction is self-published or not from the biggies - the major American publishing houses.
These works tend to more accurately represent the Medieval attitude towards faith, and the struggles people had to reconcile the teachings of their religion with the nature of the world and the political landscape.
I would recommend the Tales of the Clans series to any lover of historical fiction, but if you are not used to gritter and more realistic portrayals of this period you might have some issues.

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11 Sept 2022

Review of Man of Sorrows by M.N. Stroh

Tale of the Clans #1

Would God command a devout monk to wed a shepherdess?

Ireland 940 AD

Others think young shepherdess Mara fey. No one else in her Clan hears the voices or sees mysterious visitors. But she knows the messengers come from God. Mara commits to keep silent about them until one proclaims she will marry a man meant to bring Scriptural truth to their Clan.

Distraught by her hardships, Mara seeks aid from her childhood friend, Marcan mac Art, a scribe at Cill Dálua’s monastic community who spends his days laboring to create illuminated manuscripts. Yet, in their time of prayer together, the angelic being’s promise unfolds, revealing Marcan as her intended. Now she must somehow sway Marcan, a devout monk, that God predestined them to wed.

Through penance and devotion, Marcan hopes to blot out the burdens of the past and attain righteousness. Mara’s misguided beliefs cast new stumbling blocks in his path. He seeks escape by denying the vices of the flesh. Yet every attempt drives him further from those he loves—and from God. Will the endless trials drown his faith or render illumination?


 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

M.N. Stroh's debut novel was a well-written, authentic, and fascinating trip to 10th century Ireland. Part romance, part historical adventure, part coming-of-age story this book has a little something that should pull in everyone.

Mara and Macan were great protagonists, although I found Macan a little more interesting because of the insights that his story gave into life an Early Medieval (look at me using specialist terms) Irish Monastery. There are also some pepperings of political events in the background of this story which might become more prominent in the next few books.

I'd recommend this to all lovers of historical fiction who want more than just another romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the author. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own.

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 Visit the Author's Website today: https://mnstroh.com/
Blog: https://mnstroh.com/blog/




2 Sept 2022

First Line Fridays: Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R Tolkien

 I have not participated in First Line Fridays in over a year. FLF is a hosted by Carrie over at Reading is My Superpower and involves sharing the First Line of a book you are currently reading. 

I've been wanting to get back into doing First Line Friday posts for ages, and now just seems the best time. For a little bit of context, I've joined a movement that has decided to respond the the release of the Rings of Power series with a little bit of a protest. 

Call it a literary protest. Instead of watching the show, we're going to read or listen to something by J.R.R Tolkien. Don't let that put you off! I have nothing against anyone who decides to watch the series, its just I have chosen not to. 

There just seems to be something disrespectful about releasing it on the anniversary of the day that Tolkien passed away (September 2nd, 1973). 

So today, I am sharing the first line of the one of the only major works of Tolkien's that I have not yet read: 

                          Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth


The name is self - explanatory. Its a collection of unfinished stories which were edited by J.R.R Tolkien's son Christopher and published posthumously.

I have skipped the Introduction for my First Line, and taken in from the first section of the Book.  A Tale entited Of Tuor and his Coming To Gondolin.


 Don't be put off again by all that, these are just the names of some characters from the First Age of Tolkien's world. Huor was a human warrior, Rian was his wife and they had a son called Tuor. 

This Tuor was tasked with going to a hidden Elf city called Gondolin to warn them of impending danger. He eventually ended up falling in love with and marrying the daughter of the King of Gondolin, an Elven Princess called Idril. 

To cut a long story short, Gondolin was besieged by the Dark Lord Morgoth, the satan figure in Tolkien's world. He was led there by a turncoat Elf called Meaglin.
The story of the Fall of Gondolin is awesome. There's an army of dragons and Balrogs, there's an Elf warrior callled Glorfindel who duels a balrog (I know!). 

Oh, and the Elven princesss dons armour in defense of her people. Idril and Tuor were also the grandparents of Elrond!

I also have the audiobook of this title, narrated by Timothy and Samuel West. What a treat! 

What's your first line? Do you think me a showoff for reading Tolkien?


17 Aug 2022

Knights of the Brethren Books 3-4 by Jody Hedlund: Reviewed

 Book Three


A poor maidservant struggling to survive, a brave knight who secretly loves her, and a chalice that has the power to unite them.

Nursemaid to the Earl of Likness’s two young daughters, Mikaela despises the earl for his cruelty to his subjects, and she longs for the day when she can make a difference in the lives of her suffering friends and family.

As one of the Knights of Brethren, Gunnar is on a mission to find the sacred chalice for the queen, convinced it’s the cure for her deadly bleeding disease. His quest takes him home, and he soon learns his brother, the earl, may know more about the chalice than he lets on.

As Gunnar reunites with Mikaela, the maiden he’s always loved, he tries to keep his feelings for her a secret, desperate to protect her from his brother. But as they venture into the perilous Hardanger Forest and battle to survive, will Gunnar realize her love is worth fighting for?

The real story of the Holy Grail . . .

Read in July: My Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I actually really liked this, and I think these stories are coming into their own as fairytales now. The worldbuilding might be getting stronger, and stands out on its own.

I liked the character and the story in this one, Sir Gunnar might be one of my favourite knights of Brethren yet. Mikaela was mostly alright, but there were a couple of things about her which annoyed. me.
One thing was that she was continually going on about being a "strong, independent woman". Don't get me wrong, I don't have any issue with the concept of a strong woman, per se, but a character should not have constantly tell you she's a "strong woman". She literally says it to another character at one point and sorry... that's just almost painful. What happened to "show, don't tell"?

There's also a scene were she says she knows another character is a "strong and independent" woman the first time she sees her. What so you can tell that just by her face...?

Mikeala's status was also kind of odd. In one of the early chapters, narrated from her perspective, she says she's some kind of peasant/bond servant, but not a slave. Later on though, Gunnar and others call her a slave. They just suddenly decided she was one, and has to "purchase" her freedom. What changed, and do they understand what slavery entails?

Overall I'd recommend for all lovers of Fairytale Retellings and YA Type stories. I'll certainly be reading the rest of the novels in this series. 


Book Four  


A wealthy noblewoman with a heart of gold, a wounded knight closed off to love, and the sacrifices for a chalice that can bring healing.

Lady Karina lives in a convent and expects to become a nun someday. When her wealthy father asks her to help his textile business become more successful by marrying one of the popular Knights of Brethren, Karina complies, ever the dutiful daughter.

During a royal quest to find the sacred chalice, Torvald is called home to save his family’s estate through an arranged marriage to a wealthy maiden. Although willing to do his duty, he’s vowed never to give his heart to anyone after watching his father suffer heartbreak over a woman.

As Torvald weds the kind and lovely Karina, he resists the pull of attraction to his bride. Even though Karina feels the sting of Torvald’s rejection, she chooses to love him unconditionally. As he resumes his search for the chalice and puts his life in jeopardy, Karina makes the ultimate sacrifice for him. Will he have the chance to love her in return before it’s too late?

The real story of the Holy Grail continues . . .



Read in July: My Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

I did enjoy this book, and I think it might be Jody Hedlund's best series yet. I quickly managed to get over my initial issues about moving the Arthurian Legends from my country (I'm British) to a fantasy Scandinavian setting.
What I enjoyed most was probably Thorvald (I want to call him Thorvald), and his character development. I also liked the interpretation of the Holy Grail and how it was worked into the story.

However... I think I liked the last book Ensnared more. The worldbuilding and characterization seemed stronger in that one. Karina seems oddly familar somehow, a lot like some of Mrs Hedlund's previous characters.
I was a bit annoyed by a couple of inexpicable mistakes and inconsistencies too. Eating with forks in a Medieval setting is one of my pet peeves, since table forks weren't a thing then. This mistake hasn't ever been present in any of this author's other works (that I can remember) so I'm not sure how it got into this one.

That's only a minor thing which didn't really detract from the story though. I would certainly recommend this to any lover of Fairytale or Legend retellings and I will be reading the rest of the books in this series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I recieved a copy of this title as a member of the Review Crew. This did not influence my opinions which are entirely my own.

13 Jul 2022

Knights of the Brethren Series Books 1-2 by Jody Hedlund: Review

 Book One

Released November 2021
Genre: Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings
During a time when legends were born . . .


A princess in need of a husband, a young Sage who cannot have her, and a web of deceit that threatens their love.

Having been raised by her childless aunt and uncle, the king and queen, Princess Elinor finds herself the only heir to the throne of Norvegia. As she comes of age, she must choose a husband to rule beside her, but she struggles to make her selection from among a dozen noblemen during a weeklong courtship.

With aspirations to become the wisest man in the land, Maxim is summoned home by his father Rasmus, a Royal Sage. Reunited with Elinor, once his closest friend, Maxim is quickly enamored with her even though he can never be considered a prospect for her husband.

Elinor’s feelings for Maxim are rekindled too . . . until she learns he has been unwillingly drawn into Rasmus’s scheme to take control of the throne. With the kingdom under attack both from within and without, can Elinor and Maxim overcome the deceit spinning around them? Or will it destroy their love once and for all?

The real story of Excalibur


                Read in January: My Rating, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 I confess, I wasn't sure what to make of Jody Hedlund's latest Medieval Fantasy Romance. I'm not sure I was entirely comfortable with the idea of my country's greatest Legends being picked up and dropped in what is basically just a barely disguised fantasy version of Scandinavia which might be recognizable to fans of How to Train Your Dragon.

AFAIK, The Arthurian Legends, unlike Robin Hood, aren't some universal stories that can be translated to any culture or country... they're British (even many of the names are Welsh) were born The British Isles, in these Isles they should remain. They are not a Viking Saga.
Forgive me for being possessive, LOL.

In the end, I didn't find there was really too much in the way of Arthurian Legends here, or maybe I just didn't notice it? I think Maxim is meant to be vaguely based on Merlin, but its more the young and attractive BBC version of Merlin than the old man if that's the case.

This book did do something though that light romantic fantasy hasn't done for a while with me, and that's get me thoroughly immersed, and I did rather like it. Hence the rating. I loved Maxim as a character. His quirks and inner turmoil, and what's all this stuff about Royal Sages?
The inclusion of dragons in the novel could have cheapened it, but it was done well, even if the references to them bonding with people seemed vaguely akin a certain animated movie franchise aforementioned.

There were only a couple of parts I found less than impressive. One of them was the Sword of the Magi (c'mon it’s meant to be Excalibur...) loosing itself from a - cedar case for the One True King.
I know. A cedar case. Can we just have a stone please? A rock? At very, very least some kind of Reliquary? It just sounds so unimpressive as though the sword was a Clarinet or violin or something. Is the one true King meant to whip it out and play a solo?

Second, Elinor. I kind of didn't mind her at first, but the way she starts acting towards the end was inexplicable and felt really, really forced.
Also, this has to be said, the whole choosing a husband on the day of her 18th birthday before she can assume the status as heir to the throne, and "Oh yes let's have a contest/test so you can pick the best one!" seems really familiar somehow.

An Uncertain Choice, anyone? Please don't be a clone of Lady Rosemarie, Elinor. Please don't. This is a whole new story in a whole new world, you don't have to be her....

So yeah, where was I? I hope you can forgive this review is on the long side. This was a nice clean Medieval Fantasy Romance, and the series does have promise. I will read the next one, I just really really hope it doesn't fall into to trap of recycling storylines and rehashing characters from the author's previous work. Especially when you've got the vast wealth of storytelling fodder that is the Arthurian Legends to work with


Book Two

Released December 2021
Genre: Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings
During a time when legends were born . . .


A princess cursed from birth, a loyal knight worthy of being king, and a sword that can determine their destiny.

After growing up on a remote farm, Lis learns she is the rightful heir to the throne of Norvegia. Even as she does her part to thwart a dangerous plot against the king, she resists pursuing her new identity and resigns herself to a simple life helping her elderly father with their farm.

With the king losing his mind, Sir Ansgar, the highest knight in the land, is desperate to save the sovereign he’s sworn to protect. But before Ansgar can uncover what is causing the king’s demise, he finds himself falsely accused of treason and dismissed from court.

In danger of losing his life, Ansgar takes refuge on Lis’s farm. Love soon blossoms between Ansgar and Lis, even as they realize a future together is impossible. Yet they must unite to save the kingdom from ever-growing forces of evil. Are their destinies entwined? Or will they be ripped apart forever?

The real story of Excalibur continues . . .


Read in April: My Rating ⭐⭐⭐

Really a 3.5 Star read. I enjoyed this book, in fact I think I liked it more than the last one and I am starting to get into the world the author has created. There were a few things which irked me though: some loose ends were simply ignored. [Lis and Ansgar's perfectly reasonable objections to marriage just totally evaporated without the situation being resolved. which seemed contrived just to guarantee a happy ending. (hide spoiler)]

There were also some tropes which kind of got on my nerves as well, or just came over as unrealistic, but aside from that I did like this as vaguely fairytale-like adventure story with dragons. A couple of parts kind of reminded me of Dragonheart, which is one of my guilty pleasures, although I think some of the lore involving dragons might have been borrowed from Game of Thrones/HTTYD as well.

Would recommend for YA readers, and adults who enjoy fairytale or fairytale style romances and retellings and light fantasy

3 Jul 2022

The Church and the Middle Ages: 1078-1378 by Steve Weidenkopf- Reviewed!

 December 25th 2020, Ave Maria Press, 192 Pages,
Print and Ebook

 History often identifies the Middle Ages as barbaric, superstitious, and bloody. Many secular historians classify the Catholic Church of the time as omnipotent and overbearing.

In reality, the Church provided the world with a common way of life, a common purpose, and unity. In The Church and the Middle Ages (1000-1378), historian Steve Weidenkopf explains that the medieval people were intensely faithful and that it was an era of grandiose adventures and brilliant advancements in human achievement. The actions of the faithful men and women of this period and their accomplishments reverberate to the modern day.

With vibrant accounts of pivotal events and inspiring stories of the people who shaped the Church during the eleventh through fourteenth centuries, Weidenkopf provides a clearer picture of an era where critics used events such as the Crusades and the relocation of the papacy to France to undermine the Church. The period also provided the hallmarks of Christian civilization—universities, cathedrals, castles, and various religious orders.

Weidenkopf also chronicles the development of Christian civilization in Europe and explores the contributions of St. Bruno, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Bridget of Sweden.

In this book, you will learn:

  • Most Crusaders were motivated by piety and service, not greed.
  • Heresy was both a church and civil issue and medieval inquisitors were focused on the eternal salvation of the accused.
  • The Church preached against the mistreatment of Jews.

Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.


My Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Every Protestant or Evangelical who writes Medieval Fiction, or just wants to understand the period needs to read this book.
It presents the real story of the Church in Medieval Era, covering everything from heresy to the Crusades, to scholarship and education, and it has sections devoted to the major personalities and events of the nearly four centuries covered. Be warned: almost everything on all these subjects is contrary to what many of us (I refer to the Evangelical community) have probably been led, or raised to believe.

Massacres and witch burnings were not the official policy of the church, nothing like "millions" of people were burned for heresy, and neither was that policy. Burning was actually the secular punishment for heresy, and was not used often. This book actually goes into the laws surrounding it, and some of the beliefs of the actual "heretical" groups.

The sections on St Francis of Assisi and his contempraries, the Franciscan movement, as well as some of the church reform movements were also very interesting. Now, some might be skeptical because of the Catholic publisher, but everything looked well-referenced (from various history books) and the author came over as truly objective. He wasn't afraid to criticize certain figures but also gave praise where it was due.

Prepare to be challenged and gripped if you read this book, but to finish it knowing a lot more. You won't regret it.

Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for approving my request for this title.

15 Jun 2022

Midnight's Budding Morrow by Carolyn Miller: Audra Jennings Blog Tour Post

Can real love grow between a wallflower and an unrepentant rogue?

Sarah Drayton is eager to spend time with her best friend at her crumbling Northumberland castle estate. Matrimony is the last thing on her mind and the last thing she expects to be faced with on a holiday. Yet she finds herself being inveigled into a marriage of convenience with her friend's rakish brother.

When James Langley returns to his family's estate, he can't be bothered to pay attention to his responsibilities as the heir. War is raging and he wants only distraction, not serious tethers. But his roguish ways have backed him into a corner, and he has little choice but to obey his father's stunning decree: marry before returning to war, or else. Suddenly he finds himself wedded to a clever and capable woman he does not love.

Sarah craves love and a place to belong, neither of which James offered before returning to the battlefront. Now everyone around her thinks she married above her station, and they have no intention of rewarding her for such impertinence. It isn't until her husband returns from war seemingly changed that she begins to hope they may find real happiness. But can she trust that this rake has truly reformed?

When tragedy strikes, this pair must learn to trust God and his plans. Will they be destroyed . . . or will they discover that even in the darkest depths of night, the morning still holds hope?

Click here to read an excerpt.

About the series:

While most stories set in Regency England focus on the rich, the young, and the beautiful, award-winning author Carolyn Miller decided she wanted to give readers something different for a change. Her new Regency Wallflowers series follows the commoners, away from the hustle and bustle of 1810s London, out in the Lake District of England. She tells the stories of women who are slightly older and have few prospects for marriage, women who might be considered “wallflowers.”

Midnight’s Budding Morrow is the second book in the Regency Wallflowers series. The first book in the series is Dusk’s Darkest Shores.

My Review:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐


To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatment. I loved the unsual take on the marriage of convenience trope as well as the exploration of the pyschological and emotional impact of war. The sense of place and period was excellent, and the spiritual messages were well handled. 

The only thing I disliked was some of the execution. The characters could have resolved a lot just by talking and a little bit sooner, but people do not always talk do they? 

Giveaway: Enter for your chance to win a copy today!




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29 May 2022

Review: Past the Horizon, Struggles of A Reserved Man Raul Leon

 Due for Release 7th June, Self Published


This story introduces us to a man who has endured pain, loss, and anxiety to such an extent that he has subconsciously dismissed God entirely from his life. 


With few friends or family near, and a heart filled with anger, sadness, and blame…he has all lost hope. One night, as he dreams of drowning and ending his life, God intervenes and speaks with him directly. Join him on his journey to discover who he is and his true purpose in this very precious life he’s been given.  


This book hasn't yet been released, it comes out early next month and I was approached by Novel Cause Publicity to review it. 

It’s not an easy read, but I am incredibly grateful to Mr Leon for putting his story out into the world. I believe this is a book that will help many people, or at least help them to realize they are not struggling alone. 

I myself have struggled with anxiety and depression for much of my adult life. The feelings of emptiness and hopelessness are real, even for those of us who have faith. It is hard, sometimes to see purpose in your life beyond the deep yearning which is really a desire for acceptance and purpose.

This is a story that might go some way towards helping you do so.

There's no judgement here, its just a personal story anyone can relate to.

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