30 Dec 2018

My Year in Books: 2018



I've nearly finished the final book in my 2018 Goodreads reading challenge. 98 Books! I am so going to be setting that number lower for next year. I almost did not make it, and relied a lot on Audiobooks, I must say. Yeah, I cheated. 

So I'm rounding up the year with some of my favourite reads for this year. Not all of these titles were actually released this year, as I have been wading into my Kindle backlog and I have lots of older books on my shelves. So without further ado here are some of my favourites divided by genre. 

Historical Fiction 

  From Ancient Rome to Edwardian Britain, there have been so many great historical novels and novellas I have read this year. 


Ancient Rome:  This novel is a few years old now, but well worth the read. I'm working through my Kindle backlist as this was one of the first titles of it. 

Its about a young British Boy who is kidnapped following a rebellion in Britannia, and becomes a slave to a Roman Centurion. 

Running away from his master, he meets a Jewish exile, and converts to Christianity, and from thereon follows a story about the growth of the Church and the challenges faced by Christians in First Century Rome. 

I don't read many novels set in this period, but its starting to grow on me, alongside Biblical Fiction. 


28 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays: Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering



Welcome the the last First Line Friday post of 2018! Today I am going to be featuring a book that was actually published about in late 2017. I've only just got around to reading it now, as its been setting on by Kindle from Netgalley for a while. 

Death at Thorburn Hall is the sixth and so fat the last title in American author Julianna Deering's series called the Drew Fathering Mysteries. The series is set in Britain in the 1930s, and features a minor nobleman and his American girlfriend and later fiance, Madelaine. 

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Rainsby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.




I've made a little graphic for today's first line, which works because its quite long. 





Happy (soon be be) New Year to you all. 

As Always, don't forget to comment with your own first line, or click the graphic to see what others are reading.



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21 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays 45: Christmas Books



Its nearly that time of the year again! Only 4 days until Christmas: and yup, I seem to have managed to have caught a head cold/flu. Yeuch. Let's hope I'm over that soon. 

Today my theme is not so much books I'm going to receive for Christmas, but festive themed books. I just finished reading The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado yesterday. After having seen the movie a couple of times, I thought reading the book was a good idea.
Imagine a Victorian England village in the Cotswolds where very little out of the ordinary ever happens . . . except at Christmas time.
This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker, is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift—a gift that’s bungled and subsequently lost. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, struggle to find the gift.
And when they do, they have to make a difficult choice. Who among their community is most in need of a Christmas miracle?


“I just think it odd that Oxford would assign its top student to a village like Gladstone,” Edward Haddington said to his wife, Bea. "


Today I am reading another book that sort of ties in with the season. Its about King Wencelas: you know the one from the popular Christmas carol. It seems he was a real person, a King of Bohemia (the modern day Czech republic) in the 10th century.

Immersed in the historical background of the tenth century, this true tale of Good King Wenceslaus, as told by his faithful servant Poidevin, brings the reader into the Dark Ages.

 Fear grips the land of Bohemia as the faithful face betrayal and persecution under the reign of the pagan Duchess Dragomira. 

As she struggles for power with the rightful heir, Prince Vaclav, her foes forge alliances in secret despite the risk of discovery. Who will survive?


" DARKNESS GRIPPED BOHEMIA, an evil born of fear: Fear of the goddess Morana and her demand for human sacrifice; fear of the nomadic Magyars who had destroyed Moravia on our eastern border; and fear of the mighty Germanic army to the west"

So that's two First Lines from Me today, and I am not too far off reaching my target for this year's Goodreads Challenge 

Now its your turn: Click the Meme to see what other members are reading, and comment with your own First Line

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20 Dec 2018

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Ravenwood Saga #1 
352 Pages, November 6th 2018 Bethany House 
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Genre: Fantasy and Speculative 
Setting: Invented World/Country of the Seven Realms 

Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person's dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family's dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family's legacy--a legacy that supports her people--or seeking the true reason behind her family's gift.

Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Mark of the Raven is the first novel in a new fantasy series from author Morgan L. Busse. I believe she has written other books, but this is the first one to be picked up by Bethany House. Overall, I enjoyed it more than I expected it to. The concept was good and well executed and the world building quite believable. I would not all the setting wholly Medieval, as there were modern elements (tea trays etc) but they don’t seem intrusive or anachronistic. They just kind of work as part of the invented world.

There were faint resemblances to other stories including Patrick W Carr’s Darkwater Trilogy which involves different houses or families having different ‘gifts’, and even Game of Thrones with a clan of dragon riders (a wyvern was according to mythology a two-legged dragon) and a house the symbol of a raven. Yet there was enough originality in the story and characters for this story to work on its own. Despite a few clich├ęs- leather trousers for example or characters drinking tea out of iron mugs. Yeah iron a conductor of heat, so, burning hazard there.

Also, the characters were interesting. Again, it’s easy in some fantasy stories for the characters to get ‘lost’ in the complexities of the story or the action, or just be killed off too quickly. It was possible to identify with Selene’s moral struggles and angst about her purpose the destiny in life, her care for her family was tangible, and I was found myself rooting for her throughout.

My only real complaint was that things got a little repetitive in a few places. I think the history of what had happened to House Ravenwood only needed to be mentioned a couple of times, not over and over again. Also, the way that characters kept mulling over their actions, thoughts and feelings, often with the same decisions and conclusions became repetitive.

I certainly recommend this novel to lovers of clean fantasy with an inspirational flavour set in unique and imaginative worlds, and I look forward to the story continuing in the next book.

I requested this title from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

14 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays #44: Wayfarer by Janalyn Voigt



I published a review last week, so no FLF post, and I have been out in London most of today. Sitting here writing this at 7:30 in the evening.

I've decided to include the sequel to the Fantasy novel I included later on the year. I'm also currently listening to Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse audiobook. Going for a bit of a fantasy tangent at the moment. 


When Kai returns with the supposed DawnKing, Lof Shraen Elcon cannot trust that the Elder youth truly is the prophesied deliverer. Driven to prove himself, Elcon banishes the boy and embarks on a peace-keeping campaign into the Elder lands, where he falls in love with an Elder princess betrothed to another. 
Sometimes the deliverance of a nation comes only through the humility of one. 
Declaring his love would shame the nations, but Elcon is torn. As war approaches, Elcon's choices lead him on a journey of discovery that will either settle the lands or leave them mired in conflict. Can his kingdom ever be united, or will the consequences of his decisions forever tear asunder the fabric of Faeraven?


I'm going to share the first line from Chapter 13, which I'm onto now. 

"Hiding her surprise, Aewen backed into her outer chamber to allow her father entrance".

Don't Forget to clock the Meme and See what Everyone else is reading or comment with your own first line. 

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9 Dec 2018

The Making of Mrs Hale by Carolyn Miller

Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope #3
November 27th 2018, 336 Pages, Kregel Publications 
Print and Audio 

Marry in haste, repent in leisure--Mrs. Hale is about to find out how painful that repentance can truly be.

Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn't turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn't know where--or if he's ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they'll forgive her. Especially now that she might be carrying a baby from her brief marriage.

Carolyn Miller's clean and wholesome Regency romances continue with The Making of Mrs. Hale, following familiar characters as they learn how restoration can occur by finding hope and healing through a deep relationship with God. Full of rich historical details and witty banter, this series continues to draw in fans of Jane Austen, Sarah Ladd, and Julie Klassen
.

 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Making of Mrs Hale is Carolyn Miller's sixth book, the conclusion of her second trilogy set in Regency Britain.
It follows Julia Hale, the sister of a nobleman who disappeared in the first book with a friend of her brother known as Major Thomas Hale. Thomas was known to be a rake and knowing her family would disapprove of her marrying a commoner with no title or lands and such a reputation. 

Eighteen months later, Julia reappears having been apparently abandoned by her husband on the doorstep of one of her friends. What’s more, she has a baby in tow. Here the story begins, and it’s not a typical Regency. The protagonists are already married: but their relationship is fractured through separation, secrets, betrayal and emotional trauma. 

There are many other Regency stories which involve rakish characters making right, and this could have following that formula, but does not. At least, not slavishly. Julia’s family apparently hate Thomas for what he did to her (or what they believe he did), but she struggles to love and trust him, despite the wishes of her overbearing mother and over-protective brother.
Above all, it’s a story of reconciliation: of husband and wife, family, friends, and ultimately reconciliation with God. 

There is also a strong element of danger and intrigue in this story, with a possible plot against Thomas by a corrupt army officer and a secret mission gone wrong. This provided a lot of interesting details about the 19th century military and some government offices. It also was a good way of incorporating characters from the earlier books into the story but might be a little confusing for those who have not read them.
Above all there was a very strong emphasis on the spiritual maturity of the characters, and a very strong salvation message. Some might say it’s a little heavy-handed and modern. Perhaps, but I did not find it so off-putting, and sort of appropriate in the context of the story. 
There was a great deal of grace involved, and Thomas’s reasons for hesitating and doubting in his faith were credible.

I did feel a few incidents were implausible or not properly accounted for: like how did Julia manage to travel all the way from Edinburgh to London in such dire straits and with no money? Overall though, it was a lovely conclusion to the story. 

Thanks to Kregel for inviting me to read this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

7 Dec 2018

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

September 1st 2017, 417 Pages, Tyndale House 
Print and E-book 

 Genre: Historical Fiction
 Setting: Germany, Early 1500s
In the dark of night, Katharina von Bora says the bravest good-bye a six-year-old can muster and walks away as the heavy convent gate closes behind her.

Though the cold walls offer no comfort, Katharina soon finds herself calling the convent her home. God, her father. This, her life. She takes her vows--a choice more practical than pious--but in time, a seed of discontent is planted by the smuggled writings of a rebellious excommunicated priest named Martin Luther. Their message? That Katharina is subject to God, and no one else. Could the Lord truly desire more for her than this life of servitude?

In her first true step of faith, Katharina leaves the only life she has ever known. But the freedom she has craved comes with a price, and she finds she has traded one life of isolation for another. Without the security of the convent walls or a family of her own, Katharina must trust in both the God who saved her and the man who paved a way for rescue. Luther's friends are quick to offer shelter, but Katharina longs for all Luther has promised: a home, a husband, perhaps even the chance to fall in love.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

This was my second novel about Martin Luther and the woman who eventually became his wife, Katherina von Bora. I think I preferred his one overall, is it stuck closer to the facts, whereas the other was much more of a romance novel, and was way too dramatized with unnecessary rape and torture scenes.

I have not read anything by Allison Pittman before, but I would consider more of her work. I liked her detailed descriptions of landscape and the environment inhabited by the characters which helped bring parts of the story to life.

This focuses not so much on the Romance, but more on Katherina's life. She does not even escape the Abbey to which she was sent as a child until about one third of the way through. It is slow moving in places, and lags a little towards the end, but generally a worthwhile read.

I requested a copy of this title from Tyndale House via Netgalley a long while ago. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.


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