15 Apr 2016

Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Hardcover, 32 Pages
April 5th 2016, Zonderzidz

The Baby Wren and the Great Gift, written by bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jen Corace, is a celebration of all the wonderful gifts God has given us. The tiny wren marvels at the incredible creatures around her, all the while wishing she had a special gift to share. As she takes in the beauty of the world around her, she discovers a unique talent that’s been inside her all along
Beautiful book with incredibly beautiful illustrations and a wonderfully inspirational message. This would be a joy to read with and to small children, who I am sure will love the pictures, and the whole experience.

The simple takeaway message about everyone having talents, and God-given gifts, no matter how small or insignifigant it may seem is one that children, I think will be able to understand and appreciate.
Although parents may want to note that the story does not actually mention God or Chistianity outright. Like in the book of Esther, He is there behind the scenes and by implication.

Overall, I book I will happily pass on to my sister, to read to her toddler over and over again.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher via Booklook Bloggers for review. I was not required to write a positive one, and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 Apr 2016

Sandra Byrd- Mist of Midnight

Daughters of Hampshire #1 
374 Pages, 10th March 2015, Howard Books
Print, ebook and audio 

In the first of a brand new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her… and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives–does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, would she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.
As I have a review copy of Bride of a Distant Isle I thought it was high time to finish read the prequel. (Yes I make a concerted effort to read series and trilogies in order now). Anyway, I had seen The Mist of Midnight described as a Victorian Gothic style Romance. 
I would say that built up the expectation for the story to be a lot darker, sinister, and more in the style of a thriller or deep mystery. There was mystery and some element of danger- but not what I would describe as 'Gothic'. That was not a bad thing per-se  just an observation.
There was certainly something to be said for the style. I would call it thoughful and character-driven, rather than relying on action and implausible events and scenarios as some novels of this genre do.

The setting, and the details about British India in the second half of the ninteenth century were very interesting. I must admit that I tend to have a soft spot for socially awkward protagnists and misfits. Rebecca Ravenshaw was very much the former in the early parts of the book- suddenly thrust back into a culture and country she had left as a child.
Her faux-pas and uncertainty made her vulnerable, but she still had a certain determination and resolve. In other ways, her knowledge and sensitivity to other cultures added depth, and a certain exoticism to her character.
The male protaganist, Captain Whitfield was suitably dashing and charming- but the author added the clever twist of his 'dark side'- or suspected dark side.
Although this was a Romance, it was not (generally) of the fluffy and sillly variety which I find rather off-putting. A lot of the story seemed to be more about Rebecca finding her place, proving her identity and setting herself up as as Lady of the Manor. She was not constantly fawning over men- although her behaviour seemed to suddenly change at the end of the story, with her becoming all teary and pining over Captain Whitfield. It didn't entirely seem to fit with how she was before. 

 I did notice a few Americanisms here and there (at one point Rebecca says 'someplace' instead of somewhere- and talks about 'drapes' rather than curtains). Also, on occasion the langauge and wording seemed rather clunky and complicated. 

Overall though, it was a well- written story with a steady pace and a strong 'sense' of period. A good choice for historical fiction lovers seeking something clean and satisfying with a nod to the classics.

11 Apr 2016

Word and Deed- Rachel Rossano

Kindle Edition, 48 Pages
January 11th 2012
Death or an arranged marriage, Verity refuses to accept the choices.

Verity Favian's father dies unexpectedly. Her half-brother, Verdon, lays claim to all their father left behind: title, castle, and her. Verdon cannot touch the land set aside for her dowry so he offers her hand for sale to the highest bidder. Lord Silvanticus, a man renowned for his military power and close ties to the king, makes the winning bid. Despite the rumors of Silvanticus’ madness and cruelty, Verdon accepts.

Verdon locks her away in a tower. She is not sure if he seeks to prevent her from fleeing the marriage or spreading the truth only she seems willing to speak: Verdon killed their father. Either way, her time is running out.
I own about five Kindle books by Rachel Rossano, but chose to read this one first as a short introduction to her work- and frankly because, as I am part way through about three other titles, I did not want to start another full-length book yet.

Overall, I was very pleased with this short story. It rather reminded me of traditional tales, with the pretty girl locked in a tower, and paid homage to traditional ideas, beliefs and values such as chivalry, honour and true love.
Yet there was a contemporary spin, as the heroine was said to be able to use a sword. She was also strong-minded and intelligent enough to cater to modern tastes- but (and this is something I apprecaite), was not some stuck up feminist superhero. She used her brains, but was not adverse to accepting help from men, and whilst being headstrong, was also vulnerable, and her outspokeness nearly lands her in very hot water.

I also appreciated the nice, refreshing twist on the usual cliched 'forced marriage' story. I confess, I don't have a lot of time for tales like that, as they annoy me, as do the attendent myths and historical inaccuracies. As this was historical fantasy, the author could have gone along the typical route, ignoring the ban on forced marriage in he actual, historical Medieval past- yet she did not.
I don't want to give away too much of the ending but lets just say that the chosen husband is not as bad as is initially thought, and certainly does not meet the arranged marriage stereotype of horrible and abusive.
Rather he fitted in well with the over-arching theme which (I think) was about not judging people by appearances, or by what others say about them. That there may be a lot more below the surface- hence the clever title- Word and Deed. I personally guessed one of the main plot twists quite early on, but that did not really detract from my enjoyment of this story.

My only complaints were a few typos in the story which sadly slipped through the editing process, and some of the content, which might make the story more approporate for older readers, and not a YA audience. Overall though, I consider it £1 well spent.

8 Apr 2016

Murder at the Mikado- Julianna Deering

Drew Fathering Mysteries #3 
July 31st 2014, Bethany House
336 Pages, Kindle & Paperback 

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet.
Since I requested the newly released fourth title in this series from Netgalley a while back, I decided it was high time to read this, the third one, first.
I had rather mixed feelings about the previous two titles when I read them a couple of years back, and I think I can say the same for this. As a mystery buff and a fan of the classical authors like Agatha Christie, I should love a mystery set during thier the time of thier stories, right?

Yet, sadly I just didn't. It wasn't a terrible book, but I just didn't much care for it. Other reviewers have mentioned how they found the story rather hardgoing, and not very engaging, and I have to agree. I also found the plot rather choppy, and some events predictable or convenient.
The protaganists seemed more concerned with their relationship then actual detective work- which is fine if this is well written. In this case however, I just did not really find I could connect with the characters, or thier feelings, decisions and actions.

Also, this one just did not have the 'feel' of the classic mysteries. Oh, it had the details right, but it seemed slightly lacking in authenticity and credibilty. Perhaps it was the Americanisms used by the British characters, or the sometimes awkward, clumsy-sounding dialog like 'she never much let anyone have any'.
Good mysteries don't have to be very complicated, but by the end, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that the police could have solved the whole thing themselves before long, and the characters really weren't needed. Like they just went around in a lot of circles until the final clue was found, and then all of a sudden everything fell into place and the gulty parties very oblingly confessed.
Nor was the conclusion entirely satisfying- at least not for me. Motives and reasons for the crimes did not seem entirely clear, or rather unconvincing.

As said above, the book wasn't terrible. There were some humourous and cute moments (like Drew with little Peter). It just wasn't my cup of tea. 

Want to buy the book? See the link below 

4 Apr 2016

Coming soon from Rachel Rossano

No, I haven't been commissioned to advertise the soon-to-be-released title below. I just don't have any reviews to put up right now, and I since I have a fair few titles by this author, and quite a few people have read them, it makes sense. 

So, coming soon from Rachel Rossano, author, and cover designer extraordinaire is a new title to accompany her Medieval Fantasy/Romance series The Novels of Rynan. 

That Earl of Dentin seems like a pretty impressive (and quite simply pretty) guy, right? About time I read Duty. Hopefully I will soon......though even if I don't I will probably still go pre-ordering this.

Want to pre-order now? Click the Link below. 

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