Category: Books

Book Review: Rosefire

About the Book:

Perhaps it is a coincidence that Anya arrived on Karan’s doorstep—without a past and with great skill in magic—the same night that Crown Prince Loran died, but Karan is not certain she believes in coincidence anymore.

Author Carolyn Clare Givens’ young adult fantasy novel, Rosefire, is a story of friendship, redemption, and sacrifice. As Karan and Anya, along with Karan’s brother Richard and friend Edmund, begin to seek the promised Rose of the Ancient Writings, they learn that the destinies of kingdoms are forged, not always in the heat of battle, but in the hearts and minds of their leaders.

Rosefire first came to life as an image based on a couplet from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: “Ash on an old man’s sleeve/ Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.” Reading those lines one day, author Carolyn Clare Givens saw in her imagination the image of a monk shaking dust off of his habit after roses had been completely consumed. 

For years, Carrie heard from editors and publishers that it was really good, but…”I just don’t know how I’d sell it.” It’s a book that doesn’t cleanly fit into the right marketing categories, a hidden treasure found off the beaten path.

That’s just the kind of story Bandersnatch Books was founded to publish. We’re so excited to be releasing our first title, Rosefire, and want to thank you for being part of bringing it to life. It’s been a long time since Carrie first saw that image of the monk’s sleeve, but re-reading this past year, we were struck by how apt Rosefire is for our current cultural moment. This is a story we need to hear.

Kickstarter:

This book is a new type of review for me, a book that isn’t being published traditionally. You “purchase” it by signing up for the Kickstarter and you receive the book in the rewards package (as an epub or printed version – you choose your reward package).

Check out the campaign at the link below. You must sign up before March 3rd.

My Thoughts:

Rosefire is a beautiful story. It contains mystery, magical gifts, sacrifice, a longing for justice and a journey to learn to walk a path of loving righteousness in its pursuit.

The characters begin to discover that they are known and they are loved, that there is redemption for failure and a hope for the future. It’s the kind of story that encourages the heart.

Book Review: Of Sword and Shadow

About the Book:

Greece, 1379

She is known by many names, none of them her own. In truth, she is an unnamed slave, nothing more than a weapon in the hands of her owner in his attempts to provoke political mayhem. When she encounters a handsome young man while on an assignment, she thinks little of him—until he attempts to take what she has stolen. But in her line of work, failure is not an option.

Gillen is intrigued by the mysterious woman who thwarts his mission. But when his path crosses hers again, his intrigue turns to gratitude as the thief he comes to call Eudocia saves his life. The two form a bond of friendship and join forces to wrest control from a group of ruthless rulers. But as their camaraderie blossoms into something more, Gillen and Eudocia must fight for love even as they wage war for a better future.

My Thoughts:

I’ve never read a novel set in 14th century Greece so this book was a new setting. The author started by giving you a lot of cultural and historical detail. I generally prefer to discover the details within the story, however, even with the historical context laid out I found some of the allegiances, both political and religious, to be rather complicated.

That said, the author did usher me into a new world, full of intrigue, danger and brutality. The life of an unnamed slave girl woven together with the passions of a political zealot created a fascinating and page turning story. I appreciated the characters and the writing kept my attention, however, the harshness of the world of the novel wasn’t really my cup of tea at the moment. I’m just not reading a lot of the thriller genre these days. If you like a bit of intrigue and don’t mind finding yourself in the middle of a war or the underbelly of the slave trade then this page turner might be for you. It was certainly well written and exciting.

I received a free digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Dreams of Savannah

About the Book:

Cordelia Owens can weave a hopeful dream around anything and is well used to winning the hearts of everyone in Savannah with her whimsy. Even when she receives word that her sweetheart has been lost during a raid on a Yankee vessel, she clings to hope and comes up with many a romantic tale of his eventual homecoming to reassure his mother and sister.

But Phineas Dunn finds nothing redemptive in the first horrors of war. Struggling for months to make it home alive, he returns to Savannah injured and cynical, and all too sure that he is not the hero Cordelia seems determined to make him. Matters of black and white don’t seem so simple anymore to Phin, and despite her best efforts, Delia’s smiles can’t erase all the complications in his life. And when Fort Pulaski falls and the future wavers, they both must decide where the dreams of a new America will take them, and if they will go together.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy Roseanna White’s writing, so though I’ve never been a fan of civil war era books I decided to give it a try.

I liked the twists and turns that the story took and the growth of the characters. I felt like the author wrestled with some hard topics with honesty and resisted the need to wrap a neat bow around complicated realities. The story ended on a hopeful note, though it ended at a critical moment in the war leaving much to the imagination.

It’s not my favourite of her books, but I think it was well done.

I received a free digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Thief of Blackfriars Lane

About the Book:

There’s Often a Fine Line Between a Criminal and a Saint
 
Constable Jackson Forge intends to make the world safer, or at least the streets of Victorian London. But that’s Kit Turner’s domain, a swindler who runs a crew that acquires money the old-fashioned way—conning the rich to give to the poor. When a local cab driver goes missing, Jackson is tasked with finding the man, and the only way to do that is by enlisting Kit’s help. If Jackson doesn’t find the cabby, he’ll be fired. If Kit doesn’t help Jackson, he’ll arrest her for thievery. Yet neither of them realize those are the least of their problems.

My Thoughts:

Once again Michelle Griep captured me with a tale that I couldn’t put down. Intrigue, mystery, determination and desire to do their part to make the world a better place draw Kit and Jackson together, though a constable and a con-artist are a most unlikely pair.

The creativity of the story, with its twists and turns kept me turning the pages. I could appreciate the humanity of Jackson’s character and how his over-zealous nature led him to make mistakes, yet also gave him the tenacity to not give up.

If you like a page turning mystery, along with a smidge of romance, then I recommend The Thief of Blackfriars Lane.

I received a free digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Room of Marvels

About the Book:

Three deaths in three years. His mother. His best friend. And now, his two-year-old daughter. In this moving story a Christian author goes to a retreat center to grieve and face the hard questions about God that he is asking in the wake of these losses. If you have ever felt alone, betrayed, abandoned–if you have found yourself asking God why–this novel may be a source of hope. And if you have ever wondered what heaven is like, this book provides a beautiful vision. Room of Marvels is a masterful, dream-like tale that speaks to the eternal in the midst of our most painful earthly losses. This expanded edition of the beloved book has a new afterword from James Bryan Smith and a discussion guide for group use. Finding your room of marvels will give you reason to live. Again.

My Thoughts

While all of life and all of literature has something to teach us, a moral tale is a straightforward teaching device designed to combine entertainment with information and instruction.

I would put Room of Marvels clearly into this category alongside other works of literature like Pilgrim’s Progress, A Christmas Carol and Dante’s Inferno. To be honest, it is not a genre of literature that I particularly enjoy. I prefer a subtler story that, as C.S. Lewis puts it, sneaks past the watchful dragons.

A Room of Marvels does have value within its genre and it is born out of the author’s own journey with God. If you appreciate a straightforward teaching tale, Room of Marvels could be a book that would challenge you to think deeper about the love of God and His good eternal plans for His children in the light of grief and loss.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Duke Meets His Match

About the Book:

At thirty years of age, Susan Jennings has long been considered a spinster. Exceptionally intelligent, she has little tolerance for London and the dreaded Season—if that’s how one is expected to find love, it’s not for her. But when an invitation arrives that cannot be ignored, Susan leaves her comfortable life in the country and enters the fashion and frivolity she most despises. She quickly discovers, however, that there is more to loathe in London—and his name is George Kendall.

George, Duke of Aylesham, has learned to keep his distance from cloying females chasing the title of duchess. Susan Jennings, however, proves an entirely different challenge—a woman who has pushed him to the limit of his patience with their every encounter. But their simmering hostility is disrupted by a thoughtless slip up: to avoid a marriage of political strategy, George claims he is already betrothed. And when pressed for the name of the lucky woman, only one name comes to mind: Susan’s. Their forced betrothal proves advantageous, but when their verbal sparring must change in order to be convincing, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred by something neither expected: love.

My Thoughts:

This is the first time I have read a book by Karen Tuft and I loved it.

The plot was creative in how it drew together two characters who want nothing to do with each other and set them up to find out that their perceptions weren’t entirely accurate. The shifts and turns of the story kept me turning the pages and I found the ending to be entirely satisfying.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and I highly recommend it.

Book Review: To Steal A Heart

About the Book:

After a childhood as a street thief, Gabriella Goodhue thought she’d put her past behind her until a fellow resident at her boardinghouse is unjustly accused of theft. In the middle of breaking into a safe that holds the proof to prove her friend’s innocence, Gabriella is interrupted by Nicholas Quinn, the man she once considered her best friend–until he abandoned her.

After being taken under the wing of a professor who introduced him into society and named him as heir, Nicholas is living far removed from his childhood life of crime. As a favor to a friend, Nicholas agreed to help clear the name of an innocent woman, never imagining he’d be reunited with the girl he thought lost to him forever.

As Gabriella and Nicholas are thrown together into one intrigue after another, their childhood affection grows into more, but their newfound feelings are tested when truths about their past are revealed and danger follows their every step.

My Thoughts:

I always love how Jen Turano can make me laugh out loud while reading. This book carries her signature humor.

I did find this particular book surprisingly difficult to engage with at first. I almost felt as if I were being thrown right into the middle of a story and I set the book down and re-started it twice before I was able to immerse myself into Gabi and Nicholas’s world. Once I was engaged, the book flowed and the laughs followed.

If you need some light hearted, humor filled reading I can always recommend Jen Turano. Her brand of ridiculous and extravagant stories are delightful.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Otherwise Engaged

About the Book:

Constantly stifled by the rules of Society, spirited Rebecca Rowley enjoys finding ways to quietly or not so quietly rebel. But riding bareback and avoiding nosy neighbors are nothing compared to the thrilling secret she is keeping from her family.

When Rebecca’s quick thinking saves the life of a young girl, she unwittingly attracts the attention of the child’s dashing brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery. As that attention turns flirtatious, Rebecca is forced to tell him the truth: she is secretly engaged to the one man her family would never approve of. Fortunately, Lieutenant Avery is a navy man with no wish to marry, or so they both assume as they enter into a friendship. Rebecca hopes to change her family’s mind about her betrothed, but the more she comes to know the handsome lieutenant, the more she wonders if she promised her hand too hastily.

After all her carefully laid plans are shattered during a family crisis, Rebecca must force her heart to decide. Should she stay true to the promise she made or fight for the future she’s only just begun to imagine?

My Thoughts:

This is the first book that I’ve read by Joanna Barker.

The characters seemed very modern, while the realities of the time, including the rules of conduct and engagement were most certainly of the era. I enjoyed the mix of characters that I could relate to alongside the structures and challenges of days gone by.

This sweet friendship turned romance was a thoroughly enjoyable, light read. I recommend it.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: A Revolution of Hearts

About the Book:

Secrets, spies, and hidden love. Which will strike first?

Born to a life of wealth and status, Mademoiselle Dacia de Prideux is every inch the glittering aristocrat. However, her brother, Marcel, is an outspoken political activist, and with the country on the verge of the French Revolution, he has made dangerous enemies—one of whom takes Marcel’s life. When Dacia is accused of the unthinkable crime, she finds refuge with her dear friend Marguerite St. Just, who believes there is one man with the means to help: the wealthy fop, Sir Percy Blakeney. 

Intent on rescuing people from perilous circumstances, Richard Harris, wealthy English landowner and member of Sir Percy’s league of gentleman heroes, has been assigned to protect Dacia. Hiding her in plain sight and masquerading her as a housemaid at his estate, Richard soon comes to trust the beautiful woman under his protection, and their feelings for each other grow stronger each day. But Marcel’s murderer will never stop pursuing Dacia, and she will need both her cunning and Richard’s connection to the legendary Scarlet Pimpernel to survive.

My thoughts:

Set on the edge of France’s revolution is a story of survival and of growth, as peril pushes on ideas never before examined and the challenges of life give way to love.

I’ll admit I disliked Dacia from the start. I know that the author wrote her in the way that she did on purpose to highlight her character growth, but it was hard for me to make it past the first few chapters. That said, I did enjoy the character growth. Sometimes it seemed too much too fast, not impossible, but improbable. Still, I remained engaged with the story and in the end I was rooting for Dacia and Richard and their happily ever after.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Forget Me Not

About the Book:

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, 1785

Julia Cummings has long been acquainted with loss—her mother, her brother, her sister, her friend, all gone too soon. But the loss that pushed her grief to the limit as a young girl was that of her best friend, Lucas Jonquil, who abandoned her without looking back. Now, eight years later, Lucas has returned to Lampton Park, and Julia has steeled herself—she will never forgive the man who broke her heart.

After losing too many of his friends and family to early deaths, Lucas vowed to live life to the fullest. And after traversing the world, he has returned from his adventures to find his family and home much as he left them—except for Julia. The little girl he left behind has blossomed into a captivating lady, a lady who makes it clear she despises him. With little hope of reconciliation, the former friends are blindsided when their parents make a shocking announcement. Lucas and Julia have been betrothed without their knowledge and are to marry immediately. Now Lucas must rely on the help of his closest friends to win the heart of a lady who loathes him—a lady he’s coming to love more deeply every day.

My Thoughts:

This book is such a sweet story. It’s full of loss, but also full of beauty as two friends, who have both known deep wounds and who are of very different personalities, explore how to open themselves to allow their wounded hearts to find connection and hope.

The companionship of The Gents (the theme of this series) is an engaging pull into the story. Who wouldn’t want such a band of brothers in their lives? Julia’s character is a complex mix of thick walls of self protection and deep longing to belong. Lucas made a vow at his sibling’s deaths to live life to the fullest, but it is entirely possible that he has no idea what a truly full life looks like.

I enjoyed this story and will be looking for the next book in the series.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.