Revisiting the Russian Fairytale | The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden [ARC]

This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. To see my review of the first book, please click here.

The Girl in the TowerAfter the events of the first book, Vasya knows that she can’t stay in her small town. She bridles her horse, Solovey, and takes off to finally have the adventure that she’s always longed for. Soon after, she discovers a village that’s been burned to the ground. Many of the villagers are dead and some have had their daughters taken. Vasya can find no trace of these bandits but doesn’t let that stop her. As she continues on her journey, she’ll find herself embroiled in Moscow politics and longing for a life that she may never be able to have.

This was a great follow-up to the The Bear and the Nightingale. It was very much in the same tone and the characters were just as real and complex as they were before (if not more so). Vasya isn’t always the most likable character, but she does make sense. She lives in a different time where women were just expected to stay in their towers all day, every day. Instead, Vasya longs for adventure and the reader can feel that throughout the book. She’s so conflicted because she doesn’t like lying by pretending to be a boy, but she knows that she wouldn’t be as helpful (or happy) if everyone knew she was a girl.

As far as other characters go, we get to know Morozko, Sasha, and Olga a lot better than we did in the first book in addition to new characters like Dimitrii and Olga’s daughter. This gives the reader a really diverse and interesting cast of secondary characters to get to know. I, personally, was not in favor of the priest from her hometown coming back. He’s just so…creepy. But I guess that’s the point.

The plot is slow-moving, but not boring by any means. I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to pick the book back up after I was done reading for the day, but I think that says more about my own reading preferences than the book itself. Arden is a talented writer and that shows through in this book just as it did in the first one. There’s the smallest little bud of a romance that blossoms in this book. I’ll be honest, I was wanting this romance from the first book, so I’m glad it’s getting explored and I hope we see more of it in the third book.

If you’re interested in historical Russia, Russian fairytales, or just love beautifully written (albeit slow-moving) books, then I would definitely recommend this book. I look forward to seeing what Arden comes out with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but not SUPER descriptive
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Accidentally reading Christian Fiction | Mini-Reviews

First off, let me just say that I have nothing against Christian Fiction. I’ve read, reviewed, and enjoyed multiple Christian Fiction titles. However, when you’re not expecting a book to have a religious slant and then it does, it’s a little jarring. Am I the only one who thinks that?

11948994First Date by Krista McGee

I thought this book was going to have a really fun teen Bachelor-esque vibe to it. Instead, it mostly focused on our main character and her internal debate about whether or not to tell the people around her that she’s Christian. Which…to be honest, I don’t really understand the dilemma especially when she’s reading her Bible out where everyone can see. She also has an internal struggle about not being able to date someone who’s not Christian. Here’s the thing, I grew up in a very religious household and our church definitely has a culture of encouraging people to marry within the same church. However, it’s definitely not expected that someone would not go to Prom with someone else because their beliefs weren’t the same. So I just thought that whole subplot was weird and unnecessary. To be honest, I didn’t really like much about this book. The characters were dull, the plot and backstory too contrived, and mean girls/antagonists were mean for no reason. 2/5

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

This was an easy, clean romance and I actually found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Again, I didn’t know it was going to be Christian Fiction going into it, but this one I didn’t mind as much as the other two. It wasn’t so in your face. The main character seemed like a genuinely lovely person, though I do wish she had asserted herself a little bit more (of course, if she had, then there wouldn’t have been a story). There were a few times when the POV changed suddenly and without warning so I was left scrambling, trying to figure out who the narrator was. The author is obviously trying to keep it a mystery who a certain character is, but it’s so obvious from literally the very beginning of the book. I either wanted it to be an actual mystery, or I wanted it to not be a mystery at all. 4/5

The Healer's ApprenticeThe Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Okay, so again, let me just emphasize that I am a VERY religious person, but there are still times when I feel that the religious aspect of a book is too much. This was one of those times. I think part of it was an attempt to be historically accurate (they were super religious back then, right?) but it just detracted from and bogged down the rest of the plot in my opinion. The book felt like it was moving so slow. It was agonizing because I spotted the plot twist from a mile away. I was pretty much just waiting for the characters to catch up with me for 2/3 of the book. 3/5

BLOG TOUR: The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

The Captain's DaughterThe Captain’s Daughter (London Beginnings #1)
by Jennifer Delamere
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Genres: Romance, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction

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SYNOPSIS: Warm-hearted Victorian romance brings 1880s London to life.

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

REVIEW: Rosalyn was a really fun main character. She was determined and optimistic the whole time, if a little naive at times as well. There were definitely moments when I wanted to take her by the hand and explain what was going on because she seemed a little confused. Nate was also a great character. He obviously had his own flaws, but it was great to see both characters grow throughout the story.

Secondary characters were also fun and I felt like we really got to know some of them well for how background they were. I thought it was a little weird that Rosalyn’s youngest sister never came into play, but perhaps she’s in a future book.

I enjoyed the setting quite a bit. We didn’t really get to see a lot of London, but I appreciated that the author gave us a behind the scenes look at what performances back then would have been like and the creative process behind¬†The Pirates of Penzance.

Overall, I thought this book was great. The romance was a classic slow burn that ended up feeling really right in the end. I didn’t think the Christian aspect of the book was too overwhelming. It was definitely present, but never preachy. I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction and those who are interested in theater.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild



Jennifer DelamereABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Jennifer Delamere’s debut Victorian romance, “An Heiress at Heart,” was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the inspirational category. Her follow-up novel, “A Lady Most Lovely,” received a starred review from “Publishers Weekly” and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned a BA in English from McGill University in Montreal, where she became fluent in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. She’s been an editor of nonfiction and educational materials for nearly two decades, and lives in North Carolina with her husband.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Love in the Time of Colonial Louisiana | The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green [GIVEAWAY]

The Mark of the KingThe Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian, Romance

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SYNOPSIS: After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

REVIEW: This book kind of surprised me because I didn’t really know much about colonial Louisiana. I felt that the author did a really good job of describing the setting for those of us who are unfamiliar with it–I almost felt like I could walk out my front door and into a humid Louisiana summer. I appreciated that some of the characters and events were real so that if I was interested in learning more, I would be able to.

The characters were all nicely fleshed-out. I could really feel for Julianne throughout the book. She had to go through some really tough things, but she (mostly) kept a really positive attitude and it was obvious that she just wanted to embrace her fresh start and get to work. None of our characters are perfect and we definitely see their flaws, but that just makes them relatable and more likable in my opinion. One thing that I especially appreciated was that this book spanned over a few years so we could see Julianne, her relationships, and the city of New Orleans grow and develop.

The plot was interesting, though a little slow-moving at times. I wasn’t really surprised by any of the plot twists, but I still found reading the book to be enjoyable. I don’t read a ton of Christian Fiction (though I have been reading more since partnering with Litfuse) so it’s still a little hard for me to swallow the Christian storyline at times. It’s not that I don’t like the message (I, myself, am a Christian) but sometimes that part of the story seems a little forced or preachy. It just doesn’t come across as natural as I would hope it to be.

Overall, I really liked this book and I felt that it brought to light an aspect of history that’s often overlooked. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning more about colonial Louisiana or who just likes a good, clean Christian romance.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit, just a lot of references to French soldiers spending the night with Native American women)


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Jocelyn GreenABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey [GIVEAWAY]

25320766Love, Lies, and Spies
by Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 19th, 2016
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

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SYNOPSIS: Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

REVIEW:¬†This book was quite enjoyable and reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel while at the same time using more modern language¬†and is therefore a quicker read. The characters were great. I really enjoyed both Juliana and Mr. Spencer Northam and thought they had a really fun relationship. Carrie and Mr. Reeves were both awesome secondary characters who acted as a great support system for Juliana and other secondary characters were delightfully hateable. Characters weren’t 100% original, but I found myself enjoying them anyway.

There wasn’t too much of a plot throughout the book, which I was okay with, but it did make the overall story¬†feel a little flatter. I was kind of bugged throughout that Juliana was supposed to be portrayed as this strong, intelligent woman, but then she keeps being put in physical danger where Mr. Northam has to save her. I would have just liked a little less “damsel in distress” and a little more “I don’t need a man to save me”.

Overall, I thought this book was a really fun read. The narration is witty and speeds the story along even if it seems like the author is trying a little too hard at times. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen novels and regency era stories.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None


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Version 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

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ANNOTATION: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

5971165The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date and # pages: January 1st 2009, 529 pages

Plot Summary: Elizabeth Woodville has lost both her husband and her lands to the Cousins’ war. She is left with two sons and has nothing left to lose as she pleads her case to the new king, Edward. Not only does she receive her lands back, but she finds herself secretly married to Edward as well. When the marriage is revealed, some are outraged and Elizabeth quickly makes enemies. As Elizabeth becomes accustomed to court, she is able to maneuver her family into position until the Rivers’ are one of the most powerful families at court. Things cannot stay peaceful for long however, and soon others are fighting her husband for the right to wear the crown. As a descendant of a water goddess, Elizabeth will do whatever she must to ensure her husband maintains the crown and that her son will wear it after.

Characteristics of Historical Fiction: Centers around both specific events and characters. Family saga as the series follows this family through generations. Language and characters are consistent with the time period. Readers are immersed in court life and the politics/motivations of various “players”.

Appeal Terms: Unhurried pace, descriptive language and details, character-driven

Read-alikes: The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson; The Virgin Queen’s Daughter by Ella March Chase; The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson; other titles by Philippa Gregory

BLOG TOUR: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor [GIVEAWAY]

NKNora & Kettle
by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 29th 2016

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SYNOPSIS: What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to‚ÄĒthe internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having ‚Äúone drop of Japanese blood in them‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒthings are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to na√Įve, eighteen-year-old Nora‚ÄĒthe privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

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REVIEW: This book…wow. I’ve never read anything quite like it. First let me start by saying that this book deals a lot with the mistreatment of individuals based on race as well as domestic violence/abusive relationships. If these are things that you have a hard time reading about, I advise you away from this book. That being said, I personally feel like these are really important things to read about and I feel like this book changed some of my perceptions.

The book started off a little slow for me. The reader is placed in the middle of some action so we have to play a little catch-up to really figure out just what is going on. I had a hard time figuring out what the plot might be or where this book was headed. It also seemed like it took forever for our protagonists to finally meet. For whatever reason I felt really anxious the whole time about them finding each other and that kept me from fully enjoying the first half of the book.

I really liked the historical portrait that was painted for us. It’s a very stark picture and it makes me so glad that I live in the time that I do. It’s hard for me to read about kids living on the street or being discriminated against based on race though I know it¬†did (and still does) happen. Taylor did a great job of making the setting come alive and creating a believable backdrop.

Despite the fact that this book is based off of the Peter Pan story, I feel like this book really transcends that idea. Like I said earlier, it deals with really important topics and I am so glad that I read it. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially Post-WWII era), fairy tale retellings, or just likes to read things that make them look at the world a little differently.

Overall Rating:4
Language: Moderate. Some stronger language scattered throughout.
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.