Friday, April 17, 2015

Seeking Persephone

By Sarah M. Eden

When Persephone Lancaster receives a marriage proposal from the ill-tempered Duke of Kielder, she refuses—and then reconsiders. The obscene sum of money he’s offering Persephone would save her family from ruin. With her characteristic optimism, she travels to the far reaches of Northumberland to wed a greatly feared stranger. Lodged deep in a thick forest infested with wild dogs, the Duke’s castle is as cold and forbidding as the Duke himself, a man with terrible scars on his body and his soul. But the Duke’s steely determination to protect his heart at all costs is challenged by his growing attachment to his lovely and gentle bride. With caring persistence, Persephone attempts to pierce the Duke’s armor and reach the man beneath. Yet he cannot tolerate such exposure, and his repeated rejections take their toll. But when grave danger arises, the Duke realizes he must face the risk of revealing his true feelings or lose the woman he cannot live without.

I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, though in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been. It’s a very beauty and the beast-like retelling, though it can also said to be a retelling of the mythology surrounding Persephone and Hades. I really enjoyed that not-so-subtle nudge. It actually endeared this story to me even more. Persephone was a good character, not given to being pitying, but also finding her situation difficult, she was realistic and also innocent and exactly what Adam needed. Adam himself was a great “Beast” character, being scarred and having a decidedly terrible reputation that scares the wits out of almost everyone he meets. I loved the interplay and slow blossoming love between the two of them. The awkwardness displayed by Adam as he wishes to open himself to Persephone, but not knowing quite how, is one of the best parts of the novel. I highly recommend this novel as a clean book as well as a good romance.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Courting Miss Lancaster

By Sarah M. Eden

Harry Windover adores blonde, green-eyed Athena Lancaster, but alas, a penniless man like himself has no hope of winning a young noblewoman’s hand. To add insult to injury, Athena’s brother-in-law and guardian, the Duke of Kielder, has asked Harry to assist Athena in finding the gentleman of her dreams. But the lovesick Harry is cunning as well: as the weeks pass, he introduces Athena to suitors who are horrifically boring, alarmingly attached to their mothers, downright rude, astoundingly self-absorbed, and utterly ridiculous. Athena can’t comprehend why she is having so little success meeting eligible and acceptable gentlemen. Indeed, her circle of admirers couldn’t be less admirable—nothing like the loyal, gentle friend she’s found in Harry. But how long can Harry’s scheme be hidden before it is discovered? And what will Athena do when she uncovers Harry’s deception?

I was excited to read this book because I so liked Harry in Seeking Persephone. He was the only soul that could be comfortable around Adam (The Duke of Kielder) and not be intimidated by his demeanor. His humor and knack for putting everyone at ease made me excited to read his love story, wanting very much to see him happy. I was a little disappointed at the plot, and at Athena, whose character felt a bit shallow. She was described as a beauty, kind, and all things congenial. It was a little boring to be honest. Harry was a little too thick-skulled in how he treated Athena, though it was well-thought-out as to why. It wasn’t my favorite of Sarah Eden’s books, and I adore some of her others.

I give it a 3 out of 5

The Merchant's Daughter

By Melanie Dickerson

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

Hey look, I found another retelling of Beauty and the Beast! This is a Christian themed, and medieval set telling of the fairy tale. It is the second book written by Melanie Dickerson, The first of which is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. While I worried at first that Dickerson favored having her heroines’ virtue come into jeopardy, I was relieved to note that she always has them rescued and never has it go anywhere beyond being chased and sometimes hit. Being Christian myself, I enjoyed the religious aspect of this novel, especially how God answers Annabel’s petition to be able to read the Bible through placing her in a position to read it to Lord Ranulf. I particularly enjoyed the perspective of someone reading the Bible for the first time, it was sweet and endearing. Lord Ranulf’s back story was different than any other “Beast” character than I’d previously read and that made me like the story quite a lot more than I would have, but at the same time I didn’t like the story as much as The Healer’s Apprentice because of the horrible Bailiff that had ill intentions towards Annabel, which made me nervous the entire time I was reading. For a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it was alright, though not a favorite.

I give this a 3.5 out of 5- mostly for the religious aspect that I appreciated. 


By Alethea Kontis

Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Firday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday’s palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he’s her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday’s unique magic somehow break the spell?

Alethea Kontis’s previous books about the Woodcutter sisters Sunday and Saturday were in turns charming, heartwarming, and entertaining. I admit that I enjoyed Sunday’s story the most, (Enchanted) and Saturday’s story was a little uncomfortable and not as engaging for me personally. Friday’s story, however, I was excited to read because she was always portrayed as so gentle and loving. I was a bit miffed at how they treated the love story, and I had hopes toward the end that it would not be as straightforward as I previously thought, but it ended up being a very contrived and destiny-driven love story. I’m not a fan of love at first sight. This was almost a forced romance. The story of the swans was a good choice for Friday, and I liked how it also mingled in with Swan Lake. This story occurs in sync with Saturday’s.  All in all, it was entertaining and fluffy.

This gets a 3 out of 5- Average.

Brotherband 5: Scorpion Mountain

By John Flanagan

Hal, his Brotherband crew, and the Ranger Gilan have freed the twelve Araluens sold into slavery. Returning to Araluen, Gilan is given a new mission by King Duncan: protect his daughter’s life. Princess Cassandra has survived one attempt on her life already, and now whispers of a second attempt have reached the kingdom. A deadly sect known as the Scorpion Cult is thought to be behind the assassination threat.
Not waiting to see if the knife will strike true, the Brotherband again team up with Gilan to track down the would-be killers.

Having loved the 4th Brotherband I was excited to delve into this latest installation, hoping against hope that there would be a cameo appearance from some of the other Rangers. Sadly, they were mentioned but not seen. It was, however, a fun romp as usual. I enjoyed especially Thorn’s parts in the story. I loved Halt in Ranger’s Apprentice, and now I find myself enjoying Thorn as a Skandian sort of version of the surly Ranger.  What can I say about the story other than it’s chuck full of action, adventure, diabolical schemes to be foiled, friendship, honor, and some good old fashioned brawls? As per usual with John Flanagan, he’s delivered a top notch story that will have readers of all ages begging for more, which they already do! I’m glad Flanagan decided to give Gilan a spotlight in these books, as he wasn’t often in Rangers with a large part to play. Keep on reading they just keep getting better!

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Love Comes Softly

By Janette Oke

Marty and Clem set out for the pioneer West full of hopes and dreams. They would stake a claim of their own on the new frontier, and build a home for themselves and their family.  But just after they'd arrived and Clem had chosen the perfect setting for their new home, an accident took his life...leaving Marty alone and pregnant. Then, on the day of his funeral, Clark Davis came along...and asked Marty to marry him!
Marty was infuriated -- but with no money, no shelter, and a baby on the way, what choice did she have? Besides, Clark said he only wanted her to be a mama to his baby girl, Missie. If Marty was still unhappy come spring, he would pay for her ticket back East. Determined not to be a burden to Clark, and intending only to earn her keep. Marty threw herself into her new role of "Mama." But she had never been anyone's mama before, and she didn't even know how to keep a house! If only she could do right by this lonely man and his daughter just long enough to earn her train fare back home...
Now, Marty must learn wholeness and love through patience and faith.

I decided that I would read this book after seeing how many people have loved and watched the television movies of the books, and knowing that usually the books are better than the movies, I had to try them out. At first I thought it was worse than the movie because I had difficulty getting used to the dialogue. “thet” instead of “that”, Iffin, askin’ and a bunch of other words that made what I had thought of as more educated characters difficult to read. I admit it, I was annoyed by the ignorant way they spoke, and wished that the author would’ve just written in plainer English. But, thankfully, the plot and story grabbed my attention, putting those oh so important details that movies always miss into the story, and the language became endearing. I found myself loving Marty’s realization of love for Clark, and her desire to know Clark’s God. It was a lovely read, despite my early annoyance at the language.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

All the Wrong Questions: Who Could That be at This Hour?

By Lemony Snicket

In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn’t be read. This is the first volume.

There isn't an author quite like Lemony Snicket when it comes to writing a book with a truly unique tone. In his distinctive and humorous writing, Lemony Snicket undertakes to write about his early adventures with an undisclosed organization. With caricatures of hilarious magnitude, Lemony finds himself in the middle of scrape after scrape, and he keeps asking all the wrong questions. His mentor is completely useless, and repetitively tells him not to be so repetitive! I was very entertained and snorting at the clever way Lemony is able to teach his readers new words and situations by being completely overt about it. It’s funny and intriguing and makes you want to know, who is the friend he was supposed to meet? What will his next adventure be? And what does this story have to do with the Lemony Snicket we know who writes about the Baudelaires? Or am I asking all the wrong questions?

I give it a 3.5 out of 5