Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Graham Quartet and the Mysterious Strangers

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Description: In the midst of the cold, snowy woods, the Graham Quartet stumble across a mystery. It could mean danger, but that doesn’t stop Elsa, Matt, Tim and Selena as they try their best to help a stranger who needs them. But what can Siam, Hong Kong and Vanderbilt have to do with the local furniture factory? And why are so many strangers suddenly appearing and then disappearing in town? With the arrival of an elusive figure, things start moving, while a simple delivery trip may bring more than the Quartet bargained for. Will the four siblings be able to help their friend and their country?

While I bought and read a Rebekah Morris book a while back, my sister Mikayla can’t stop talking about her. She keeps asking me when Morris is coming out with another book and wants all of them. I finally sat down and read some more of Morris’ works, and I can see why my sister is so crazy about it. Here are some of the reasons her books are so good.

They are not heavy on the romance. So many books these days are so heavy on the romance there is not much else to the plot. While I like romance as much as the next girl, it is nice to see books about other topics.
They are clean in every way. You never have to worry when you open up one of her books about what you might find.
They feel like old-fashioned books, giving you a nostalgic feeling.

The Graham Quartet and the Mysterious Strangers remind me of many of the childhood mystery books I read growing up. Yet this story has an element of faith, and parents the kids trust.

Homeschool families will especially appreciate the aspect of respect and interaction with the parents.
My one complaint about this book is that at times it felt historical (the 1950's) and at other times I wondered if maybe it were supposed to be a modern story. It might not be that important to most readers, but it was a bit distracting to me.

I loved how each of the kids had their own personality that was so well conveyed. Like in many families, they have an identity as a unit, but each is unique. Morris did a great job developing each of the kids’ personalities and sticking with it.

The mystery itself was kid friendly and interesting at the same time. Things were never boring in the story but also didn’t feel hyped and fake. There was very little violence in it as well. What little there was, the kids were shielded from, so you only get a vague impression of it. There is no murder, gore, or grossness.

I highly recommend this story for those who love clean mysteries, youth fiction, and nostalgic reads.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Ankulen

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Description: Fifteen-year-old Jen can't remember her imagination. She knows she had one once, though, and honestly, she'd like it back. It's been eight years. One day she finds a young boy who claims to be one of her imaginary friends and that her imaginary world is being eaten by a hydra-like monster called the Polystoikhedron. He helps her find the Ankulen, a special bracelet that had given the ability to bring her imagination to life and together they embark on a quest to find friendship, healing, and perhaps even some family.

I wasn’t feeling good one day and looked on my Kindle. I can always count on Ardnek to give me something easy to read and full of imagination. However, this is my favorite book of hers yet. Very light, very fun, and very different.

The whole setting of this book is just plain cool: a girl inside her imagination, which has lots of different aspects to it. It reminded me a lot of my childhood imagination, except I was never as organized as Jen. The world, so carefully crafted, was just plain fun.

Jen was such a believable character, and her struggle to reclaim her imagination felt real. I liked how different she was from some of the other Ardnek leading ladies. She wasn’t as annoying as I found the main girl in the Quest books.

All the other characters just sparkled and were full of color (wink). The old woman was one of my favorites, even though she wasn’t really in the story much.

Other than nearly being lulled to sleep while the story was in the dream castle, the story kept me turning pages. It was so much fun. However, I was taken completely surprised by the powerful message toward the end. I was blinking rapidly at the skill, because the message had been there all the time, yet it surprised me. It was very well done.

I highly recommend this to those who like mild fantasies, imaginary worlds, and just want a lighthearted read.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Suit and Suitability

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Description: The mystery surrounding their father’s criminal accusations is almost as hard to solve as the many puzzles springing on their hearts. 
Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

I have a confession to make. I pushed my way through watching two different versions of Sense and Sensibility and did not enjoy either. Marianne drove me crazy with her over-dramatizing of everything and, while I loved Elinor, she couldn’t save the films for me. However, I knew I loved Bryant’s work, and so I wanted to give this book a try. I am so glad I did.

Bryant was able to make me feel as if I had been transported back to Canton in 1935, so vivid were the descriptions. The settings were wonderfully descriptive and captured the places and feelings of the time. I felt as if I was visiting the places as they were in 1935.

Ellen and Marion were perfect. They captured not only the original characters but also the spirit of the time. Ellen captured the seriousness of the times and the properness of times past. Marion captured the dreams for a better future and the effects of the 20’s. I loved the plot twist that their father was alive and accused of a crime. It added an interesting dynamic to the story and to the two sisters.

The faith element in this story was wonderful. It wasn’t forced, overdone, or neglected. Each character, like in life, has a different struggle. The story gives a gentle message of faith that is woven almost imperceptibly into the story at times, yet when it comes to an end, you can see how it has been there the whole time.

As with Bryant’s other books, you won’t find any objectionable content in this story. Even the romance is in keeping with Jane Austen’s gentle, non-physical standards. It is rare to find a book that deals with real issues so well yet so clean.

I highly recommend this to those who love historical fiction, Jane Austen, and clean fiction.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sufficient Grace

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Description: Four years have passed since tragedy broke Grace’s family apart, tarnished the family name, and sent her into hiding at finishing school. Now with a new last name and a few years between her and the accident; Grace wonders if she will be able to escape the heavy shadow of the past that smothers her with guilt and a desire to escape life. 
Grace carefully guards her heart from others to prevent them from discovering her past. However, when Mitch, a deputy, comes into her life, he seems bent on destroying Grace’s armor. Can Grace really trust someone with the secrets that haunt her, or will they destroy her once again?

While I have loved both Annabeth’s War and The Captive of Raven Castle, I have to admit that this is by far my favorite Greyson book so far.

Moving away from the realm of fantasy, Greyson takes us to the old west. Her story drops us in the middle of the action of girls that have been kidnapped from a stagecoach, and the story just is amazing from there.

My heart immediately felt connected with Grace’s. So many of the emotions that she experienced are ones that I have felt myself. She was so wounded, yet also strong. She was someone you wanted to hug and respected at the same time. Throughout so much of the story, you wonder why Grace is choosing to do some of the things she is doing, yet also not confused, if that makes sense.

Mitch was an amazing character, too. He reminded me of Ransom in Annabeth’s war, yet he was different. Mitch’s unconditional love and how he truly cares for Grace was so sweet. So much of the story focuses on their friendship. Yes, there is a hint of romance, but more on friendship.

You can always count on Greyson for solid faith messages, and this was no exception. This book held the themes of telling the truth, redemption, and allowing others to be there for you. Yet, more than any other story she has written, I feel the message within this book will minister to the heart of those who read it.

I never wanted to put the book down. That is probably the reason I didn’t and read it all in one day. It kept me flipping pages wanting to find out what happened next. When it was finished, I wished that it wasn’t over.

I highly recommend this to those who love western stories, light romance, and a whole lot of action.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Sound of Emeralds

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Description: What once was blazing hatred has turned to lasting love, but could the union of a wild heart with that of a lady ever result in more than heartache?
With the help of an old friend with uncertain loyalties, Dirk inches ever closer to clearing his name. Gwyneth throws her faith into good tidings and the promise of a future as a family. But an old evil comes to call, just as tragedy rips apart a fledgling truce. Enemies from the past and grief for the future threaten to tear asunder what God had brought together…
As the date of Dirk’s trial approaches, his fate and his family hang in the balance. Will he be proven innocent of Gwyneth’s parents’ murders—or separated from her forever? How much pain does it take to erode a love steadfast?

Wow! What a powerful conclusion to the series. I just sat staring off into space for a few minutes after finishing, soaking in what I had just read.

This story held a lot more kissing and such than the last two books, but that isn’t surprising or disturbing, as Gwyn and Dirk are now married. Their love was sweet and deep, which I loved. Besides, it isn’t every author that goes beyond the wedding day. I cheered when I found out that Rachelle took this story farther than most authors would have.

Dirk and Gwyn’s marriage is far from perfect. In fact, most of the story is spent with a wide gulf between them. I think that perhaps they struggled more in this book than they ever did in the first book. Dirk and Gwyn both make some big mistakes in how they cope with a tragedy, and I loved that. This book dealt with a lot of raw pain in a way that was realistic and God-honoring. So many authors miss this sweet spot, and Rachelle Rea Cobb nailed it!

The hardest thing about a series that I love is saying goodbye. While this book was an emotional roller-coaster, the ending was beautiful and satisfying. While I would love to read more about Dirk and Gwyn, the story must come to an end sometime.

This whole series was a delight. I highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction, romance, and dealing with emotional issues in a godly way.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Sound of Silver

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Description: The stalwart saint and the redeemed rebel. One is fighting for faith, the other for honor…
After Dirk rescues Gwyneth from the Iconoclastic Fury, she discovers that faith is sometimes fragile—and hope is not as easy as it may seem. Gwyneth continues her quest to learn more about the love of God preached by Protestants she once distrusted.
Meanwhile, Dirk’s quest is to prevent his sullied name from staining hers. Will his choice to protect her prove the undoing of her first faltering steps toward a Father God? Once separated, will Dirk and Gwyneth’s searching hearts ever sing the same song?

I was so excited to finally read the second book in this series. I actually sat down one Sunday and read straight through them. It was a great way to see the story woven together, but it also makes the details of the books blend together. I am sorry for any blending in my brain that has taken place.

Dirk still seeks to clear his name, but he faces a lot of obstacles. I love how he is drawn to Gwyn, yet wants to save her from his reputation. So many heroes don’t hesitate to bring the girl they love into danger with them, so it was nice to see Dirk trying to protect Gwyn.

Speaking of protecting Gwyn, she didn’t make it easy. As in the last book, sometimes she did her own thing, which put her in danger. Sometimes I wanted to shake her for being stupid, but most of the time I just adored how much she cared about the people around her.

This story was so good that I couldn’t wait to start the next book… and so I didn’t. I dove right into it.

I highly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction, mild romance, and lots of exciting twists.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Sound of Diamonds

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Description: In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption.
An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth's only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her.
But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope...or be overcome?

I don’t think I have ever been so embarrassed about a book review. Seriously, I was one of the first people to read this book. I read it before a publisher looked at it. I cheered this book on and pre-ordered a copy. I was part of the original blog tour and the Thunderclap campaign. Why has it taken me so long to write a review? Yes, this is embarrassing, especially since it was such a good book.

Rachelle Rea Cobb has had a voice like no other since I first met her all those years ago. It is engaging, poetic, and just plain special. She is one of those authors that you feel as if you could be handed a random paragraph they have written and know that it was them right away.

I loved Gwyn in so many ways. Her wearing glasses and needing them to see well was such a realistic touch to the story. So often, the girls in books are physically perfect, and Gwyn having this defect was so awesome. Her emotions felt so real, and her struggle with whom to believe made my heart ache.

Dirk was a bit annoying at first, but I loved him very quickly. His fierce protectiveness of Gwyn, even when she doesn’t see the need for it was so sweet. He was a good match for Gwyn. As the book progresses and you learn more and more about him, it makes you love him more.

The faith element was woven in expertly. It neither dominated the whole story nor took a back seat. Redemption in salvation and in life were themes that were a huge part of the story. Rachelle, you did a great job.

The hardest thing for me about the story was the fact it had changed. I read a very early version so when I read the published version, there were things missing and added. The ending felt quite different, but I expect that is because two books were added. Yet, I also had the privilege of seeing a great draft become an amazing published book. How awesome is that?

I highly recommend this book for those who love romance, adventure, and historical fiction.