A Brother’s Price

abp

Blurb:   In a world where male children are rare, a man is a valuable commodity — to be sold to the highest bidder…

It isn’t easy being the oldest boy in a house run by women– especially for Jerin Whistler. The grandmothers of his clan are descended from soldiers, spies, and thieves–and their ruthless skills kept their family alive during their time in the wilderness. Jerin’s now afraid that he’ll have to marry the girls next door–a fate he’s convinced is worse than death. And it doesn’t help when, in the process of a daring rescue, he falls in love with a princess who’s as high above his station as it’s possible to be.

Ren knows that Jerin is too far below her class to be an appropriate match for her and her royal sisters. But then she hears rumors of a long-held Whistler family secret–one that might provide a way for them to finally be together. Unfortunately, she still has four sisters to convince. And that’s before Jerin even comes to the capital– where simmering political tensions will threaten not just their love but all their lives….

I’m a sucker for world-building and can be enticed to read almost anything if the culture intrigues me. So when I first heard about A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer, about a world ruled by women because men are extremely rare, the “what-ifs” had me interested enough to get my hands on it asap. It’s a bit different than my normal type – secular adult fiction that is not mystery or SciFi/fantasy. And I was a bit worried the romantic aspects of the story would stray into romance novel territory. Instead I found myself hooked on a unique alternate-universe set in a western turn-of-the-century time period. The women are tough and carry pistols! Children are taught from a young age how to handle a rifle and do their part – not just with running the farm or ranch but also protecting the menfolk from raiders! And the men are sheltered and precious – raised to be good husbands and fathers, traded with another family when they are of age. (This aspect I found fairly realistic. I remember reading once about India having similar problems with not enough women to go around and many families only allowing their daughters to marry if their son can wed the other family’s daughter.)

As already mentioned, I really enjoyed the culture in this world. While a bit of a ridiculous idea, I felt like the author  took the premise and made it have solid potential. I also enjoyed the intrigue – I dislike political intrigue with a lot of doublespeak but this was more like spy/assassin intrigue and had me champing at the bit for the characters to figure it out. And the climactic ending was so action-packed I was wishing I could see it in a movie. It was the perfect cap on a nail-biting situation.

I did find the “he loved each girl with all his heart” bit to be total bunk. Maybe I could have bought it if we didn’t have the Bible detailing over and over again how marriages with multiple spouses never fail to suffer from jealousy and unhappiness. And while not a porny romance novel, you can’t have a story that revolves around marriage/breeding without constant references to the subject, although handled tactfully. There is also a sex scene or two, though handled without many details.

All in all, I found A Brother’s Price well written and engaging. I also learned the author, Wen Spencer, writes popular science fiction and fantasy. My library only has book two for one of her series so I’ll have to order the books or just buy them myself. Either way, if they are anywhere near as good as this book was, I know I’ll enjoy them a lot!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Entertaining Angels

Entertaining Angels

Blurb: Madison Andrews can’t face her reflection in the mirror. All she sees is a big, fat nobody. Yet, deep inside she longs for something more, something that’s not skin deep. 

Along comes Zach, the new guy in school. He’s smoking hot and totally out of her league. She somehow catches his eye, and he makes her feel beautiful for once. But just as she gets close to Zach, her nerdy best friend, Chase, won’t let Madison doubt her true beauty, no matter how many meals she skips.

Even as Madison begins to realize that she is more than what she thinks, darker forces are at work, darker than the lies and mocking from her peers, stopping her from amounting to her full potential. Can Madison find true happiness in her own skin?

Entertaining Angels by Emerald Barnes is a tough book to categorize but I think calling it a spiritual-warfare-romance about covers it. I was expecting a clear-cut Christian YA romance so the spiritual-warfare aspect was an interesting surprise. My first thought after reading the above blurb was that Zach was playing some kind of mean trick on Madison. But once you start reading, it takes all of two seconds to combine the Entertaining Angels title with the fact that Zach runs around saying things like “your body is a temple of the Lord’s” and I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say Chase’s concerns regarding Zach are unfounded.

Despite being nearly 20 years older than Madison, I didn’t have much trouble identifying with her. Body-image is an insidious battle and something many girls struggle with off and on. I’ve never connected body-image with spiritual warfare before but it makes perfect sense and I appreciated the concept. Satan will latch on to anything to undermine or prevent our walk with Christ; weight can definitely be one of them. But regarding the rest of the spiritual warfare in the book I have mixed feelings.

I was raised Southern Baptist and while I know speaking in tongues is biblical, I am seriously skeptical about tongues being used without an interpreter; not to mention other, more pentacostal practices like being “slain in the spirit”. So when the book took a sharp veer into that territory I was caught off guard. That being said, I think the subject was handled fairly vaguely – mentioned in passing and then not really discussed again. Frankly, so was Madison’s salvation – rather than being preached at the reader, it’s glossed into a hazy experience and never defined as such.  It’s easy to overlook or debate theological differences in secular fantasy but I find myself more critical of books that are out-and-out Christian.

The romance was sweet and one of those “everyone knows what’s going on except the two involved” situations. But while clean, I don’t think they had the best habits regarding avoiding temptations. There’s a lot of hanging out alone in each other’s rooms, etc. Zach points this out once but it was never really followed up on. (Though my lasting thought after finishing the book is they were probably never tempted to go to far when they knew there was an invisible angelic presence always hanging around that just might pop out and say hi! lol)

Lastly, while a nice story, I never really bought the reasoning behind Zach appearing in the first place. Had he not come along, would things really have gone differently? Not to mention I don’t agree with the belief of personal guardian angels. And his actions toward her when she though he was a normal boy who might like her were awfully familiar and misleading – a lot of hugging, hand-holding, forehead kisses – which I felt were rather inappropriate when they were not in a relationship and very misleading when he had no intention to be. Not to mention Madison’s fixation with desiring to kiss him for the first half of the book…

So, overall, this was a simple spiritial-warfare/body-image story with cute romance aspects. I think it’s a good read for showing the spiritual side of the struggle and something most girls can relate to, but only if one is comfortable with more pentacostal Christianity.   (And I’ve already got a close friend clamoring to read it after previewing this review. ;)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Rebel Prince

The Rebel Prince by Celine Kiernan is the last in a trilogy about the medieval-fantasy, semi-political adventures of Wynter Moorehawke.

rebel

Blurb:  King. Country. Crown. What would you die for?

Wynter Moorehawk has braved bandits and Loup-Garous to find her way to Alberon–the exiled, rebel prince. But now that she’s there, she will learn firsthand that politics is a deadly mistress. With the king and his heir on the edge of war and alliances made with deadly enemies, the Kingdom is torn not just by civil war–but strife between the various factions as well. Wynter knows that no one has the answer to the problems that plague the Kingdom–and she knows that their differences will not just tear apart her friends–but the Kingdom as well.

Wynter, her friends, and the Merron tribe arrive at Alberon’s camp and reality slams back around our trio, reminding them of their social and political divisions. I hate diplomatic, political speak and it’s frustrating, at first, watching Razi and Wynter dance around the issues with Alberon. But whether it’s a result of their close relationship or the long journey away from court, it doesn’t take too long to cut to the chase and lay it all on the table. Finally, we get the answers that have been sought since the trilogy began. But not all at once – we get bits and pieces slowly building to a whole. And a whole ‘nother side to the story as we finally get to meet Alberon and learn his side of everything that has been happening.

And it’s a mess. A huge, jumbly, messy mess of wrongs and rights and do the ends justify the means and how to save a kingdom and it’s people and alliances made with those you hate for the sake of a purpose and how far should a leader have to sacrifice or compromise for his duty and responsibilities. The division between Alberon & his father is chasmic and I honestly thought war was inevitable. I just couldn’t see how Wynter and Razi would be able to mediate or resolve the differences of opinion (and approach) between the king and his disowned son.

Wynter also has to make her own choices and decide where to stand on her own convictions; political and social expectations, and the relationship she has established with Christopher, a social inferior so far as the court is concerned. In the second book, Christopher made his stance clear when introducing Wynter to his people and protecting her from the Loups-Garous. Wynter has the same opportunity here and you can’t help but love Christopher all the more for his patience and lack of pressure while she wrestles with the decision.

You’ve heard the cliche about a crisis balancing on the edge of a knife? Well, it’s quite literal in The Rebel Prince. And not everything gets wrapped up in a pretty bow once the fog clears and the weapons are laid down. But it feels like it does. After a long series of drawing out every detail and explaining every action, the story stops in the middle of a huge tumult and then is wrapped up in a sugary-sweet epilogue. If you felt cheated by The Hobbit (and Lord of the Rings) employ of “The eagles are coming” then you’ll likely feel a bit excluded from the resolutory action here.

Oh, but you finally get an answer for the whole wolves question. Frankly, while the ghosts served a narrative purpose in the first and second book (albeit small purposes), the talking cats were fun but felt like a bit of an unnecessary contrivance. And then you get “wolves” right in the latter third of this last volume and it felt out of left field. Going back & rereading, I can see where Kiernan sprinkled little hints along the way. But I think there has to be some basis to foreshadowing. Explaining what I mean through a different popular series – in Twilight, the hints that are laid regarding Edward being a vampire only work because the reader knows about the concept of vampires in the first place. The semi-fantasy/semi-reality world Wynter lives in never hints at the existence of anything outside of ghosts and talking cats (both of which are mentioned almost immediately in the first chapter of the first volume) so “wolves” being anything besides a solely canine-type animal felt like a sudden lurch in the established world-building.

All that being said, I enjoyed this series and it is difficult to browse through a volume looking for a particular passage as I find myself an hour later, happily rereading the entire thing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Crowded Shadows

The Crowded Shadows by Celine Kiernan is the second in a trilogy about the medieval-fantasy, semi-political adventures of Wynter Moorehawke.

crowded

Blurb:  Brother. Ally. Enemy. Who would you trust?

Every tyrant who ever threatened the Kingdom is gathering to Alberon’s table, and the forest is alive with spies, wolves, and bandits. Within these crowded shadows, Protector Lady Wynter Moorehawke travels alone and unprotected, determined that she shall find the rebel prince and heal the rift that has come between the King and his legitimate heir. But who is an ally and who is a foe? In this, the second volume of The Moorehawke Trilogy, old friends and even older enemies ensure that Wynter is never certain of who she can trust.

The book picks up where the first novel ended; Wynter, alone on the road, hoping to somehow find the hiding Prince Alberon. Fortunately she almost immediately stumbles on the two people she most wants to see, Christopher and Razi, who are secretly traveling in the woods for the exact same purpose. Together, they travel on and soon encounter more than one element from Christopher’s past. 

The Crowded Shadows is my favorite volume in the trilogy. Just picking it up to refresh my mind on one or two parts of the story was difficult as I kept finding myself sucked into the narrative. Firstly, unlike The Poison Throne which all took place within the palace grounds, this part of the story involves their travels. The setting, mainly surrounded by trees and around open campfires, the occasional stop at an inn, and various encounters with different enemies and friends, made for a much different vibe. Almost carefree despite the constant danger, after the stifling atmosphere of the court.

The second reason, and the main pull for me, was halfway through the book when they meet up with a Merron tribe.  Although not Christopher’s specific tribe, they are still his people, and it was fascinating to encounter such a unique people group. Their culture and beliefs were well developed and, while not always pleasant, believable. I am always intrigued by culture and the nomadic Merron’s similarity to Vikings was fascinating. We also learn a great deal more regarding how Razi and Christopher met, and Christopher’s backstory. It’s horrible but finally sheds light on one of the mysteries in this tale filled with unknowns.

As before, the relationships drive the story. Away from the strained politics of the court, the friendship between the main trio deepens as does the romance between Wynter and Christopher. The blurred physical boundaries continue on in much the same vein as before, and while the line is never crossed, it isn’t due to Wynter’s unwillingness. But in the context of the story, it made some sense. Away from society, living without pretense, it can be easy to forget the rules and just focus on the principles underneath them. As Wynter puts it, “We have made our promises to each other, Razi.”

The slight fantasy elements are not as apparent in this volume. Except for two seconds in the very last chapter, they don’t encounter any ghosts or cats so the realistic medieval environment settles around the characters. There is constant talk of the Loups-Garous as wolves but I was never sure how to take that – a description of their evil ways or something literal. There are also some other uncomfortable elements regarding the Merron. Homosexuality is accepted in their culture and the narrative, while not explicit, does not hide the fact. And while the Kingdom has always been painted in a way that made them seem somewhat “Christian” in their beliefs, the Merron are not and their pagan beliefs and practices caught me off guard. (Though had I been a little more familiar with Vikings…) The story is still violent and doesn’t gloss over many details but it doesn’t revel in them either.

Despite the fact that the story ends without meeting Alberon, it doesn’t feel like wasted filler as many middle books do. The main trio go through quite a journey to arrive on Alberon’s doorstep; not just physically, but in every other regard. And their purpose slowly transforms from just “find Alberon and figure out what’s going on” to “not just the Kingdom is at stake.” The next volume entices with the promise to finally reveal all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Prodigal Nights

I think I need to work on a review format. Reviewing one book should not take me hours, right? *sigh*

Prodigal
Blurb:    For two returning prodigals will the challenge to live “good” withstand the allure to be bad?

After a nasty divorce, Bethany Davis returned to college and lived up to the low standards set by gossips. Her dad’s stroke has now brought her home, and Bethany finds herself in a dilemma–how can she get beyond her past, learn to trust again, and live a “good” life? 

Bethany’s father’s involvement in the defense industry adds excitement to her expectation of a boring life back home. However, bodyguards, stalkers, and international secrets are the least of her problems–opening her heart to trust again is a totally different matter. And the mutual attraction with her new team leader, Jason Ross, spells the possibility of big-time heart trouble.

Jason’s days of wild living are over, and he’s determined to prove to himself and God that he’s on the right path. When Bethany steps into his office, he sees the girl of his dreams, but is she God’s gift or Satan’s temptress?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this suspenseful romance is lacking a blurb that adequately entices. While it states the central conflict well, it does so in a way that feels slightly off-putting, which is a shame because I really enjoyed the book and would hate for potential readers to get scared off by the “goody-two-shoes” blurb.

Prodigal Nights by Lisa Buffaloe is primarily Bethany’s story. Married young, things had fallen apart dramatically and when vicious gossip began to fly, Bethany had fled town and her faith to live the stereo-typical wild college life. That era behind her, she’s determined to move on when she is tricked into a summer back home. Bethany quickly finds herself caught between the new path she’s laid for herself and an attraction to a coworker. Afraid to risk her heart and determined to avoid physical temptations, where can Bethany find the strength to do the right thing?  Add bodyguards, a possible stalker and international intrigue from her father’s involvement in military defenses and Bethany’s got enough trouble to keep sleep far from her on these prodigal nights…

I enjoyed this book. A simple read but with more meat than an inspirational Harlequin, I found the suspenseful parts creepy and exciting. You know how some books (and movies) keep up the intrigue by having the character’s distracted by one problem only to have another creep in while the reader wants to shout “look behind you!”? Well, I was immensely gratified in this book because the character’s were smart enough to put two and two together and know something more was going on. I always respect intelligent, realistic characters!

I also appreciated the perspective on the physical side of a Christian romance. So many inspirational romances gloss over that aspect of human physiology as if Christian’s are exempted from “temptations of the flesh”. It’s unrealistic and I’d rather a romance prepare young ladies for those feelings than pretend they don’t exist.

Frankly, the only part of the book I disagreed with was the opinion the main couple seemed to have that it was harder for them to “be good” because they knew what they were missing. Coming from someone who married the only man she ever dated, I distinctly remember how strong those physical temptations can be and I didn’t have past indiscretions fueling the desires.

I did also think two of Bethany’s coworker friends were rather stereotypical. I would have enjoyed it more if Rhonda, the solid Christian, had been the one with spiky, tinted hair. But that’s a personal preference of mine, always going against the stereotype, and I doubt any other reader would notice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Komantcia

It’s sad this book seems to be out of print & doesn’t even have a description on Amazon.

komantcia

Inside flaps: The Comanches were the most fierce and warlike of all the Plains Indians. Their raiding parties terrorized settlers throughout northern mexico and the American Southwest during the 1860’s.

Komantcia opens when the Comanches are at the height of their power. The time is 1865 and Pedro, a young Spanish aristocrat who is accounted the finest guitarist in Spain, has been banished to his uncle’s rancho in northern Mexico. 

The rancho is hit by a Comanche raid. Pedro’s mother and uncle are killed. Fifteen-year-old Pedro and his younger brother Roberto are seized and brutally plunged into Comanche life. This is the story of the struggle between contrasting cultures for the heart and mind of a proud, sensitive boy.

Despite his resistance, Pedro is gradually absorbed into the tribe and accepts its folkways and mores. He becomes a renowned horse thief and grows to love the wild, sweet life.

He learns how to trail an enemy, and how to successfully hunt wild turkeys and other small game. Few things equal, in any way of life, the exhilaration of a buffalo hunt, as a small band of Indians pursue and fell great numbers of the immense, shaggy beasts. The Indian method of horseback riding is a revelation. The young men practice for hours at throwing themselves over their mounts to ride suspended along the horse’s side, virtually invisible.

Pedro’s story is an absorbing and total look into the life of the fearsome Comanches. The reader comes, with Pedro, to an understanding of their beliefs and of the forces that guide their lives. There are many fascinating Indians in Pedro’s new life – some good and some bad, and yet all, finally, with their own human dignity.

KOMANTCIA is built upon carefully researched documentation of Comanche life, and of the fate of their prisoners. Pedro’s story is a testament to the survival power of mankind. It shows how a strong faith can sustain a young man through the darkest of ordeals.

Komantcia, first published in 1965, is about a Spanish teen, Pedro, that is unfairly exiled from Spain along with his family & they move to Mexico (though nowadays we call that area the SouthWest of the USA). He and his younger brother are captured by Comanches in a raid their first night in Mexico & the story is about Pedro’s struggle to fit in & survive, biding his time while he waits for a chance to escape.

Pedro is given as a slave to an abusive brave and has a horrible time adjusting to his new life. But slowly he changes and earns himself freedoms, especially as he learns that he has a knack with horses. He begins to see the other side to life with the Comanche and meets kind people among the tribe. Gradually, he becomes a full member of the tribe, (adopted by the chief, I think), and eventually falls in love, all while still thinking he’s going to escape when the chance comes.

He and his brother were separated after the raid and when they meet again his brother was so young he had forgotten his life from before and it tears Pedro up to see it. Yet he doesn’t realize that he has changed, too.

Komantcia is a huge book and rather dark at times. Not gruesomely detailed but people die and are injured and mistreated. It’s packed with historical details and emotions and when I read this as a young teen, I felt like I was there with Pedro. It’s been close to 20 years and I still remember this book as amazing. It’s written by the author, Harold Kieth, who is more well known for writing Rifles for Watie, a Newbury medal winner.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tempestuous (Wondrous Strange trilogy #3)

Tempestuous brings back the heavy Shakespearean correlation with Kelley working on a performance of The Tempest. Unlike Darklight where the inclusion felt forced, The Tempest fit perfectly with Tempestuous and I feel it was a clever choice on Livingston’s part to tie the plays into the books the way she did. I actually hadn’t read/seen The Tempest before reading this volume but had to check it out afterwards. Again, if you haven’t read the first two volumes, this review can’t help but be slightly spoilery.

Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston

Blurb: “I don’t love Sonny Flannery.”

That’s the lie Kelley Winslow told to protect the boy she loves from a power he doesn’t know he possesses. Devastated, Sonny retreats—to a haven for Lost Fae that’s hidden deep underneath New York City.

But Kelley’s not about to let things end in heartbreak. To get Sonny back, she’s got to find out who’s after his magick—and how to use her own. She’s got to uncover who’s recruiting Janus Guards to murderously hunt innocent Faerie. She’s got to help rebuild the shattered theater company she called family. And she’s got to do it all without getting dangerously distracted by the Fennrys Wolf, whose legendary heart of stone seems to melt whenever he’s around Kelley.

If I thought Darklight started slowly, it was nothing compared to the depressing vibe that begins Tempestuous. But really, a lot is happening right from the beginning. Livingston just does such a good job expressing the melancholy, heartbrokenness of the characters that you become wrapped in it.

One of my favorite things about this book was that the characters actually think the exact same things you are thinking as you read. Kelley’s lie to Sonny is confronted by several characters. And you can understand her reasons, even if you don’t agree with them, just like you can understand the arguments against her choices. Finding a book that remembers the reader isn’t stupid and even goes out of its way to acknowledge our thoughts and questions? What a breath of fresh air!

This is the first volume where the prologue didn’t bother me in the least. It fits and doesn’t alert us to anything we don’t already know. Several Fae are introduced or fleshed out that were previously side characters. Kelley has a Mary Sue moment but promptly messes it up thereby saving herself from a stereotypical end. The action is much more drawn out in this volume. Unlike the last 2 volumes, the action runs the length of the book (after the slow start) though, of course, building toward the ending. I found myself thinking this series would make an excellent movie due to the pace.

The story wraps up nicely. Everything explained, not necessarily tied up with a bow but no dangling threads or unanswered questions. And while I feel Kelley and Sonny’s story is done, there is plenty of room for a spin-off series featuring Fenn. (The first of which was actually released just a few months ago!!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.