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review 2018-06-01 21:55
The Second Blast of the Trumpet: The Second Book In The Knox Trilogy - Marie Macpherson

Usually in trilogies, novels start losing their pace during the second instalment. However, this is not the case with The Second Blast of the Trumpet. It picks up right where the first instalment ends.

 

We re-join - the not so young by now - John Knox soon after he was set free from serving his sentence as a galley slave. His fervour and his determinations to bring about a reformation to his beloved Scotland are stronger than ever and he is ready to preach. But he continues to come across political and religious boulders that obstruct his way to glory. We follow him on his journey through England to Switzerland and back and watch him develop into the man who will bring about the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. 

 

Marie MacPherson skilfully continues to lift the curtain on the not so well known part of John Knox's life and his influence on people around him, especially women.  The novel is not short of historical characters such as Marie de Guise, William Cecil and John Calvin and the political intrigue that took place behind closed curtains. I will admit - it was refreshing to read a novel that expresses what the other side thought of the Tudors and their politics. :D

 

I had a privilege to read the book in its draft form and thoroughly enjoyed it in its print form as well. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  

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review 2017-06-19 02:06
Conclave - Robert Harris

I love these kinds of novels. I’m always up for a plot filled with intrigue, who’s going to backstab who, who’s got the dirty secrets and who’s the horrible but cunning bastage that will expose these secrets and so on….

 

I had to whip out my dictionary for these latin/Catholic terms that are prevalent throughout this novel. (My knowledge in Catholicism is very rusty.) But you learn something new all the time right? Now I know there’s actually names for each piece of their clothing these men wear.

 

I love how it in the first third of the novel the plotting to be the next pope starts. It’s a reminder that even though these people are spiritual figureheads and we look to them as authority figures, they’re still humans with ambition. But this is the part I loved reading the most. I love the intrigue, I love the plotting. I love how Lomeli is in the middle of this and is trying to make sure everything in the voting process is legitimate.

 

You have a group of characters to keep track of, but there isn’t much to them. They’re broken into cliques to keep track of them easily but the book is centralized on Lomeli and he’s the only one that develops throughout the novel. He’s likable for the most part and does deal with his inner self for the most part. He has his faults as well which makes sense (who doesn’t want to be pope?!) which makes these characters realistic.

 

The plot itself starts off really well. I liked the pace and events during the story. What bothered me was the last third of the novel where everything went chaotic and the author seemed to inject some action to make it more lively. I didn’t think it was necessary and there wasn’t any need for that. What I would prefer is more intrigue and inner plotting amongst the Cardinals. (There was but there was no need to the action sequence which wasn’t even a feature it happened “off screen”.)

 

Another thing which didn’t sit too well was it was one thing after another with the surprises. First it was this guy. Then the other. Oh, can’t forget this guy either. We already elected the pope? No wait here’s another monkey wrench. It was just too much (by the end I was screaming out: “Just give him the papacy and let’s go home. This is getting ridiculous”.) Some parts were spaced out but it just felt too much. However, good on the author to make sure all the loose ends were tied together. Nothing was left unanswered.

 

I liked this book but it would have been better without all the extra bits and pieces here. More intrigue and plotting within. It’s what makes it so much better. Otherwise, it was a short quick read and worth it. Just remember this is an alternate history of events.

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review 2017-04-01 18:47
Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk
Rightfully Ours - Carolyn Astfalk

4 1/2 stars

 

I received an digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. I didn't think I would find a couple who I liked together as much as Landen and Torina from The Seer and the Sword, but I really like Paul and Rachel.

 

My favorite parts of this book were where the characters were going through external troubles and supported each other. The depiction of their relationship when they weren't having the external troubles was realistic (at least to my knowledge) in every way except for the fact that, once they were a couple, they didn't have one argument. They had a fight before they acknowledged their wish for more than just friendship, and they had moments of mild irritation with one another after they had kissed, but they didn't have any serious fights, which as much as I dislike seeing characters who I ship argue, I think that it could have been a way to show how they chose to love. In the book they were fighting with the temptation to show their love in physical ways before they were married, but because they never fought they also never had the opportunity to take a good look at their relationship and decide if it was worth the work it takes to remain in love. I got so nervous when they were going through temptations. I was nervous through a good portion of the book starting from the moment when they [spoiler] had their first kiss after having a little bit too much champagne and going until about the time Paul talked to Sean about his relationship with Rachel.[/spoiler]

 

My two favorite parts were the times right after Paul's dad died and when he saved Rachel's life. These two parts of the story showed Paul's vulnerability and his strong love for people, his dad, and Rachel. It seemed like Paul's personality was fleshed out a little bit more than Rachel's in the story. I can't remember if we had more time from Paul's point of view or if it just felt like that because he went through more trials than Rachel. Don't get me wrong, I still like Rachel a lot, but Paul was my favorite in this book. (hey, I just realized that Paul and Rachel have the same names as Paul and Rachel from The Midnight Dancers

 

I didn't like Sean at first. The first moment we're introduced to him he is blaming Paul for their missing a turn in the road and we really didn't get to know him after that until after he'd gotten married, and then I found that I really, really liked him. I just wished I hadn't gotten the wrong idea about his character before that. I was mildly confused as to why Paul wouldn't move in with Sean and Amanda after Sean moved out of the hotel since the whole reason why Paul had been living with the Muellers was so that Sean could be reimbursed for having to move to Pennsylvania to work, which the company would only do if Sean was living by himself in a hotel. I mean, I guess if the Muellers didn't mind Paul it was probably nice for Sean and Amanda to live by themselves, but Sean was Paul's legal guardian so it seemed odd.

 

Rachel's dad was pretty well characterized as the kind but strict, protective parent, but we didn't get to know her mother or brother, James, very well, and I sort of wish we could have gotten to know Paul's dad before he died. Though that probably wouldn't have fit into the book very well.

 

Parents and cautious teens should know that one of the main plot-points is that two teens in a serious relationship are making decisions about sex and marriage, and whether to save sex for marriage. [spoiler] While they save sex until marriage, they had several moments of strong temptation that could make younger teens uncomfortable.[/spoiler]

 

As a pop-musically challenged person I didn't know any of the songs that were mentioned in the books, and, although the lyrics did fit Paul's situation I didn't have the ability to hear in my head what they sounded like, and the Springsteen one was the only one with a performer listed with it so I could look it up. This didn't bother me terribly, but I found a couple of the lyrics to be moving and wanted to see if the music did them justice.

 

I don't usually like romance books. Christian romance books have a tendency to be too sickly sweet and overly simplified, and secular romance books are too stuffed full of sex. This book reached a very good balance, not being too sex-filled, but also being more candid than most Christian romances about the way relationships really work. I really enjoyed this book and it's characters. I think that it would be nice to visit Rachel and Paul again, maybe with them as side characters for another book. [spoiler] Though I would have liked to see Paul and Rachel's wedding, and Paul's reaction to Rachel's pregnancy,[/spoiler] I found the ending to be a satisfying conclusion to a very good book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-05 20:06
The Wildcat of Braeton - Claire M. Banschbach

I was suffering for a huge reading slump while in the middle of this book. It was a big bummer.

 

I'm having trouble reviewing this one. We got to see most of our favorite characters again. Corin repeatedly tells his men that this second war will be harder than the first because the Calorins know their fighting techniques, but I had some trouble buying that since the last time they were fighting from the trees, collecting men to help fight by saving them from slavery. The Calorins may have had a better idea of what they were up against in this book, but the Aredorians were also more prepared. That said, the book had improved in at least one way over the old one; no more video game fights without loss of the good guys. Three major characters who we care a lot about were killed in this book. I didn't cry, but I did feel emotional. In the first book, I complained because I felt like everyone surviving was unlikely, and because the book could have made me emotional with character losses. In this book I'm complaining because I didn't want characters to die. Don't get me wrong, I think that the deaths of these favorite characters made the book a lot more realistic, and it made the stakes seem real. It's like in Harry Potter, I don't like that so many of my favorite characters died, but it does make the victory sweeter.

 

I gave this book four stars. So if character deaths made me emotional, one of the flaws of the first book was fixed, and the victory felt sweet, why did I knock off a star from what I gave the first book? I guess there could be a couple reasons. I really liked the setting in Calorin, and Aiden left there a lot more quickly than Corin. I also liked Corin's POV better than Aiden's. We got some of each in this book, but I think that Aiden is a little bit more likeable when we aren't in his head. But both of those things are small. I stilled liked Aiden, even if not as much, and the English/Scottish style Aredor and Braeton are still exciting, even though both books put me in the mood for fiction set in the desert. The real reason this book lost a star is the ending. The epilogue was hard. I always find epilogues that say 'and then the main characters died' hard to read. They make me feel melancholy. But this was worse than most because most epilogues like that end with the characters dying peacefully from old age, but not this one. Aiden spent the rest of his life mourning Rona, and died in an ambush on a pass. Corin and Darrin were killed in a battle with raiders and Argusians, and as he died, Corin saw his old friends who had already died AND AHMED IS COUNTED AMONG THEM, even though we barely even saw Ahmed this book, we didn't know he died, we don't know how he died. Mera had died the year before Aiden (hopefully peacefully) and Liam also eventually dies and is buried close to Martin where they become legends. Tam played a lament after Aiden's death, and then never played again. Darrin and Corin's children were strong leaders and even though their fathers died in a raid, they were able to keep Aredor free. I don't know. This ending is just not satisfying. It's frustrating. It almost feels like a tragedy instead of a triumph.

 

So overall I really liked this book, but I wasn't a big fan of the epilogue.

 

I received an ebook from the author with the request of a review. (I also have a physical copy.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-07-04 22:27
Now Enrolling: Prayer 101
Ways to Pray: Growing Closer to God - Cardinal Donald W Wuerl

Everyone comes from different religious backgrounds. For those of you who have been with me since the start of this blog, you know that my particular religious background is that of a cradle-born Catholic, the daughter of two converts to the Catholic faith (one of whom has a Ph.D in Theology and has taught Theology in Catholic colleges since I was a baby); you know that my educational background has always steered toward the Catholic side, what with using Kolbe Academy as a high school program and having gone to the University of Saint Francis for my B.A.; you know that my life hasn't been a life devoid of guidance and growth in my spirituality.

 

This book taught me a lot.

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl's Ways to Pray: Growing Closer to GOD is a good book for anybody in any walk of spiritual life. Don't be scared by the fact that this book taught a cradle Catholic with a very formative religious upbringing; whether you are like me and have been praying since you could talk, or whether you have never said a prayer in your life (or, at least, have said very few!), this book will offer you a Prayer 101 that meets you where you are.

 

How? How can a book meet people with very different experiences, in very different places in life and development, right where they are...right where they need to be met?

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