Book Reviews

Esther: Royal Beauty (Dangerous Beauty #1) by Angela Hunt

Esther

Title: Esther: Royal Beauty (Dangerous Beauty #1)
Author: Angela Hunt
Rating: ★★★★★

A Bible story brought to life! After she is forcibly taken to the palace of the king, a beautiful young Jewish woman, known to the Persians as Esther, wins a queen’s crown and then must risk everything in order to save her people . . . and bind her husband’s heart…

An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king’s heart and a queen’s crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king’s permission to exterminate all Jews–young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people…and bind her husband’s heart.

Esther marks bestselling author Angela Hunt’s return to biblical fiction. In each novel she explores an example of a Hebrew Old Testament tob woman: a woman whose physical beauty influences those around her–and can change the course of history.

Esther: Royal Beauty ★★★★★

This is a historical fiction novel based on the story of Esther. Living in a time where women are seen more as objects than equals, Hadassah dreams of becoming a royal one day. After both of her parents die, Hadassah is sent to live with her cousin and his wife. Not truly understanding the life of a royal, she wants more than the simple life her cousin provides and is content with.

After getting bored with his current wife, Xerxes sends out a royal decree in the search of a new wife. Men go on the lookout for these women and kidnap them in exchange for money. On the way to freedom with her betrothed, Esther is captured and brought to the king’s eunuchs. When presented to the king’s eunuchs, these women are prepped and pampered to impress the king. However, only one will be chosen and the rest will be sentenced to lives as the king’s concubines. In a place where Jews are viewed as inferior and killed for no reason other than their nationality, Hadassah cannot let anyone in the castle know her secret, so she changes her name to Esther.

Esther is the first presented to the king and chosen as his new Queen. However, she receives all of the king’s attention in the beginning, until her own unhappiness reveals itself after losing her first child. After that, the king seeks the comfort of others.

When a new counselor takes an evil approach to Jews, especially Esther’s cousin, Esther must stand up for what she believes, even if that means risking her life. With the help of the king’s eunuch, Harbonah, Esther finds true friendship and empathy.

Hadassah (“Esther”) – Queen; Beautiful; Courageous

Harbonah – Eunuch; Gentle; Emphathetic

A story of growth, disappointment, ambition, and an exciting account of the Bible, Esther will have readers fall in love with a story of righteousness and maturity.

Book Reviews

An Authentic Experience by Kelly Wittmann

An Authentic Experience

Title: An Authentic Experience
Author: Kelly Wittmann
Rating: ★★★★

Fifteen-year-old Silver Abelli’s life has been as tumultuous as the punk rock she was raised on. Her divorced parents just don’t get along, even though they’re both musicians who stubbornly spurn the mainstream but secretly crave the limelight. Silver has always lived with her mom, Nicola, but when Nicola is diagnosed with a brain tumor, she must go to live with her obnoxious, hard-partying father, Renz. Because her family is so traumatized by Nicola’s condition, Silver doesn’t know where to turn when she suffers her own trauma. Will the truth set her free, or will it only make a bad situation worse? Find out in this story of family, friends, and young love.

CW: Rough language, one scene of violence

This story hits close to home for me. There are some similarities I have experienced that our protagonist experiences.

“No. I mean it. Jake has a lot of good traits, I know. I’m not saying he’s the bad guy in this situation. But if this is a deal breaker for him, just let him go. He has a streak of self-righteousness that really sends up red flags for me. It’s controlling.”

“I know”, Silver said. A part of her still loved Jake, but a part of her resented him, even disliked him. She knew she could never be the girl or woman or whatever that he wanted her to be.  She had once admired him for having high ideals, but she now realized how suffocating his unrealistic standards had been. She was hurting and she was missing him — terribly — but she was not blaming herself.

“I don’t have time for a guy who couldn’t be there for my baby girl when she was going through hell”, Nicola went on, “and neither should you.”

“That’s all very sensible”, Silver replied, “but feelings don’t just go away overnight.”

Just like Silver, I, too, dated someone that had characteristics that I admired entirely. But, being clear from the beginning that I was never going to be that same way, I thought he had accepted that. But, just like Jake (and probably without realizing it), it was controlling. As soon as things get bad (or no longer ideal), that person leaves when the one they “love” needs them most. And not only that, but they can’t accept you if you don’t have those same ideals, even if they say they love you the way that you are. They don’t if they can just leave. That isn’t love.

I admire Nicola and Silver’s strength when it comes to overcoming their setbacks. Life throws a lot of bad at you, but it is how we react to those situations that make us who we are. And Silver, not being the typical stupid annoying girl, sees her value and what someone who truly cared for her would be like for her. He wouldn’t leave. He would be there for her. Especially during a hard time. He would put her feelings above his own. He would be a man.

But what I enjoyed most about this story is that it inspired me to write a story of my own (with some added comedy, hopefully).

 

Book Reviews

Furyborn (Empirium, #1) by Claire Legrand

Furyborn

Title: Furyborn (Empirium, #1)
Author: Claire Legrand
Rating: ★★★

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

 Furyborn: ★★★

Meet Rielle, a girl with a secret. After saving her best friend and crush, not to mention her other friend’s fiance, her powers are exposed. But this means either a life of glory or death for her depending on the outcome. After the king sees her powers, he has Rielle engage in a series of “tests” to prove if she is a prophesied queen of light or queen of blood. 

zuko

Meet Eliana, a girl with no fears except losing those she loves. After the disappearance of her mother, she joins sides with the “Wolf” in exchange for his help with finding her mother.

girl fighting

What I really admired about this novel was that we see two courageous girls a millennium apart, yet woven seamlessly together. Legrand sculpted two beautifully crated women that possess so many qualities that I admire and I can’t choose a favorite (said no one ever)!

Perhaps if nothing else, what’s happened has taught you that there is more to life – and even to war – than simply staying alive.

Book Reviews, Food

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1) by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer

Title: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Rating: ★★★

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

So many people absolutely adored this novel and were super excited for the next installment…Muse of Nightmares. I wanted to love this book just as much as everyone else, however, I didn’t. The pacing was slow and there wasn’t as much action as I would’ve hoped. I’m hoping Muse of Nightmares will have more action and maybe some stronger characters. The novel just left me feeling “meh”. 

This was like a movie where the only good scenes were the ones they show in the trailer (please don’t hurt me).

mob

“No”, he said, smiling. “I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite. And…” His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. “I hope you’ll let me be in your story.”

However, since there was so much hype for Muse of Nightmares, I, of course, had to purchase the LitJoy Exclusive Dreams & Nightmares Crate. You can see my unboxing here.

Book Reviews

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1) by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the FoxTitle: Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Rating: ★★★

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

Yumeko: kitsune; half-fox, half human; from the Silent Winds Temple
newgirl

Tatsumi: bears the sword Kamigoroshi concealing the great demon Hakaimono; from the Shadow Clan
jace.gif

Okame: ruthless, greedy, proud…basically a samurai pirate
jack sparrow

Daisuke: royal-born, a legend, never defeated
vendetta

Zombie-like ghosts, demons, shapeshifters, magic-wielders, gods, samurais, and blood magic. What more could one ask for? Except, I found it overwhelming. I had trouble keeping everything straight and I wished the worlds were more descriptive, especially the different clans. The world-building could’ve improved.

The novel started out fast-paced and entertaining, but after the gaki, I felt my attention drifting outside of the book. I absolutely loved the gaki scene and found it the most interesting part of the story.

Normally I wouldn’t say this, but I felt like there was too much going on. Between the different creatures, the different clans, and all of the trouble the protagonists seem to find themselves in, I find some similarities between Lord of the Rings. This was an introductory novel in order to find the whole “crew” on the fight for the next villain.

I would’ve loved to learn more about the different clans, and have less action. It just seemed like the author was more interested in introducing the reader to the different creatures instead of building the world first and adding in the creatures. I think it would’ve kept my attention longer that way.

With that being said, I think there is a lot of potential to world build and growth from the characters in Soul of the Sword. Hopefully the story line will be more linear and easier to follow.

Book Reviews

The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1) by Kaylyn Josephson

The Storm Crow

Title: The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1)
Author: Kaylyn Josephson
Rating: ★★★

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Thia, our protagonist, is daughter to the queen of Rhodaire. And Rhodaire is home to a special kind of magic…elemental crows. Fire crows, storm crows, earth crows, sun crows, you get the picture. These crows are essential to the daily life of those living in Rhodaire.

crow

Thia, the daughter who wants nothing to do with royalty, starts out the story by riding one of these elemental crows…of course getting into trouble. But, soon, Thia will have a crow of her very own.

But things take a turn for the worst before we know it and the Illucians come and set fire to everything in their wake…including the crows and Thia’s mother. Her sister, Caliza is now the new Queen and in order to save Rhodaire, has promised Thia to Prince Ericen in a marriage proposal.

When all hope seems lost of the revival of Rhodaire, Thia comes across a crow egg amongst the rubble. The only problem is, she has no idea how to hatch a crow egg, it being a secret tradition she just barely missed before the destruction of Rhodaire. Caylus, a cute outcast from another overthrown kingdom may be able to help. But no one can find out that they are hiding a crow egg.

crow1

What will happen to the crow egg Thia found? Will she be able to hatch it? Will Rhodaire be restored? Which guy will she choose?

Let me just say, I’m sick of girls getting promised to other princes as their brides by everyone else. Let’s see some other storyline! And girls, stop picking the guys I don’t want you to pick! Ugh! Give me something new. Love triangles are out! Monogamous relationships are in (at least for me)!

The expected publication date is July 9, 2019.

Book Reviews

Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #1) by Bex Hogan

ViperTitle: Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #1)
Author: Bex Hogan
Rating: ★★★★

Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father. A new fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas.

He will make me a killer.
Or he will have me killed.
That is my destiny.

Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He’s the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne’s father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves – and perhaps even her life?

A brave heroine. An impossible dilemma. An epic new fantasy trilogy set on the high seas.

This story is a blending of the Greyjoys from Game of Thrones and Hunger Games. The different isles signify different ways of life, but the Viper’s crew members are as ruthless as the Greyjoys, specifically Euron, who is willing to betray blood.

Hogan’s debut novel is the epitome of adventure, lust, and betrayal. The perfect pirate read. I loved her world-building. Not only that, but we see a realistic character, with realistic reactions.

The author even pulled a George R.R. Martin twist by killing off one of my favorite characters.

Viper was a telling tale of deceit, love, and the power of good. The Viper was a terrifying and ruthless character, a definite challenge to our peace-seeking Marianne. What will become of the Viper in the next installment? Who is picked in our always-enticing love triangle? I’m excited to see what is next!