Thursday, June 25, 2015

Becoming Lady Lockwood book review

Becoming Lady Lockwood

Becoming Lady Lockwood

Amelia Beckett is delighted to be a widow. Married by proxy to a man she'd never met, Amelia recognizes that a fortuitous entry into widowhood frees her from meddlesome chaperones and matchmakers. Heiress to her mother's sugar plantation in Jamaica, she happily anticipates working in a man's world, with the additional credibility of her new title: Lady Lockwood. But with the arrival of Captain Sir William Drake, her plans quickly go awry...

William has traversed the Atlantic with one purpose. If he cannot prove that Amelia's marriage to his brother was a fraud, she will be entitled to a sizeable portion of his family's estate. He is determined to return this duplicitous "Lady" to London for an official hearing, and he carries with him a letter that will ensure her cooperation...

Left with no choice, Amelia joins the captain on his return voyage to England, and the two quickly find that ship life does not allow for evasion. Amelia and William are ceaselessly thrown together, and amidst fierce storms and ocean battles, what began as antipathy seems to be evolving quite unexpectedly. But as they draw ever closer to their destination, will the impossibility of their circumstances shatter any hope of a future together

My Review: 5/10 and I think that's being generous.

This was okay for a first novel, but it was lacking any depth. Characters who have no flaws are just not interesting to me. I won't even get into the suspension of reality with one woman on a ship with 800 men for six weeks and the total lack of danger here. This book read like a to-do list; Amelia quickly undertakes winning over every single man on the ship and helping with all of the chores. We follow her around, charming everyone. She's Superwoman- a nurse/doctor, a seamstress and sailmaker, an expert at charting, a chef, a linguist, a spy, a soldier, etc. At the same time, she's always trembling and crying. It's supremely annoying. The romance was instantaneous and seemed based on attraction. The language and lack of propriety were not fitting for the time period.

I did not buy into the whole issue of discrediting his brother's marriage to Amelia so that the law would not prevent Captain Drake from marrying her; I knew that the Bible said something specifically about men marrying their brothers' widows to protect and provide for them, and I was sure the topic had been a plot in other books I'd read. I knew marriage between cousins was encouraged through the end of the 19th century. I assumed marriage between people not blood-related was acceptable, especially during the time period of the Napoleanic Wars (1803-1815). To my astonishment, after finishing the book, I looked it up and discovered how wrong I'd been. Apparently in 1560, the Church of England forbade marriage to any kind of kin, marriage or blood related, with the exception of cousins and some step-relations. Sibling's spouses stayed off limits until the marriage act in 1921 ( Fascinating.

Though it turns out that the facts here were sound, and I'm appreciative for learning something new, it doesn't change my dislike of the characters, their lack of mistakes, growth or relatability or the way I felt when I read it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2) by Delia Parr book review

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2)

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2)

A Winning Combination of
Small-Town History and Sweet Romance

Martha Cade is a midwife in the town of Trinity in 1830s Pennsylvania. In a time when the traditional ways of medicine are constantly being questioned by new doctors fresh from medical school, Martha tries to balance her life's calling with the demands of her family. Recently reunited with her estranged seventeen-year-old daughter, Martha finds herself torn between guiding her child and allowing her to be an adult. And the town of Trinity itself is fraught with secrets: as a midwife, Martha knows which families are troubled, which wives are unhappy, and which husbands have crossed the line from discipline to abuse...

As Martha struggles with the conflicts of being a mother, a midwife, and a woman, she learns the greatest lessons of all--that hope can shine even in the darkest hours, and that faith has a way of making the impossible possible.

My Review: 9/10

I was so excited to get my hands on this sequel (and even more excited to hear from Bethany House that they are updating this book, to be re-released this winter, and there's even going to be a third!)!

It was every bit as lovely and thought provoking as the first book.

Martha has learned some hard lessons but when the time finally comes to put them to practice, it is very easy to slip into old habits and beliefs.

I loved that the lessons Martha learns in this book- humility, faith, judgment of character, trust in God's plans and provision, letting go, and embracing change, just to name a few- came about naturally, some in a rush and some over time. I particularly loved the way she realized that some of her burden hadn't been necessary and that she should have opened up to others, sharing her load with them; that her pride and independece wasn't worth the people and relationships she'd had to sacrifice, like with her children and love.

I was just as invested in each of the side stories and loved the clever resolutions at the end.

I have no complaints with the story; I gave it a 9 out of my personal taste. I would recommend it to fans of Lawana Blackwell's Gresham chronicles. It's not to the same tone or style, but I did notice a similar flavor.

 I can't wait for the third book!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson book review

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3)

The champion must not waver.
The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.

Elisa is a fugitive.

Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.

But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.

Even of those who hate her most.

My Review: 8/10

This was a pretty good conclusion and easily the best book of the series.

My only strong complaint was that the characters didn't react very realistically in more traumatic situations. For example, after the death of an estranged loved one, Storm lets out some high pitched keening, and then is fine the following day. Elisa has an understandable identity crisis toward the end of the book, and after a day or two and a few words from another character, she adopts a new purpose and is fine.

Otherwise, a good read.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson book review

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2) The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2)

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

My Review: 6/10

In some ways, the story got better and in some ways it got worse.

This is not a standalone novel; you'll want to read the previous book first. *Light SPOILERS ahead*

I understood that Elisa was trying to be diplomatic and civil, but she could do that while still being a strong leader. I mean, if she was critical of alejandro for being weak, I found it unbelievable that she would be so lily-livered about everything. For goodness sake, I expected her to rearrange the condes' priorities when they kept trying to mollycoddle her and kept being condescending, but Elisa disappointed.

It was better in that the food obsession finally stopped and the storyline was more interesting.

But what really kept me from engaging with the story was the religious aspect. It seemed like ms. Carson took everything from christianity and then twisted it. This is not a new concept, but the fact that she still called him God instead of a made up name for a fictional religion in a fantasy story troubled me. I mean, how many young adults have read the Bible to be able to pick out which parts are true and which parts are fiction? More likely, they'll recognize something they've heard before, pertaining to christianity, and therefore think the whole thing is scripture. But it's not. As I said, it's twisted and misapplied and the lessons and disconnect the heroine experiences as a result could confuse and mislead a young reader's faith. That left a really bad taste in my mouth. I will be careful who I recommend this to, if anyone.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Death Row Chaplain book review

Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America's Most Notorious Prison

Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America's Most Notorious Prison

From a former criminal and now chaplain for the San Francisco 49ers and the Golden State Warriors, comes a riveting, behind-the-bars look at one of Americas most feared prisons: San Quentin. Reverend Earl Smith shares the most important lessons he's learned from years of helping inmates discover God's plan for them.

In 1983, twenty-seven-year-old Earl Smith arrived at San Quentin just like everyone thought he would. Labeled as a gang member and criminal from a young age, Smith was expected to do some time, but after a brush with death during a botched drug deal, Smith
's soul was saved and his life path was altered forever.

From that moment on, Smith knew God had an unusual mission for him, and he became the minister to the lost souls sitting on death row. For twenty-three years, Smith played chess with Charles Manson, negotiated truces between rival gangs, and bore witness to the final thoughts of many death row inmates. But most importantly, Smith helped the prisoners of San Quentin find redemption, hope, and to understand that it is still possible to find God
's grace and mercy from behind bars.

Edgy, insightful, and thought provoking, this book teaches us God
's grace can reach anyone—even the most desperate and lost—and that it's never too late to turn our lives around.

My Review: 8/10

Death Row Chaplain is a book about a man who is called out of drug-related crime and violence to become a chaplain at one of the most high security prisons in the country. His stories of men behind bars will challenge commonplace notions of those who commit crimes and what can become of them. It reminds us that God is powerful to work in all people, no matter our past.

Overall, this is a powerful testament to a God who acts on His own terms according to His own plans—a refreshing reminder that we often don’t get in typical American churches, with their carefully laid out plans and ministries.  The stories of inmates and the chaplain himself—plus athletes, once he ends up being a chaplain to professional San Francisco teams—will have you facing God’s grace, repentance, unrepentance, darkness, and the light that can conquer all. It presents to you the degree of misery that this world can so easily give, but also the hope that can shine in the most dismal places.

I have only two criticisms of the book.  Occasionally, I felt like the author was name-dropping, which may have just been my reading of it and not accurate of his intentions.  This was minorly irksome and didn’t happen most of the time.

The second criticism was in the composition and framing of the book.  I felt like I was going to dive into the prison ministry angle right away from the introduction, but instead we got a long tale of how the chaplain arrived where he was. This wouldn’t have bothered me at all if the setup of the book didn’t make me expect one thing forthcoming and get another.  Overall, I’m glad to see that tale. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Also, after the first chronological chapters of the chaplain’s life, the various chapters and topics of those chapters didn’t seem to be put together according to any noticeable organizational principle. Some sort of cohesive organization and transition for the chapters would have increased the delivery of the whole.

Overall though, I recommend this book. For subject matter alone, I would give it a 10/10, but as a book, I will give it an 8/10 due to the way it was written and organized.