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Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

Welcome to Burton Book Review!

Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

My epiphany of 2015

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May 17, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House by Kate Morton
Atria Books, October 2015
606 pages
Source- Kindle Library Loan
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

One of People magazine's Best Books of Fall—"Morton's moody, suspenseful latest is the perfect page-turner for a chilly night."

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets. Living on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure...

One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

This is Morton's fifth novel and I have most- if not all- of her other novels. Time is not my friend however and so this newest release of hers is actually the first one I have read. It was slow going at my first try; it could have been personal pressures etc. but I wondered if I was going to be able to finish this digital library loan before it expired. Then I realized it was six hundred pages and I really worried! Soon though, I was able to dig in, and get completely absorbed in the story of a young girl whose family is perfect on the outside and yet things are never what they seem.

It is one of those stories that flip through different generations back and forth with different characters, which gets a little confusing to explain, but it was very well done this time as we are trying to solve little mysteries along the way of what happened way back when on a glorious family estate in Cornwall.

Little clues are given along the way and you really think it's going this way, but in the end I can definitely say I did not see that coming. It was a feel-good happy ending that made me teary. If you like Susanna Kearsley, you will love this one. It's a chunky one and it was just awesome for when you can settle in and sink your teeth into a great story that has suspense, romance, mystery and drama all rolled up into a pretty engrossing package. Definitely pushing the back-list closer to my will-read-this-lifetime-so-help-me-God pile.

Apr 4, 2016

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

A well-known favorite for many..

Redeeming Love  by Francine Rivers
Multnomah Books, pub. 2004
Personal copy

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go. A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love. 

So I have been on this kick lately to read whatever I want whenever.. you know, like REAL people do. So glad to kick that whole reviewing for others thing; so toxic to my sanity. It seemed logical that in my awesome reads for 2016 that my first Francine Rivers novel should be Redeeming Love. Everyone raved about it. It's got five stars on Amazon. I have the "new" aka "redeemed" edition. And I think perhaps that's what killed it for me. The original 1991 Bantam novel apparently did not completely skip the romantic love making scenes where our two protagonists got together emotionally, spiritually, sexually.. at least, that is what I could ASSUME is happening with my "redeemed" edition.

The gist of this thing is that poor prostitute Angel has had a very horrible time of it, pretty much being a whore because that's all she was ever born to be. Lo' and behold a handsome man wants to save her from all that. A real-life honest to God knight in shining armor. And she is like, no thank you. I was born to be a prostitute and God is dead to me. You're great for asking me to marry you on sight but no thanks because I love being a sex slave. And this is where you really can't feel too bad for Angel/Tirzah/Marah/Amanda anymore.

So Michael Hosea (surprise! from the biblical story of Hosea who marries a prostitute) manages to bring her to his humble home, show her how to cook and farm, and pretty much saves her life (and gives her several names because Angel won't say her real name). He loves her to pieces because God told him to.

She runs away because she just doesn't feel like she deserves him.

He gets her back.

She runs away again.

It can feel a bit stalkerish actually.

All the real character building and "redeeming love" that happened behind closed doors -- and deleted from our "redeemed" edition really did no favors for me. I love Christian fiction, I love biblical fiction. This was beginning to seem like a waste of my time personally because I would love to have that Christian man myself, begging me to just love him back and I was a but jealous of our beautiful harlot. Having said that, I can say that the last chapter was really a special one, and it very aptly sums up the title. If you have an open heart to hear God's word, and are in a place to be open to the message of forgiveness and renewal, it can be a very touching novel. There is a rebirth/renewal theme along with compassion and mercy that goes through all the required motions in order for it fully come about, and this takes the entire novel to achieve but can be very moving for the reader.

The biblical quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch, and if you are at a place where you are ready to explore God's undying love and proof of this, the novel could be a satisfying read. However, those readers who are cynical and in a tough place at the moment may find it all too unrealistic. I have a feeling I would have preferred the 1991 untouched version even though I am normally not too interested in the romance scenes, but the way you could sense it was obviously skipped in this later edition was just an annoyance for the story line. You might gather that I'm a bit on the fence on this one. The historical atmosphere was very well done with the neighboring families helping to add dimension to the novel and to support the transformation in Angel's character. I can definitely understand where so many have felt the message of love and forgiveness set forth in this novel but again you have to want to hear the message especially since it ties so closely to the biblical story of Hosea.

Mar 25, 2016

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Published May 3 2011, 389 pages
eBook library loan
Born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally with his partner, M├íria Katarina Harony, a high-strung, classically educated Hungarian whore. In search of high-stakes poker, the couple hits the saloons of Dodge City. And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and a fearless lawman named Wyatt Earp begins— before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Having totally loved Epitaph by the author - it was a favorite for this year- I went back to read the novel that came before it. This novel is a wonderful re-imagining of Doc Holliday's life and is very enjoyable. The writing is very well done but the only draw back is when the author seemed to digress into another person's detailed mini-biography. The author was clearly showing her research prowess of the era, but there were times this detail drew me away from the story at hand.

If you like the movie Tombstone, and enjoy the wild west type of stories, each of the novels by Mary Doria Russell will fit the bill. It is a very character-driven atmospheric tale, and the Earps are an intriguing lot. Add them to the story of Doc Holliday and it's a win-win.

I'm really enjoying my 2016 of Books, as I read whatever the heck I want on any old whim. I am also loving the eBook library loan feature plus the free book a month via Prime (just one?!) as I've finally embraced my Kindle Voyage full force.

Mar 23, 2016

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Adored this novel!

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks re-issue 2012
Source eBook plus own personal autographed copy

My previous Susanna Kearsley posts and reviews can be found here.

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past...until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

I am not really sure why it took me so long to get to this novel, especially given how I love this author and her work; this novel marks the seventh of the author's that I have read. I have had the eBook since 2012, and I recently went to an author event and purchased another copy there so I could have her autograph it. I finally read the eBook on my Kindle so I wouldn't spoil the newness of my new copy.

This book is another one of the time slip historical gothic novels that Kearsley is known for, and this one has romance, paranormal activity/fantasy, religion, time travel, suspense and historical details. When I say religion it just is a small conceptual fact to add to the history-- so atheists will still enjoy this. The time slip has Julia flashing back to the Charles Stuart era with folks wanting Richard Cromwell to rise up and defend his father's dream of the Commonwealth.

 Do you have a soul mate? Do you believe in reincarnation?

I absolutely love loved loved it, and the ending really was so good that I was tearing up. If I had been alone at that exact moment I probably would have let the tears flow. I loved how Julia's character was portrayed as she was so realistically portrayed that she was easy to like and then of course the time-slip counterpart of her was also a character that was very easy to empathize with. There were probably so many tiny clues hidden that when I finished the novel and finally realized the "mystery" I felt compelled to start over. I will miss Julia and would love to see another book with this set of characters. I always enjoy the settings of Kearsley's novels of England and I could wax poetic but there's no need.

If you have not read Mariana yet, please go do so. Thank me later.

I love the resolution of 2016 -- reading what I want, when I want. It has meant that my reviews are all going to be for good books, because I am not going to waste time on books I don't like anymore!

Mar 14, 2016

The Midwife's Revolt


The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard
Published April 7, 2015
426 pages

Source: free eBook via Kindle Lending Library

"On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.
Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation."

I came across the author browsing for available selections in the Amazon Prime Member's Kindle Lending Library. I was intrigued by 'Our Own Country' and saw that it was actually a sequel of sorts to The Midwife's Revolt, so I started in the beginning despite other reviewers indicating that the titles could read as a stand-alone.

The Midwife's Revolt is a novel set in the very intriguing period of America's birth. The American Revolution has begun, and Lizzie is forced to make do on her own on a modest farm, but it turns out that neighbors are Abigail Adams and the Quincys, which makes for a captivating storyline of political intrigue and the nuance of hobnobbing with the royalty of America.

But the heroine Lizzie was a fun character to watch, as she was intelligent, rash, emotional only at the most passionate times, and was a true friend to all. There were several characters who helped to round out the story and add romance and mystery at the same time. There was a traitor somewhere and people were being murdered, and Lizzie had to be very cautious. Book two will tell me the continuing story of Lizzie's friend and sister in law, Eliza, and I am looking forward to it. The historical details were really well done and the novel is another example that we need more American Revolution novels!

The author's writing was well paced and kept me interested throughout the plot, even though some unrealistic moments had to be brushed off. And the other annoyance was the way the novel would stop and say 'dear reader, I must tell you..' and I didn't want to be reminded that I was merely reading a story, just tell me the story but don't make me a part of it. It was a quick weekend read, and as soon as I am able to get another free ebook from Amazon I will download Our Own Country.

 *The link to the title on Goodreads where the novel has about a 4 star rating after 3,000 reviews:

Feb 26, 2016

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

Absolutely captivating novel on Wyatt Earp and his life

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell
March 2015
Borrowed from library
Burton Book Review Rating:
Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, returns with Epitaph. An American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . .

That was America in 1881.
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

I don't know what prompted me to borrow this book from the library (digital library loan, my new bff!), as I am not a passionate fan of the Earps, the Wild West, or Tombstone. Something told me I would be missing out if I passed this up, based upon the many rave reviews on Amazon. I read this chunky 597 pages in a four day span - with me working full-time and chauffeuring kids etc, and so that tells you something right there.

This is not a novel that is just based on the O.K. Corral shootout - but everything that leads up to it and why. Characters such as the Earp brothers and their ladies are the main draw, but the novel actually opens with Josephine Marcus, aka Sadie, who later became the significant other to Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday is prominent as well, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the author's previous novel, aptly titled 'Doc'. The political scheming of the era, with the law men, Cow-Boys, and newspaper editors all come together to breathe glistening life into the author's story which I just could not put down. I loved every minute of it, and the research of the author shows in her words.

Tombstone movie watchers will find it hard to not have those actors playing through their minds as they are reading the book, but that was not a bad thing for me. I am going to re-watch that movie just to relive it again. A wonderful novel on an epic time period of America that won't disappoint.

BEST OF 2016 - my first find for the year as a new favorite!

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. 

Feb 24, 2016

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen
Berkley, July 2015
Source- borrowed from my library
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 Stars

In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England…
 One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…
Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.
But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.
One of the quotes/blurbs you will see on Klassen's works is:
“[It’s] what readers love of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and even a bit of Jane Eyre…everything a historical romance reader looks for.”—Historical Novels Review which is actually from a review I had written for the HNR site. You can read my reviews of Klassen's work here. This novel is written for less of an inspirational perspective as it is not published by Bethany House like most of her other work, and as such could disappoint her most avid readers, and judging from Amazon reviewers I think it did due to the fact that there were some romantic scenes throughout.

The quickest summary of the novel is one of a type of a Cinderella or rags to riches story. The maid gets mistaken for the true wife of a gentleman, thus the title "Lady Maybe". There is a large amount of hiding identity, thus untruthful aspects are applied to our heroine. The gothic tones we come to expect from Klassen are no longer evident, and it really just reads like a regency style romance with a bit of a thrill interlaced which in itself is not a bad thing.

I enjoyed the characters, and the pacing was swift and kept me guessing. The plot deals with the summary above and the heroine having to choose between two men and I ultimately had no idea which way it was going to go as the novel didn't really address a certain back story very thoroughly. While written with less of the gothic and inspirational undertonees, Klassen's beloved compelling writing style is still evident here.While it may not be a favorite Julie Klassen novel and its certainly not an epic read, I am still glad I was able to enjoy this novel for free via my local library's eBook program.

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. 

Feb 21, 2016

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti

A look at the machine of media, politics, and cover-ups

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
first published 1992, my edition published 2003 Living Books
575 pages
Personal copy
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Read my review of Peretti's Illusion here

A thriller that penetrates to the very heart of a vast struggle that threatens to tear our society apart. Successful news anchorman John Barrett is caught in a suspenseful moral and spiritual battle over the importance of Truth. Using all the elements of edge-of-your-seat fiction, master storyteller Frank Peretti weaves a prophetic tale of our times.
This is the second Frank Peretti book that I've read and I am now even more looking forward to reading his others from his back list, such as The Visitation, which was made into a movie (of course, the book is way better than the movie). One of the draws to his novels is that most of them are chunky - five hundred plus pages - which means less of an opportunity to rush through the narrative although it could mean a slow start. While Prophet is an older published novel the context is still relevant today as it delivers on a hot topic of abortion using a news anchorman as the medium. The story focuses on how the political bigwigs use their clout to cover up poorly run clinics and how they react to the direct results of deaths of young women due to the shoddy practices at these clinics.

The complex plot features John Barrett and his family and how he is reluctant at first to draw attention to the botched abortion issue due to the fact he is a well respected anchorman and the face of the popular news station. He has bosses to deal with, not to mention forces behind the camera that would rather bury the ugly truth. It is this very 'Truth' that emerges as the major theme, and how it has been ignored and needs to be restored. The title of the book is 'prophet' for a reason and the entire media circus and the facade of political translucency is brought into the open as the story develops. There is a lot going on with several characters but suffice to say that there are plenty of realistic portrayals of several stereotypes of people within our culture, from poor waitresses to doting moms to the thug who is hired to kill people.

While Peretti is not a very prolific author of adult fiction, the eight that he has written thus far are told with a strong voice that weaves his faith and natural storytelling abilities together, giving Peretti the reputation of changing the face of Christian fiction. The plots are intriguing and twisting, and they dare to look deeper to discern the obscured meanings, translating the truth from what is fiction. With over 15 million novels in print, this author is not one to miss if you are looking for a faith based novel with captivating themes surrounding spiritual journeys.

And yes ma'am, this is just another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. You go, girl.

Jan 28, 2016

Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr

Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr
Various editions, circa 1977
Daughters of England Series, book 5
My previous reviews from this series

I edited this synopsis myself to avoid spoilers:
 Arabella Tolsworthy
Against the background of an England torn by civil war, religious persecution, and political treachery in the turbulent era of Cromwell and the Stuart Restoration, Philippa Carr has set the passionate story of Arabella Tolworthy, whose loves and destiny are inextricably linked to the plight of her nation.
The dethroned Charles I had met the executioner's ax with regal calm, and as Oliver Cromwell tightened his Puritan grip on English church and state, thousands of royalists fled their confiscated lands. Among them was young Arabella, her family seeking safe harbor in France where they hoped to serve the exiled royal heir, Charles II. Separated from her parents, confronted by the unaccustomed hardships of political banishment, she finds solace in the company or the ravishing and charismatic actress, Harriet Main.
Little does Arabella suspect the threat Harriet will pose to her future happiness.
Nor does she envision what lies ahead when dashing Edwin Eversleigh, Cavalier and heir to a titular fortune, makes her his bride after a whirlwind courtship. For in the deceptive peace following Parliament's Restoration of the Crown,  Arabella returns to England bearing a new scion of the Eversleigh estate.
With its skillful narrative, Lament for a Lost Lover is a worthy and engrossing successor to the previous novels of the Daughters of England saga.

This is the fifth Carr book I've read, which is a series written under a pseudonym of Jean Plaidy/Eleanor Hibbert. My fellow Carr reader and I had a mini read along as we could not wait to get to the next book in the Daughters of England series after finishing book 4, Saraband for Two Sisters. The story picks up with the next generation, and Arabella does not disappoint. What was a pivotal character in this one, the witchy one again - was Harriet. Once Harriet comes along, poor Arabella doesn't know which way was up. She had a fascination for the dramatic Harriet and Arabella lets herself be led around like a marionette. It was wicked fun to watch and while the Gothic tones were minimal in this one, there was still a sinister something out there that was a dun dun dunnnn waiting to happen.

I really enjoy these novels in spite of the formulaic plots centered around marriage, birth and death. The characters are the spice of the story, and there are many times the reader could be screaming at the character to open your eyes! I loved how the historical details were a little more in depth with this novel as the focus was always on whether Charles could have his English Crown back.The London Fire and the plague also make their appearance, and how it affects Arabella is part of the novel.

The next novel looks completely totally delish and I cannot wait to read book six, The Love Child. I need to make sure my life is not too crazy because I want to be able to enjoy that one, too! Come visit our Goodreads group for more read alongs on Jean Plaidy's works.

Jan 27, 2016

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews
Simon and Schuster, January 26 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you.
Burton Book Review Rating:3 Stars

From V.C. Andrews, bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic (the first in a series of Lifetime movie events about the Dollanganger family), comes the tale of a young girl kept under the watchful eye of her adoptive parents, as if they fear who—or what—she’ll become… Sixteen-year-old Sage is a lonely child. Her adoptive parents watch her obsessively, as if studying her for warning signs of…something. And maybe they’re right to—even she can’t make sense of the strange things she sees and hears. She possesses knowledge that other teenagers don’t, that her parents and teachers—no adult—could possibly have. So when Sage finally makes a friend who understands her alarming gift, he becomes her confidant, a precarious link to the truth about who she really is. For Sage and the alluring new boy at school share many things in common. Perhaps, they’ll learn, far too many things.

This newest novel from the ghostwriter for the V.C. Andrews estate has a very intriguing premise. Sage is struggling to fit in high school with her friends, as she seems wise beyond her years. She is gorgeous too, and the boys want her so much that the girls envy her. Her parents treat her in an odd way, something of over-protective gone weird. They act strangely and makes Sage realize that she is different than others even where family is concerned. The bulk of the story is how Sage interacts with others as she slowly discovers new things about herself and her 'abilities'. When the new hot kid comes to town, things get interesting. Finally the ending comes and we figure out why Sage has different abilities, and why her parents have been sheltering her.

While the story was intriguing enough to make me want to find out what happens to Sage, there were times that it was too over-thought. Told in a first person narrative, there was a lot of "I think.. I feel.. I wonder" and not a lot of action going on. The narratives could become cumbersome and this was my biggest complaint of the novel with the next being "really? that's it?" at the finale.

As a whole, it was pretty tame, and suitable for young readers - but die hard fans of V.C. Andrews will likely be disappointed. There is not a lot of a suspense feel, just more like a small mystery waiting to be solved. The Gothic Evil Tones of vintage V.C. Andrews is missing.

Jan 26, 2016

Mary Magdalene by Diana Wallis Taylor

Mary Magdalene: A Novel by Diana Wallis Taylor
published June 2012 by Revell
personal kindle copy
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Long maligned as a prostitute or a woman of questionable reputation, Mary Magdalene's murky story seems lost to the sands of time. Now a portrait of this enigmatic woman comes to life in the hands of an imaginative master storyteller. Diana Wallis Taylor's Mary is a woman devastated by circumstances beyond her control and plagued with terrifying dreams--until she has a life-changing confrontation with the Savior.
 Lovers of historical and biblical fiction will find this creative telling of Mary's story utterly original and respectful as it opens their eyes to the redeeming work of Christ in the lives of those who follow him.

This was a inspired story about Mary of Magdala. It focuses on her life primarily until the Messiah arrives and then she follows Him, bringing the focus more on what she witnessed. I felt like the tone changed with that and the whole build up for empathizing Mary seemed to be ignored until the final chapters.

The beginning of the novel was an imagined story of what life could have like for Mary as someone who was "possessed" or not in control of her thoughts. Through this she was still portrayed as a simple and humble young lady, wishing for peace in her life. The characters that were created in the novel really did a nice job of supporting the story line and helped to flesh out the time line that the author was moving through.

 I enjoyed it fully but felt the last third wasn't as good as the first parts. I read the novel fairly quickly and would still of course recommend it to those interested in biblical fiction. I am looking forward to reading more from Diana Wallis Taylor, perhaps Martha will be the next from her that I will get to.

Dec 30, 2015

Burton Book Review Best Reads of 2015 and What's Ahead for 2016

Every year I post a favorites list of books that I had read that year.
Best of 2009
Best of 2010
Best of 2011
Best of 2012
Best of 2013
Best of 2014

This is my seventh year of Best Of's! Which means there is a blogiversary coming up this week, yay me!
I was fortunate that this year I was able to read more titles that I wanted to read as opposed to adhering to a review schedule. As life evolves, so has the blog.. and less review books means less blogging and more real life stuff. I had a career change mid 2013 which derailed my reading, and more recently I have become a mommy chauffeur to the brats. Aside from a recent EF-4 tornado impacting about 1,000 homes nearby, before that hit I posted on facebook regarding the year in review: "2015 began with a hospital bill we are still paying for, my son was the pack 896 winner of Pinewood Derby, my hubby bought me a Kindle Voyage, I met Susanna Kearsley, the boys went camping during a tornado, mom & I went to Shakespeare in the Park, we all went to the Perot Museum in Dallas, I aced a stressful test going towards my TASBO certification, I became a Parish Council member" so it was really a pretty good year for me in general. I have been settling into a new position at my office (after a full year in the position, lol) and have been thankful for the blessings bestowed on me and the family.

I was able to read some books that I had sitting in the wings waiting for someday.. and I will continue to read books from my own library as opposed to new acquisitions. This means that 'best of 2015' did not have to be published in 2015 but almost all of them were. Here is the link to all the books I have read and reviewed this year.

These are my fave reads of 2015:
(Click the titles or images to go to my review, opens in a new window).

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot - The author's previous work made last year's Best Of list as well. A vivid voice shines through her writing that will suck you in and make you sigh with pleasure once you are through. This was a fascinating look at World War II in a very different character-driven perspective.

Watch The Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle - Even though Tudor/Elizabethan novels have overstayed their welcome for the most part, I absolutely loved this portrayal of Penelope Devereux whose mother has always fascinated me. This author has a wit about her writing that gives a new life to the Tudor-era novels.

Somebody I Used To Know by David Bell- There are days which call for unputdownable suspense, and this fits the bill perfectly. I read all 448 pages of this thriller in one day.

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz- Laura Frantz is well known in the Christian fiction genre, but this was the first one I had gotten around to reading. It was mesmerizing and full of hope and messages of faith, set after the American Revolution.

The entire Gifting trilogy by Katie Ganshert - Written under nom de plume K.E. Ganshert, this series was amazingly eye opening to me, who normally shies away from the alternate world type of Young Adult reads. I absolutely loved all three books and made my daughter read them too. Very well done and I sincerely hope there is more from this nom de plume!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - published in 2011, I had not received the book until the summer. I am definitely going to be continuing the series after I get tired of my current series binge of Philippa Carr. This novel was a pleasant surprise for me, as I had begun this with cold feet, and it was not until after the first fifty pages or so that I could get invested in the story of witches, vampires and demons. I raced through to the end though!

As you can see, my tastes have changed a bit over the previous years. What started out at mostly Tudor and Medieval reads have evolved into young adult, fantasy, and some Christian fiction. A little bit of everything just to keep me happy and engaged with reading.

Looking ahead to 2016, one wonders if I should bother blogging or not. It seems like no one is here sometimes.. but I know that not every review generates a need to actually comment. I am guilty of not clicking all the way through the many motions on other folks' reviews to simply say 'Thanks for the review, Looks Good.'  My simple reviews are not combative or mind boggling things that beg others to examine a question and answer them, hence, no comments.

There was a book I decided not to review last year simply because it was a reading for pleasure book. And writing reviews feels a lot like work, so I gave myself a break on it. Then, when I went back recently to look for my thoughts on that book -- it wasn't there. And that's when I reminded myself that I need to blog/review for me. This site is here for my pleasure - and for my purposes of cataloging and remembering my thoughts. Because let's face it: I'm getting older and my mind is pretty much a black hole! I barely remember what I did yesterday, so I am not going to remember every book I've read. That's why I have this nifty little blog so all I have to do is search my blog and I'll refresh my memory. I do NOT have delusions of becoming a writer someday and I am not using this blog to 'hone my craft' as others may be using theirs. I don't have the skills to professionally write reviews, and I never will. However, I like tinkering with design and graphics, and the blog itself allows me to do that as I update the look of it, and create cool little images like I have for this particular post, when I get the itch to do so.

I hope to read more Elizabeth Chadwick as I have kind of dropped the ball on that one this year, and I hope to read some old favorites from Georgette Heyer, Philippa Carr/Victoria Holt (not necessarily Plaidy), Susanna Kearsley and V.C. Andrews. If I add any more I'll just be over-extending and disappointment will rule.

Speaking of disappointment, for the first time in years I am not entering the self-imposed Goodreads challenge where you post a number of books you would like to read. For some stupid reason they changed the format and you can no longer tell how many pages you have read. I find that totally unhelpful. Comparing the number of books per user is crazy when you can't look at real numbers such as actual pages.

May 2016 be fruitful and full of wonderful reading.. if you're reading this, that is!! I'm reading it, so I will wish for myself a happy, chocolate filled loving life with my hubby and kids, and let's enjoy the cat and dogs, too.

Dec 28, 2015

Saraband for Two Sisters by Philippa Carr, Daughters of England book #4

Saraband for Two Sisters by Philippa Carr
Published 1976
The Miracle at St. Bruno's -read my review
The Lion Triumphant - read my review
The Witch From the Sea- read, but never reviewed here.

Angelet and Bersaba. They were identical twins, but their alikeness stopped at their physical appearance. Angelet was gentle and mild in her innocence. While Bersaba was dark and devious in her overwhelming sensuality. They had never been apart--until Bersaba became ill. Angelet was immediately packed off to London. There she met and married Richard Tolworthy and went to live at the handsome, brooding manor house at Far Flamstead. Bersaba had always thought she would be the first to wed. Recovered, she went to visit the newlyweds with more jealousy than joy in her heart. Nothing could have prepared her for the secrets she discovered there. Secrets of a carefully hidden past that could unleash dangerous passions and forever separate her from the sister she had always loved...

This is the fourth novel I have read of the Daughters of England series created by Philippa Carr who is also known as Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt. The series is a historical gothic romance saga that follows the same family tree from one generation to the next, set against intriguing backdrops of historical importance. While Plaidy's work can be incessantly dry and monotonous as she details historical events with her royal character portrayals, the Carr pen name allowed her to freely carve out fanciful reimaginings with some pretty far-fetched plots which makes it so much fun to read.

The previous novel The Witch from The Sea brought us the story of a woman being washed ashore and the drama that was caused by her arrival. In Saraband for Two Sisters that woman's daughter arrives back at Trystan Priory and creates turmoil within the lives of twins Angelet and Bersaba. This novel is told in alternating first person accounts by these sisters, who are twins only in appearance. Their characters are developed before our eyes as Bersaba is the impetuous passionate one, and Angelet is the sweeter kinder of the two. The reign of King Charles is at question in England and the two key men in the novel are at opposite ends of the political beliefs of the time: Royalist and Puritan. Of course, the twins wind up with one of each.

Wild events occur from smallpox and secrets of a mysterious castle, poisons and falling in love with the wrong men. It was fast paced and seemed better to stomach than the previous novel; with some of the previous Carr novels the males were portrayed as overbearing brutes and this one only seems to have the recurring character of the grumpy maniacal Grandfather Casvellyn as the mean man. The others were pretty darned good to a fault. This time...I know it can't last forever.

These are the type of novels that you can't go too much into the detail without giving away a spoiler, so I will end it here with the remarks that I enjoy the Daughters of England series for the dramatic license it exhibits even while still setting a historical tone, and the characters are so easy to root for. The gothic suspense with romance thrown in is always a treat and whenever I finish a Carr novel I always want to binge read and move on to the next one. These novels would have made a fantastic TV series with awesome instrumentals playing in the background.

Since I own all the titles, just for kicks I looked up the next book: Lament for A Lost Lover and it will bring us more turbulent political drama of Cromwell and will follow the daughter of Bersaba as they are forced away from their home to take exile with the rightful king.

Dec 14, 2015

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - All Souls' book one

Book 1 fascinated me!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Paperback, 579 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published February 8th 2011)
ISBN 0143119680 (ISBN13: 9780143119685)
Burton Book Review Rating: 
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

I had gotten the All Souls boxed set over the summer and hoped to be able to find the time to read them asap, but I just managed to finish book one, A Discovery of Witches, recently. At almost 600 pages I would have thought it would take me a month to read given the busy time of the year, but the story had me hooked after page 15 or so and I could not wait to get a chance to sneak in a few pages and visit my fave paranormal characters.

I am not one who habitually sets out to read about witches, vampires or creatures, or any other worldly "fantasy" creatures yet there was something so creative and intriguing about the particular ingenious facets about these characters. Diana is a very likable person who was born a witch but doesn't really trust herself as a witch, and a vampire Matthew finds her and falls in love with her in spite of all the no-no's about no mixing of the creatures. And the demons -- spelled daemons -- are a very intellectual group wearing old-fashioned vests who could be diabolical were a nice touch.

The book has been out for a few years, so there's not much more to say on it review wise. It's a #1 Best Seller on Amazon in the Vampire Thriller Kindle category, which seems pretty cool. There is mystery and suspense,  sweet budding romance, violent vampire cravings, and fire tingling fingers on Diana the witch. So many things that I typically would be all like 'dude, that's so unintelligent and made-up fairy tale stuff for kids'. Whatever, I loved it and I can't wait to get to book two, especially as there is going to be some time travel going on to Elizabethan England. See, there's my historical fiction nerd getting its fix.

 I am kind of annoyed that I read a synopsis for book three because there was a big spoiler there (now that I care about the characters, I'm totally invested in the story). So beware there if you have not read these yet.

For readers who like a bit of adventure, I completely recommend the first book, A Discovery of Witches, the debut novel (whaaat???!!) by Deborah Harkness, she who is the spinner of tales full of awesome imagination and a wonderful sly wit during really tense moments.. and I just heard that she is set to release in 2017 another All Souls' piece, The Serpent of Mirrors, so the current release of three books won't be a trilogy for long.

Penguin has released a free, e-book only, richly illustrated real-time reading guide that brings to life the world created by Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, retracing the events of these two bestselling novels with illuminating behind-the-scenes details and real-life events that figure into the books. Get the scoop here.

Nov 25, 2015

The Gifting Trilogy by K.E. Ganshert

Book one of The Gifting Trilogy by K.E. Ganshert

If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous.

Tess Eckhart has always felt things nobody else can feel. Then the Ouija board incident happens at a high school party. Her complete freak out sends her family across the country--next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill. Worried Tess suffers from the same illness that tormented her grandmother, her parents insist she see a psychiatrist.

Tess is more concerned about fitting in at her new school, and hiding the fact that she's seeing a therapist at the Edward Brooks Facility. She's used to whispers and stares, but when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she's unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something--that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she's wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?
Somewhere around November 15th I had decided I was going to read something that I wanted to read, something that didn't require a review kind of thing especially since I was coming up on a week long vacation. So I decided to pick up my Kindle Voyage and peruse my large collection. I came upon The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert, (a.k.a Katie Ganshert) and decided this was perfect, and I already had the whole trilogy. A really neat premise - something different when we are talking about supernatural things and how they fit into our reality. I completely loved the character build up of Tess, and the cutest boy in town, Luka along with their relationship. Taking a look back at the whole trilogy, it seems like so long ago when the two of them were sharing classes together in an affluent part of California.
Book #2

I read The Gifting in less than four days, and moved on immediately to book two as I was totally hooked and there was some cliffhanging action going on. In The Awakening there is a lot of action and thrills as we enter into a completely new norm for the characters. The characters have gifts, but the 'other side' is trying very hard to eradicate the world of those people with gifts. The gifts we would normally see as psychosis are actually some really cool abilities that are tailored to fit together in a group attack against evil. More characters are introduced in the second installment which add to the intrigue and the suspense that is building before the ultimate finale: The Gathering.
The final installment

"Darkness is a tricky thing. Especially when it cloaks itself in light."

Luka isn’t dead. He’s not beyond saving. Tess knows because she saw him with her own eyes. After what she saw, she’s sure of one thing: If they don’t rescue him soon, Luka won’t be Luka anymore.
If only she could convince the other members of the hub. They’re not sure Tess saw what she claims she saw. And they’re preoccupied by the fact that their kind is being systematically eradicated. Answers lie in an ancient prophecy, one that revolves around a seventeen-year-old girl who never asked for any of this.
K.E. Ganshert’s final installment in The Gifting Series brings readers on an action-packed journey through loss, sacrifice, betrayal, and the impossible choice between what we want most and what we know is right.
The final installment really did a fantastic job of completely pulling off the whole entire supernatural/good side versus the evil/bad side. I loved the creativity and the imagination of the series, and I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face a couple of times. Such a fantastic job of writing and storytelling, I sincerely hope that Katie Ganshert does another series like this again. Five stars all around. Thank you to Katie for such a wonderful adventure I've had the last ten days with the trilogy. I really enjoyed reading for pleasure again, but I am really going to miss these special characters.

Go check out the first installment on Amazon, it is free for the taking!

Nov 22, 2015

Resolution of sorts..more like an epiphany..

I know it's early for New Years' Resolutions, but I just thought of something beneficial to my sanity that maybe if I put it down to words for the public to hold me to it, perhaps I will adhere to it:

I think I've discovered the most amazing and guilt free resolution perfect for me! NO MORE REVIEW BOOKS! I am so enjoying just reading WTF I want to right now. Last week I was not approved to receive and review Julie Klassen's newest upcoming novel, and that was like a slap in the face especially since I missed her last one. I love her work and the four novels which I have been blessed to read have all been review books. I have already gone back and bought the few I had missed that came out before I had started reviewing her books, but I haven't gotten around to them because I've been so busy reading newer REVIEW books. 

And today I realized it was a good time to just forget all that jazz with the 'must post review on this site, this site, and that site'. Yes, it's a review book for free. But really why do I torture myself with all these "mandatory" reads with rules attached? I have a large stash of books that I own, and my Goodreads shelf laughs at me if I try to shelve more.

Because that small number of 1,143 books is the number of books that I know I have a real living physical copy in my house somewhere that I can pick up and read at any moment of free time (there's that laughter again). And then I go look at my Kindle Voyage and there's that small number of 1,866 kindle books hanging out in that black hole.

So you know what, Bethany House, my favorite Inspirational Publisher out there? Thank you again for another gift of wisdom. I shall review my own books.
If I feel like reviewing them, that is. 


Nov 15, 2015

On This Foundation (Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin

Conclusion of a fantastic biblical series

On This Foundation (Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin
 -easily read as a stand-alone!
Biblical fiction, paperback 466 pages
Bethany House, September 2015
Review copy provided by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 Stars

Reviews of the previous novels in the series:
Return To Me
Keepers Of The Covenant

The Powerful Concluding Novel to The Restoration Chronicles
When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God's guidance. After fasting and prayer, he's given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.
The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bond servants just to keep from starving.
Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.
The Restoration Chronicles is the newest series by author Lynn Austin; her previous works in this series were easily my favorites. This third installment brings us the story of Nehemeiah as he pursues his calling to rebuild the protective walls surrounding Jerusalem which have been in ruins for nearly one hundred and fifty years. However, upon his return to his ancestral home to act as governor of Judah, Nehemiah realizes it's not only the walls that require rebuilding.

The village is suffering due to drought and the wealthier noblemen find it easy to flaunt their riches and take advantage of the poor, even enacting laws of the Torah to enslave those who are less fortunate. Austin demonstrates this through both the eyes of the rich and the poor with Malkijah and his new bond servant Nava. Nava must work as his bond servant for seven years in order to repay owed taxes, and Nehemiah implores all of the noblemen to return the bond servants to their families and show mercy.

As the community unites to rebuild Jerusalem's wall, God's hand can be seen as his guide as the impossible task seemed to occur seamlessly- yet it demonstrated how the people's simple faith can conquer all. Nehemiah was a smart man who combined his faith with action and had the willingness to fight for those building the wall, some at their peril. He armed the workers, and worked tirelessly to rebuild the walls and gates in record time.

Nehemiah's actions cause a deeper rift with the noblemen when he is soon seen as a savior to the poor, and conspiracies develop among the more powerful to rid them of the governor. Through it all, themes of God's mercy and His love are running as undercurrents, and Nava learns from those more faithful how to rebuild her own faith and trust in the Lord who she feels has abandoned her during troubled times.

"God is at work. We can't understand how He chooses to answer our prayers, but He will answer them, one way or another.

Don't ask God what He's doing. Ask Him what you should be doing."

The narratives alternate between Malkijah's betrothed, Chana, Nava the servant, and Nehemiah, to fully enhance all points of view of the novel, and each enhanced God's messages through Austin's powerful storytelling. She expertly expands slices of scripture with the culture of biblical times and gives us an unforgettable and believable anecdote of the religious heritage which is a gift in itself. Her stories present theselves as that - a story. I do not find them preachy, nor condemning, I simply relish the author's passion for retelling a biblical source in a very inspiring way. The Restoration Chronicles series is an extraordinary work of biblical fiction and I highly recommend this series as a whole, though they each represent different scripture stories and can be read alone.

Nov 11, 2015

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
Revell, September 2015
$14.99, pb, 400 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:
The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.

There comes a time when I regret choosing a novel to review for another review outlet when I need to hold my thoughts for months on end when I would prefer to just shout SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE.

When I review for another "professional" type of outlet, I feel limited with my word count restraint, I pay more attention to the words I choose, I re-read and proof my review and take thoughts out, and then I am left with a shell of a review within the word count limits and I don't feel like I get my point across.

Such as this was, with The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz. Reading this in June, when the review cannot post till the fall, and I feel sad that I cannot just simply tell everyone immediately how much I loved this novel with its many facets.

Firstly, it was my first Laura Frantz novel, though I do own some of the others due to other reviewers' recommendations, I rarely get around to reading a book simply for pleasure, meaning when there is not an expected review attached to it. When I was chosen to review this one for HNR, I was eager to finally get my chance to see what all the clamor was about for inspirational novelist Laura Frantz. And I was not disappointed.

Secondly, this novel features an era that inspirational publishers tend to shy away from, though I have no earthly idea why. They have published Frontier novels, Amish novels, Civil War novels, Regency novels. But they skip the American Revolution, and there are so many stories to be told! Please, I BEG YOU! Start publishing more novels on the Revolutionary War!

Frantz does well with the setting of the aftermath of the war, but this is not a novel with details about the war. She shows it as part of the character's past, and demonstrates how royal sympathies conflict with those of the colonials. I am dying for more of the era.

If you are wondering why I only gave the novel four and a half stars as opposed to five, it is because I would have preferred just a touch more of the actual events of the era- or the allusion of, although the era was adequately portrayed as a whole in reference to the social classes and stereotypes. When I read hist-fic, I do like to learn a bit of something along the way, which is why I got so caught up in "royal" historicals. I also admit to having a dry spell where I didn't pick up the book for a couple days in the middle of reading it, so I guess it had started to be just a bit too slow at some point. But again .. I obviously still definitely recommend this one for lovers of the inspirational fiction genre; I see no reason why many readers won't give her the five star prize for this.

Anyway, here's to the actual review I submitted to HNR:

As Sophie Menzies waited patiently for her brother to return safely from the American War of Independence, her home was in the process of being seized by the government. Her neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy did return as a war hero and was sympathetic to Sophie who was alone at Three Chimneys. Needing a helper for his young daughter, he was kind to Sophie and offered a reprieve from the anonymous threats aimed at Sophie's once-Tory household. Daughter Lily Cate was an integral character to the story as the budding romance between Sophie and Seamus blossomed and she was adored by them both. A refreshing twist was that the woman who managed to save the day was a colored woman whose integrity ultimately secured Seamus's and Sophie's marriage, allowing Sophie to remain Mistress of Tall Acre. But when tragedy strikes, the couple needed to overcome both emotional and legal obstacles in order to remain together at Tall Acre.

Kindling a slow paced romance allowed the reader to feel the tension and become fully invested with the story which included several sub-plots. As the story arc progressed, the moods would change as we experienced grief, loneliness, fear, hope and joy alongside Sophie and Seamus. The tense setting of the post-American Revolution was shown as an uneasy time with unregulated government and progressive ideals; a country of colonists struggling to adapt to its new found independent status where sympathies between neighbors range from loyalists and Tories to colonial settlers eager for a new beginning. The novelist includes quotes of faith to guide the unforgettable characters' path and they turn to Him to lighten their load, making this novel a beautiful blend of inspirational and historical romantic fiction. It is no surprise that Laura Frantz is a favorite of the genre.

And here is where I tell you that if you haven't gotten to read Frantz's previous works, feel free to start here. Her latest works were her Ballantyne Legacy series, and I tend to stay away from series as a personal choice (until I know I have all the books and the time to read them close together). This stand-alone is perfect to get introduced to Frantz, though her earliest novels are also stand alone. And definitely moving up in my TBR list.

Nov 4, 2015

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, September 2015
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5 Stars Liked it a lot

Read my posts mentioning Jane Kirkpatrick works

Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.

When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.

Jane Kirkpatrick's historical novels re-imagine a period of time many have forgotten, usually featuring important members of society of that particular time. The Memory Weaver brings us the story of Eliza Spalding growing up among the wilderness of the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800's and how she and her family dealt with the tragic event of the Indian Massacre of 1847. The Spalding family is a missionary family that traveled with the Whitman family in order to bring the "Book of Heaven" to the Indians across the Rockies.

At age ten, Eliza witnesses the horrible tragedy when the Whitmans were killed along with about a dozen others spurred on by a measles outbreak among the Cayuse Indians. Eliza's life is portrayed as reliving certain memories and how she eventually learns to interpret the memories from what she eventually believed happened and reality. Her tenacity, loyalty, strength and devotion to her family are all traits that we come to admire about Eliza, and the struggles between the Indians and pioneers are just one of the themes interlaced throughout the story. Eliza's relationships with her stubborn father, her sisters, and husband carry the story forward as we marvel at the hardships of the pioneer families.

Since the novel is written to closely mirror actual events, the final push towards the end of the novel focused more on Eliza's need to find peace and understanding with her memories, which stalled the enjoyment of the novel. Even still, the novel imparts an intriguing slice of America's history with several tear-jerking moments as we recount Eliza's steps as the first white baby to survive adulthood in the Oregon Territory.

Oct 8, 2015

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle
Simon & Schuster paperback June 2015
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:

 From the author People called “a must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a “terrifically entertaining” (The Sunday Times, London) novel about two sisters who must survive life in the Tudor court after the execution of their sister Lady Jane Grey who was queen for just nine days.
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal death of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women and their perilous times to vivid life.Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous career at court.
 Flirtatious Lady Katherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act.
 It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth Tudor, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

Other links at Burton Book Review:
Interview with Fremantle for Sisters of Treason paperback release
Interview with Fremantle for Watch The Lady release
Review of Watch The Lady, book 3 of the Tudor Trilogy
Review of Queen's Gambit, book 1 of the Tudor Trilogy

Fremantle's effortless storytelling brings new life to age-old tales, especially those tired Tudor stories. I have thoroughly enjoyed her entire trilogy which featured royal court players of the Tudor courts, along with this one which focuses on the Grey sisters. Lady Jane Grey is best known as the Nine Day Queen, the young girl foisted onto the English throne by eager power grabbing nobles after the young king dies. She lasted a little while until Queen Mary Tudor ordered her death.

While it is a story we know well, the new spin is the point of views from a painter Levina Teerlinc, and the remaining sisters Katherine and Mary. Their mother Frances is portrayed a bit less haughty in this telling, and we can definitely feel a empathy for her as her daughters are merely trying to survive once Elizabeth I rises to the throne. I love how the crook-backed Mary Grey gets a voice through this novel as she seems to have been overlooked many times before. And while Katherine could easily be seen as a flighty, passionate young girl with her trysts, this telling gives her a veil of innocence that we cannot help but to root for her and her romance.

The narrative switches between the sisters and the painter, and we become invested in each of their livelihoods even when we know it will not end happily ever after. A bit of an interesting fictional plotline is thrown in which might turn some folks off, but overall the way the story was presented was done so well that it merits a high rating from me. While the middle started to feel redundant for a bit, it was as I was reading the last pages with tears down my cheeks. So poignant, and so well done. I probably don't need to read Leanda Lisle's biography on the Grey sisters, but I am even more intrigued to do so now.