Deborah Calling

Deborah CallingAuthor: Avraham Azrieli

Publisher: Harper/Legend

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the saga continues, will Deborah finally fulfill her personal wish to be a man? And will it impact her true calling?

Deborah has overcome loss, hardship, and physical labor to seek out the elixirist and become a man. After finally locating him at a tannery, she agrees to work for him will he prepares all of the doses of the male elixir.  Now that she has completed the first two doses, she is ready for the final task.  But first they must return to Edom to retrieve the final ingredients.  On the way, they must pass through her hometown and collect Kassite’s old friend that runs the basket factory for the judge.  This trip proves to be even more deadly than Deborah could have considered.  Will anyone recognize her?  If they do, will her quest be over?  And what of her true calling as one of Yahweh’s prophets?

This book picks up directly where the first book ended. And the excitement picks up even more.  After being pursed throughout much of the first book, Deborah must now face some of her past demons.  Her remarkable character shines throughout this book as does the enjoyable banter between her and Kassite.  What happens will surprise many readers as it is not expected, but with more twists also come more turns.  I keep thinking that the story will be over and it will be where it is picked up in the bible, but it just keeps on continuing.  I’m not sure which direction it will go next, but you can bet I’ll be reading it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Deborah Rising

Deborah RisingAuthor: Avraham Azrieli

Publisher: Harper/Legend

Release Date: September 27, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Based on biblical events, this story has the potential to be the prequel to the passage many have heard.

Deborah lost her parents a year ago, so the local judge took her and her sister in to live with them. The judge’s son chose her sister to marry and things were beginning to look positive.  But the night of the wedding, her sister was slandered a nonvirgin since she did not bleed and must go through a trial.  Throughout the trial, Deborah must watch her sister in the pit of shame while her husband speaks for her since she has no father or male relative.  She is sentenced to death and Deborah must watch as her sister is stoned to death and finds herself suddenly engaged to the same man who killed her sister.  In an attempt to run away, she hears the story of an elixirist from Edom who managed to turn women into men to win a war.  After being returned to the camp, she works in the basket factory and the foreman is a slave from Edom who confirms the story of the elixirist.  With help from a guilt ridden priest, Deborah escapes and sets off on a journey to find this mysterious figure to turn her into a man so that she can avenge her sister’s death and reclaim her family’s land.  But will she ever manage to get away successfully?

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book other than a story about Deborah the prophet. Did I ever get more than what I bargained for.  This story took me for a wild ride in directions I never expected.  The way the story was told was exceptional and I was hooked from the first page.  Deborah’s desire to be a man defined her very character and when she set her mind to a task, she accomplished it.  It was interesting to see her personality develop into a leader as well.  She got into some perilous situations, but was always able to work them out, sometimes with a little help.

There is always a lot of interpretation left to the imagination on biblical stories, so don’t go thinking this is debunking the bible or anything. Just enjoy the story for what it is.  With no language or anything graphic, I flew through this book ready to jump into next one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Phoebe’s Light

phoebe lightAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

The first book in the Nantucket Legacy series finds Quakeress Phoebe Starbuck overjoyed that the widowed and handsome Captain Phineas Foulger has returned with his ship, the Fortuna, overflowing with whale oil.  She has a crush on him even though he is old enough to be her father, and she is overwhelmed when he reciprocates his feelings for her.  Her former love interest, Matthew Macy, and her father, Barnabas Starbuck, wonder what ulterior motive the Captain has for his sudden interest in Phoebe, but all lovestruck Phoebe can think of is marrying the man of her dreams.  Despite their warnings, Phoebe marries the Captain and insists on joining him for a late-season whaling trip.  Matthew joins as the boat’s cooper, and because the regular crew is superstitious of a woman being on the boat, a rag-tag collection of boys and felons make up the new crew.  Phoebe immediately falls ill with a life-threatening case of seasickness, and spends her entire trip in the cabin.  It’s only when they finally encounter land and she is able to recover in a local’s home that she sees the captain’s true colors.  He leaves her on the island with Matthew and continues his search for whales, which gives Phoebe the time she needs to come to her senses.  She also discovers why he married her in the first place, so she and Matthew devise a plan to change their lives for the better once they arrive back on Nantucket.

This is a great book told in two different perspectives.  The reader keeps up with Phoebe’s daily life through narrative, and her history (and family secrets) are revealed through her great aunt’s journal entries.  As Phoebe reads the journal, readers are told the story of how Nantucket was settled and how Phoebe’s aunt became a wise and prominent citizen.  The history of Nantucket is told through this story, and while some names and places are fictional, many of them are true.  It’s a new history of America that has not been told often, and it’s told from a fascinating perspective.  I absolutely loved learning about the Quakers and settling of Nantucket through this compelling and fast-moving story.  I was never bored or left wondering why I picked up the book, and the characters, although good people, are flawed and therefore relatable.   Even Phoebe, the seemingly most pious character, has flaws that we all have experienced at some point of our lives, so she brings our sympathy instead of disinterest.  All in all, the book was interesting and fun without dwelling too much on any one thing.  I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historical novels with a smattering of romance thrown in for entertainment.

There is some violence in the book that is mild by today’s standards, and there is also some drug abuse.  Overall, however, Phoebe’s Light does not have much objectionable in it.  Adults and mature teens should be fine reading it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Lost Castle

The Lost CastleAuthor: Kristy Cambron

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Three romances all woven together through time. If castles could talk!

Ellie Carver has been taking care of her aging grandmother, returning the favor after her grandmother took her in when her parents were killed in a car accident. She has loved to hear her grandmother’s past stories.  One day, her grandmother suddenly seems anxious and begins talking about a castle and a man that she needs Ellie to find to tell her that she has chosen him.  With only a photograph for reference, Ellie takes a leap of faith and boards a plane to France to help fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish without knowing of anything that awaits her.

In 1944, France’s Loire Valley is under German occupation, but the French Resistance is growing strong. Viola is a British implant who has escaped from Paris and is trying to find a way to get information she has learned back to Britain.  She stumbles upon a dilapidated church where she finds hidden food stores.  It is here she meets members of the French Resistance who already know who she is.  Hoping to make her way back to freedom, she finds herself falling for one of the members and hopes they can survive the way to see the Allied invasion.

The same location in the 1700s holds a country estate for members of the French Nobility. Lady Avaline is engaged to one of the sons of the estate holder, but on the eve of their engagement, the peasants attack the castle.  As they search for Lady Avaline to make an example of her, Robert, her soon to be brother-in-law, hides her and nurses her back to health after the attack while her fiancé and his father turn tail and run from trouble.  As they put the estate back in operation, the pair find themselves growing closer together, but can this romance actually happen?

As the first book in a trilogy, this was almost having a full trilogy. Following three stories from three different time periods gives everyone something to love.  Centered around the castle known as the sleeping beauty, each story tells of love, loss, and the willingness to change.  I found myself enraptured with all three stories, but I felt most in tune with the WWII setting as that is time period that I feel Cambron excels at telling.  However, each story was exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of the characters.

Cambron also did a great job with scenery for each time period including how the landscape had changed at each juncture. From the French Revolution, to WWII into a war with Alzheimer’s, each story faced it’s set of challenges.  I recommend this book to both historical fiction and romance fans.  I challenge readers to find their favorite of the three stories.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Out of the Ashes

Out of the AshesAuthor: Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

Series: Heart of Alaska #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another great historical romance set along the Alaskan frontier at the Curry Hotel!

Katherine Demarchis has recently been windowed (and released) from her abusive husband, who was also a US senator. Now a shell of her former self, her grandmother Maria Harrison is bound and determined to get her to find her happiness again.  The last time that she was actually happy was with a young man that she truly loved when she lived in France.  Her grandmother suggest a summer spent in Alaska with a sightseeing trip along the way.  Knowing that she will be constantly badgered by her grandmother if she doesn’t agree, she relents and hopes that just maybe she will be released from the blackness along the way.

Jean-Michel lives with the torments of war in Syria from the Druze revolt. He returned home in France to his sister Colette and their father, but their father took ill rather quickly and passed away.  With his share of the business bought out, Jean-Michel and Collette do not have to worry for money and father wrote them letters before he died suggesting that they take a trip after he is gone.  Shortly thereafter, Jean-Michel receives a letter from Maria Harrison telling him part of the horrors of his lost love Katherine and sends tickets to join them in Alaska this summer.  Might this be what Jean-Michel needs to let go of the past?

Traveling back to Curry again was an absolute treat, especially getting to see so many of the central characters from the first book. The storyline intertwined between that of Jean-Michel and Katherine, Colette, and Allan and Cassidy.  As with the first book, the main characters do not have a central relationship with God which would allow them to release the baggage that they carry throughout much of the book.  As they progress, they find they cannot do this alone.  The suspense is also kicked up a notch when the influenza virus hits the curry hotel and some of the characters take ill, possibly never to be heard from again.

The book is filled with history, suspense, humor, and a resounding theme of forgiveness. I recommend this book to all ages that love a great story about the history of Alaska.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Women in the Castle

Women in the Castle

Author: Jessica Shattuck

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

The Women in the Castle tells the story of the intertwined lives of three seemingly unconnected women during World War II Germany.  Taking place in a Bavarian castle that used to host high society parties and socials, the novel shares the stories of three women, each strong in her own way.  Marianne von Lingenfels is the heroine; she is the wife of Albrecht von Lingenfels, a prominent resistance leader.  She promises her longtime childhood friend, Connie, also a resistor and colleague of Albrecht, that she would protect his young wife Benita and their unborn child.  Sure enough, the resistance fails, and Marianne both men, along with a few of their conspirators, are hung for their treason.  Marianne is spared because Albrecht has stayed in high esteem with prominent Nazi leaders.  The other resistance leaders’ families are not so lucky; Connie’s son Martin ends up in an orphanage, and Benita ends up as a private mistress to a group of Russian soldiers.  Marianne tirelessly searches for them and finds Martin, then Benita, and she takes them to the castle for protection.  Life is hard and dismal; they have very little food or fuel to keep warm in the cold German winters.  Along comes a fellow resistance leader’s wife, Ania, and her children.  Marianne does not recognize Ania’s name in Albrecht’s documentation, but not wanting to be one to leave someone out in the cold, she gladly takes them in.  Together, they establish a life for themselves while protecting some very dangerous secrets.  Unfortunately for Marianne, her life is black and white, while the others have all lived in some shade of grey.  Instead of growing together as a lifelong family, things fall apart when they don’t go the way Marianne thinks they should.

Throughout the book, readers are engaged in life of Germans, both Nazi and resistance, during World War II.  They see the fear and horrors that people experienced, as well as the hunger and hopelessness.   The narrative jumps from one year to another, from one person’s perspective to someone else’s.  As the story unfolds, readers learn about each person and their motivations.  Nobody, including Marianne, is as innocent or as helpless as others might think.  Each has shown remarkable courage when needed, but at the same time, they are ashamed of other actions.

This is one of those books that has garnered a lot of buzz in the short time it has been on the market, and it’s easy to see why.  Each character is complex, and while maybe not likeable, relatable.  Every character has a major flaw that makes them more realistic to readers.  And, each one has a likeable quality that may take some digging to find, but it’s there.  By the end of the book, I had a good grasp on who each character was and her motivations.  I knew who I would be friends with in real life.  This was a well-written book with characters who definitely evolved throughout the story and gave me reason to keep turning the pages.

One thing that really appealed to me was the history infused in the book.  I have read quite a few historical fiction books on World War II, particularly on Europe’s perspective, and while I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, I had a good idea of what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn many new facts and nuances about the war.  Just to be sure they weren’t literary license, I looked them up, and while names may have changed, certain circumstances and events really did happen.  In my opinion, the real events being incorporated into the story made it even better.

The only thing that detracted from the story, in my opinion, were the German phrases thrown in from time to time.  While they definitely add authenticity and interest to the story, if they weren’t explained, which many were not, it caused some frustration on the reader’s part.  Still, it is a small distraction and certainly not enough to take away from the fantastic writing and storytelling.

Violence and profanity appear throughout the story, and some cruel acts of war are described in detail.  Adults and mature teens will take a lot from the book.  It is a work that any lover of WWII-era historical fiction needs to read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Defiant

The DefiantAuthor: Lesley Livingston

Series: Valiant #2

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: January 23, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Girl power like none other! This book has everything you look for in an action packed female powerhouse of a story.

Fallon thought things would be different, better after becoming the Victorix and being the top female gladiator out there. And she was right, but not in the way she expected. She might have won Caesar’s love and admiration, but she also won the hate of his enemies and all those wanting to take her place.  Soon after winning, Fallon and her sister gladiators find themselves at war with another rival gladiator academy that want to take their place and put Fallon out of the competition for good.  Along with her life and those she cares for, Fallon faces the prospect of losing the man she is falling in love with, Roman Soldier Cai.  When the battle heats up and tensions rise, Fallon has to decide whom she can trust and those she finds trustworthy might be surprising.  With her sister in danger and a tribe of amazon warriors thrown in the mix, the battle is just beginning and the stakes are higher than ever.

This is one of those books that I have been anxiously waiting for since the last page of the first book, (and that was before I even knew there would be a second in the series). I loved everything about this book: the strong female leads, the action, the romance, the history, everything!  Fallon is just the right mix of a strong spirit and caring individual that you want to know her, be her friend, and see yourself as that character.  I loved the mix of action with seeing the girls having to find different ways of getting along in order to deal with the situations they are thrust into.  I love action books with strong female characters. However, that can also be a fine line to draw between the character being strong and not over the top. Fallon is definitely a leader and strong but I loved that she is shown with a few weaknesses making her relatable.  I also loved the way we got to see her and Sorcha interact a little more.  So many characters that even though they might have only had small parts made the story, it wouldn’t have developed into what it was without them.  Little bits of humor were sprinkled throughout keeping the story light and flowing at all time.

Livingston did an outstanding job with this sequel making it continue the story and add to it so beautifully the reader will be yearning for more. I’m not sure if there will be any more in the series. I can only hope there is because I would love to see more adventures from these characters.  I highly recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction with action packed scenes and characters they can route for till the bitter end.