Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Winter's Child by E. Kaiser Writes

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Title: Winter's Child

Author: E. Kaiser Writes

Series: Thaw #1

Genre: Fairy Tale

Audience: Teen-Young Adult


A barren king and queen pray for a child, and when in their loneliness, they make one out of snow, their prayers are answered in a special, and unusual way. 
Sometimes, when we get what we wish for, we don't know what to do with it.


Winter’s Child, the first book to the series, THAW, is a creative retelling of the classic fairytales, Snow Maiden and The Snow Queen. We also see a lot of similarities to Frozen {2013}, for anyone who likes that fun movie. *smiles*

I found this book to be interesting and enjoyable, a simple and very “classic fairytale-ish” story. It’s perhaps written in more a style for a younger audience to understand (as it is about two, young sisters), but any age could enjoy it! The Discussion Guide at the end of each chapter definitely seems geared toward younger minds … but I think it would be great to read with younger children and then make them think more in-depth about the story by asking the questions from the Discussion guide. It’s a fun thing to do to ensure you’re not missing/misunderstanding anything.

The beginning of Winter’s Child caught me right into the story … I love how it begins with: “Once upon a time, in a far away land … ” A classic phrase that never gets old! ^_^ (I also appreciated E. Kaiser Writes’s introductions in the beginning of the book. Very informative.) The story became more tense and sad as it went on, and didn’t exactly end on a good note … but that’s what sequels are for! Winter Queen ties right in, and I am happy to be continuing the adventure!

There is some magic/mystical creature sort of things. Such as the stone people, and one of the character’s un-ordinary abilities that she was born with. We also have a winter angel and such like that. But there were important little lessons and subtle allegories of everyday struggles and all woven all throughout the story. The Discussion Guide really helped bring those out.

I like E. Kaiser Writes’s style. It was simple, yet lovely. Details came across beautifully, and the characters had distinct personalities and real-life attitudes. I especially enjoyed running around with little Hess for a while. *smiles* So fun to find all the resemblances to Frozen {2013} too! ^_^ And such charming covers!

All in all, it was an intriguing, little story. For anyone who just adores Frozen {2013}, I would definitely recommend reading the THAW series. Also those into fairytales with a classic style … do try out Winter’s Child. I liked it very well, and I think my younger sisters will too! Just make sure you have Winter Queen and Prince of Demargen close at hand! *smiles*

I received a copy of Winter's Child from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt

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Title: Esther: Royal Beauty

Author: Angela Hunt

Series: A Dangerous Beauty #1

Genre: Historical/Biblical Retelling

Audience: Adult

**4 stars**

Esther: Royal Beauty was, I think, a very well-done novel based on the life of Hadassah/Esther from the book of Esther from The Bible. Usually I don't really prefer books based on people from The Bible, because of the authors' tendency to run away with things a bit. But I felt that Angela Hunt did a good job staying accurate. In fact, after reading this book, I went to read the original account, and found that Angela Hunt had incorporated nearly everything! She says in a note at the end of the book that she also used scenarios from other historical accounts on King Xerxes, so almost all the things that happened in Esther: Royal Beauty are historically-accurate!

I have to say ... I was shocked at some of the scenarios. Such violence! *Shudders*! I was getting kind of annoyed and wondering if that really happened, or if it was just the author's attempt the embellish the Biblical story. But then I read the end notes, and Angela Hunt explained those happenings were from some other historical accounts. So I was really impressed how closely she followed the true storyline.

It took me a little while to get into the story. It was more told by "Hadassah" and "Harbonah" than actually lived out through characters' dialogue, actions, and such. There was some of that. But basically a lot of narrating/relating a story kind of style. So that's not my preferred writing style to read, but it really worked with Esther: Royal Beauty. Helped keep it more accurate I think. Once I got farther into the book, I became more captivated by it, and it urged me to read the actual book of Esther! ^_^

Once again, I appreciated the realness of it, the attempt to follow accurately. Some retellings of Esther are all romantic and lovely, telling this wild story of the king and Esther's wondrous love story. Well ... he was a pagan king, ruthless conqueror, with hundreds of concubines. Not to mention, he'd just put aside his first queen and was holding this elaborate "beauty contest" of sorts to find another woman that would please him. I'm not sure how beautiful their love story could have been; unless he turned to God. So anyway, I think Angela Hunt did a really good job portraying their relationship how it probably truly could have been.

Vivid descriptions. Human nature displayed. Then God's Hand in the midst of frightening, uncertain times. I have a few complaints here and there, but overall it was a really in-depth, and poignant retelling of Esther.

I received a free copy of Esther: Royal Beauty from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Garbanzo Bean Fudge??

     Yeah, um... give this one a chance, ;)

     *Ahem* I've been wheat-free for about two years or so now; and I also have a host of other things I should be staying away from. My mom's newest idea is to go on a sugar-free diet.

     And I'm like... "What about chocolate?? And all these delicious dessert recipes I found on Pinterest that I want to try out??"

     Yes, I like sugar as much as the next person. But lately, I've been really interested in health foods. I mean, I'd way rather skip the donuts, cake, and Butterfingers than enjoy them for a moment, and then have a stomach ache from their wheat content. And I would just as soon not drink soda and chew gum if it's going to help my teeth stay decay-free. And have you ever read about how much sugar causes problems in your body?? I'm realizing more and more how important keeping our bodies healthy is. We need to take care of our temples!! -Feel good, and stay strong and fit to serve God and our fellow people!

      Going on, I decided to try out some fun (crazy), sugar-free recipes. I'm craving chocolate. I'm craving sweet.

     So I made Garbanzo Bean Fudge.

     Yep. That's right. Fudge made out of beans.

The original recipe didn't call for cocoa and honey, but I added some anyway. (They actually called for chocolate chips, so I figured it was a fair trade, *smiles*)

Chocolate Freezer Fudge
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) *drained and rinsed*
  • 1/2 cup smooth almond butter (or any other nut/seed butter)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8-10 pitted soft dates
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sprinkle or two of sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a food processor, until well blended and smooth. 
Spoon batter into muffin tins and let sit in freezer for about four hours.
*Yields about 12 fudge pieces (of the size below)*

     Yes, I was a little wary, but they actually turned out to be quite good! Of course, if you're used to eating sugary things, these aren't going to taste very sweet. But overall I find them to be a yummy snack. So healthy, good protein, and it satisfies my sweets craving.
     Just make sure you use smooth nut/seed butter. My almond butter wasn't smooth, so my batch turned out a little grainy. But still good. Kind of has an almond butter/dark chocolate-y taste. Not a hint of garbanzo beans... :P :)
     Yay to yummy, (weird), and healthy foods! :)
     I feel like I can survive just fine sugar-free now.
     How about you all? Anyone gluten-free or needing to change to a sugar-free lifestyle? 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Favorite Reads of 2014

     So yes... I saw this idea on a friend's blog, and decided to make my own list! I've read so many good books this past year, as I look back, :)

     Here goes. I dedicated one list to only fantasy, since I read so many awesome ones in 2014; and then I have a list of other good reads of various genres.

Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

     *Sigh* This is probably the most amazing Tales of Goldstone Wood yet. A masterpiece, :) Fantasy with a fae and enchanting twist at its best! Read my full review HERE.
The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight
     An epic continuation of the Ilyon Chronicles. Prepare to have your heart torn out a few times... but end up absolutely thrilled! I beta read this one, and am at the present reading it through again! I will review it after I've finished.
Aire by Lena Goldfinch
     Breathlessly beautiful. This book was one amazing adventurous, romantic tale. I love the subtle fantasy and Christian allegory. Read my full review HERE.
The Ryn by Serena Chase
     A fairytale/fantasy to adore. I have been enjoying this series so much, and can't wait to read about the dashing pirate, Cazian, next! ;) :) Read my full review HERE.
Hebbros by Nicole Sager
     A really grand, non-magic fantasy. Along the lines of Jaye L. Knight's Ilyon Chronicles. I loved this novel, and am excited to read more by Nicole Sager. Read my full review HERE.
Season of Wonder by Lisa Tawn Bergren
     This is dystopian/fantasy at its best. I loved this book, and am just so dying to continue the adventure!! :) Really, if you're longing for a dystopian with a Christian aspect, pick up the Remnants series! Read my full review HERE.
Resistance by Jaye L. Knight
     I mentioned its sequel above... Ilyon Chronicles is just not to be missed. Awesome fantasy adventure... exploring deep issues and situations. And not to mention, there's an incredibly sweet relationship story, :) :) Read my full review HERE.
Rise of the Dibor by Christopher Hopper
     This was an unusual, but altogether inspiring tale. A thought-provoking strain of fantasy. Caution... quite the violence at points (especially in the second book), but I'm excited to read the last book of The White Lion Chronicles! Read my full review HERE.
Trust by Molly Evangeline
     Just awesome fantasy... think a more feminine version of Lord of the Rings. The Makilien series is some of Molly Evangeline/Jaye L. Knight's more earlier writings, but I just love this series. Entrancing. Read my full review HERE.
The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson
     Another sort of unusual fantasy. Or maybe something along the lines of The Chronicles of Narnia. In any case, it was an adventurous and amazing journey. Perfect for younger boys and girls, but I loved it too! :) Read my full review HERE.
The Word Changers by Ashlee Willis
     Don't recognize the cover? That's because it's new!! (And how superbly gorgeous?!! *smiles*) This book is an unlikely and thrilling escapade, and you'll probably love it if you just pick it up, :) Read my full review HERE.
So there's some of my favorites of fantasy reads from 2014... and now I'll just do a few more of other genres:
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton
     I just love these stories. Of native American lifestyles and grand, some times difficult, adventures. This was beautifully written and just captivating. Lovely historical. Read my full review HERE.
Tattler's Branch by Jan Watson
     Goodness, what is it about Jan Watson's books?? They just manage to draw me in every time... right back into the old days in the mountains. Intriguing tales for sure. Read my full review HERE.
Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes
     Amber Stokes's has a lovely writing style... and I quickly came to adore her books. Forget Me Not was my favorite I think; poignant westerns! Read my full review HERE.
The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
     And a superb Regency... by Julie Klassen of course! This was a terribly interesting novel, with all kinds of mystery and intrigue! A great and touching story. Read my full review HERE.
Spell Hunter by R.J. Anderson
     I just had to throw in this fairy story. Not what I usually read, but was I ever captivated by this enchanting tale! Want to read about fairies, but feeling too old for Tinker Bell? ;) Try out this series! I have really been enjoying it! :) Read my full review HERE.
Now for some self-help/devotional type books. You have to love those too, :)
Where Do I Start by Molly Evangeline
     Very informative and eye-opening book. Great for anyone looking into independently publishing! Read my full review HERE.
For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
     Great, great book, all you young women out there. If you're looking to better understand the men in your life, you should totally read this book. Read my full review HERE.
Jump Off the Hormone Swing by Lorraine Pintus
     Sometims I just really need to read a book like this. Understand health issues better... and the spiritual side to your struggles! Read my full review HERE.
So what about you? What books did you enjoy this past year? Any of those above? :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Until That Distant Day by Jill Stengl

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Title: Until That Distant Day

Author: Jill Stengl

Series: Standalone

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult

**5 stars**

Seeing the gorgeous cover and realizing it was written by Anne Elisabeth Stengl's mom, Jill Stengl, I was quite excited to read Until That Distant Day. Happily, I was not disappointed in this fascinating historical set in the country of France (French history always interests me).

Centered on a young widow and her brothers during the perilous French Revolution, we journey along with Colette as she struggles to find where her loyalties lie ... and what is righteous and true in the violent setting of rebellion. Also, love whispers, and secrets are unveiled. In the end, who will survive? And will Colette and Pascoe keep their close relationship or be torn apart by politics?

All in all, a vivid historical tale. Raw, real, and deep, Until That Distant Day explored and revealed a devastating and changing time in France's history. From the destitute to the more wealthy, we see this precarious world through Colette's eyes. It could make you think of the movie Les Miserables (which I will clarify that I had some issues with the latest version, but it still was an intriguing story). Love the French words scattered throughout this book! And the subtle romance was just ... grand. I had an inkling pretty early on that they might end up together, but just wasn't sure. It really made it sweet in the end though! Lovely characters, Colette and her man. I just really felt Colette sometimes ... felt her pain, her fear, her confusion, her longing, her guilt. There were times I connected, and that's really great when you can do that with a character! *smiles*

Pascoe got on my nerves a bit. And also the young mother that Colette helps out ... she was hard to like at times. But they certainly added a lot to the story, and you saw their outlook of life and came to understand them more in the end. The doctor and his daughter were splendid characters. And I really enjoyed Colette's brother, Etienne. A really great array of characters overall. And each with such unique, clear personalities. Wonderful job, Mrs. Stengl!

I found the overall story in Until That Distant Day epic and deserving of five stars. ... But, it was a bit hard to read some of the scenes. It was a brutal time in history. Lots of fear. Much unneeded, insensitive violence. The mass slaughtering scene in particular was awful. But I do appreciate the history. Just a heads-up that there's some slightly graphic violence in this book ... caution to younger readers!

But really an amazing, unusual novel in the end. I was surprised by ... I don't know ... just plain surprised. It was different. In a really good way. *smiles* I like to find novels that have the kind of depth and feeling that Until That Distant Day had. Interested in big historical events? The history of France? A story of redemption, pain, pasts, and ultimately, joy? Give this one a try! I look forward to reading more by Jill Stengl.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Emissary by Thomas Locke

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Title: Emissary

Author: Thomas Locke

Series: Legends of the Realm #1

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Young Adult

**3 stars**

Emissary, book one in the LEGENDS OF THE REALM series, is one of those novels that is just hard to rate. Hard to know what you think of it. On one hand, it was quite superb storytelling. On the other hand, it had some issues that I'm not sure I can overlook.

So I've read some of Thomas Locke's (T. Davis Bunn's) other works, and have enjoyed them a lot. Mainly historicals co-written with Janette Oke. I suppose I assumed he is a Christian, especially since Revell is the publisher. Not that I'm saying he's not - far from it. But Emissary definitely lacks a Christian aspect.

Fantasy without a Christian allegory. It's a bit tricky. I understand that that would be what Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit would be classified as ... and I've been okay with them so far, knowing J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian man. But Emissary was a little more uncertain for me.

One, was the violence. There were some violent scenes that were really unneeded in my opinion. (But I suppose you can only expect that with guys). However, some of the violent scenes seemed to focus on our main character, Hyam's, power, and how he is able to create havoc ... without really thinking about the consequences. Maybe that's not how the author meant it to come across; but I was uncomfortable with a few parts like that. Also, there were some other scenes that made me cringe. I can see the allegory within them, but the violence was just a bit much for me.

Two, the magic. Wizards, and orbs, and power currents running through the ground. Hmm ... it's a hard one. I guess its a fine line. Is the "magic", the "special abilities" a gift; or is it just some unknown power deep within a person or the earth that has to be tapped into? Emissary kind of came across as the latter, and it was weird. Didn't God make everything? Isn't He in control of everything? So if the power isn't coming from God, than who/what is it coming from? The earth holds no power of its own - it is creation. So is the power coming from Satan then? I don't know. That's just what runs through my head.

Thomas Locke mentioned on his blog that his inspiration for the power currents within the ground to be tapped into were from native American legends and such. ( I'm inclined to believe that any supernatural kind of power not from God, must be from darker forces.

But yes, fantasy is different than real life. In a lot of ways. But the same in a lot of ways too. So I remain very uncertain.

Beyond my doubts, Emissary is quite the stunning novel. The beginning, I must say, was quite slow for me. And a bit confusing. But at about page 100 or so, it became quite captivating, and I was pulled into this fantastical tale. I very much enjoyed the elves, I must say! *smiles*

I think the deal with the crimson mage could have been expounded on a bit more. But I suppose that might come in the second book.

***SPOILER ALERT*** I did NOT like how Hyam's lady love orders, basically, that they get married, when he hasn't even spoken of the issue. It was strange to me. I believe the man should pursue the woman, you know. So, Emissary also kind of had that "women power" feel. I don't understand why. But it just did a little. ***SPOILER ALERT ENDS***

Despite my complaints, Emissary really was a fascinating novel once I got into it. A masterful story overall. I can't recommend it, because of the issues I touched on (mostly the strain of magic), but it was a well-written, very interesting tale.

I enjoy T. Davis Bunn's books, and question his decision to go into fantasy ... under a pen name, and without a Christian aspect. Does he want to write a best-selling fantasy? Or did he just desire to write fantasy with more subtle allegories. I don't know. Good, but not great for me. I have yet to decide if I will finish this series.

I received a free copy of Emissary from Revell publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: For Young Women Only: What You Need to Know About How Guys Think

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Title: For Young Women Only: What You Need to Know About How Guys Think

Author: Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice

Genre: Christian Living/Self-Help

Audience: Young Adult

**5 stars**

My first read of the new year! And was it ever worth it. This is my second time reading For Young Women Only: What You Need to Know About How Guys Think by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice. But let me assure you, I was no less surprised, encouraged, amazed, and challenged reading it over. A little saddened and convicted too. I guess the older you get, the more it impacts you; the more you realize and understand what this book is trying to say.

So did you know that your seemingly harmless teasing or constant "check-ups" on a guy can really effect him in a negative way? Or that a man getting angry (feeling disrespected or not trusted) is the equivalent to a woman crying (feeling unloved or not cherished)? Or that your "cute" outfits are creating havoc in the minds of even young men who are trying to do right?

It's a pretty well-known fact that men and women are different, and we often have a hard time understanding each other. Well ... why don't we try to understand? Stop the selfishness. Get rid of the "poor me" mentality. Quit trash-talking men when we are equally to blame! Yes, if you are in an abusive relationship of any type, then this doesn't apply. But otherwise, we should try to support the men in our lives. Let's build them up, encourage them, be their helper - as God created us to. Not to just your boyfriend, but your brothers, father, and other guy acquaintances. They're all created and loved by God. We should strive to love them the same.

For Young Women Only has some ground-breaking advice on how to do this. This book really explores the minds of men; myths about them that aren't quite what we imagined, and other secrets that quite stun us. Like, you can say "I love you" all you want, but if you're sending messages of "I don't respect you"/"I can't trust you", he's not going to be feeling good about himself or your relationship. So yes, read this book if you're looking to be a better girlfriend, sister, daughter, just a more understanding and godly young woman overall. I mean, most of us don't want to be hurting our guy friends and whatnot, so why not figure out what they're thinking?

This book can have a feeling of being more directed toward the average, high-school girl ... which it is, I believe. So if you're not exactly that girl, some parts of the book will have you feeling not as connected. It was like that for me. Like, I might have thought like that when I was fifteen, but now I'm seeking a godly marriage, not a fun dating relationship that may or may not last forever. However, most of For Young Women Only was very interesting and relevant for me.

So look no further to learn important things about modesty, dating, and men's feelings and thoughts. This book may be written by women, but they got all their information from men! It's straightforward and just telling it how it is for men (not: this is right or this is wrong), but at the same time, there is a Christian aspect and sensitivity (nothing graphic or such).

I very much appreciated this chance to look inside the minds of men. I truly want to be a support, not a hindrance, to my brothers. So this was extremely helpful. All young ladies, do pick up this book ... be surprised and convicted, but most of all, enriched! And as for men, I would encourage you to read something like For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women. Let's learn to be a team, not in competition or dragging the other down.

Amazingly insightful book.