Monday, October 13, 2014

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley Book Review

18850676// Palace of Darkness //

By Tracy Higley

{Review by Bethany}

Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through Book Look Bloggers
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Number of Pages: 368
 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

// Book Synopsis //
Taken from Good Reads
"Previously released as "Petra."

She believed the city in stone could protect her from the past--until it threatened to destroy her future.

Cassia, a destitute young widow, seeks refuge for herself and her young son, Alexander, in Petra, the home of his late father's estranged family. The capital of the flourishing Arabian empire, a city carved in rock and still free of Roman control, Petra is hidden away among towering sandstone cliffs. Cassia hopes to secure a future here with Alexander's relatives and enjoy the family life she's never known.

But Alexander's father was not the man Cassia thought. He kept a great secret from her--a secret that leads an evil queen to steal Alexander from his mother and plan his destruction.

As the plot against her son unfolds, Cassia finds unexpected allies in her new friend, Julian, and the mysterious followers of The Way. These strangers sacrifice everything to help Cassia rescue her son from the dark palace and the pagan queen. And they offer Cassia the love and security of a family--asking for nothing in return.

With Roman soldiers poised to invade the city, Cassia learns that it will take more than her new friends to save her son's life. It will take a strength and a power beyond any Cassia has ever known--if she is willing to surrender and trust in the One True God."
// Bethany's Book Review // 
I've been a big fan of Higley's historical fiction for a while, so I was very excited to hear abut her newest release. Palace of Darkness was previously released in 2010, titled Petra, and has been re-published with a new cover. Since I had not yet had the chance to read this novel, I was excited to read another Higley novel!

This wonderful historical novel is about Cassia, and ultimately her journey of going above and beyond to protect her son's life, which was at risk. This story is such an intimate one that wonderfully displays a mother's true love. I was immediately drawn into Cassia's story, and was interested to learn more about her as I turned the pages. Her story was such an interesting one, and I especially enjoyed her story of becoming aware of Christ's great love for her. This theme in the novel was especially significant for her, due to her past which involved difficulty with trusting others. I was intrigued by her story, and loved seeing her character come out as she did everything within her power to save her son.

While not my favorite of Higley's novels, I still thoroughly enjoyed this exciting ride back in time. I really enjoyed all the historical aspects of this book, and enjoyed the setting in ancient Rome. Higley did an excellent job with the historical bits of this book! The setting was firm, and you can tell that she really did some research when writing this novel! I also loved how she incorporated the historical aspect of ancient Rome with a young mother protecting her son.

This book does have some mature thematic content that was entirely due to the time period this book was set in. At this time, there were many false religions that were practiced, and many evil practices that went with the religions. One particular character in the story was involved in such evil practices including "talking" to the gods with magic, and detestable human sacrifices. There is also mention of the Colosseum and the practices that went on there, mainly in one particular scene where several Christians lots their lives in the Colosseum after being violently murdered by lions. Even though these are more mature topics, I feel like Higley balanced them well and was discrete, and that the book wouldn't have been complete without the historical aspects that went with the times.

In all, I really enjoyed this sweet story of love-though a story of family love versus popular romantic love; which was a unique twist which I liked. The historical aspect of this book is sure to please any fan of good historical fiction!

D I S C L A I M E R :: I received a free copy of Palace of Darkness from the publisher, for the sole purpose of this review. I was not paid to write this review, and all thoughts expressed are completely my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin Book Review

20665083// Keepers of the Covenant //

By Lynn Austin

{Book Review by Bethany}

Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through Litfuse publicity group
Publication Date: October 7th, 2014
Number of Pages: 480
ISBN: 0764212710
 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

// Book Synopsis //
Taken from Good Reads

"The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple--but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges...this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful."

// Bethany's Book Review //

I love this author, and have really enjoyed several of her previous releases. But sadly, I had a hard time enjoying this book as much as I wanted to. I felt the same way about the first book in this series, Return to Me. Even though I had a hard time getting into the first book, I decided to still give this sequel a try, and am glad I did.

I've always thought that biblical fiction is such an interesting genre that has so much potential. Sadly this genre isn't as popular as others, which is why I really wanted to love this novel, being how there aren't many books out there like this one. For some reason, I just had a hard time getting into the story. I love any type of book that is girly and feminine, and I don't think this story really fit into that, as there were more male characters, and it wasn't a sparkly book due to the setting. While this is in no way a bad thing, I think all the males and the setting was something that I'm not quite used to and it took a bit of adjusting to go that far back in time. This is really only one of the things I can think of that made me like the book instead of loving it, as there wasn't anything I particularly disliked.

This book is nearly 500 pages, and for a while it was a bit daunting to look at the sheer length of it! Being that the novel was as long as it was, I think the author did a good job making the story read smoothly without getting dry. There were so many different characters, and the book covers such a long period of time, making it a bit hard to keep up at times for me personally. However it wasn't a huge deal, as things kept moving smoothly.

Out of all the characters and their stories, I think my favorite was Amina's. It was such an interesting one that I enjoyed-especially the ending! However the other story lines were a just so-so for me, making Amina's story the highlight of the book for me.

Overall, this was a nice one-time read for me. Being able to go back in time to Bible times was such an exciting journey! I recommend this book for fans of biblical fiction!

D I S C L A I M E R :: I received a free copy of Keepers of the Covenant from the publisher to review. I was not paid to do so, and all thoughts expressed are my own, completely honest and unbiased.
Keepers of the Covenant Lynn Austin

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

20665063// Playing by Heart //
By Anne Mateer
{Review by Bethany}

Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 0764210653
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

// Book Synopsis //
Taken from GoodReads
"Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.

After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!

Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet. 

However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected."     

// Bethany's Book Review //

I've read all of Anne Mateer's books, except for At Every Turn, and really enjoyed them. I was excited when I found out that she had a new book that was to be released soon, and eagerly took the opportunity to review it. Sadly thought, this book just wasn't for me.

One of the things that made me such a fan of Mateer's previous novels was her simple stories that had a very Janette Oke feel, with close knit families and endearing characters. This book was no exception, and had a very sweet but simple story. I was rather surprised when my high expectations for this novel were not met, and in fact got to the point to where I really didn't like the novel at all. I think the reason this novel wasn't for me was due to the simple storyline, which I personally felt was shallow and lacked depth. I found the storyline to be rather simple and often felt that the story was slow.

I didn't really have a good idea of the book's storyline prior to requesting it, since I was so sure I'd love it and didn't bother to really look into what it was about. Once I started reading it I realised it involved quite a bit of basketball, and being that this particular sport doesn't interest me, I think it just added to the fact that I was quickly looking interest in the story. I read the first half of the novel, but after that I lost interest rather quickly and just skimmed over the rest of the novel. If I wouldn't have been required to finish this novel to review it, I probably wouldn't have completed it on my own.

While I've really loved this author's other novels, this novel sadly wasn't a good match for me. However I don't want to discourage you from giving it a go yourself! Since everyone has different taste, I know there are many people out there who would love this book, sadly though I wasn't one of them. So please don't let my experience with this novel keep you from reading it yourself!

DISCLAIMER: I received a complementary copy of Playing by Heart for the purpose of this review. I was not paid to write this review, and all thoughts expressed are my own, completely honest and unbiased.