Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dandelion Dust by Faith L. Potts // A Modern Parable of Trusting in God

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on February 20th, 2018.


★★★★★
4.5 stars

For one small moment, Charity's life was perfect -- until a fraction of a second changed everything.

When Faith announced the release of her debut novella, I was ecstatic. A modern, Christian romance featuring two young adults? With a coffee shop or two, and a dash of four-wheeling thrown in? SO MUCH YES. So when the opportunity arose to review Dandelion Dust, I jumped at the chance... and I was not in the least disappointed. πŸ’•

Charity Grace's life is perfect. Four years ago, a mission trip to Guatemala revealed a newfound friend in Hannah Traven, an Oklahoma native. Now, Charity's off to college... and she and Hannah's older brother are dating, completely head-over-heels for one another.

...And then the phone call comes, and Charity's world begins to crumble. For, "like a speck of dandelion dust riding the tides of a prairie wind, life is fleeting"... and her boyfriend's life hangs in the balance.

FRENS. This book... *sighs* I laughed, I cried, I adored it.

Each character was so human, so flawlessly crafted that one could easily believe them to be a friend or family member.

AND THE ROMANCE. *flails* Gaaah, the romance! It. Was. Adorable. Ryder and Charity were so sweet and natural together! I'd readily describe it as one of the most realistic inspirational romances I've ever read.

My, my. The plot, the themes, the writing... it was all woven together so beautifully. Everything about this book was perfect. πŸ’—

For a truly inspiring tale of God's unwavering love, I whole-heartedly recommend Dandelion Dust!

You may want to know: Although one character is injured in a quad accident, the story does not dwell on the specifics of the incident itself (a.k.a. there's no gore). This book does carry a bit of romance, but I'd readily deem it void of anything questionable. πŸ™‚

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy of Dandelion Dust from the author, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

~Serethiel

Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny // A Captivating Red Riding Hood Retelling, Set in the Old West

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on September 29th, 2017.


★★★★★

A story of love. A story of fear. A story of hope. A story of courage.

Have you ever read a book that makes you crave an adventure? Perhaps a story that sparks a desire for travel, or independence? A story that simply sweeps you off your feet, whisking you away and inspiring that sense of wanderlust? For me, that story was Cloaked, by Rachel Kovaciny.

Mary Rose arrives in Wyoming with few expectations; all she knows is that she's to meet her grandmother, an estranged -- and possibly wealthy -- member of the family. But when a striking accountant enters the scene, Mary Rose realizes that her newfound adventure was merely a mirage... and she might just need to flee for her life.

Oh, this book was wonderful! Like the sunrise on a chilly spring morning, this book held such a glow of warm familiarity. The writing style was direct and to-the-point, but also maintained a bit of elegance. The characters were all so real: Mary Rose with her curiosity, Jubilee and Hauer with their friendship and laughter, Mr. Linden with his charms...

Cloaked was so amazing! I highly recommend it, and I would read it again in a heartbeat. πŸ’–

You may want to know: There are some implications, including brief and un-descriptive "touching" and a forced kiss. There is some mild violence, as well as a very light romance.

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy of Cloaked from the author, in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

~Serethiel

Coiled by H.L. Burke // A Sweet, Mythological Romance

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on June 23rd, 2017.


★★★★☆
3.5 stars

Greek mythology retold. A giant, man-eating serpent.
A rejected princess with a hideous curse and an astounding gift.

From the moment I first heard about H.L.'s upcoming novel to the moment I saw the cover, I knew this was a story I wanted to read.

A retelling of Eros & Psyche, as well as a Beauty & the Beast retelling in its own right, Coiled is the story of Laidra -- a girl forced into hiding by her own family, treated as if she was the child who was never meant to be, and thrown into political schemes as bait for a monstrous snake.

The characters -- Calen is so adorable! Which is saying a lot, because I hate snakes. But (thankfully!), Calen was no problem for me! He was such a cute, lovely little ginormous guy! 😊

ZEPHIA. She was probably my favorite character in the entire book! A clever, powerful demigoddess, daughter to a wind god? Yes, please!

And Valen. Uhg, Valen. He and his father are both such terrible people that I love/hate it. The pair of them would both, without a doubt, qualify for Paper Fury's "best worst villain to hate".

The romance -- The romance was definitely sweet. As the story progressed, however, I felt like the affection between Laidra and Calen was starting to be displayed a little too physically. A good dose of innocence in the romantic area would've been preferred, but otherwise, the romance was considerably clean. (See notes below.)

The writing -- H.L.'s voice is fast-paced, but not too much -- just enough to keep the story going at a likable, adventure-ready pace.

The setting -- The mythology elements shown through just enough to deliver an allegorical tale evidently set in a fantasy land inspired by ancient Greece. And, being the Greek mythology nerd that I am, I loved uncovering the subtle little references to characters such as Theseus and Perseus!

The plot -- About halfway through, when a certain unfortunate event occurred to a certain primary character, an unforeseen journey came into view. I tend to prefer romance in a story when it's "all or nothing", so I personally would've liked that journey to... not exist? It was certainly enlightening and relevant to the story, but I would've preferred to focus on the relationship between the main characters.

This made for such a lovely read! I'd recommend this to anyone searching for a sweet, romantic read with mythological elements thrown in. πŸ™‚

You may want to know: There are some brief and rather undescriptive references to nudity, as well as strong suggestions/implications. There is violence and references to warfare, along with the involvement of "gods", drinking, magical elements, and kissing. The "ba-word" is used once.

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy of Coiled from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

~Serethiel

The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea // Rogues, Romance, & Redemption

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on April 21st, 2017.


★★★★☆
4.5 stars

I love a good rogue romance. Unfortunately, most of those romances I hold so dear rarely come true, so to put it (*coughs* I'm looking at you, Guy and Marian). But this... My dear friends, this was so good.

Gwyneth Barrington is on the path to becoming a nun. Living in a convent in Leiden, the Netherlands, she suffers from the memory of her parents' murders, and their promise for her happy future.

And then the assumed murderer shows up, claiming that Leiden's convent is under attack, and he wishes to bring Gwyn to safety.

If only it were that simple.

I've been interested in The Sound of Diamonds for a while, now. That gorgeous title, that intriguing cover... As Prince Edward from Disney's Enchanted would say, what's not to like? So when a review opportunity came up, I pounced. πŸ˜‰

The first chapter begins with action and adventure. Gwyneth, a young, headstrong noblewoman. Dirk Godfrey, a redeemed rogue with a scandalous past. Two of Dirks closest friends, a strict nun, and a sweet postulant.

The characters -- One of my biggest pet peeves in religious romance novels (and probably the main reason I don't read more romance, period) is the helpless (and very beautiful) Mary Sue and the slightly flawed (yet still very handsome) Gary Stu. I love how Rachelle took these stereotypical characters and tossed them out the window. πŸ˜„

We have a feisty daughter of nobility (with glasses! *cheers*), a God-pursuing son of a lord and lady, and a cast full of fun characters.

My only complaints in regards to the cast were Cade and Ian, both of whom seemed very similar (though the latter got much less "screen time"); and the villain, who, though his reasons seemed comprehensible enough, felt like he needed a little more motivation.

The romance -- I'll start by saying that the side-romance (between a certain friend and postulant *winks*) was super sweet. There was what was possibly an implication of sorts later on in their relationship that seemed a bit out of place, but it was left open to interpretation.

But the main romance. Our hero and our heroine. (*smiles*) Even though I know the answers, I'm still tempted to scream at them, "What took you so long?!" πŸ’—

The writing -- I've yet to experience a novel so wonderfully historically accurate, yet so well written at the same time. Never in my life have I heard of the Dutch Revolution, but Rachelle brought it to life in wonderful ways, with her little phrases in late-Renaissance Dutch and Spanish.

The setting -- I'm not big on description; in fact, if there's more than one sentence of description in a book, that's the part I usually skip. However, I did feel as if this area could've done with a tad more development.

The plot -- 
Fantasy lovers, take your favourite fantasy quest -- journeys across seas, through forests, to castles, you name it... Now apply it to a historical romance, with an emotional murder mystery along the way. (*nods*) Remarkable, isn't it?

So, yes, my dear friend -- go read The Sound of Diamonds! Even if you're not big on historical romance, go do it. You won't regret it. πŸ™‚

You may want to know: There is violence (murder included) and kissing, as well as a few slight implications.

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy of The Sound of Diamonds from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

~Serethiel

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine // An Original Reimagining of Snow White

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on December 8th, 2016.


★★★☆☆

Sequel to the Newberry-Honor-Award-winning Ella Enchanted and a retelling of Snow White, completely its own, Gail Carson Levine's Fairest tells the story of Aza -- a young woman with hideous looks yet a voice to make up for them; abandoned at an inn when she was a child.

I really enjoyed Ella Enchanted, so I had rather high expectations for Fairest. Though the beginning and end were both rather slow, Gail's tasteful writing and curious plot in between helped to make up for it. I greatly admire how Gail can so boldly weave unique cultures and intricate languages into her stories!

The characters, I had a hard time coping with. Aza's battle with discovering inner beauty was certainly relate-able, but I didn't feel like she truly struggled with it -- at least enough to make me empathize much with her.

I also felt no connection to Ijori, Ivi, Areida, or many of the main characters; the character I enjoyed the most was probably zhamH. (Random comment: Gnome Caverns sound like so much fun!)

The setting was good, but I rather wish there had been more description. As interesting as Ayortha's musical culture was, it wasn't enough to make me fall in love with the kingdom.

I do think I'd recommend this book, though likely more so after one's read Ella Enchanted, so they'd have a better knowledge of the setting. Fairest makes for a fun little read, and would probably be enjoyed most by pre-teen girls. :)

You may want to know: There is kissing and mild fantasy violence, along with some magical elements.

~Serethiel

Unblemished by Sara Ella // If Rick Riordan Wrote Fairytales

The following review was originally published at Merikthorne Library, on December 8th, 2016.


★★★☆☆

Oh, Unblemished. It seems so long since I've last been completely torn on how to rate a book.

Unblemished tells the story of Eliyana -- a high school senior with a ghastly birthmark that marks her face. She's never considered herself beautiful, and after her mother's death and recurring strange interactions with people she thought she new, her world comes crashing down... and she must be taken to another.

...Don't get me wrong: Unblemished was really good. Sara Ella seems a true wordsmith, and though I'm not a great reader of contemporary fiction (particularly set in a city), she was able to make me like it. It was as if Rick Riordan wrote fairytale-esque novels -- Sara Ella's writing is some of the best I've ever read!

But there were some problems I had with the book. The allegory, for one. I thought I understood it -- it was all rather confusing when I was first introduced to different Reflections, but as time went on, it began to make sense. Until it didn't. I honestly have no idea how the allegory works, or even if there's one at all.

There was also the matter of clichΓ©s. ClichΓ©s don't typically bother me, but they seemed all too stereotypical for a contemporary fantasy: A girl finds out she's really a chosen one who's supposed to save a magical kingdom surrounded by darkness; she's captured by the villain and escapes multiple times, but every time she's around him, he takes his time explaining his master plans. There's also a love triangle!

So the love triangle. It didn't bother me and seemed somewhat believable, at first. But then there was a giant whirlwind of face-paced emotions, confusing loyalty, and other such drama. The end result was less than satisfactory.

In the end, I think I liked the book? The writing was AMAZING, but I had a hard time standing the characters or the fantasy world. I'd expected Unblemished to be a sweet read about God and true beauty, but there seemed little talk of either, and I must admit that I was a little disappointed... πŸ˜• So I'm not sure whether I'd recommend it, or not. If you are interested in reading it, I highly recommend it for the writing style. πŸ™‚

You may want to know: There was fantasy violence, kissing, and drinking, as well as minor implications.

~Serethiel

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