Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Advance Readers Needed for "Dancing and Doughnuts"

The time has come!  I've got a release date for Dancing and Doughnuts: AUGUST 31!!!  Which, you'll no doubt realize, is one month from today.

And that means I'm going to need ARC readers.  Like my book Cloaked, this is a novella, around 200 pages.  Like Cloaked, it is a non-magical retelling of a fairy tale set in the Old West.  This time, I'm retelling "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."  What do doughnuts have to do with it?  You'll have to read the book to find out.

Advance readers MUST be able to do the following:

  • Read a PDF or MOBI file
  • Finish reading the book and review it by September 3
  • Review the book at TWO or more of the following places:
  1. Your book review blog
  2. Goodreads
  3. Instagram
  4. Facebook

I will get you your e-copy of the book no later than Monday, August 20 (I'm still finalizing it).  That would give you two weeks to read it and write your review.

If you meet those qualifications, send me an email at rachelkovaciny at gmail dot com with "ARC Request" in the subject line.  Include links to your blog and public accounts at the other websites so I can check them out and see if you'd be a good fit for my book.  I can't give away unlimited numbers of free copies, so it'll be first come, first served.

NOTE:  Your blog does not have to be *only* a book blog!  As long as you do post book reviews on it, that's good enough for me.

Amazon no longer allows authors to "trade" copies of their book for reviews, so I cannot require you to leave a comment there.  However, obviously I would appreciate reviews there too, once it's for sale, because those are what help convince other people to give my books a try.  Reviews on sites like Amazon and the Barnes & Noble website are what indie authors survive on, really.

Monday, July 30, 2018

"A Gathering of Days" by Joan W. Blos

I really feel like I've read this book before, years ago.  The title is just extremely familiar.  But I couldn't remember what it was about, so I went ahead and read it again.

I liked it okay, to be honest.  I didn't love it.  It's the fictional journal of a girl growing up in the 1830s in New England.  A lot of stuff happens, like her widowed dad gets remarried, a close friend gets sick and dies, and she helps a mysterious stranger who begs her for assistance.  There wasn't really a strong plot to the book, which is probably why it took me like two months to finish.  I did appreciate all the historical details about daily life, people's attitudes toward issues like slavery, and so on.

(From my Instagram account.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Completely clean.

This is my 4th book read and reviewed for the OldSchool KidLit Reading Challenge 2018 and my 11th for the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"A Cry from the Dust" by Carrie Stuart Parks

Inspired by how much I liked When Death Draws Near and Portrait of Vengeance, I decided to go back and read the first couple books in the Gwen Marcey series because my library system has them.  The first book, A Cry from the Dust, came in last week, and I promptly devoured it.  

I like this series so very much!  Gwen Marcey, forensic artist and human lie detector, is a fascinating character with all kinds of foibles, problems, and strengths.  I could see myself being friends with her if she was real and we met up somehow.  And, since characters I want to be friends with is what makes me love books... yeah, it's not a surprise I'm enjoying these.

In this book, Gwen Marcey loses the job she was hoping would lead to a permanent position.  Her husband recently divorced her, after her battle with breast cancer left her flat-chested and bald, and she needs steady work to make ends meet.  Her teenage daughter resents both her parents over the divorce and acts out as a result.  

Into this personal maelstrom comes a chance to work with the FBI to catch domestic terrorists linked to a fringe Mormon leader who is trying to seize more power.  Gwen jumps at the opportunity, but winds up in mortal danger.  Lots of exciting stuff happens as a result :-)

If you enjoy books or TV shows about forensic crime investigations, you'll probably like these.  I especially like that these don't splash around a lot in the kinds of icky details some of those glory in.

(Yeah, I'm a Bookstagrammer.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for non-graphic discussions of pregnancy and polygamy, characters in mortal danger, discussions of historical massacres, and suspenseful events.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Tuck" by Stephen R. Lawhead

Well, I've done it!  I've finished the King Raven trilogy!  And I managed to read Tuck in just a couple of weeks, not drag it out over months like I did Scarlet and Hood.  I liked it about equally well with Scarlet, and I loved the ending.

In fact, if you had told me this is how it all would end back when I was reading Hood, I probably wouldn't have believed you.  I probably would have laughed.  Because that book was so dark, I almost quit reading it halfway through and gave up on the series even though I had probably a dozen friends, on and off the internet, telling me the series was awesome.

Yeah, my friends were totally right.  The ending?  SO good.  I was pleased.

SPOILER ALERT:  Bran does not die.  I was just assuming this was going to be one where the Robin Hood character dies, but nope, not so.  YAY!  I actually have this rule where I don't read about Robin Hood dying because if I didn't read it, it didn't happen, and I can happily live in a world where Robin Hood still lives.  So I was fully prepared to quit reading this book before the last chapter if it became obvious Bran was going to die.  But he didn't.  So I got to read the whole thing.  END SPOILER ALERT.

Anyway.  This series still isn't my favorite Robin Hood retelling, but I did enjoy it.  Yay!  It was nifty having this book focus a lot on Friar Tuck, because I've always liked him a lot in basically every version of Robin Hood I've seen or read that includes him.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for a lot of violence and a little bad language.

(From my Instagram...)

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Crown of Souls" by Ronie Kendig

Cole "Tox" Russell and his task force of super-soldiers are back for another Indiana-Jones-meets-Jack-Reacher adventure.  This time, someone Tox used to work with has gone evil.  Former soldier Alec King starts killing people he blames for the death of some of his team members years ago, and he thinks Tox will join him on what King insists is a holy quest to rid the world of evil.

Eventually, Tox and Haven and the rest of their cohorts find evidence that King has gotten his hands on an artifact called the Crown of Souls that uses an otherworldly power to control and distort whoever wears it.  The crown has a history that involves Saladin and the Knights Templar, ancient Assyrians, and more. 

On a whole, I did not like this as well as the first book in the series, Conspiracy of Silence.  I felt like the faith-based elements were less focused and integral to the story, and I had a harder time engaging with the plot.  However, it was definitely a thrilling story, and if you're into thrillers or books that blend archaeology with suspense, you'll probably like it a lot.

Particularly Good Bits:

The subtle tendrils of bitterness were watered over years as wounds were left to fester, the person believing their wrong, their hurt more important than healing.  Than letting go (p. 432).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for a lot of violence and some implied sexual activity -- one side character has been cohabiting with someone they're not married to.  No graphic or detailed love scenes.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for me to read while judging the INSPY awards. In no way did I agree to review this book in exchange. These are my honest opinions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Island of the Mad" by Laurie R. King

You know I've been a fan of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series for many years now.  I've written a lot of posts about them.  They're my favorite non-canonical Holmes stories, and I love some of them dearly.

Just not this one.

Actually, I liked much of the story.  It was fascinating, mysterious, and held some nice twists.  Russell's university friend Veronica's aunt has been in and out of mental institutions for the last decade or so, and then she suddenly disappears, so Veronica asks Russell to look for her aunt.  Russell and Holmes follow her trail to Venice, which has just come under the rule of Mussolini and the fascists, and all the historical details were awesome.  They end up rubbing elbows with people like Cole Porter, so that was fun.

But running all through the story is a vein of homosexuality, which is not surprising given that King's modern-day mystery series stars a gay policewoman and she's dealt with the topic in other books too.  And Cole Porter actually was gay, so it all tied together.  What bothered me was Russell and Holmes' very modern reactions to finding out various people involved in the case were, as the parlance of the day put it, lavender.  They were practically ho-hum, and while many people in the 21st century would react that way, it felt pretty weird for the time and place the book was set.  Yes, Russell and Holmes have always been unconventional characters, but this began to feel like the foisting of an author's agenda into her characters' behavior and words that I just didn't appreciate or enjoy.  It was like if Holmes and Russell had suddenly started talking about reducing emissions and saving the ozone layer and needing to find sustainable fuel -- it just didn't seem to fit.

So anyway, if you like the series, you'll still have fun hanging out with Holmes and Russell here.  But this won't be a favorite of mine.  A couple years ago, I made a list of how I rank the books in this series, from favorite to least-favorite, and I feel like revising the list to include the newer books, so here's how I rank them now:

1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice (book 1)
2. The Game (book 7)
3. The Murder of Mary Russell (book 14)
4. O Jerusalem (book 5)
5. Garment of Shadows (book 12)
6. Pirate King (book 11)
7. Locked Rooms (book 8)
8. Dreaming Spies (book 13)
9. Justice Hall (book 6)
10. The God of the Hive (book 10)
11. The Language of Bees (book 9)
12. The Moor (book 4)
13. Island of the Mad (book 15)
14. A Monstrous Regiment of Women (book 2)
15. A Letter of Mary (book 3)

Particularly Good Bits:

"I have never found 'luck' a dependable companion," Holmes noted calmly, and tucked into his soup (p. 237).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a hard PG-13 or soft R for a lot of veiled discussions of sexual proclivities, the behavior of mentally disturbed people, bad language, and some perilous situations.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: This Year's Best, So Far

The year is a little more than half over, and I've already read so many amazing books!  Which is good, because this week's TTT prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "The best books I've read in 2018 (so far)."  Here are my ten, with titles linked to my reviews.  

And for something different and fun, I've included a favorite line or passage from each of them so you can have a little taste of what they're like!

A Flame in the Dark by Sarah Baughman (PG-13)  ""This is where we see, without exception, the heart of the Christian faith: love.  God's love for His people, and His people's love for one another, and for the world.  We are to bear one another's burdens, to stir one another up to love and good works.  That is to say, we are to admonish, encourage, help, and be patient, in love" (p. 159).

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George (PG-13)  "Obviously friendly was too high a word for what they’d been, but she’d enjoyed, well, not him exactly but the challenge of him. The pleasing clang of their minds butting together" (p. 194).

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery (PG) "John Foster says," quoted Valancy, "'If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and yet be entirely comfortable, you and that person can be friends.  If you cannot, friends you'll never be and you need not waste time in trying'" (p. 123).

Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L'Amour (PG) "It was midafternoon and the sun lay like a curse upon the town" (p. 66).

Loving Isaac by Heather Kaufman (PG-13) "Kara's was a prettily packaged life, the kind with ribbons and a bow that catches your eye.  Hana's was a banged and dented UPS box left on the wrong doorstep" (p. 21).

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (PG) "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid" (p. 102).

Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks (PG-13)  "I believe the events of the past impact all that happens in the present" (p. 155).

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (PG-13)  "She had that way of looking at him that made him feel like he'd built the world for her and given it to her as a gift just that morning" (p. 237).

Girl in Disguise by Greer MacAllister (PG-13)  “I’d already applied to every possible position appropriate for a lady. Only the inappropriate ones remained.”

Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery (G) "It is the essence of adventure to see the break of a new day, Jane" (p. 125).

All photos are from my Instagram account except the ones that I read and reviewed before I became a bookstagrammer, which have just book covers.

Did you do a TTT list this week?  Share a link in the comments so I can see!  Have you read any of these books?  Let's discuss them!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mailbox Monday: I Won Books!

Back in June, I entered a giveaway hosted by Waterbrook & Multnomah Fiction on their Facebook page.  A giveaway for seven of their Christian fiction titles.  AND I WON!!!  I got an email informing me that I won about a week ago, and my books came in the mail today.  Looky:

Can you believe I've never read any of these authors?  Not even Kim Vogel Sawyer, though people keep recommending her books to me.  Well, hers is the first one of these I'll try!

I enter book giveaways all the time and just... never win them.  So that makes me especially excited about this :-)  Plus, do you see how many of these have a western setting?  I'm going to have some fun reading coming up!

And because it's Monday and I haven't done this linkup for a while, I'm linking this post up with Mailbox Monday!  Did you get any books in your mailbox lately?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

"Death at Thorburn Hall" by Julianna Deering

Even though I've been reading them all out of order, I am thoroughly enjoying this series.  Drew Farthering is a likable, believable gentleman.  I really enjoy spending time with him, his wife Madeline, his best friend Nick Dennison, and Madeline's friend Carrie.  They're sweet, fun, kind people, and I like them.

In this sixth book of the series, the four of them are invited to Thorburn Hall, home of Drew's cousin, Lady Louisa Rainsby, and her family.  They're all going to enjoy watching a local golf tournament, along with a few more house guests.  But then, as you might have guessed by the book's title, someone dies.  The police make a hasty arrest, but Drew and Nick are convinced the killer is still free.

This is a bit different from the other Drew Farthering books I've read in that it involves a wider world than just England and the United States.  There's a bit of political intrigue and spying involved here -- this takes place between the world wars, and Germany has come under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.  Various people's thoughts and beliefs about Hitler's ideas get tangled up in the mystery, and I'm pretty sure that future books will continue exploring the gradual slide toward World War II.

Oh, and the recurring theme of cats continues, with a new kitten arriving on the scene partway through the adventure.

As always, there are elements of the characters' Christian faith woven throughout the story, though I found them a bit sparser here than in Rules of Murder or Dressed for Death.

(From my Bookstagramming adventures.)

Particularly Good Bits:

"At some point we have to trust God with our lives, don't we?  Otherwise we spend our days huddled in a corner afraid to take a step outside.  But what a weaste that is when there's so much we're meant to do with the time He's given us" (p. 324).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a soft PG-13 for violence, dangerous situations, innuendo about a married woman being unfaithful, cigarette smoking, and some mild kissing. No bad language.

This is my 11th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Imperfect Justice" by Cara Putman

One of my favorite things about this book was how perfectly it nailed what the ruthless life of Washington D.C. is like.  I live outside the Beltway, but I know plenty of people who live in the glittering, grungy world that attorney Emilie Wesley inhabits.  It's a place where everyone is trying to make an impression, to win some competition or other, to edge just a little bit ahead in their own personal race.  

Emile Wesley works for a no-profit that helps abused women escape dangerous and harmful marriages.  She's confident, talented, and determined.  But when one of her clients winds up dead, accused of shooting both her daughters before turning the gun on herself, Emilie's whole world crumbles.  She's convinced her client could never have done such a horrible thing, not when she was on the verge of escaping a manipulative, abusive husband.  

But the only person who believes the same thing is the dead woman's brother, Reid Billings.  He's a hotshot investor whose instincts and drive have pushed him to the top tiers of the D.C. financial world.  Now Reid and Emilie must team up to prove his dead sister's innocence and stop her abusive husband from retaining custody of their surviving daughter.  But an uncle's rights in a custody case are minimal compared to a biological father's, and their chances of winning are slim at best.

I really enjoy legal thrillers, though I don't read a ton of them.  I will definitely seeking out more books by Cara Putman because I thoroughly dug this.  Especially because it included a lot of discussions of how a Christian behaves in situations like this, whether they can forgive those who intentionally harm them, and what happens when they do.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of physical and emotional abuse, scary situations, and violence.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for me to read while judging the INSPY awards. In no way did I agree to review this book in exchange. These are my honest opinions.