Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Well, I missed my normal Monday review date. Sorry… It’s been a rough couple of weeks: between wretched allergies and the sudden loss of my beautiful Aunt Faith, I’ve gone through a ridiculous amount of Kleenex lately. However, the need to stay inside on these too warm, too windy, too pollen-filled days has given me the blessing of time to read (when my eyes aren’t too puffy to see!) and catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 🙂 I hope I’ll be back on schedule in a few days. So without further ado, here’s my review of Connilyn Cossette’s Wings of the Wind:

348760912

From the book: Can vengeance give way to forgiveness when one woman’s destiny becomes entangled with the very enemies she sought to destroy?

“Motherless and raised alongside her brothers, Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting. When her father and brothers are killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.

“Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, has spent his share of time on the battlefield and is shocked to find an unconscious woman among the casualties. Compelled to bring her to a healer back at the Hebrew camp, he’s unprepared for the consequences of what he intended as an act of compassion.

“In order to survive, Alanah must unite with her enemy. But will a terrible revelation drive her toward an even greater danger?”

Wings of the Wind is a sweeping historical drama, covering events from the last bits of the Exodus and the crossing into the Promised Land. Cossette does a beautiful job of bringing the biblical stories into new, fresh life, giving her readers a different perspective on the dramatic events recounted in Numbers 21 (the Bronze Serpent) and Joshua 2 (Rahab and the Spies), among others. I love historical fiction — especially when it makes you look at stories you already know in a new light, makes you really think about the rest of the story. Cossette definitely does just that and masterfully blends a ton of historical research with everything from thrills to romance, thoroughly fleshed and sympathetic characters, and even a giggle or two.

This is actually the third book in Connilyn Cossette’s Out from Egypt series. I have not read the first two (Counted with the Stars and Shadow of the Storm), but that certainly didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this story. In fact, I plan on reading those first two books as soon as I can. 🙂 And I’d certainly suggest you grab your own copy of Wings of the Wind.

Many thanks to Bethany House for the copy of this lovely book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Advertisements

The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr

bookofwhispersFrom the publisher:

Tuscany, 1096 AD. Young aristocrat Luca can see demons invisible to others, but must hide the fact. A powerful book seems to hold the key to their mystery, but he can’t decipher it. In Cappadocia, during a Crusade, Luca encounters Suzan, a girl who can read the book’s cryptic language. Together, Luca and Suzan realize their true quest.

That brief description of the book grabbed me immediately. And the cover is actually pretty cool too, so I thought this might be a good book to try out a new author. Then I read the book…

…and was in no way disappointed 🙂 Starr does a magnificent job of weaving historical fact with demons and magic to create a lush and fascinating tale of the Crusades. I mean, seriously, take a moment in history, add demons, and boom! Way cooler story!

Honestly though, this story, what Starr calls “augmented history,” definitely can make a reader see the Crusades in a new light. There were motivations behind the atrocities of the Crusades, and this story shows that while many of those motivations were impure, there were those who went on the Crusades for true and good reasons as well. If only more of those motivations would have been the driving force, our world may be completely different today. But, as Starr mentions in her author’s note, there are changes we can all make to help create a better world today, and knowing why we do something — knowing that driving motivation behind our own actions and those of the people around us — is one of the most important things we need to have to begin to change the world.

This was a fascinating story and I’d definitely recommend you grab a copy when it is released in September.

Many thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

33638565

From the publisher: “From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country.

“A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

“As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.”

Kostova’s third novel, The Shadow Land, is another epic tale of Eastern Europe. I remember reading Kostova’s The Historian years ago when it first came out. I know that a number of people were less than thrilled by that book, but I, on the other hand, found myself enjoying the intricate details, the weaving of storylines, the whole drama. The Shadow Land employs many of the same techniques – multiple stories from the present and the past intertwining to create a heart-wrenching saga of love, loss, pain, and secrets with that one golden thread of hope woven throughout. And rather than having the plot driven by smarmy sex scenes and foul language, The Shadow Land is moved along by mystery, history, wonder, and hope.

While I enjoyed the story, I do admit that there were times when I wondered just how much more Alexandra and Bobby could stumble into and if the drama would ever come to a conclusion. There were moments when I thought that plausibility was stretched beyond its reach (as when Alexandra happened to find an English-speaking cab driver willing to drive well outside the city for very little money), but Kostova somehow managed to make everything that happened make sense (when we get to know Bobby and his history better, we can maybe understand why he was willing to help Alexandra). And in amongst the plot twists and long car rides, she embroidered in some desperately beautiful images and stitches of wisdom to keep me reading on.

This was definitely not a one-sitting book for me. In fact, it took me quite a while to get through it. But I’m glad that I did. I feel like I grew alongside Alexandra in this book. It gave me both a new respect for the survivors of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and a broken heart for all they endured at the hands of those who were in power. Worth the read.

Many thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the copy of this book. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Thrice-the-Brinded-Cat-Hath-Mewd

The intrepid Flavia de Luce, 12-year-old chemistry aficionado and part-time sleuth, has returned home to Buckshaw from her “exile” at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, only to find not only no welcoming party, but her father in hospital and her beloved chicken, Esmerelda, gone. At least her faithful companion, Gladys the bicycle, is still there to take her on an errand…on which Flavia, naturally, discovers a dead body in a very strange position. Can Flavia figure out why the body was tied, upside-down, to the back of a door, or will distractions on the home front keep her from finding out the truth?

How can you not love a Flavia de Luce novel? Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, the eighth of the full length novels in the series, is overflowing with whimsy, suspense, a healthy dose of snark, and even heartbreak – it’s got it all. All of the notes I took while reading were smiley faces, chuckles, and *snorts*s, with the exception of a few of those Flavia moments where she gets beautifully philosophical.

Alan Bradley has done a marvelous job of creating one of the greatest young protagonists to ever grace the page. Flavia is one of my all-time favorite characters. Her interactions with Gladys always make me giggle. Who knew a bicycle could have such a great personality? I find myself laughing out loud more often reading a Flavia de Luce mystery than probably any other novels I’ve ever read.

If you have not read a Flavia de Luce novel, you are so missing out! I started with the first in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and fell in love instantly. While I don’t think you’d have a problem starting anywhere in the series, I personally would recommend you take them all in. They are fabulous! Pick up a copy as soon as possible – Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d will be released September 20th!! 🙂

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group and Net Galley for the free advanced copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman

51CigBDLCDL._SY445_QL70_

The young Lady Sapphira has been given a vision from God: she is to inspire others lead herself and a group of kids to help set captives free in the Holy Land. Rosalind of Ipsworth and Sir Randel Penigree have both decided to join this crusade, but for their own very complicated reasons. Both are running from pasts that continue to haunt them, but will running halfway across the known world hide them from their demons? God will find them wherever they are, yet they will need to make the decision to listen to Him or to their own fallible hearts.

Courageous is book three in the Valiant Hearts series (following Dauntless and Chivalrous). I have not read either of the first two books in the series, yet, but that certainly did not hinder my enjoyment of the story. It is a terrific tale of love, redemption, strength of spirit, and learning to hear and trust the will of God.

Sleiman does a marvelous job of revealing both the triumph and the tragedy of the Crusades, showing how not everyone who went on Crusade did so with pure motives and not every Muslim bore hatred toward the Christians they encountered. I truly enjoyed getting to know her characters and watching them strengthen or soften as God worked through each of them.

I so enjoyed reading Courageous and would definitely recommend you pick up a copy. And I think I’ll go back and read the first two books in the series as well. Happy reading! 🙂

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!

Delilah: Treacherous Beauty by Angela Hunt

27066703

You know the Bible story: Samson, judge of Israel, falls in love with Delilah, who then betrays him to his enemies, the Philistines. While the Bible tells us the basics, you have to know that there is more to this story: who was Delilah, where did she come from, and why would she betray Samson?

Angela Hunt does a marvelous job of remaining faithful to the events laid out in the Bible while filling in possible details of what could be the truth behind the story of Samson and Delilah. Instead of portraying Delilah as the traditional evil woman out to destroy Israel, Hunt gives her a plausible back story and realistic motives for what she did. She also manages to make Samson more than just the strongman of Israel.

And beyond that, Hunt’s writing brings to life the Holy Land during the 1100s B.C. and fills it with a cast of flawed, yet empathetic characters. It is simply a great story made greater by Angela Hunt’s talent.

I highly recommend you grab a copy. And while you are at it, don’t forget that there are two other novels in the series (Esther: Royal Beauty and Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty).

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the free copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!! 🙂

The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

untitled

When Esther bat Josephus, daughter of the kender of the Khazar Kaganate, discovers that Germania has invaded her homeland, she knows that she must do something to help stop them. So she and her adopted brother, Itakh, set out on a perilous journey to find a group of mysterious Kabbalists, hope for her people, and a higher purpose for herself.

I really did like this book, but at the same time, it kind of grated on my nerves. First of all, it felt like it took me forever to finish this book. I know that was partly me – there was a significant gap in my background knowledge that would’ve made for a much smoother read. But also, large swaths of the book seemed to just move slowly, bogged down with detail – detail that was necessary for the overall story, but thick nonetheless.

And Esther, frankly, annoyed me at times. She cared so much more for the feelings of her mechanical horse and the golems than she ever seemed to for the people she was trying to save, that I questioned why she felt the need to save them at all. She wanted to have it all her way, no matter who she hurt in the process, and that made me rather unsympathetic to her.

Yet, even with that, I was strangely fascinated by The Book of Esther, and how Barton fused this crazy combination of steampunk, fantasy, and counterfactual Jewish history to make a somewhat modern retelling of the story of Queen Esther helping to save her people from destruction.

I can’t recommend you run right out and buy a copy when the book is released next week, but you might want to check it out from your local library and tuck in for a read.

Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂