Saturday, 29 June 2013

Book Review: "A Most Peculiar Circumstance" by Jen Turano

Miss Arabella Beckett has one driving passion: to help the downtrodden women of America. Naturally, she supports the women's suffrage movement and eagerly attends rallies and lectures across the country. On her travels, she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need that goes sadly awry and lands both ladies in more trouble than they can manage. An independent sort, Arabella is loath to admit she needs help and certainly doesn't need help from an arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor.

Mr. Theodore Wilder, private investigator extraordinaire, is on a mission. A mission that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. By the time he finally tracks down Hamilton's sister, Arabella, he is in a less than pleasant mood. When the lady turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he soon finds himself at his wit's end.

When they return home to New York, circumstances force their paths to continue to cross, but the most peculiar feelings growing between them certainly can't be love. When the trouble Arabella had accidentally stirred up seems to have followed her to New York and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

-image and summary from

When I was in Chapters one time, I saw the first book in this series, A Change of Fortune, and almost bought it. But I ended up leaving the store empty-handed; one, because I'm a poor university student with almost no money to my name, and secondly, because while flipping through it something just did not grip me heart and soul.

Now I regret that decision after reading A Most Peculiar Circumstance.

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this novel. The quirky, quick-witted characters, especially the women, had me chortling to myself with their antics. These were girls I would love to have as friends. Though many of them were the 'feminists' of their time, they were by no means women trying to become men. The whole point of early feminism was to bolster the woman into the place she deserved--not as an overlooked part of society, but a real factor in the world around them. It wasn't just to give them more opportunity for employment, but to render the world with more appreciation for women in general, whether they be 'working women' or stay-at-home wives and mothers.

This point was wonderfully shown in Turano's novel. Arabella, despite being a leading suffragette, loves pink, fashion, and has a very girly name. Yet she can still shoot a gun. And yet, although she's very brave, Turano shows she is very much human, with fears and desires all her own. She's not just some cut-and-paste character.

Another factor I adored about this novel was the relationship between siblings. Sister-sister, or brother-brother relationships are widely strewn across Christian fiction, but it was a breath of fresh air to read about Arabella and her brothers Zayne and Hamilton. They were so much fun together, with spats and yet so much love for each other.

The few things that threw me off a little were how some of the names were very similar--lots of names ending or beginning with 'a', and since I hadn't read the previous book to know the characters from there, at times I confused Agatha with Arabella and such.

Next, the use of the word "sputter" in its various forms was continuously seen throughout the novel. I think this is something the editor should have caught, because it occurred so often it threw me off a little.

As well, the romance is very predictable, but it is historical romance, so it's not like you don't know what's supposed to happen. Arabella and Theodore's growing fondness was cute, though from the book itself it seems a few of the actions on Theodore's part were the same as Arabella's brother in the previous book. While this makes for some laughs at the character's expense, in the writing aspect I can't help but wonder if this author keeps to a formula for every single book, just switching up the characters. That worries me a little.

However, I will still very much look forward to the next book from Jen Turano, A Talent for Trouble, when it's released later this year!

Four stars!

I received a copy of this book from the Bethany House Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the opportunity!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Book Review and Author Interview! "Prophet", by R.J. Larson

Ela Roeh of Parne doesn't understand why her beloved Creator, the Infinite, wants her to become His prophet. She's undignified and bad-tempered, and at age seventeen she's much too young. In addition, no prophet of Parne has ever been a girl. Worst of all, as Parne's elders often warn, if she agrees to become the Infinite's prophet, Ela knows she will die young. 

Yet she can't imagine living without Him. Determined to hear the Infinite's voice, Ela accepts the sacred vinewood branch and is sent to bring the Infinite's word to a nation torn apart by war. There she meets a young ambassador determined to bring his own justice for his oppressed people. As they form an unlikely partnership, Ela battles how to balance the leading of her heart with the leading of the Infinite.

    --image and summary from

There is a lot of Biblical fiction out there; the genre is full of Bible stories retold from various points of view, fleshing out already well-known tales. But I had yet to come across a Biblical world in a fantasy setting (maybe I just wasn't reading the right books!). That is, until I came across Prophet, by R.J. Larson.

There are a lot of reasons why I loved this book. For one thing, the desert setting, with the heat, the sand, and the searing sun, was brought to all its sweltering, suffocating life. The place names, such as Ytar, Parne--they all invoke a certain atmosphere on their own. As someone still learning in the worldbuilding department, I loved these tidbits.

Another reason Prophet is a book to pick up is, of course, its plot. You would think a book in which the main character knows pieces of what's about to happen would be boring, right? Wrong. While Ela has visions as sent from her Creator, she often misinterprets or only has part of the entire story. And knowing what comes next does not make it any easier to face the future--there were a lot of sad, painful moments where I just wanted to reach through the page and give Ela a huge hug. There is a lot of destruction in this book--of kingdoms, and of the human soul. It's not always an easy read. Ela questions as much as any human would, and her questions become your own.

Which leads me to my next point. The characters. I fell in love with the main cast, which had a wide variety of people--from a bad-tempered, still-learning girl prophet to her younger sister with an ageing condition (whom I absolutely loved!), to a wise-cracking soldier, to a monstrous horse with an appetite for gardens. While the subject matter could get dark at times, the interactions between Ela and Kien, the soldier, and Pet, the horse, kept the book full of humour as well. There were just as many times I was snorting with laughter as nearly crying. So there is an amazing balance.

I could go on and on, gushing like a crazy person, but I'll leave you to go out and get your hands on this series, which includes two following books, Judge and King. I have yet to read them, but you can bet I will get my hands on them somehow! ;)

Five fantabulous stars!

And now, on to the interview with R.J. Larson herself! First, a bit of a bio:

R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as The Women's Devotional Bible, and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons, and is suspected of eating chocolate and potato chips at her desk while writing. The Books of the Infinite series marks her debut in the fantasy genre.
-image and bio from

Q: You've mentioned that you never intended to write fantasy. What changed your mind?

A: In early 2010, I was working on an 1890's historical, and enjoying the story completely. Somewhere in the middle of chapter eight, I stopped for the night and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning, still seeing a little scrap of a dream: A young woman in a dark place, struggling to make a life-or-death decision. Usually I forget such dreams, but this one stayed with me. By the end of that day, I'd thought of the young woman's story more than my 1890's historical. I knew the young woman's name, Ela, and I knew from the few details of my dream that her story must have a fantasy setting. I also knew her decision, and its result--to follow her Creator, the Infinite and become His prophet, knowing she would die young.

I was hooked! To this day, I'm still not sure when, or if, I'll ever return to my 1890's saga. ;)

Q: Were there any specific Bible stories that wiggled their way into Prophet, or inspired certain scenes or themes?

A: One of the earliest in the book, Ela's first prophecy, was based on 1 Samuel 2:12-36. I also wove other themes into Prophet and the entire series from OT prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I also wanted to explore the themes of forgiveness, obedience, and the Lord's eternal love vs. justice. It's amazing how well the verses work together while being rewoven to tell the story of a fantasy realm's scriptures.

Q: What is your favourite Bible story?

A: I can't decide! I love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Esther, Ruth... the list could include the entire Bible!

Q: In Prophet, the Infinite is the equivalent of God. Did you encounter any difficulties in writing His Voice? God is so mysterious--did you struggle with coming up with what He might say in various situations?

A: I prayed a LOT, and I tried to match all of the Infinite's words and reactions to appropriate verses from Scriptures. It's a scary, awesome responsibility; I would NEVER want to misquote the Lord. Above all, I wanted the Lord's eternal love for us to be fully reflected in the stories, even as He requires obedience and forgiveness.

Q: The scalns were delightfully scary! Where did they come from, and are they prevalent in the rest of the series?

A: They snuck up on me! Hissing, horrid creatures. I wanted a "shiver-down-the-spine" feel for the first monster in my series. So I imagined what I would least want to hear or see if I were in Ela's situation at that time. The scaln won by default.

By the way, all the mysterious creatures in this series are based on the Bible, or folklore, or...dinosaurs. The scaln is the only exception to my "mysterious beast" rule. Oh. And the destroyers. Did I mention destroyers?

Q: Who is your favourite character in The Books of the Infinite?

A: I don't really have a fave. I love them all! Ela, Kien, Tzana, Pet...they're all my babies. :)

Q: Now that the last book has been written, can you tell us what your favourite part of writing this series was?

A: I would say the final scene in each book, where the main character is inspired to sit down and write his or her account of their own adventures while serving their beloved Creator, the Infinite.

I love presenting the idea that this is the way the scriptures were built in their world, so different, yet so similar to our own!

Thanks so much, Mrs. Larson, for being with us today! Readers, feel free to leave a comment! :D

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Hey everyone, you may have noticed that the blog's been sporting a few new looks lately. I'm trying to find something that fits with the theme and the sort of books I'm writing. If you could offer me some feedback, that would be great. My sister accuses me of lack of colour coordination all the time with my clothes, so if you could tell me if anything hurts the eyes or anything like that, I would appreciate it much. :)


Saturday, 22 June 2013

So... Google Friend Connect's Coming Demise

So, Google Friend Connect is apparently on its last legs, much to my chagrin. As of July 1st, it will be no more. And this is where I make an appeal to you, faithful blog followers. If you want to continue receiving my blog posts, I urge you to either follow me through Google Plus or click on the Bloglovin' logo. It's super-easy to sign up and you'll be done within moments. I don't want to lose you all! :)



Edited to Add: I have also added the option of following me through NetworkedBlogs, which is also very easy to set up. So the choice is all yours. :)

Writing Updates, and Penpal/First Reader Love

This summer has been full of ups and downs. I'm still searching for a job, since university won't pay itself, and I'm trying to have faith that God will provide in His good timing. So I'll attempt to relax and embrace the chance to immerse myself in my writing.

Being jobless, for example, is one of the reasons I've been able to complete the first drafts of two novellas for the Five Glass Slippers Contest held by Rooglewood Press--one, right now dubbed The Voice in the Laurel Tree, combines the Cinderella story with Moses and the Burning Bush. I wrote it in a three-day sprint that sucked me dry and yet left me elated. Sometimes writing reminds me of a sport--you train and train and train, then when the moment comes you rush through the race and are left drained yet soaring through a personal high.

The other novella (right now called Until Midnight) tells the story from the stepsister's point-of-view, but not in the conventional fashion you might expect. Let's just say there's no 'fairy godmother' in this one. ;)

Both of these stories tested me in different ways and I'm proud of them for different reasons. But they're far from finished--I've sent them to friends to give me feedback. 

One of my dearest and closest friends--my penpal from America--is always so quick and thorough and wonderful with her advice. She's been with me since almost the beginning, when I actually took my writing seriously. She's my biggest cheerleader and my emotional support, and if I ever get published she will get a dedication and she will be included in every single acknowledgements page I ever write. She's that awesome. You writers out there, if you ever are blessed with people of Encouragement, don't take them for granted. They are the people you write for, the people who make it worthwhile. They are the reason behind the words. Shower them with love and never let them feel unheard.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

In Which I Throw Confetti and Dance Around Like A Crazy Person

I've been writing since I was a child. My very first story was published in my school's yearbook when I was seven or eight--the tale of a girl receiving a surprise puppy. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that ever since I can remember, our family has never been without a dog.

Later on, I won a national contest in a horse magazine (at that point, I was crazy about horses; I'm beginning to sense a pattern). There were various short story and poetry contests I entered as well, one in which I received a place in a Canadian anthology of high school students' work. In-between all this, I wrote fanfiction and dabbled with novels.

Regardless of all this, I have never been so excited as now, with this opportunity:

Starting in July, I will be mentored by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, the writer of "The Tales of Goldstone Wood"; one of my favourite writers ever! She will be helping me with my first draft of Ice Roses, which I am going through in preparation to write a second draft. Within the next year or so, I hope to submit this story to agents in the next step of my journey toward publication.

I've known this news for a while now, but I finally decided to share it with you, my blog readers, so we could all celebrate together! I'm so excited and feel supremely blessed to have the opportunity to work with someone whose writing, faith, and personality are all so lovely and inspiring. This summer will be a great one indeed!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Book Review: Unrivaled, by Siri Mitchell

Lucy Kendall always assumed she'd help her father in his candy-making business, creating recipes and aiding him in their shared passion. But after a year traveling in Europe, Lucy returns to 1910 St. Louis to find her father unwell and her mother planning to sell the struggling candy company. Determined to help, Lucy vows to create a candy that will reverse their fortunes. 

St. Louis newcomer Charlie Clarke is determined to help his father dominate the nation's candy industry. Compromise is not an option when the prize is a father's approval, and falling in love with a business rival is a recipe for disaster when only one company can win. Will these two star-crossed lovers let a competition that turns less than friendly sour their dreams?

--image and summary from

Two of my favourite things are candy and Europe, so when I read the summary of this book for the Bethany House Blogger Reviews Program, I jumped on the chance to read it. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I got halfway through it and started skimming, so I read enough to tell me this isn't my type of book.

With the characters, I can usually forgive un-likeable ones if there's enough story to keep my attention. This book was written from two first-person perspectives, those of Lucy and Charlie, so it was very much a character-driven novel. This makes it difficult to keep reading when you sort of loathe one of the characters. I thought Charlie was a cool chap, though his voice seemed not too different from Lucy's. Lucy, however, got on my nerves, with no redeeming qualities to endear me to her. She seemed very selfish and slightly stupid, not asking the right questions or realizing that maybe she was a tad obsessive with the family business. Perhaps she should have been more concerned for her father's health.

What really annoyed me, though, is that apart from his past, Charlie is the good guy here. I can't tell you how many Christian romances make it about the girl getting over herself in order to win the man's love. It's very difficult to find a fresh, original story about a man getting over a character flaw--and not just a dark past that makes him more a victim than a sinner. I'm sure such stories exist out there in the Christian market, but I've yet to come across one. It's not just in the Christian market, either. It seems that the onus is continually on the woman to change, while men just need to escape the environment that shaped them.

Anyways, that rant is over. It's something that has been on my mind for a while now, simply brewing.

Another thing that made me unable to finish this book was that, as well-described as the world was, nothing seemed to happen. I thought there would be more intrigue and danger and rivalry, but there wasn't. It was just Lucy getting herself into trouble.

BUT--this is all just my opinion. I've just gotten into reading Christian historical  so maybe I just haven't gotten into the rhythm yet. Take everything I've written with a grain of salt. The only way to know whether this book is for you is to try it out yourself. No matter what, it is a clean, light read, so there's no harm in giving it a look. 

3 stars!

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review as part of their Blogger Review Program. Thank you for the opportunity!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Things To Look Forward To...

So I've been pretty busy looking for interesting things to do with this blog, and I'm pleased to announce there are quite a few fun events coming up!

For fans of Anne Elisabeth Stengl, I will be posting in various blog tours to promote her upcoming release, Dragonwitch. These posts include a character interview as part of Anne Elisabeth's own tour, a review of the book for the tour hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer, and an interview with Anne Elisabeth herself as part of the tour hosted by Colorimetry and Prism Book Tours. Each of these posts will give a different outlook on the book itself, so stick around!

In addition, I will be reviewing Prophet by R.J. Larson within the next month or so, and I'm psyched to add that Ms. Larson has agreed to answer a few questions! So I will be posting the interview with her in addition to the review.

Of course, this will all be between my usual writing and reviewing posts. I've finished a few books that I should write up reviews for, but I'm also in the midst of slogging my way through required reading for the fall, when I start my second year of university. So reviews may not be as plentiful as I'd like.

But anyhow, I'm excited to see this blog into the future with so many exciting features to look forward to! Hope you'll stick with me! :)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Cover Reveal: "Shadow Hand" by Anne Elisabeth Stengl!

I am honoured to be part of the Cover Reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's sixth book in her series "The Tales of Goldstone Wood". If you haven't checked them out yet, what are you waiting for? Ms. Stengl's stories are full of intriguing characters, universal themes, and exotic, far-off places. And she is blessed with lovely covers to melt over! Shadow Hand's is no different!

Now, without further ado, the lovely cover!






"She will take your own two hands
To save your ancient, sorrowing lands"

By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. Unable to bear the future she sees as her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal fey parasite . . . 

A world that is hauntingly familiar.

 Isn't it lovely? And now, Anne Elisabeth Stengl also has a giveaway for you! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to win a Tales of Goldstone Wood mug with the following banner on it:

And check out the book's website here:

So what do you think of the cover? To be honest, I think it's my favourite of the series so far! Let me know in the comments! :)