Thursday, September 20, 2018

REVIEW: VEIL OF PEARLS ~ MARYLU TYNDALL


It is the year 1811 and slavery is still considered an acceptable and even necessary facet of society.  Her fair skin belies the fact that Althea is born with black blood on her maternal side.  Althea is born free to parents who adore each other and their children, and every day is filled with love and joy.  Her father teaches her to always trust the Lord, even when she does not understand.  This trust in the Lord is what will get Althea through the horrific years to follow.  One night a hurricane takes the lives of her parents and Althea and her little sister are stolen and enslaved by their neighbouring plantation owner.  Soon illness takes her sister’s life and Althea is left alone in the world, tormented by a cruel master who locks her in chains and steals her freedom and her innocence.  For seven long years Althea endures the injustice while holding fast to her trust in the Lord, secretly saving money and biding her time.  One night good fortune smiles on Althea and she manages to escape during a storm while her owner is passed out from too much drink.  God blesses her path with a kind captain who realizes but does not care that she is a slave attempting to escape, and gives her passage to Charleston, America.  Once again free, Althea adopts the name Adalia and makes an independent living as a doctor’s assistant, her mother’s knowledge of herbs aiding her in treating the sick.  Having been born free, Adalia convincingly sheds the physical and mental shackles of slave-like behaviour and manages to integrate herself as a servant girl in her new society, despite the bitterness she feels toward the wealthy whose slaves she has to treat. 
It is that disgust towards those who think it is the most natural thing in the world to own another human being that makes Adalia completely immune to the charms of one Morgan Rutledge, the youngest son of a wealthy plantation owner.  His good looks and fun-loving nature hides the fact that Morgan is a very unhappy young man.  He has dreams of sailing the seas, but once his father noticed his love of the ocean as a child he was told in no uncertain terms that he would be disowned should he take a common traders job.  Instead of following the passion God had placed in his heart, Morgan’s life is spent attending one meaningless soiree after the other with less than savoury friends; until he meets the one woman who does not fall at his feet in the hopes of securing his affection, and by extension his family’s wealth. 



The more they cross paths, the more Adalia begins to think she misjudged the young man.  Thanks to Adalia’s gentle example, Morgan, in turn, finds himself rethinking his lifestyle and his beliefs.  Adalia and Morgan embark on a tentative friendship, but society is not as accepting as Morgan is of a lowly working girl attending their lavish parties - with one of the most eligible bachelors at her side, no less.  The men are rude and the ladies are cruel, and while Morgan is astounded by Adalia’s bravery and grace, he fears that ultimately the behaviour of those he used to consider friends will alienate the woman quickly laying claim to his heart.  Working hard by day and getting swept away in the opulence of high society by night, Adalia she finds herself neglecting her relationship with God.  The unlikely couple soon finds themselves falling in love; but how can Adalia even consider a courtship with a man whose family owns slaves?  And what if he ever discovered her heritage?  Would the beauty, bravery, intelligence and kind heart that captured his affections be strong enough to overcome the danger to his prized reputation and society’s prejudice?

 

Veil of Pearls by Marylu Tyndall is the most beautifully written book I’ve read in a long time.  The prose is lovingly crafted and the plot is flawless.  It is a story of great depth, believable characters (though the Villain in the form of the conniving lady Emerald was a bit too much to bear at times) and strong Christian message of hope and redemption.  Even so, I did find this book very difficult to read.  Tyndall accomplishes the amazing task of immersing the reader in Adalia’s life, and her hurts were my own.  I absolutely hated experiencing the treatment Adalia had to suffer, first through Sir Walter, then through the Charleston elite.  Every attempt at hurting or humiliating Adalia brought me pain as well.  What a marvelous feat by the author!  Tyndalll does an excellent job of keeping the reader off balance.  At no stage was I confident that Adalia (or myself) would get a happy ending, and as I neared the end I feared there simply weren’t enough pages to wrap the story up to my heart’s content.  Ultimately Veil of Pearls is a work of art worthy of my highest rating.

 

Product Information:
Title: Veil of Pearls

Series: Standalone

Author: Marylu Tyndall

Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc

Year: 2012

Pages: 369

ISBN-10: 1616265779

ISBN-13: 978-1616265779

ASIN: B071V7CLY4

 

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Friday, September 7, 2018

REVIEW: CHESAPEAKE VALOR 4: DEAD DRIFT ~ DANI PETTREY


Dead Drift is the fourth and final book in the Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey, and the series is best read in order as we check in with the “main characters” from the previous books, and find connections to cases going back to the previous books (I say “main characters” because Pettrey’s work reads more like an ensemble characters rather than main characters and secondary characters).  If you were to start the series with Dead Drift, you would miss out on a whole lot and might have a hard time connecting all the dots, so my suggestion is start with Cold Shot and make your way through Still Life and Blind Spot before getting lost in Dead Drift.  It is well worth it as the series only gets better with each book, and we spend a good amount of time with all the characters throughout each book. 

 
Dead Drift picks up right where Blind Spot left off; Luke walks into CCI where the friends he left behind are celebrating preventing the Bay Bridge Bombing, and he enlists them to help him stop suspected terrorist Khaled Ebeid once and for all.  The action starts right there and doesn’t let up until the very end. 

 
We finally learn why Luke left without a word, and the fact that he believed he was leaving only for a short mission goes a long way towards understanding how he could abandon Kate without a backward glance.  There is also a lovely gesture towards the latter half of the book which proves Luke always intended to come back for Kate, and it goes a long way towards mending Kate’s (and my) heart.  However, the longer Luke stayed away, the harder it became to return home, and before you know it almost eight years have passed and he no longer recognizes the man in the mirror.  With time, distance and perspective Luke has finally realized just how badly he was manipulated by once trusted Professor Malcolm (though he doesn’t play the blame game and takes full responsibility for the choices he made), and how badly he longs for the life, and love, he left behind.  Dead Drift gives us a marvelous villain in Luke’s unstable former handler, Lauren Graham, a woman scorned with an axe to grind; she could never forgive Luke for not falling for her “charms”, and she absolutely loathes Kate who so obviously holds Luke’s heart.  As if worrying about Ebeid was not enough, Luke must also protect headstrong Kate from the CIA’s most lethal assassin who has a penchant for playing games with her prey before she pounces.  Honestly, I feared Lauren more than I did Ebeid! 

 
While the majority of our group focuses on stopping the terrorist threat, Griffin and Finley both take a leave of absence from work and head to Houston to continue working all of the cold cases murdered Agent Steven Burke was investigating before his untimely death, and aim to finally bring Jenna’s killer to justice.  With the Shore Killer mysteriously aware of their every move, Griffin and Finley find themselves in greater danger than they ever anticipated.

As always, the characters’ faith is ever-present yet not overwhelming for non-believers.  Luke has a harder time than the others connecting with God, for while he never lost his faith, he carries much guilt over the choices he’s made and the orders he’s followed since he abandoned his old life.  Kate loves the Lord, but has trouble letting Him shoulder all of her burdens, and carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders is becoming an unmanageable task.  Throughout the non-stop action of Dead Drift, the biggest challenges these two face might not be the terrorist threat or figuring out their personal relationship after all these years, but learning to let go and let God.

I enjoyed every single page of Dead Drift, and find it to be my absolute favourite book of the series.  As I neared the end I honestly feared that there weren’t enough pages left to give us a satisfying conclusion, but Pettrey managed to deliver in spades.  My only criticisms would be that we didn’t get to spend much time with Avery and Parker this time around, and I keenly felt their absence, and there is also the question of an engagement ring that absolutely no-one reacted to.  I am also curious to discover if Tanner’s parents have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior – her father is such a mysterious (and apparently misunderstood) character, and I think there is a lot of story left to tell there.  We do get satisfying resolutions to the great mysteries we have been investigating alongside the gang since book 1, but I do feel there is definitely potential should Pettrey have an inkling to give us more Chesapeake adventures in future.  I find myself quite sad that our adventures with the Chesapeake Bay gang are over, and while I always look forward to Pettrey’s future projects, I sincerely hope that she considers rejoining them sometime in the future.  Oh the mysteries the eight of them could solve together!

The Chesapeake Valor series is a very satisfying faith-filled, love-trumps-all, action-packed ride, of which Dead Drift is the cherry on top.

 

Product Information:

Title: Dead Drift

Series: Chesapeake Valor (Series Best Read In Order)

Author: Dani Pettrey

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Year: 2018

Pages: 304

ISBN-10: 0764212974

ISBN-13: 978-0764212970

ASIN: B079C1N73V
 

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

REVIEW: CHESAPEAKE VALOR 3: BLIND SPOT ~ DANI PETTREY


Blind Spot is the third book in the Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey, and the series is best read in order as we check in with characters from the first two books, and more importantly, find connections to cases going back to both previous books.  If you were to start the series with Blind Spot you would probably be able to connect the dots, but my guess is you would feel a little lost at times. 
 
 

Blind Spot commences a few weeks following the conclusion of Still Life, and focuses on FBI agent Declan Grey as he continues to investigate the threat that “the wrath is coming”, a terrorist threat that he believes is imminent, though his superiors aren’t as convinced.  The gang’s newfound friend, Tanner Shaw, joins the FBI as a crisis counselor, and as Declan’s investigation leads to a human trafficking victim Tanner has been helping to transition, Declan and Tanner are paired together to crack the case.

 
Declan and Tanner met in Cold Shot, and while they initially appeared to be like oil and water, there was certainly an undeniable spark; only, Declan believed himself in love with his friend, Kate – who was still in love with their friend Luke, who had disappeared seven years prior.  However, the more time Declan spends with Tanner, the more he realizes that his feelings for Kate were never quite what he had thought, and that what he is coming to feel for Tanner goes much deeper than what he ever felt for Kate.  Mistaken first impressions, misunderstandings and Declan’s overprotective tendencies towards Tanner have been getting in the way, but as Declan and Tanner are forced to work together they each start seeing the true other, and can no longer deny the attraction between them.  Within their first few hours as partners, however, Declan and Tanner find themselves attacked several times, confirming Declan’s belief that he is getting closer to the truth, and before Declan can begin to consider the ramifications of his feelings for Tanner, he must keep them both alive.  It also becomes apparent that there is much more to Tanner than he ever imagined as she possesses skills no mere crisis counselor should have, and it’s time for the gang to learn the truth about their new friend’s past. 
 
While Tanner and Declan look into the death of Steven Burke (who was found murdered in Still Life), and find a surprising connection to Jenna McCray (Griffin’s sister) and Max Stallings (who was arrested in Cold Shot), the others investigate a case concerning the guys’ one time little league coach.  While helping all the others, Kate is still searching for her college boyfriend, Luke, who had disappeared without a trace seven years prior.  Kate is the only one of the friends who believes that Luke is still alive after all this time, and Blind Spot finally confirms that Luke is indeed very much alive.  We finally learn why he left and get an idea of what he’s been up to, but to poor Kate’s dismay, she finally discovers that Luke left his life, and all of them, voluntarily.  I’ve been hurting with Kate and for Kate since Cold Shot, and I look forward to digging into the next book, Dead Drift, to finally get to Kate and Luke’s story.  The boy’s certainly some ‘splainin’ to do, but the few scant scenes in Blind Spot have already softened my heart towards an obviously lost Luke.  If anyone can forgive him and help him heal (besides Jesus), it’s our girl, Kate. 
 
Usually I get annoyed when an author divides her time (and therefore my time) between the main characters and secondary characters, but what Pettrey does beautifully is make the reader so invested in all the characters and both cases that as we spend time with Griffin and co, we are very much present, but still anxious to rejoining Declan and Tanner to continue their investigation as well.  She creates a perfect balance between the two cases.  The Chesapeake Valor books read more as an ensemble series than main characters and secondary characters, and we get to spend a satisfying amount of time with all the characters in each book.
As always, the characters’ faith is ever-present yet not overwhelming for non-believers.  Again, both characters go into the relationship with steady faith, which I find refreshing as usually in religious fiction one of the characters leads the other to Christ – which is, of course, wonderful, but I am quite enjoying reading about couples who share a love of God from the get-go and who are only stronger as a unit because of it. I would classify the book as action/suspense first, with a satisfying touch of romance and religion.  A good balance; a satisfying, action-packed, emotional read.  The Chesapeake Valor series gets better with each book.
 
 
Product Information:


Title: Blind Spot

Series: Chesapeake Valor (Series Best Read In Order)

Author: Dani Pettrey

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Year: 2017

Pages: 329

ISBN-10: 0764212966

ISBN-13: 978-0764212963

ASIN: B0713TL6RN


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Thursday, June 7, 2018

REVIEW: OUT OF CONTROL ~ SARAH ALDERSON


 
After watching her friend and bodyguard die at the hands of men who intended to harm her, Liva shuts down all her feelings.  She goes through life with her emotions switch turned off; but Liva finds solace in the adrenaline coursing through her veins when she climbs structures she’s not supposed to.  With her father out of town shortly after she moves in with him in New York, she spends a few nights with his friends, her father not comfortable leaving her alone in a new city.  When she can’t sleep one night she opens her bedroom window and silently climbs on top of the roof.  Looking for peace, Liva finds unexpected safety instead when she hears her hosts being murdered.  Liva reports the crime and is taken to the police station in protective custody to give her official statement.  At the desk next to her is Jay, who is not a witness but a criminal.  Being cuffed to the desk kind of gives that away.  When a gunman in a cop’s uniform starts shooting up the police station, Liva and Jay must depend on each other to escape the massacre.  When Liva contacts her father for help, the team he sends to retrieve her are intercepted and Liva is caught between two rival groups; one who wants to take her, willing or not, and one who wants her dead.  It soon becomes clear that Liva is somehow at the center of the chaos; but why? Who wants to kidnap her, who wants her dead, and how do the two groups connect?  On the run, Liva and Jay must stay one step ahead of the shooter, the mysterious agents, the police (Jay is a fugitive, after all) and a local gang while fitting together pieces known and unknown – and fighting the intense connection neither can’t deny.  A poor car thief and a wealthy dancer, on the surface they have nothing in common; but for the first time Liva has met someone who makes her feel as alive as she does when she’s standing on top of a high-rise.  The timing is horrendous, the circumstances far from ideal, but can Liva resist the young man who brings her to life?
 
 
Out of Control by Sarah Alderson is an action-packed adventure that doesn’t give you time to catch your breath.  The action starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up until the end.  Authors seldom succeed in making me truly fear for the safety of the protagonists, but Alderson managed to get me to tense up several times.  She does a great job of keeping the reader on their toes, keeping the mystery alive while dropping clues, making the reader work with Liva and Jay to find answers.  The ultimate truth of why Liva is targeted is a shocking turn of events Alderson masterfully weaved into the story.  The chemistry between Liva and Jay jumps off the page and the progression of their relationship is very believable under the circumstances.  The sexual content of the book is very mature but stops short of being adult level. 
 
Out of Control is an exciting, satisfying read that takes the reader on an electrifying adventure with the perfect blend of action, mystery and romantic suspense.
 

 
 
Product Information:
Title: Out of Control
Series: Standalone
Author: Sarah Alderson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Year: 2014
Pages: 321
ISBN-10: 1481427172
ISBN-13: 978-1481427173
ASIN: B00EB9Z8XU

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Friday, May 25, 2018

REVIEW: DIVERGENT SERIES 3 - ALLEGIANT ~ VERONICA ROTH

It’s been quite a while since I finished Allegiant by Veronica Roth, but truthfully I was so completely underwhelmed and disappointed that I could not be bothered to write a review.  Allegiant commences where Insurgent left off.  Tris and co, not satisfied with the new status quo, joins the rebellion and sets off to discover what lies beyond the boundaries.  They discover that their city is embroiled in an experiment conducted by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  Following the Purity war which resulted from attempts to genetically remove negative behaviors from societies, the Bureau was founded to use selective breeding to repair the genetic damage they caused, over several generations by forcibly isolating several populations, including Tris’ home.  These populations were organised into factions to better monitor certain behavioural traits.  The divergents turn out to be genetically pure individuals whose DNA shows none of the genetic damage caused by previous genetic tampering.  The divergent’s importance was however vastly overstated in the video made by Edith Prior (an indication that Roth had no idea how she wanted to end the series at the time she wrote Insurgent).  Tris, Tobias and friends ultimately discover more secrecy and manipulation by the Bureau and take it upon themselves to right to wrongs of past and present.
 
Sadly, this was a very disappointing conclusion to the Divergent trilogy.  It felt like completely different authors had written Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant.  The author just didn’t have the same voice.  It felt like the Roth had no idea how she wanted to end the series and ultimately just grabbed at straws and rushed to release the final product. 
Tris dying felt absolutely unnecessary – and I don’t say this simply because her death disappointed me.  I truly don’t see why she had to die.  It makes no sense and in no way enhances the story.  It felt… superfluous.  It felt like Roth threw it in there for shock value.  She wanted Tris to sacrifice herself for the greater good (I suppose this was meant to be ironic since Tris had finally decided that she didn’t want to die), but then she needed a much better crafted storyline to justify it; because it fell flat.  When a character death falls flat, it’s a massive disservice to that character and the audience.  Tris deserved a better ending, or at least a better death - something vital.  Uriah’s death upset me more than Tris’ death did because (he was a favourite of mine, yes, but more than that) it was relevant and believable and necessary for the plot. Tris death was none of those things. 
Movie poster
I was curious as to how the movie would portray the events and watched it the very evening I finished the book.  If 10% of the movie is based on the book, it’s a lot.  They made massive, massive changes; the largest of which is having Tris survive.  Granted, at the time they were planning another sequel (which is also evident by the ending), but while the movie is in no way a masterpiece, it is a vast improvement from the book.  Either way I’m sad to say that while Divergent was thrilling and Insurgent was entertaining, completing the Divergent trilogy now feels like a complete waste of my time (too much time and energy I’ll never get back) and the utter disappointment that is Allegiant will prevent me from recommending this series to those who have not yet experienced it. 
 
Product Information:

 
Title: Allegiant
Series: Divergent (not standalone)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Year: 2013
Pages: 545

ISBN-10: 0062420097ISBN-13: 978-0062420091
ASIN: B00BKZUVGM
 

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