The Warrior Maiden

Melanie Dickerson has brought us another exciting fairy tale retelling, and this time Mulan takes center stage! We're all familiar with the Disney version of the story, and perhaps you even know a bit about the original Chinese legend. Dickerson blends this well-known character with people and places from her Hagenheim series to form a delightful novel that her readers will love.

This Mulan has recently lost her distant and uncaring father, and, in order to save her mother's home, disguises herself as a man and takes her father's place in the army. They are marching to defend an ally against the attack of the evil Teutonic Knights. Her father's servant boy attends her, knowing she is a woman and helping guard that secret. He's no Mushu, but he plays a valuable role in helping Mulan.

Because she has training in archery, Mulan is able to fit in well when it comes to the shooting range, though she doesn't do so well in other fighting disciplines. When it is time for battle, her bravery comes as a surprise even to herself. Soon her name becomes synonymous with daring and courage.

I thought Dickerson did a good job balancing Mulan's femininity with the warrior aspect, and her unmasking made complete sense within the story, coming neither too soon nor being too drawn out. I enjoyed the hero and thought the conflicts he faced were well-drawn and natural. The way he is able to help her understand God as a loving Father was one of the highlights of the novel. One side character in particular will grab onto your heart, and I understand he's getting his own story in December, so I am very much looking forward to that!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.

Pollyanna, a precocious orphaned girl, comes to live with her strict aunt in this 1913 classic novel. Aunt Polly and the town of Beldingsville has no idea what is in store! Pollyanna makes friends with great alacrity, even with some of the most taciturn people in town. She teaches people to play the Glad Game, which is finding something to be glad about even in the most dire circumstances. The literal nature of Pollyanna allows for plenty of humorous misunderstandings, and some assumptions on the part of others keep a bit of mystery going through the plot. Even Pollyanna's eternal cheerfulness is challenged when an accident leaves her future in jeopardy.

Pollyanna Grows Up

In this 1915 sequel, Pollyanna spends a winter in Boston and makes many new friends. She continues to unconsciously bring drastic change into the lives of others. There's even more mystery in this book, as the identity of one of Pollyanna's friends is in question. In the second half of the story there's a time jump that takes us to Pollyanna's 20th year. She's caught the eye of one young man in particular, but there are things he feels may keep them apart. It's a race to the end to see if all our characters will have a happy ending!
 Orphan's Wish

Melanie Dickerson's Aladdin retelling opens with a young orphan boy in the Holy Land, forced to steal to earn his keep. Soon rescued by a priest and taken to the Holy Roman Empire, Aladdin grows up in an orphanage while befriending the duke's daughter, Lady Kirstyn. While he works hard and learns all he can, Aladdin knows he cannot ask for Lady Kirstyn's hand until he goes out into the world to make his fortune, and eventually he sets out to do just that.

Lady Kirstyn has always felt invisible as one of the middle children in a large family. She enjoys working with orphans and dreams of adopting a houseful of them herself one day. She longs for Aladdin's return and for the chance to have a future with him.

As Aladdin begins to find success in the town of Luneburg, things do not go so well for Lady Kirstyn. She faces dangers which will change her life forever, leaving her family and friends scrambling to help her before it is too late.

This was not my favorite book from this author. I think the main problem for me was the characters were flat and unremarkable. I couldn't make myself care about them, and therefore it took a long time to read the story. I do think many Dickerson fans will enjoy this tale, and I am very much looking forward to her Mulan retelling that will be coming in early 2019!

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I received my copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

It's always fun to look back at my favorite books on the year! It was hard to select only one for each genre, as there were so many good reads from 2017. You can click on any of the titles below to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

This story set in 1927 in Mt. Rainier National Park has all the charm of classic literature, including a heroine who is a true lady while also standing up for what she believes. 

Young Adult Fiction

kids playing basketball

The Lewis & Clark Squad Series by Stephen Bly

I revisited these childhood favorites and thoroughly enjoyed them! This is a six-book series about a group of teens participating in a summer basketball league. It's all about fun, faith, and friendship!

Contemporary Fiction

"Life After" by Katie Ganshert

The sole survivor of a terrorist bombing tries to come to terms with her new lease on life while being wracked with guilt that she lived when others did not. Very thought-provoking and well-written.


"Women Who Move Mountains" by Sue Detweiler

While this is supposed to be a book on prayer, I found it more to be a book on walking confidently and securely as God's child. So much good encouragement!

Classic Literature

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

This tale may be short, but it is packed full of wonderful lines and thoughtful reminiscing. Ebeneezer Scrooge's gratefulness to be alive and able to change his ways gets me every time!


"One Enchanted Noel" by Melissa Tagg

Delightful characters with emotional depth set in a charming fictional small town. The whole Enchanted Christmas Collection is a real gem!

As a fan of science fiction and some dystopian, I was interested in trying out this story. The premise is that once upon a time some humans felt the need to escape a worldwide pandemic by introducing pig genes into their own genetic makeup. They then further cut themselves off from the rest of the world by building an electromagnetic aegis, except now the aegis is beginning to collapse and only a few are paying attention to the problem.

Sixteen-year-old Amy grew up outside the aegis, and has been taught all her life that the people of New Lithisle are soulless abominations who deserve the fiery death which will soon rain down upon them. One day when she's scavenging with her father he does something she cannot understand - he pushes her through the aegis, into New Lithisle, and she is trapped.

Uncertain what to do, Amy does her best to figure out why her father has sent her to this place. Especially since she's somewhat of a celebrity there, as she's the missing biological daughter of the woman behind the scientific modifications. Amy is scrappy and determined that no matter who captures her or tries to turn her in to the authorities, she will find a way to make it home.

I wanted to like this story more than I actually did. The plot was extremely scattered. For instance, I couldn't understand how New Lithisle was so huge and travel so inconvenient, yet Amy and company were able to travel all over the place for the whole of the book. Characters did things just for the sake of doing them, not because it was consistent with who they were or pertinent to the story. Sometimes characters who had seemed important disappeared so suddenly that I had to go back later to find their exit because I'd actually missed it on the first pass. There was way too much romance for a teen book, and more violence than I was expecting, though it was not gory. 

I could not see this story being interesting to its intended audience. I have teenage siblings and I teach teenagers every day, and I could not picture very many of them reading this. Nor could I recommend it to them. I feel that if you already like dystopian you'd enjoy it, but in general I would have other recommendations before this one, such as Krista McGee's Anomaly.

All Things Now Living Rondi Bauer Olson

I received my copy of the book from 
LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "All Things Now Living," click here.

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Here are my favorite reads from 2016! I hope you'll check some of them out for yourself. Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

This World War II story focuses on a plucky female pharmacist and a Naval officer as they try to uncover a drug ring operating out of Boston Harbor.

Young Adult Fiction

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

A captivating retelling of The Little Mermaid, Melanie Dickerson again proves her brilliance as a fairy tale writer.

Contemporary Fiction

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

I loved the depth of the characters, and I really related to one of them in particular. I just love Melissa Tagg's stories!!


I've got to go with the autobiographies of two Olympians here! Weren't the Rio Olympics exciting??

Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

David's journey from an active tot to a world class diver, and how he found Jesus along the way.

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

Leader of the Final Five and winner of five medals in Rio, this 4'9" gymnastics wonder shares her story from adoption to training to topping the podium.

Classic Literature

Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

This short novel, from which part of the miniseries Cranford was drawn, is laugh-out-loud funny and encompasses the delights of a small English village.


This category has two winners as well, because I couldn't choose between these two delightful Christmas stories.

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

If you enjoy competitive baking shows, you'll love this story of a down-on-her-luck baker and her quest to find one wow-worthy recipe to land her dream job.

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

All Alexis needs for Christmas is her home remodel to go well. When everything goes wrong it may be time to reevaluate the true meaning of Christmas.

She's done it again! Melanie Dickerson retells a classic story with her own distinctive style, turning it into something fun and new. This time she tackles The Little Mermaid, resetting Ariel as Evangeline, cousin of King Richard II, in the fourteenth century.

Evangeline has hoped and dreamed of a marriage based on love, but as the king's ward she knows that may not be possible. When she finds out the king is going to give her in marriage to a middle-aged man who seems corrupt and salacious, Evangeline decides she will run away. She's lived shut up in Berkhamsted Castle, and now she is free to see all the beautiful creatures and places in the English countryside. Evangeline's maid escaped with her, and in order to disguise themselves they agree that Evangeline will pose as a mute and they will say they are servants looking for work.

They reach the village of Glynval, and Evangeline finds herself working for the le Wyse family, whom readers will recognize from some of Dickerson's other books. She is attracted to Westley le Wise, but since she is pretending to be a mute servant and he is heir to the manor, there are many impediments to getting to know him. Although Evangeline has never worked a day in her life, the blisters and soreness and her many blunders do not stop her determination to make a way for herself and to continue hiding from the king's men who are searching for her.

Evangeline is forced to use her voice when she comes upon an attempt on Westley's life. Still hesitant to tell the whole truth about her identity as she gets to know the le Wyse family better, eventually it all comes out. A showdown with King Richard and his minions is inevitable, and will require bravery and sacrifice from all who will stand for freedom and love.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Melanie Dickerson and fairy tales.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book. All opinions in this review are my own.

Rapunzel is one of my favorite fairy tale characters, so I couldn't have been more excited when I heard that a Rapunzel retelling was going to be coming from Melanie Dickerson. I've looked forward to this release for months!

Our story begins with Rapunzel and Mother Gothel moving to the town of Hagenheim, which has also been the setting for many of Dickerson's other books. Mother Gothel has always been severe with Rapunzel, keeping her under close watch and restricting what she may wear and how she may interact with others. Rapunzel is hungry to learn everything she can and desperately desires to learn how to read. She hopes that moving into a larger town will give her opportunity to meet someone who will teach her.

Sir Gerek is on his way home to Hagenheim when he comes across a robbery in progress and is able to help an unusual young woman and her controlling parent. Mother Gothel's gruffness sets Sir Gerek on edge, and traveling with the women proves quite challenging. When Gerek's horse tosses him and he's forced into several weeks of recuperation at a monastery, he reluctantly agrees to giving Rapunzel reading lessons. Over the next few weeks as Rapunzel gets to know Gerek and makes other friends, she realizes just how wrong her situation is, that her mother's strictness is unnatural and unhealthy. With the help of her new friends, Rapunzel is able to slip away from her mother and take a position as a maidservant in Hagenheim castle.

Things really pick up when Rapunzel's true identity is discovered, but before she can reconnect with her birth parents the castle comes under siege. Mother Gothel takes advantage of the chaos and kidnaps Rapunzel, forcing her into isolation in a tower far away from Hagenheim. Will Gerek be able to rescue her? Will she ever have the chance to reunite with the loving family from whom Mother Gothel stole her?

I loved the journey that both Gerek and Rapunzel go on throughout the book. Gerek has a past full of hurt and has determined to protect himself in order not to become like those who caused him pain. He has decided to marry a wealthy woman to prove his worth. Rapunzel's inner strength balanced with gentleness causes him to reevaluate his goals. Rapunzel has survived a lifetime without any kind of real love, but she warmly responds when she is able to learn about God's love for her, and forgiveness and hope mark her life. Hope that all that has been stolen can be restored. The message that we can choose restoration, hope, and love no matter the pain we've known in the past was beautifully brought out - and so needed in our world today.

Some of the events of this book are concurrent with Dickerson's novel The Princess Spy, which is another I'd highly recommend. You pretty much can't go wrong with any book from this author!

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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "The Golden Braid," click here.

I'm a huge fan of the Robin Hood legend, and I was so excited when I heard about this young adult novel with the same premise. Having a female heroine seemed like it would add a new element to the story. The fearless leader of the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest, 17-year-old Lady Merry Ellison, managed to escape with more than twenty village children the night King John ruthlessly murdered her family. Having survived in the woods for two years by their crafty skill, this young group of bandits must move camp when they realize that their latest haul includes tax money which will surely set the king's guards after them.

When Merry and company settle in Wyndeshire, she has no idea that making a way for himself in the nearby village is the young man who was once betrothed to her, Timothy Grey. Timothy, heartbroken because he thought Merry perished with her family, has thrown himself into his work as a scribe and is seeking to earn a promotion through the ranks via the favor of the Earl of Wyndemere. When rumors that the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest have moved into their area reach Timothy's ears, he is determined to find and capture the lot of them.

As much as I wanted to like this book, it fell flat for me. I had a hard time connecting to the main characters, and I felt the book focused way too much on romance. I had hoped for an adventure novel, not a teenage love story. Although I appreciate what a good romance can add to a book, I felt the focus on it was too heavy for the intended audience. I have teenage siblings and more than 30 teenage students, and this was not the kind of thing that I would recommend to them or encourage them to read. I also felt like the spiritual content was sketchy at best.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lady Rosemarie has spent the past four years preparing to fulfill the vow her parents made on her life. She's come to terms with the unusual requirements and is ready to embrace what appears to be her calling. When the Duke of Rivenshire, her godfather, arrives for an unexpected visit, he has some shocking news for her. There's an exception to the vow, which he believes her parents meant for her to find. The exception states she must fall in love and marry before sundown on her eighteenth birthday, which is only one month away. After years of quiet preparation and not much contact with the rest of the world, this seems an unrealistic idea, even if the duke has brought his three most trusted knights to try to win her hand. Wouldn't it be better to go through with the vow rather than risk heartbreak and dissatisfaction at the end of the month?

After serious reflection, Rosemarie decides that she can't find out God's will unless she gives the knights a chance. Sir Collin, Sir Bennet, and Sir Derrick are all handsome and brave, and soon two of them are showering her with gifts, compliments, and lavish attention. The other seems more focused on meeting Rosemarie in her daily tasks of taking care of her people, and encouraging her to be strong as she prepares to take over full leadership of her land. Although the attention of the more ardent suitors is flattering, it's the sincerity of the third that draws Lady Rosemarie to him.

As the month unfolds, mysterious events begin happening. Two of the knights almost lose their lives to attempted murder, strange outbreaks of illness occur throughout Rosemarie's realm, and the local sheriff is killed in a brutal attack. Meanwhile Rosemarie's guardians and guides have very different opinions about which route she should take for her future, and her own heart is torn over the decisions in front of her. But she might not even be able to make the choice, as an evil influence is working against her to take away her options and force the outcome that best favors his own intentions.

I believe one of the author's chief goals with this story was to show the target audience that choosing a life mate is more about character and similar life convictions than it is about excitement or the delights of a moment. This theme is really excellently done. The plot has a fast pace and the emotions keep you turning pages to see if Rosemarie will end up safe and sound and with the knight who has won over not only her affections but those of the reader as well.

I also appreciated the theme of leadership and the exploration of what courage really means. To be courageous and a good leader doesn't mean to be brash or to necessarily be the first to rush into battle. Sometimes it means the most when taken in the form of humility. It means being able to put the good of others in front of your own desires. These lessons are learned by our main characters in resonating ways.

This story appears to be the first in a series and thus the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but that just means there is more to look forward to from this author in the future. Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book, which was given in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

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When I heard that Christian historical romance author Jody Hedlund was going to be branching out into young adult medieval fiction, I was excited and curious as to how that would work out. "The Vow" is a prequel novella to her March 2015 full-length release; in other words, it's a 7-chapter prologue. That's important for you to know. I wouldn't recommend reading this as a stand-alone, but if you plan to read "An Uncertain Choice," you might find it worth your time and the $1.99 price tag.

The year is 1386, and Lady Rosemarie is the only child of a wealthy landowner. At age 14 she is beginning to think seriously about ruling her lands one day, as well as finding the right young man who will help her with her task. She is already receiving attention from Thomas, the son of a neighboring lord, and her parents seem to approve as their relationship grows closer.

When the dreaded plague breaks out, Rosemarie is sent to the nearby abbey in order to avoid exposure. Rosemarie chafes against the protection of the monks and the seclusion from her parents and her people. When she is finally allowed to go back to the manor, Rosemarie discovers that before her birth her parents took a vow that will change every expected course for her future. It's a unique twist that took me by surprise!

Similar to the other Hedlund novella I reviewed last week, I found this story lacking the polish that comes with a full-length novel. This could also be because the heroine is at this point a young teenager with some annoying habits and a sureness that she has the correct view on life at such a young age. I thought these problems mostly resolved themselves in "An Uncertain Choice," which was a relief.

As stated earlier, I wouldn't recommend this novella on its own, as it is a prologue which will leave you hanging and unsatisfied unless you have the follow-up on hand. Thankfully I did, and stay tuned for that review in the near future.
Captive Maiden

It's the story of Cinderella as you've never seen before! Gisela is a strong, hard-working young woman who lives under the cruel hand of her stepmother and two stepsisters. She dreams about the day she'll be free from their oppression, but in the meanwhile she's finding ways to make the most of her situation. She also dreams about Valten, the eldest son of the duke of Hagenheim and champion of tournaments around the world, whom she met when she was a child and has admired from afar.

When Hagenheim hosts its own tournament and Valten comes back home, Gisela hardly hopes to even catch sight of him. But when another competing knight named Reuxner accosts her in the marketplace, Valten interferes and makes sure Gisela gets safely away from him. Valten finds the outspoken and quick-witted Gisela enchanting, and asks her to be sure to come to the tournament so he can see her again.

As Valten and Gisela begin spending time together and forging a friendship, Reuxner sees this as the perfect opportunity to hurt his longtime rival. He approaches Gisela's stepmother and she agrees to sell Gisela to be Reuxner's bride. Knowing she won't marry him willingly, the two plot to kidnap Gisela and threaten Valten in order to force her acquiescence. The courageous Valten has a thing or two to say about this plan and sets off to find and rescue Gisela.

I really liked the character of Valten. He's a man of strength and determination, but one of his weaknesses is relying too much on himself. The twists and turns of the story bring him to a place of humility and the realization that he needs to lean on the Lord and to accept the help of others if he ever hopes to free his captive maiden. As someone who is often stubborn enough to think I can handle things on my own, I could identify with Valten and I enjoyed his journey.

There are no fairy godmothers in this version, just friends who are there to help Gisela and Valten become who they need to be. The idea of community is not always a popular one in this world that prizes fierce independence, but God desires that we walk in fellowship with others and help one another on life's path. In community is strength, and I am glad we get stories like this to come along and remind us of that every now and then.
2014 was a great year for reading! I'm thankful to have had the ability to read so many good books this year. Now I get to present my favorites to you and hope you'll check some of them out for yourself! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

In a zany series of capers, Ellis Eton tries to trade identities with one friend and save the life of another. Ellis makes an endearing heroine because she has a good heart but she's also terribly scatterbrained. This one is an amusing and charming read!

Young Adult Fiction

Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

This year I read more young adult books than I have since I was a young adult myself, and while a number of them were good, I am still resonating with the spiritual truths and character growth found in "The Fairest Beauty." This was a lovely retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale.

Speculative Fiction


Awakening by Tracy Higley

Museum worker Kallie Andreas suffers from amnesia, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she's offered to lead a team in quest of finding a crucial artifact. As her journey takes her to Egypt, Italy, and the Greek isle of Santorini, Kallie discovers much about herself, her past, and our amazing God.

Contemporary Fiction

All My Belongings

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Becca Morrow is trying to get a fresh start on life by changing her name and moving half-way across the country to escape the notoriety of her father's high-profile murder trial. While she's running from her past, her new friend Isaac is seeking his in the form of searching for his biological parents. The themes and lessons in this book were beautiful and insightful, and the wonderful balance of storytelling elements makes this one you can't put down.


Hardest Peace

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is a pastor's wife and mother of four young children who has received a terrible diagnosis: terminal cancer. As her life on this earth fades away, Kara encourages all of us to trust God as the Author of our story, let His grace fill our lives, and love well those around us. Find the beauty in the heartbreak. This is an amazing book with applications for you no matter your life circumstances.

Classic Literature

Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series is a coming-of-age tale set during the anxious days of World War I. Anne's daughter Rilla is one of my favorite literary characters ever written. She grows from a dreamy young girl into a mature and strong woman whose heart beats for the needs of others. Every emotion is written in such a way that you feel you're on the journey, too.
Fairest Beauty

When young Gabe hears that his brother's betrothed, long thought dead, is living as a mistreated scullery maid in her stepmother's castle, he recklessly sets off alone on a quest to free her. Never mind that his brother is a tournament champion and Gabe has never been that interested in training and competitions; this is his chance to show that he's just as valiant as Valten. Surely infiltrating Duchess Ermengard's home and whisking away one maid can't be that difficult.

Having grown up believing she is an orphan, Sophie tries to be an expert at pleasing the exacting and cruel Duchess Ermengard, but often finds herself punished for the most minor infractions. Life seems hopeless in Hohendorf, as the Duchess never lets anyone leave and rarely do any new visitors come to the castle. When a well-dressed troubadour mysteriously appears, claiming to want to sing the praises of Duchess Ermengard, everyone is suspicious that he is not who he claims to be.

At first I had a hard time getting into this story. Gabe seems far too irresponsible and thoughtless, and Sophie didn't seem like she had much of a personality. But as the story progressed I realized Sophie seemed one-dimensional because the abuse she had suffered robbed her of any joy or spark of individuality. It was once she realized that she was valued and that she could hope for a better future that she began coming alive. You can't overestimate the work of hope in an oppressive situation! Gabe goes through tremendous character growth, too, as he realizes that this quest to save Sophie isn't a lark, but rather a truly dangerous situation which will require strength and sacrifice if either of them are to survive.

This story includes lots of classic "Snow White" references, including the huntsman ordered to kill Sophie, the seven unusual men who offer shelter to our main characters when they desperately need it, and a poisoned apple which threatens every hope of a happy ending. Even though Gabe and Sophie are mindful of the fact that she is betrothed to Valten, a bond quickly forms between them as they work together to secure the future which Duchess Ermengard has tried to steal from her.

My favorite part of this novel was seeing Sophie's faith carry her through. When she realizes that the Duchess is actually her stepmother and all that has been taken away from her through evil intentions, she doesn't let despair or hate take over her heart. With the encouragement of others, she is able to actively choose to let God do His healing work in her. It's not an instantaneously healing, but rather a choice each time she is hurting to embrace God rather than anger. Watching her, Gabe also realizes that he can accept God's healing in various ways in his life, too. These kinds of lessons are ones I love seeing because they meet us right where we are. God wants to work in our lives so that our struggles and sorrows bring us closer to Him, but we can easily get in the way and shut Him out. Purposefully being open to His love, mercy, and grace is something we can all choose, giving Him a chance to do a transforming work in us.
Merchant's Daughter

Young Annabel Chapman's family owes a debt to the lord of their demesne, and they believe corrupt Bailiff Tom will help them pay it in exchange for Annabel's hand in marriage. Annabel, however, desires to become a nun and live her life studying the Bible, so she takes matters into her own hands and agrees to three years of indentured service to Lord le Wyse in order to pay her family's debt and also escape the unwanted advances of the bailiff. She hopes that after her time of service she will be able to take her vows and enter a convent.

Having just moved to the remote hamlet of Glynval in order to build a new manor house, Ranulf le Wyse is on a quest to hide from the world and recover from his past. He once saved a servant from a wolf's attack, and for his trouble he lost one of his eyes and use of his arm. Other life traumas have left him abrupt and easily angered, and the combination of physical and emotional scars give him a beastly bearing. He wants privacy and peace, but that is threatened when Bailiff Tom meets with a mysterious injury. His servant Annabel, whose reading of the Bible has often soothed his evenings, is one of the main suspects and he is sure she knows more than she is saying.

It was very easy to get caught up in this story! There was an element of danger which kept me turning the pages. I didn't find Annabel to be the most compelling character, as she seemed to have few faults besides a penchant for tears, and she fit one of my literary pet peeves in that nearly every man who met her wanted to marry her. But the story itself definitely fit with its "Beauty and the Beast" origins and was enjoyable overall. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, be sure to check out this and other works by Melanie Dickerson!
Healer's Apprentice

Welcome to fourtheenth century Germany, where a girl named Rose has captured the hearts of two brothers. As an apprentice to the local healer, Rose lives inside the castle walls and is receiving an education far beyond what most women are given at that time. She was chosen to be placed under Frau Geruscha's tutelage and wants to learn the healing arts, even if it's not something she is naturally drawn towards.

Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert, sons of the duke of Hagenheim, come home after being away for some years and both fall in love with Rose. As the eldest, Lord Hamlin has been betrothed to the daughter of a neighboring ruler since he was very young. Lord Rupert will inherit very little and would be prudent to find a wife with a rich dowry. As Rose become friends with both young men, she is aware that anything more than friendship is not likely, even as Rupert begins making strides towards a courtship.

Having never met his betrothed, Lord Hamlin works hard to curb his attraction to Rose and stay faithful to the unknown Lady Salomea, whom he will finally meet in a few months. Lady Salomea has been in hiding many years, as her life has been threatened by the evil Moncore. Deciding to try to catch Moncore so his betrothed will be safe at last, Lord Hamlin encourages Rose to marry Rupert and leaves on his quest.

But when Lord Rupert's motives become suspect and a strange man begins shadowing Rose, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Loosely based on "Sleeping Beauty," this tale brings us mystery, danger, hope, and a reminder that though God's plans often take us by surprise, they are always exactly right. How good to remember our trustworthy God during the sometimes dark and uncertain days we all go through!

I'm so glad I have been able to read a couple of Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings, and I can't wait to read more. Stay tuned for future reviews.
Princess Spy

I have heard high praise for Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings, and I was so excited when I had the chance to read one of them! Set in the fifteenth century, this reimagining of The Frog Prince was hard to put down once I got into the story. I'll definitely be going back and reading this author's previous books!

The hero in the story is a young Englishman named Colin, who ventured into Germany to find the man who murdered his sister's friend. Discovered and beaten by knights of the villain, Colin is left for dead on the side of the road. Although he is found and taken to the healer at Hagenheim Castle, he is so injured and at a disadvantage because of the language barrier that at first everyone thinks he has lost his mind.

Lady Margaretha, the oldest daughter of the duke of Hagenheim, is fascinated by the wounded man in the healer's chamber. Because she studied English under her tutor, she is able to communicate with Colin as he regains consciousness and strength. Margaretha is a very talkative and somewhat spoiled girl whose most serious concern in life has been contemplating which of her suitors to accept in marriage, but she is also kind and determined.

When Colin finds out that the murderer he is chasing is actually a guest at Hagenheim Castle, he asks Margaretha to put her own safety on the line and spy on Lord Claybrook. What she uncovers sends her and Colin on a quest to outwit and outmaneuver the evil lord before he is able to accomplish his scheme. As the pair rely on God and each other throughout the adventure, we get to see each of them growing in character, refining their strengths, and overcoming their weaknesses.

I enjoyed this book very much. Although it's of the young adult genre, it's one that will delight all ages, especially those who still enjoy fairy tales. This book releases today, so look for it at online retailers or Christian bookstores near you.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

The exciting Anomaly trilogy comes to its conclusion with "Revolutionary." If you need a refresher on what has happened earlier in the series, check out my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2.

Finding herself forced back to the underground State, Thalli faces her greatest challenge yet. The evil Dr. Loudin, who is responsible for the nuclear war that wiped out most of Earth's population, wants to study Thalli and the friends she has made above ground, as well as use them as leverage against each other to ensure full cooperation for his plans.

Although Thalli and the others scheme of ways to overthrow Dr. Loudin, she battles a fair amount of despair because he always seems one step ahead of them. She feels distant from the Designer and wonders why He is allowing this wickedness to continue. A surprising ally is found in Dr. Turner, John's son who has worked with Dr. Loudin for years. He sees now the depths to which Loudin has sunk, and he desires to do what he can to stand up to the corruption around him.

The struggle going on around Thalli only magnifies her inner turmoil. Although she was genetically engineered as an embryo, she discovers she has a biological father, mother, and siblings, all of whom are still alive. She's never known family, and she cherishes the hope of getting away from the State and having a future with them. She is also torn between two young men who love her: Berk, her childhood friend, and Alex, whom she met in Book 2, who grew up above ground as a prince among his people.

There are some really gut-wrenching things that happen in this book, and the not all of the characters we love will make it to the end. Even though the Designer does not seem close, they must keep faith that He has a plan which will overcome evil in the end. No situation is hopeless when we know God is in control.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers
Hunger Games Trilogy

When I watched the 2012 film "The Hunger Games" and enjoyed it, I became interested in reading the books which they were based on. It was when I saw "Catching Fire" in the theater and was blown away that I knew that was going to happen. My goal became to read the trilogy before the movie came out of DVD, and I accomplished that. The DVD releases tomorrow, and yes, I have plans to watch it tomorrow night. What was it that I enjoyed so much about these stories? Let's dive into that.

"The Hunger Games" tells the story of a nation divided into 12 deprived districts and one rich, opulent Capitol. The Capitol has been ruling Panem since the districts revolted 74 years ago, and it keeps the districts isolated and impoverished through various means. Each year, to remind the districts that rebellion doesn't pay, one boy and one girl are chosen from each sector to meet in an arena and fight to the death. Only one of the twenty-four tributes will come out alive. Called the Hunger Games, this is the Capitol's triumph every year, and the Games are reality TV at its overly-glorified worst.

On the Reaping Day, when the tributes for the Hunger Games are selected, heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute after her 12-year-old sister is originally selected. Katniss has been the breadwinner in her family for several years and is fiercely protective of her sister. The male tribute selected is Peeta Mellark, who, unknown to Katniss, has been drawn to her ever since they were in first grade together. Katniss wants nothing to do with Peeta, knowing that if she is to survive it means she might have to kill him in the arena. They arrive at the Capitol and are shocked at its gaudiness and worldliness compared to their home in District 12. The tributes receive a few days of training and are run through interviews with the media before they are dropped into the arena and the battle for their lives begin.

In the book it is clear just how cunningly Katniss approaches the Games. She knows every moment is televised and she plays that to her advantage. This is unlike the movie, where it almost seems accidental that Katniss handles the experience as well as she does. Her time spent illegally hunting back at home gives her a strong advantage over the rest of the tributes. Always her goal is to avoid Peeta, until the unexpected announcement that if the final two tributes are from the same district they will both be crowned winners. Then her goal becomes finding Peeta and keeping him alive so that they can win together. There are many obstacles she faces, including injury, dehydration, and certainly the other tributes. Then there's the Capitol, who has an agenda which they do not want to see overthrown, especially not by Katniss, who has been nicknamed The Girl Who Was On Fire. Coming from the smallest, poorest district, her showing them up would be a very bad thing indeed.

"Catching Fire" tells the story of the consequences Katniss faces for having won the Games and unknowingly given the districts a spark of hope that freedom from the Capitol might be possible. Threatened with having her family and closest friends killed if she refuses to be a pawn for the Capitol, Katniss pretends to be a rule-follower and in love with the man of the Capitol's choosing. But it isn't enough, and to further punish her, the Capitol announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, the male and female tributes will be selected from the pool of previous victors. As the only female victor from District 12, Katniss has no choice but to face the arena again. This time she knows the Capitol will stop at nothing to kill her. But behind her back, a rebellion has been forming, an alliance of inside players whose goal is to keep The Girl Who Was On Fire alive. These Games play out very differently from the previous ones, and come to an unexpected and shocking end when the rebellion inside and outside the arena reaches full scale.

In "Mockingjay," very few know for sure whether The Girl Who Was On Fire is alive or dead, but she has unwittingly become the face of a revolution. The remaining tributes from the 75th Games who were whisked by the rebels to their new seat of military force, District 13, deal with heavy PTSD, while the ones who remain the clutches of the Capitol are tortured and forced to make pleading television appearances begging for the uprising to come to an end. This book is a tale of two halves: the first of coming to grips with the horrible things in the past and becoming resolute on what needs to happen in the future, and the second holds a military campaign to overthrow the Capitol once and for all. I actually preferred the first half of the book, because it was very real for what our characters had gone through. Their tragedies were not carelessly overlooked. Plus reading about military assaults isn't my cup of tea. As the battles unfold, who is really trustworthy? Does the rebellion leadership have a better agenda than that of the Capitol? More sacrifices will be made, more lives will be lost, more surprising decisions will happen. The conclusion, however, is satisfying, even if it didn't include all the characters I wanted to still be alive at the end.

This trilogy is a departure from what I normally read, but I was glad to go on this journey. I like being challenged to think about liberty and freedom, and the very high price it can require. Would I risk everything if it was asked of me? What would I do if forced to make some of the decisions that Katniss and others face? I would hope to have the strength and faith to, as Peeta put it in the first book, not let it change who I really am.

This is the sixth book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed them, here are my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, and Book 5. Keep reading after the review for an interview with author Joe Westbrook.

"The Chase" left us back in the past, with Jax, Izzy, JT, and Micky having made an amazing discovery. They've found Noah's Ark! Our friendly foursome spend the early chapters of the book exploring the Ark, hypothesizing on how Noah and his family cared for the animals and why modern searches haven't uncovered the Ark, and discussing theories about ice ages. The excellent focus on Biblical reasoning continues to be strong throughout their adventures.

Meanwhile, Pastor Rich's situation remains perilous in the Middle East. The authorities are willing to exact severe punishment on him and his friends for distributing Bibles to underground churches. Will Pastor Rich be required to give his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Our young friends come back to the present day in time for the annual science fair. The competition is stiff, with JT and Micky going for repeat wins and many other great entries as well, but Jax and Izzy are confident they will place first. It's after the winning project is announced and our group has gone out for their traditional post-fair dinner that they learn of Pastor Rich's arrest. Is it possible that they could plan their most daring trip through time and rescue their friend and mentor? Seeking prayer and parental counsel, the mission is deemed too dangerous for anyone except Jax and Dr. Thompson. The outcome is an exciting conclusion to this wonderful young adult series.

I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

I'm pleased to share with you this interview with author Joe Westbrook. He graciously agreed to answer the following questions:

ReviewsByErin: Are there going to be any more books in The Truth Chronicles series? Do you have any other writing projects coming up?
Joe: At this point, we don't have any more books planned for The Truth Chronicles series. As much as Tim and I loved writing these stories, they take a good bit of time, and Tim in particular is busy with several other projects. I myself am working on multiple ideas (I can't ever seem to be content with just one!), and am hoping to actually get one completed before the end of the year.

ReviewsByErin: How long have you been interested in writing?
Joe: I first got interested in writing when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I had read a book by fantasy author Terry Brooks, and was under the mistaken impression that the book I'd read had been published while he was still in high school. I got the idea, then, that I should be able to get published before I graduated, too. That didn't happen, but I did graduate with two ideas written out to about 50 pages each.

ReviewsByErin: If you had a time machine and could go to any point in the past to observe and/or explore, what are some of the things you would go back and see?
Joe: Because of my interest in theology, I would like to travel back and meet the New Testament authors, especially Paul, and get absolute clarification on some of the things that have caused Christians to be confused and divided over the centuries. I would also like to go back to the day of the first moon landing, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the day Babe Ruth famously called his home run to center field in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series

ReviewsByErin: Do you think time travel will really be possible in the future?
Joe: I am not a physicist, so research and theory may have concluded that the maxim "Matter cannot be created nor destroyed" is not necessarily set in stone. However, based on that maxim, I would think that time travel would not be possible because you would have to pull matter from one time and add it to another time. Maybe (and I'm really reaching here) if time travel was conducted through some sort of wormhole that linked two periods of time in a way that matter/energy could travel back and forth as long as the wormhole was open, but I still have my doubts. However, time travel, wormholes, and other related phenomena make for fun writing.

ReviewsByErin: Which of the main characters of The Truth Chronicles do you relate to the most, from a spiritual perspective? Were you a believer from a young age like JT, convinced after a little searching like Jax and Izzy, or did you fight kicking and screaming all the way like Micky? Praise the Lord that He is able to work in all kinds of hearts and circumstances.
Joe: I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor until I was almost 8 years old, and I grew up attending church. I came to know Christ personally as a pre-teen. In that respect, I'm definitely more like JT (my first and middle initials, incidentally). I split my personality some with Izzy, too, in that I like to reason things out. And yes, God is great and merciful to work with so many different minds, hearts, and attitudes!

ReviewsByErin: Your co-author Tim Chaffey works for Answers in Genesis, which is a great resource for learning about Biblical creationism and history from a Biblical perspective. Are there other organizations, websites, or books on these topics that you would recommend for readers to check out?
Joe: When it comes to creation and science, I also recommend the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International. For resources pertaining to evangelism, Ray Comfort's ministry, Living Waters, has some excellent resources. And I have greatly benefited from John MacArthur's ministry, Grace to You, with his expositional preaching through the entire New Testament.

ReviewsByErin: Where can we follow you online and stay updated about future writing projects?

Joe: There are several ways readers can follow both Tim and me. My Facebook author page is and Tim's is Fans of The Truth Chronicles can interact with us on that series specifically at Tim's website/blog is and my website/blog is



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