A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir


Laia and Elias are on the run from the Empire. They are hunted by old enemies and old friends, but Laia is determined to rescue her brother, and Elias is determined to keep his promise to help her.

This sequel picks up right where An Ember in the Ashes left off, and the pace doesn’t slow. We learn more about the characters we already know, and meet a few new ones along the way. Deciding who to trust is key.

Once again, Tahir pulls you into her world and doesn’t let you go. Rich characters, detailed plot, and adventure on every page. This second novel more than lives up to the first, and I sincerely hope there is a third in the works. Tahir is an amazing storyteller.

As with the first, this YA is definitely more suited for mature young adults: detailed, brutal violence; mild swearing; and a mild, cut-away love scene.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

A Time for Confidence by Stephen J. Nichols


If you’re a Christian in America, you probably feel the change in our society. The culture is shifting further and further away from our Christian heritage. As time goes on, we may feel the pressure to compromise our beliefs to align with the culture of our day. But should we? Culture changes. Societies change. Nations and leaders rise and fall. But God’s word stands true forever.

In this timely book, Nichols reminds us where our confidence should rest: God, the Bible, Christ, the Gospel, and hope. As we stand firm in the Word we need to do so with confidence. Nichols brings us back to the early church, less than 100 years after Jesus died on the cross, to show us what that confidence looks like. It’s the same confidence we see over a thousand years later in the Reformers.

“This is not a time to cower, cave, or capitulate. It is a time for confidence, and our confidence must be in God. All else will disappoint.”

I highly recommend this book to all Christians. Especially anyone feeling the pressure to conform to this world.

1) Is it understandable = 4.5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 4.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe


Written in 1794, this gothic romance is thought by some to be the origins of the detective novel. It tells the story of Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself under the care of her uncle. Questions and mysteries arise from secrets of her father’s past.

I didn’t finish this one. I was about 120 pages in when I decided to stop, because nothing had happened yet to keep me going. The majority of those first 100 pages chronicles the travels of Emily and her father, describing the vistas in detail. The appearance of Emily’s love interest, Valancourt, made this slightly bearable, but the story moves along so slowly that the thought of going on for another 500+ pages made me cringe.

This one just wasn’t for me.

1) Overall Plot =3
2) Characters = 2
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 1
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 1

Average of score 2.2 out of 5

This particular B&N edition is no longer for sale, so I’ve linked below to the search page which shows all available editions.

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Control Girl by Shannon Popkin


Do you strive to stay in control of your life? Do you try to make everything fit into your vision of how things should be, including the people around you? When your vision takes the place of God’s vision, you end up without peace, and the thirst for control grows.

In this book, Popkin uses examples from her own life to illustrate the ways we try to take control, even the subtle ways. She shows how they can be damaging to our relationships, including our relationship with God.

I applaud Popkin for being so open about her control issues. Examples from her own life really drive the lessons, alongside Biblical examples.

However, I have two issues with this book.

The first issue is actually seen not just here, but in Christian women’s literature in general. Almost everything in this book is aimed toward married women and mothers. The only section that seemed to encompass single women as well was the chapter regarding Miriam, which was aimed at women in leadership positions. I find that it’s a common trend to leave out single women who are not mothers in these types of books, and this one was no different.

The second issue is that Popkin consistently brings up our “happy ending.” We try to obtain our happy ending by taking control (which is true) but it is only when we give control to God that he will give us our happy ending. It’s that last part that causes some concern for me. I wonder how many women will believe that God will give them the happy ending they want. God’s happy ending could look much different. Some women may not get a “happy” ending this side of heaven, just the peace of God to see them through their circumstances. How many women will relinquish control only to take it back again when it doesn’t look like God is doing what they want?

Control Girl definitely has some practical examples and advice, but it’s these two issues that stop me from rating it higher.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 4
3) Quality of Writing = 4.5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average score of 3.1 out of 5
Extra point removed for issues stated above.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel in return for an honest review.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess


Henrietta Howel is a sorcerer. The first female sorcerer in ages. Her power is rare and dangerous, and there are some who believe she is the one who is prophesied to defeat an ancient enemy. But is she?

This YA fantasy is excellent. Set in an England filled with magic during the rule of a young Queen Victoria, you’ll feel as if you are there yourself. Cluess’s characters are well-written and the story keeps a steady pace as everything unfolds and Henrietta learns who she can really trust.

This is the first novel in the Kingdom of Fire series, and with a few questions left unanswered, I will definitely read the next.

A couple of content warnings: the story focuses on sorcerers, so there is a lot of magic. Some Christian readers may not like how closely linked magic seems to be to the church, or how the church is sometimes portrayed. However, it is fantasy, and it is Victorian England. So, the stances taken by some of the more “religious” characters aren’t that out of line. There’s also a little mild language.

Content upside: it was refreshing to read a YA novel where sex isn’t laced throughout the story. Potential romances abound, but (at least in this first novel), Henrietta is more focused on finding her place.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.8 out of 5

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Captain Takes a Wife by Doris Durbin


As Captain Harry Richardson is boarding a train, he finds a woman in need of help. Sarah Franklin is running away from an arranged marriage, and she begs him to help her. When they are followed onto the train, the pair decide that getting married may make the people pursuing Sarah give up, but they don’t realize what the men are really after, and how far they will go to reclaim what is theirs.

The action in this novel is great. It keeps you involved enough to keep reading. Unfortunately, aside from some humorous dialogue, the action is the best thing about the novel.

My main issue is that everything and everyone seemed prefect. The good guys were all very good, to the core. Seemingly flawless. The hero was completely selfless. The heroine was completely innocent. Their friends were all willing to risk their lives.

Even the marriage of convenience turns out to not really be so, because Harry and Sarah are madly in love in less than twenty-four hours. The novel does mention that the pair really know nothing about each other, yet they claim love so quickly.

My other issue is with the writing. There are several points where the author uses wording that completely gives away what is about to happen (the chapter titles are also guilty of this). For example, one line says that the Captain hears the dogs barking and assumes it’s for a specific reason. Well, use of the word assume tells us that’s not why the dogs are barking, and we now can easily guess what’s about to happen. This happens many times throughout the book.

There are also several points where characters have to be filled in on events as they come into, or re-enter, the story. Instead of the author just letting us now that they are filled in, the reader has to read the entire summary again through dialogue.

I also felt like the novel should have ended sooner than it did.

The story had a lot of potential, but it fell short.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 3.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average of score 3.8 out of 5

I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from BookLook in return for an honest review.

Where to buy the book: CBDAmazon | B&N

Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray


Lydia Bancroft’s world is a world of books, until a mysterious, dark-eyed man begins to frequent the reading room where she works as a librarian. He never speaks a word to her until a chance meeting puts him in the position to be her rescuer. She soon discovers that he is none other than the infamous Sebastian Marks, one of the most powerful men in Chicago.

They are both hesitant as they form a friendship, until Lydia discovers that Mr. Marks runs a club with illegal gambling. She insists that he bring her to the club, and things take a turn for the worse when someone is murdered.

Lydia must decide if she can truly trust Sebastian, and he must decide if Lydia can remain in his life.

Getting the negative out of the way, the writing is sometimes lacking, technically. It occurs mostly in the show-don’t-tell sense. In some instances, we are definitely being told. We also get a lot of backstory through flashbacks, pulling the reader out of the present timeline for a while. It was these moments that prevented me from getting truly lost in this book.

That being said, the story itself was really good, and made it hard for me to put the book down. The characters were well written, and I enjoyed their interactions with each other, including the supporting cast. The characters are flawed. Some of them (most of them) are criminals. It is, after all, Chicago after the World’s Fair.

Seeing as this is a Christian novel, some people may find some of the content objectionable. There is violence, though not graphic, and mentions of prostitution which is mostly acknowledgement of its existence. But there is a Christian message here if you are willing to see it. It’s redemption. The characters speak of God occasionally, but I think the lesson to take away from this novel is that, for those who have gone astray, the road to redemption can be very dark. And sometimes the road is darkest just before the redemption.

This novel is the third in Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. If you’re looking for a quick read with a hint romance and mystery, this novel is worth your time.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average of score 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBDAmazon | B&N

One Word 365 (2017)

oneword2017     The purpose of One Word 365 is to put aside the usual New Year’s resolutions that we never seem to keep. Instead, you pick one word. Just one word that you want to spend the year focusing on and living out… whatever that may mean for you, personally.

I’m a little late, but my word this year is TRUST.

Trust in Jesus. Trust in the fact that God has control of everything. Trust that no matter what happens, God can and will use it for His good plan.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 30:12)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:7)