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)

The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner


With his beloved Sido safe in London, Yann heads back to France to help smuggle aristocrats, who would be doomed to face the guillotine, out of the country.

Despite the danger, Sido and Yann write to each other, but her guardian’s disapproval, and a long-kept secret about Yann’s past, could tear them apart.

When Sido is mysteriously kidnapped, will Yann be able to save her?

The Silver Blade is the sequel to The Red Necklace. As with that novel, maybe a little more so with this one, I believe the intended audience of 12 years old is just a bit too young for the content. The violence is detailed, and this sequel is darker than the first novel. I believe 15 and up is more appropriate.

I also found Silver Blade to be a little disjointed at times. Point of view jumped around, sometimes within the same scene.

The story, however, kept me involved, and the characters jumped off the page.

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

Average of score 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols


It is impossible to talk about the Reformation without talking about Martin Luther. His Ninety-Five Theses jumpstarted this movement in the church that led back to the truth of justification.

This book is a collection of essays, written by some of today’s top Reformed theologians and pastors, on different aspects of Luther’s life and theology, including the legacy he left behind.

This is a must read for anyone interested in Luther, the Reformation, church history, or Christian theology. The organization allows for easy transition from topic to topic, and since each essay has a different author, each has its own style, keeping the narrative fresh and interesting.

Much more than a biography, The Legacy of Luther lays out the thoughts and teachings of Luther on the doctrine of justification. The reader will learn what Luther most wanted to teach: the authority of Scripture alone, and justification by faith alone.

The book also features a timeline of major events in Luther’s life, and appendix of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, footnotes for ease of reference, a list of resources for further reading, a Forward by John MacArthur, and a Scripture Index.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I’ve marked several pages that I want to revisit, and I’m sure I will return to this book again and again for inspiration and learning.

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

Average score of 5 out of 5

I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from Reformation Trust in return for an honest review. However, I must admit that I also ended up purchasing the book, and read my hardcover copy in instead of the pdf.

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