***Note from Susan * Hi People!! So between getting ready for my mission trip to NY and my day job I've been REALLY busy lately! So my wonderful Mother agreed to help me out by doing a book review. Hope you guys enjoy and I'll see y'all in my next NY update!**
A Ladies of Harper Station Novel
She Trusts Him for the Job,
But Can She Trust Him With Her Heart?
Men are optional. That was the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts taught her and why she established Harper's Station, a women's colony that offers
a fresh start to females in need. But when a dangerous and shadowy assailant tries repeatedly to drive the women out, Emma is forced
to admit they might need a man after all. One who can fight. And there is only one man she trusts enough to ask.
Malachi Shaw has finally earned the respect he's always craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's telegram arrives,
he rushes back to Texas to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own
and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.
As the danger intensifies, Emma, Mal, and the ladies of Harper's Station must choose safety or whether to risk everything to fight for their future.
I (Susan's mother) should probably start this review by stating that just prior to reading this novel, I read two other stories over the last week or so. One was a mystery-historical romance so that was a little different from the norm and the other was an extremely well written story that ended up having the romance as a backdrop to the setting instead of vice-versa and was very refreshing to read.
I've read my fair share of fiction. In fact, I LOVE to read. When my children were little I had to be careful with my reading. Once I opened a novel I became so absorbed in it that everything else around me just faded away. "Just one more chapter" was often heard coming from my lips as my children ran around me doing pretty much what they pleased because I was so distracted. I still am this way; the children are just older now so it's not such a big deal. As I said, I've read my fair share of fiction, much of that Historical Romance. I've even read some of Ms. Witemeyer's work before. And it is not that she is a bad writer; in fact, I prefer her work to some others. It is just that there was very little "uniqueness" to this story. I pretty much could tell you everything that was going to happen before the third chapter was finished. I will say that I did not know "why" the town was in danger until she revealed it, but it really didn't matter to me because I could predict so many other parts of the story. Even little "hints" were so obvious.
Emma Chandler thinks that men are optional. Unfortunately for us, as is with sooooo many Historical Romance novels today, a unique storyline is optional as well. Don't get me wrong. It's not that this story is bad but it is predictable.
The first line on the back of the book hints that this is to be a series of novels: A Ladies of Harper Station Novel
There were several other characters in the story that I wouldn't mind reading more about IF they could be more original. However, I would probably never find myself re-reading this novel. It just didn't have enough to draw me back to it again and again.
As I mentioned before, Ms Witemeyer isn't a bad author, she just needs something new and refreshing. Much like many other authors of today.
Overall, I would give this 2 stars out of 5 (see side bar for review scale). I wavered between 2 and 3 but honestly, I know I would not keep it to re-read and really could have used my time more wisely so the 2 stars fit better.
**NOTE* A word to the discerning parent of pre-teen or teen readers, even though most of the "physical romance" is limited, it is a little more detailed than I would prefer my unmarried daughter to read. Unmarried girls don't need any help in the romance-fantasy department in my opinion and the less they read about the tingling on their arms, flipping in the stomach, husky breaths on their neck, and intense kissing the better. Just my opinion though.**
P.S. I was given No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion
**Note from Susan: Hey guys! I hope everyone is staying warm this winter. There is nothing like getting all nice and cozy inside with a great book and a warm cup of tea (or hot chocolate, or coffee, whatever your taste may be :). This review doubles as guest post because it is actually written by my brother Jonathan. Jonathan is an aspiring author who, you will find out quickly, has a beautiful way with words! I asked him to write this review for me to see if book reviewing is something he might be interested in. I hope you guys enjoy his review and I'll catch y'all later in another post!
P.S. Also, be a dear and write Jonathan a nice little comment telling him how he did :)**
The Shadow of War.
A Clash of Brothers. A Terrible Sacrifice.
In the Face of Powerful Darkness, Who Will Prevail?
The island of Seare is at war. The Red Druid is gathering strength and power to stand against Conor, Eoghan, and the brotherhood. But there is strife within the brotherhood as well. Eoghan still refuses to claim his rightful rule, and the resulting conflict creates an uncomfortable distance between him and Conor. When Conor leaves to find the key to defeating the Red Druid, Eoghan and Aine worry he will succumb to the danger, and they attempt their own mission to defeat the Red Druid through Aine's magical gifts.
But Nothing--And No One--Is As It Seems.
I'm always fascinated to see a book which belongs to a series that boasts "a novel" proudly on the front cover (I say "proudly" though it is usually typed in teeny print below an eloquent title such as The Sword and The Song). My thinking goes along the lines of: "Oh boy! A series comprised of novels that can stand by themselves but united are even better!" And the fact that the declaration is so small makes me feel like I am in on a privileged secret that possibly no one else knows about. What could be better?
Needless to say, I have been let down more than once, and I realize it is largely based on slightly unreasonable expectations.
Such was my approach to The Sword and The Song. I was expectant and slightly wary. Naturally, I was not prepared to be wary about everything, though, so the first line smacked me in the face (metaphorically, like a limp fish). The author, C. E. Laureano, started the book off with no reserves. The first sentence states that our hero has just dodged a swinging sword by a mere couple of inches (a mere couple of inches more than I am able to dodge limp fish). Engaging right? Well, it might be.
To me it would have been fine if not for the fact that The Sword and The Song makes the third (Third!) book I can give you the title of that starts off in that way, and the second to use almost the exact same sentence to do so. The other two (which were both from separate series) didn't go over with me quickly either. I'm fine when an author goes all in in the first chapter. I think it's great. But certain ways that authors try to go all in make me feel like maybe I've just experienced the best that they had to offer. Ernest Hemingway and Baby Shoes aside, if an author can contain the best they have to offer in a single sentence I find it, well, small.
Not a good start, I'll admit. But other than a few of my own misgivings (mostly concerning fish and my slow reflexes) the story was well rounded and fascinating to a point. It does take a minute to get up to speed. Politics rein for a few short chapters, and confusion abounded as I learned a million new words. It took a while but soon I was reading "Hm-hmm" and "Ahrrd-dard-dard-hmmm" and "Fi-fu-hmm" like a pro (and proudly doing so, though I'm glad I wasn't reading out loud).
The author throws magic in a lot (At times I felt like I was reading a video game). Largely she used the idea that magic was the infestation of power from the character she used to represent GOD. But unlike C. S. Lewis' Narnia she didn't seem to capture the theological aspects of that. She only got the wow factor.
In an interview with the author she says:
"...Of course, the addition of magic changes things, so I got to imagine how the existence of supernatural gifts and blood magic might have affected their culture. I also re-envisioned the faerie mythology from a neutral, mischievous role into something more malevolent."
Characters and Such:
As the book progressed I learned to respect the main character, Conor (In my opinion he is the best part of the book). He is discerning and relatively knowledgable. And, according to an interview with the author, Conor is also her favorite character:
"...He’s definitely the one I find most personally relatable. He knows he was created for something greater, but he doesn’t always make the right decisions—he lets his emotions sway his thinking and he lets down the people who depend on him—but he always comes through in the end. In that way, he’s something of a Biblical hero than a superhero...David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he still did some seriously stupid things. "
Conor struggles in meaningful ways that feel far less half hearted and half developed than they could have easily been, and I can only imagine how much more meaningful they would be if I had read the other two books in the series first.
Which may bring us to the problem. I have not read the first two books in the series.
Which may have brought us to the other problem. I find myself able to pass on the other two.
While I don't regret reading the book exactly, it was not my style. The character development, while not as outstanding as J.R.R. Tolkien or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was, in fact, developed well. Certain characters really stood out to me in their own way. The problem is their own way just wasn't to my taste.
What I'm saying here is this: Too many things got in the way of me enjoying The Sword and The Song. It has themes of sacrifice in it, but it also has random threads of selfishness. It has people strongly devoted to their moral code and to their religion, but it also has awkward acts against that same religion and code (I am referring to things that I found too common to just be explained away as "contrast"). Between that and a couple of sexual references, though they were relatively tastefully handled, I find it hard to recommend. Going by the rating system on the side bar, I would give it a 2 (and three quarters) out of 5.
Here are some additional insights into the author from the above mentioned interview:
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
"I didn’t want to write a “safe” story where you know that everything is going to be okay and everyone will come out unharmed—because real life isn’t like that. It can be scary and messy and unpredictable. But through it all, if you look hard enough, is the ever-present thread of God’s grace and provision. My greatest wish is that readers come away with the understanding that they have a purpose, that they matter, that God cares for them as individuals and not just as a face in the crowd. I’ll consider my job done if readers walk away with hope."
P.S. I was given The Sword and The Song by: C. E. Laureano_ by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
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