A Touch of Ruin – Book Review

So, I reviewed the first of a trilogy (?) of a Hades and Persephone retelling, A Touch of Darkness. Just this last week, the sequel dropped and I had it read in a few days. I thought I would take the time to review both of the books to support the author, Scarlett St. Clair. I think newer writers can use all the help we loyal supporters can give them.

A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair takes place a few months after A Touch of Darkness. Persephone and Hades are officially public, though all still think Persephone is a mortal. Except for her best friend, Lexa who knows the truth ( who gets a whole story within this book as well).  Persephone is still dealing with the pressure of her mother’s displeasure of being with Hades, her boss is requiring an exclusive story on her and Hades relationship, and now she just found out, her friend Sybil, an oracle of Apollo’s, has lost all her power since she won’t sleep with Apollo. Justice warrior Persephone to the rescue!

Everything is going wrong. Hades past is catching up to him, and Persephone is still dealing with her feelings on trust and love. Her powers are manifesting in ways she can’t control, and all the general stress of life and being in the public has gotten to Persephone in ways that are not helping matters.

Basically, everything is going wrong. By the way, this is classic sequel territory. You have the set up in the first book, the fall down in the second, and redemption comes in the third book. You start to see some redemption by the last quarter of A Touch of Ruin. But this is long after you’ve wanted to shake the dickens out of Persephone. How could she be so stupid? Answer? Because we all do stupid things when we are insecure, unsure, and afraid. (Perse, I’ve been there). But redemption is sweet. While Hades isn’t the best communicator of all times, : insert dark and brooding types never are : he desperately loves Persephone and he really is trying. There are even current social issues of death. I won’t say more as it will spoil.

This book still left me with certain questions, like how in the first one, Hades uses his powers of invisibility to ‘spy’ on Persephone, but you are left wondering if he really was. And if other gods can bestow favors, why can’t Persephone?  And while I love how Scarlett inserted one of the myths of Pirithous, I found it slightly rushed towards the end and I was hoping Persephone was a tad bit stronger. Just a tad. But hey, I’m a writer, I will always want to put my spin on a perfectly lovely story.

This book tends to focus a lot on sex, and as a good sex scenes type book, this hits the nail. We’ve all read our erotic fiction, this one is pretty darn good for that.

I love how we get tastes of other gods in this one. Apollo (I actually love his character), Hermes, Hecate, Aphrodite, and even Helen of Troy are brought in. Hermes and Hecate are truly great supporting characters. Well written and fun and full of depth, they are just the perfect ensemble cast for Persephone.

This book, while not the level of flair as A Touch of Darkness, is still really enjoyable and makes me anxious for book number three. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, but then, most sequels hit this way.

If, like I said in A Touch of Darkness review, you are looking for a fun retelling of the classic myth, then check out books one and two. I can’t wait for number three!

I’m kind of hoping Ms. St. Clair tackles other myths over time. I can see her going to town on so many.

Kate

A Touch of Darkness – Book Review

I love classic story retellings. Emma by Jane Austen to Clueless, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare to She’s the Man, and Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare to 10 Things I Hate About You, just to name three films of that ilk. So when I was on Pinterest browsing one day and came across quotes and lines from a Hades and Persephone retelling, I knew I just had to check it out.

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair is one of this guilty pleasure books that tickle the fancy of any mythology junkie, which I happen to be. I have already read other versions of Hades and Persephone, Cupid and Psyche, Jack Frost and his “winter princess”. Basically it’s like glorified fan fiction, but who cares.

A Touch of Darkness is a modern twist on the ancient myth. Here you have Persephone, an almost college graduate living in New Athens, striving to become an investigative journalist, all while trying to get away from the crushing pressure of her goddess mother, Demeter. Persephone is an unknown goddess herself, but her powers are killing plants. That’s it. She can’t use glamour magic to hide her divine self, so she has to borrow her mother’s, something that irks her and keeps her under mommy’s control. 

Persephone has an internship at The Daily which is what leads her to end up celebrating at Nevernight, one of Hades casinos. And also one of the places Demeter has forbid her daughter from visiting. Interacting with any of the divine in general is a big no no for Persephone as well as she has not had her coming out, so to speak, so she is 100% unknown. But well, sheltered girls are apt to want to spread their wings. Not only does Persephone end up at the nightclub, but she also ventures into single players club and sits down to a card game with a handsome stranger. Oops. Can we guess who this is? Not only is it a god, but it’s Hades himself, where she also inadvertently ended up making a deal with Hades. Boy, how to take mommy’s rules and in with them.

Now she’s stuck having to fulfill a bargain with Lord of the underworld, fighting her attraction to him, dealing with Adonis, who steals her exclusive story on Hades, among a host of other problems. How in the world is a “useless” goddess going to handle all the pressure?

This book has so much more in it than I have even scratched the surface of. Several of the divine make appearances, not to mention the pesky nymphs and backstabbing mortals with favors. Do Persephone and Hades work out? And just what is going on in the Underworld? 

I read this book in a day and a half last summer, loved it so much, I reread it again right off the bat, then had to wait till April of this year for the sequel! The romance and attraction between Hades and Persephone is palpable and sucks you in, in just the best ways. I loved this book. I purchased the kindle version which doesn’t have some of the extras the paperback has.  I am tempted to get the paper copies.

5 out of five stars for fun off the top. Side warning, this book is definitely for adults. Nut read it if you like myth retellings. And then the sequel is next for me to review. The next in the series is A Touch of Ruin.

Kate

 

 

Happily Homemade – A Review

We all know that the best meals are the ones that are prepared with love. In Happily Homemade by Rachel Schultz  gives us 100 unique recipes to help you get past the dreaded feeling of what to make for dinner.  With stunning pictures that make you need to make everything, this book separates the recipes into catagories: Breakfasts with recipes such as Pumpkin and Pecan Baked Oatmeal, Blueberry Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast, and Herbed Mini Quiches (oh yummmm!); Snacks and Appetizers ( Carrot Bread, Apple Cookies, Loaded Skillet Fries, Almond and Pear Baked Brie, to name a few); Entrees (BLT Pizza, Chicken Lo Mein, Barley Vegetable Bowl, Fajita Grilled Cheese, and Ham and Swiss Hand Pies….. and much much more); and finally Desserts! ( Cherry Cake Bars, Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake, Coconut Macaroons, Nanny’s Rice Pudding, six kinds of frosting for various cakes…… drool some more).  There are spice mix recipes, a gluten free index for the book, and lots of tips and gorgeous recipes. The recipes are normal, extravagant, and just drool worthy in description or pictures.

I love this book, though I should mention that most of it I wouldn’t make for my immediate family due to not being quite as adventureous as I am. However, if I lived on my own, this would probably be something I would want to try out almost everything, though I did find some of the recipes like the rice pudding and the baked oatmeal, made more than I would eat on my own. Plus they are a tad too much to try out a recipe in small amounts. But most everything is a common flavor from good home cooking to Mexican, Asian and more. The variations alone make it fun. If anything, this book is one that is just lovely to look at. I myself actually read cookbooks for pleasure, not just for cooking. Who said you have to cook just because there are recipes? I read Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) cookbooks all the time and have only made about three recipes from her various books.

This book is functional for some and not for others. If you like stunning pictures and recipes that will make you want to hop into your car and get to the nearest market, then this is the book. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, actually 4.5 because it’s such a nice hardback book. Well done.

Kate

Jesus Calling Adult Coloring Book – A Review

Jesus Calling Adult Coloring Book: Creative Coloring & Hand Lettering By Sarah Young

I was quite excited to try out this book as adult coloring has become the ‘it thing’. Also, I was given Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotional, so I knew the author and was excited to see how she took parts of her work and added them to a coloring book.  The book is large, being 10″ x 10″, with pages that are perforated and can be torn out.  Each page contains very detailed drawings of God’s creation, and or a phrase or statement from Jesus Calling.  There is a basic introduction and guide on how to use the book at the front and a practice page at the end of the book to work on lettering. The drawings are elegant and intricate enough to hold meticulous colorers, as well as having plenty of pages with larger spaces to color. Some pages have the sayings outlined for filling in, while others are shaded to practice lettering.

The book is quite elegant with metallic coloring on the cover. The feel alone of the book is lovely.  The introduction and practice pages left me a little confused as to how I am specifically supposed to do lettering, and I haven’t taken the time to look online.  The pages take colored pencil well, though I would say that just plain Crayola colored pencils are actually easier to use than my Prismacolor pencils. The Prismacolor pencils tend to ‘grab’ the page and create a drag that make it harder to color. Crayola is slicker and dryer; less oily.

My attempts at the lettering stopped the minute my fountain pen ink bled through the page. I have a light hand with fountain pen ink, so I figured it would work like a marker. Personally, I would be afraid to try markers or watercolor paints for fear it would bleed through.

While every page is perforated so that it can be torn out, a spread seems to coincide with each other, so if you tore it out, then you lose the aesthetic of the saying with the image. Maybe I’m too picky about this. Maybe most people wouldn’t want to frame these and they use them more for meditation, but I have a bit of an OCD thing where I like things to match up. Also, due to the page size, I’m not sure you could ever frame it. Though I could see a charming display tacked up to the wall. Very country-esque.

All in all, I would probably give this book a 3 out of 5 stars. The biggest complaint being the bleedthrough, which a lot of adult coloring books seem to have.  As well as losing pages due to the dual sided quotes on pages.

Kate

NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition – A Review

teal-niv-journal-bible-coverNIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition is a very pretty journaling Bible for girls, or young women, or any woman that likes pretty. Each page has the place to write your thoughts, verses, etc. down the length of the page. There is a nice elastic to keep the Bible closed, and a lovely bookmark that matches the cover. I chose the turquoise edition to review (a personal favorite color) and the cover is incredibly lovely. The cover doesn’t contain text so it’s nice to have sitting out.  The book is more compact and a bit ‘smaller’ than a lot of Bibles, so it would be nice to slip into a book bag for  a Bible study or to cart with you.  There is a nice dedication page and unlike most Bibles, no maps or reference pages.

A horrible web cam image, but it shows off the cover without the  cardboard holder

A horrible web cam image, but it shows off the cover without the cardboard holder

This is a very lovely Bible, and I love that every page has a place to jot down thoughts, but I found the text really small in comparison to other Bibles I’ve read.  And because of the layout of the lines for journaling, I find the text to be a little compacted on the page.  I wouldn’t say this would be a good Bible for anyone under say 14 or so because of it’s small size, but at the same point, I don’t think most girls will journal under that age. I think for a young woman in Bible study it would be a nice edition to be able to jot down your thoughts and prayers.

I really loved the color and feel of the book. My biggest complaint would be the size of the text. Overall, it’s a nice Bible and it would be a lovely gift for a young woman for baptism or some other special occasion.  I would give it probably a 3 out of 5 stars.

This bible was provided to me for my honest review from Harper Collin’s Christian Publishing and BookLookBloggers. I have in no way been compensated for my review.

Kate

Devotions for Christmas – A Review

devotions-for-christmas-coverDevotions for Christmas: A celebration to bring you joy and peace published by Zondervan, is a lovely Christmas and December  devotions book that doesn’t just center on advent like many books for this time of year do. Instead, it takes you through the crazy, busy holiday season with very nicely done devotions. Simplifying life and giving you a moment to really enjoy the holiday season for what it is; a celebration of Christ. Each day has an incredibly appealing photograph of something Christmas-y themed, mostly over a two page spread, which I love. The images are clear and crisp and make you want to decorate. There are simple prayers and each topic is very appealing. Days like ‘Surprise Packaging’,  ‘Family Traditions’, ‘Home for the Holidays’,  ‘Holiday Memories’, ‘Christmas Leftovers’, and one of my favorites, ‘The Aroma of Christmas’.   Simple prayers, verses at both the beginning of each day and mixed within the text, and a whole 31 days of devotions, makes for an incredibly nice ‘coffee table’ book and a wonderful book for the Christmas season.

a-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015-1276x850I was very pleased with this book when it arrived, one being that it is a hardback. I had expected a thin paperback and I am a fan of hardback books because I feel that they will last longer than other books.  The photographs are so incredibly beautiful feeling like they are right out of  a really classy magazine, like Martha Stewart.  The book will put you right in the spirit of Christmas, which sometimes is hard with all the ‘commercialization’ as Charlie Brown says.  It makes you want to sit down and take a moment. I am also very pleased that it is the entire month of December instead of just an advent devotional. I had assumed that this was only going to have 25 days, as it was a Christmas devotional, but it is for the whole month into New Year’s Eve. This is a really nice book for that reason. Because the holiday season doesn’t just stop on the 25th.

I was incredibly pleased with this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a really nice devotional that is not only useful, but pretty, for the holiday season. I also think it would be a lovely gift.   5 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided to me for my honest review with no compensation from Booklook Bloggers and Harper Collin’s Christian Publishing.

Kate

One of the Few – A Review

I was given the opportunity to read One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview by Jason B. Ladd, when the author contacted me and asked me if I’d be willing to review his book. I snapped at the chance as I have never had an author ask me for a review.

One of the Few is Jason’s personal account of his life in the marines and his coming to faith. The book is divided into three parts,  Part One being Jason’s story of being a ‘military brat’ and going into the service and finally deciding to be a fighter pilot. We learn about some of his family life and his relationship with his wife who was a Christian, while Jason was not. Then one little question from Jason’s wife starts Jason on the path to discovery of Christ.  As he traverses the training of being a pilot, he also searches out what being a Christian is about. Part two takes a look at the concepts of certain versions of Christianity(I say this because it’s not a ‘this is the only way it is’ in my opinion depending on which area of Christianity you are in) and having a worldview and bouncing those beliefs off of what is going on in life.  Part three is supposed to be about using Jason’s background in peace, war and defense to prepare you for the spiritual warfare you will encounter in life and how to deal with if you are struggling.

The first part of the book captured my interest in the training Jason did in the military, along with little bits and pieces of how being a person of faith applies to life, but towards the  end of Part one, I started to not understand what Jason was getting at in regards to military training and applying it to faith. I also struggled with all of the military acronyms. In my opinion, if you are going to have that many acronyms, have an index of them at the end of the book or beginning or somewhere because, after only one explanation of what the acronym is, I forget it. Then when they are used over and over, I have no idea even what I’m reading. That happened a lot.

By the time I got to Part two, I struggled with what the core of the book was. I honestly am not even quite sure what part two was about except for segments on various Christian ideas. I wasn’t sure how it applied to anything except for feeling like it was a ‘do this, don’t do that’ rambling sort of narrative mixing in Jason’s continued research into being a Christian. While it’s supposed to be about putting your Christian faith up against what you see in the world, and is it right or wrong, I never got that impression.

By the time I got to Part three, I was entirely lost. You could take each segment withing each chapter on its own, possibly, but combined, I never quite figured out what was going on. Basically, the book is combined of a bunch of essays that don’t necessarily connect enough to understand what the total package is. Jason explains what the three parts of the book are about in the introduction, but I felt like he was unable to accomplish it in a concise manner where you understood how each point related to each other.   Roughly five pages into part three , I felt like Jason was not  accomplishing the third goal he had laid out  in his introduction. From this point, I struggled with finishing the book. I had already needed to skip ahead in Part two, hoping that the book would make more sense if I read Part three. Another problem for me was Jason takes an incredibly academic look at Christianity. For me, who grew up in the church, reading all of the more in-depth theological discussions left me feeling tired and bored and scrambling to figure out how it related to Jason coming to be a Christian. Jason also states his opinion about his specific beliefs as fact, a problem I’ve found with Christian authors. For a person who has not been a Christian for very long to state things that way, tends to turn me off a bit. Religions are made of opinions and my opinions are different than Jason’s so they cannot be stated as fact.  I actually felt like Jason had a great idea for this book, but then he jotted it out so quickly, it appeared to have lost its outline which he states in his introduction.

In the end, I’m not quite sure who would find this book helpful other than those questioning their faith and wanting to look at a more academical approach to faith, though at the same time, I felt like it was only barely scratching the surface and wasn’t quite helpful enough for even that.

Another little tick that I found frustrating was all of the notes at the end of each chapter. In most traditionally published books, the notes are at the end of the book, which I find, leaves a clean look to the book. Rarely do I read any of the footnotes or notes in a book, so having them contained at the end of the book leaves a more clean look to reading and gives less of a distraction.

Unfortunately, I find myself having to give this book only 2 out of 5 stars.

Kate

Life is Better at the Beach – A Review

089689Life is Better at the Beach by Christina Vinson, published by Thomas Nelson, is a beachy, devotional-y, inspirational-y charming book. Truly beach and nautically inspired, the book gives you fifteen rules for living life like the beach. Not so much as making sandcastles every day and picking up seashells, but more along the lines of “life is [blank]” but let’s take some ‘rules’ from being on the beach and apply them to life.

For instance, life at the beach is sandy, but at home dirt must stay outside, hands must be clean and the house must be just so, but Christ didn’t live in perfect, clean conditions, and it’s okay to be a bit dirty. Dig in the dirt, make cookies and let the flour spill. It’s okay.  Rules for beach life: Read a book, watch the sunset, pick up shells, make a sandcastle, soak in the sun, take a nap, walk barefoot……

There are gorgeous pictures of the ocean, sea, waves, sunsets, sandcastles, sand, shells, coastlines, everything beach related. There are inspirational quotes and verses that apply to life in a simple way. I think the book is perfect to pull off the shelf, or to leave out for a daily jolt of reminders how to take the simple things in life. Small enough to slip into a purse or book bag, it’s a nice book to take along with you.

This book is lovely with a host of sea colors, pictures that inspire and make you want to be at the beach. The quotes are both Biblical and non- Biblical and all apply in a nice way to compliment the pictures and each section of the book. The segments are short so you can read just a little at a time and be inspired. I find this book to be one you want to leave out on a table to constantly pick up and read a little excerpt or reminder to take a breath, notice the little things in life, remember Christ, and just ‘chill out.’ One of my favorite sections is Rule #11 Read a Book. I mean, I can’t imagine people not having time to read a book, but it’s such a nice reminder, and since I love books, well, it totally applies to me. (Honestly, anything beach related applies to me as well.)

I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. A few less stars just because I was expecting a bit more of a devotional book and found it to be just a little less ‘devotional’, but still a really charming book. The colors and images alone are my thing. I don’t get to the beach hardly ever, so this is like a little retreat to have in hands. One I will find myself picking up over the years to just be reminded to calm down.

Kate
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt;

Curio – A Review

_225_350_Book.1802.coverCurio by Evangeline Denmark is a new steampunk-esque, alternate universe, young adult novel set in a time period of late 1800s in Colorado in the wonderfully named Mercury City.  A city of miners, rules, regulations, members of the opposite sex who are unable to touch each other if unmarried, curfews, and Chemists. The people are ruled by the Chemists who control them with a potion that is their only way to have nutrition, instead of food, yet there is Grey. Grey, a young woman, has a secret. She is able to eat solid foods unlike others.

When Grey’s friend, Whit is taken away for improper behavior towards Grey, and the Chemists come after Grey, her grandfather sends her to the hidden world in his shop….Into the Curio.  A place where porcelain and clockwork people exist. Running off of water, steam and magic.  It’s a place she will have to learn to navigate to save her friends and family.

I was so excited to read this book, but as it has taken me nine months to post a review, that should say something as to how well I liked the book…. Unfortunately I have struggled trying to read this book and figure out what is going on half the time. The first part about Mercury City and all the things going on pulled me in, and I was excited about this young woman in a red coat that can’t be touched even by her young male friend. I happen to love steampunk, specifically things a la Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, but this style of steampunk left me with a blah taste in my mouth. Creative at points, but losing me quickly to the slow-ish story-line, I have just struggled to like this book. I especially don’t like the porcelain sentient beings being called Porcies. It reminds me of pigs (called porcine) and it annoys the heck out of me. That’s my own personal thing, nothing against the author.

Also, unfortunately, as I write this review, I am in the DNF (did not finish) category with this book. I have plans to finish it at some point, in which I might change my opinion, but if I can’t even get through the first 22% of the book( Kindle for PC) without being bored out of my mind, then I don’t have a lot of high hopes for it to get any better.  Due to the inability for the author to really keep me interested, I’m only going to give this a 2 out of 5 star rating.  I really hate doing that, but this book is just not to my taste. I’d say the biggest issue is just not having a clue what is going on.  There isn’t enough detail to really explain anything and I’m left wondering about a lot of things.

This book was provided to me for my honest opinion by BookLookBloggers. I was in no compensated for my opinion.

Kate

That’s Not Hay in My Hair – A Review

that's_not_hay_in_my_hair_bookThat’s Not Hay in My Hair by Juliette Turner takes you from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the wide open spaces of one of our largest states, Texas. Jules and her mom have made New York City their home, but that’s all about to change for 12-year-old Jules.  They are about to move back to her mom’s hometown and a 300-acre ranch in Texas. Complete with dogs, horses, and longhorns big enough to take out a small car.  From tiny apartments and busy streets, to open land as far as the eye can see, we travel from the bustle of the Big apple to the open skies of Texas, a big switch for a ‘city girl.’  But Jules learns to adapt with her mom at her side and her cats, dogs, and sweet horses at her side.  There is tragedy, but one learns the circle of life on a ranch and that sometimes friends/pets, don’t last forever, but it’s okay. That’s Not Hay in My Hair is a fun look at how your life can change in the country and is a sweet story for a young girl.

Juliette Turner and her mother, actress and author, Maggie Turner

Juliette Turner and her mother, actress and author, Maggie Turner

I was quite excited to read this book because it sounded hilarious in the description. I had also been expecting this book to be about high school, but instead, it is actually for middle grade and even a bit younger. Juliette Turner is a 17-year-old author, daughter of Maggie Turner, who is known for being an author herself and staring on Northern Exposure in the late 80s. While the book is sweet and great for a young girl, I found it to be filled with too many gasps, exclamations, dramatic pauses, and just a tad too much in the expressions. Something I might expect from a young author. 17 is a very young age to be authoring. (this is coming from someone who writes herself and has been writing since age 14. Dramatic moments pepper my earlier writings quite liberally)  So while I applaud any young author, I am a bit critical about the style of the work. I was a little lost as to whether this was a semi-autobiographical novel as the storyline seems a bit similar to Miss Turner’s life. I had been expecting total fiction, but when I read the bio for the author and most of it matches up with the book, I was left wondering if it was a glorified retelling of one’s life.  I think Miss Turner needs to wait a few more years and learn a bit more about life before her writing matures. She has the capacity to write good fiction, but needs to read a lot more and live a few more years learning about life to tone down the excitement of her writing. I do also have to say that I do believe the only reason this book was possibly published was because Miss Turner and her mother are relatively famous. It gave her an edge to have a published book at such a young age.

Not great fiction, but clean and decent. Since I have a rating system of 1 to 5 stars and I can’t really give it a half star on Amazon, I’ll stick with three, but I think it is a little less. Decent and clean enough for a young girl, and I might have liked it at 12, but not the greatest fiction in the world.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christiona Publishing, and BookLookBloggers for my honest review. I was in no way compensated for my opinion.

Kate