Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales (Review)

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This last week, an exciting new release happened… Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales, an ebook box-set collection of half a dozen novellas by six different authors!

I’m here today with a review for each of the six stories, but first a bit about the collection…

About ONCE

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Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Six fairytales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.

  • A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain.
  • A stolen princess fumbles a century backward.
  • A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons.
  • A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis.
  • A dead girl haunts a crystal lake.
  • A terrified princess searches a labyrinth.

A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they’d heard the tales in all their forms.

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand.

Find the book

Amazon | Goodreads


Author links

My Review

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Overall rating for the collection: 4 stars

Six interesting retellings of six different fairytales by six skilled authors. I found each of these to be unique and very well written, although each of them are quite different from each other, and I enjoyed some more than others. Overall, a quite good collection of tales! Here are my thoughts on each.

(I received a free e-ARC copy of this collection from the authors.)

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE WOLF (by Elisabeth Grace Foley)

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4 stars

This one started out a little slow, so I was nervous I wouldn’t enjoy it, but once it got intriguing I was hooked, and read the second half in breathless anticipation.

The Little Red Riding Hood retelling part of it only came in near the end, but it worked really well and was unique. Not sure I’ve ever read a retelling of that one before! I haven’t read many westerns (I’ve seen a lot more. ;)) but I really enjoyed this one!

It all felt super authentic — descriptions, dialog, characters… all of it. Rosa Jean was a well written character who I quite liked, and Quincy Burnett was awesome! The writing is detailed and skilfully firm — I could really see the setting, even if it made the beginning slow.

Other than a quiet beginning and the fact that it took a little while for anything to be explained (including the fact that I automatically assumed Rosa Jean was a thirty year old woman whose husband had died… um, nope.. whoops), it was really good!

A gripping, vivid, well-written story, which I quite enjoyed and made me happy there at the end. ^_^ *hugs book*

SHE BUT SLEEPETH (by Rachel Heffington)

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5-star story, 1-star ending

(don’t know what to rate it overall, so I’m going with 5+1=3 stars [shush, don’t question my maths])

This story was GOLDEN and I ADORED it and it was amusing and cleverly witty and fascinating and fresh and I was grinning the whole time I read it and it was a sparkling 5 star story… until the last second when everything crashed and burned and it ripped my heart out and left me DEVASTATED AND FURIOUS and I can’t say what happened because spoilers but IT WAS NOT OKAY AND I AM NOT OKAY AND I’M SO UPSET I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW.

Some people might not mind such an ending but for me it just totally made everything not okay. I couldn’t even keep reading the collection for awhile because this one ripped my heart out so bad and made me so furious. *SADNESSES OF ALL SADNESS*

It was a modern-turned-time-travel-1897-Romania-Sleeping-Beauty-magical-gypsy-curse kind of story with a beautiful love story (most of the time), and was a magical, clever, fresh, funny, well-written, unique story, with so much personality and charm. I just loved it so much. Which is why it’s so tragic that the ending was… well… tragic. It’s not a fairytale romance, it’s a tragedy. And I need my happy endings or else I’m a heap of displeased as high as Mount Everest. So that was super disappointing, even though the rest was really good! BUT IT MADE SAD AND ANGRY AND UGH.

I just… don’t know what to rate it, since half of me says to give it 5 stars (or at least 4… knocking one off for the ending), and the other half of me wants to rate it 1 star and not even be sorry and howl from the rooftops how such an ending is so many levels of not okay. Bad endings tend to cancel out good stories for me. Plus, I expected something else to happen with Ioan, and it never did? There were a bunch of unwrapped-up things like that. I just… I really thought the ending would come together into something clever and interesting and happy and then it DIDN’T. Lost opportunities, IMHO.

Um. I’ll just be over here in a corner feeling conflicted and royally distraught.

Great story. Awful ending. We’ll leave it at that. (BUT IT WAS SO GOOD. BUT UGH THAT ENDING WHYYY. -_-)

RUMPLED (by J. Grace Pennington)

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4.5 stars

This story was so good! Definitely one of my favorites of the collection. 🙂

This was a Rumpelstiltskin retelling with a steampunk/sci-fi twist set in an alternate-history America (really intriguing, but I wish we’d learned more about it in the story than we did).

It was much more like the original fairy tale, in terms of plot layout, than any of the other stories in the collection, but I actually loved that because it made the differences, despite the similar framework, stand out a lot more strongly. Because this story was SO Rumpelstiltskin, and yet SO twisted around and fresh and different.

The writing is brilliant but also down to earth. The characters were real and interesting. I liked Amanda, and Byron, what was seen of him, was great. It almost felt like a Beauty and the Beast story occasionally, which was actually cool.

There were mysteries which kept me guessing, and I stayed on the edge of my seat for most of the story, immersed and reading as fast as I could, wondering how it would all turn out.

Overall, it was a beautifully written, entrancing and original tale, with a touching love story and a good dash of suspense, at least for me. I loved it! Definitely a favorite. ^_^

SWEET REMEMBRANCE (by Emily Ann Putzke)

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2 stars

This is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” things. I knew from the start that this would be a story that would not be a favorite.

World War II, The Little Match Girl, first-person-present-tense, tragic love story, with a lot of darkness and grimness, and favorite character dying, and no happy ending in sight… Those are like some of my least favorite things ever, all rolled in one (seriously, it’s only missing dystopia and zombies. XD) so I knew it just wasn’t my thing.

But I admit I was surprised how sweet the romance was and how beautiful the writing was (in some of the flashbacks, anyway), and I could see why it was written how it was (the flashbacks, which are actually most of the story, are in past-tense, so it made sense to tell it that way), and Romek was the best (*sadnesses*), and it was gripping despite not being my thing.

So I’m giving it an extra star for being well-written and having some good things like that. I just… why can’t stories have happy endings? -_- Anyway, I’m sure many people will enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me.

I just don’t enjoy tales that are hopeless and depressing, no matter how well-written they are. Just my personal preference.

DEATH BE NOT PROUD (by Suzannah Rowntree)

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4.5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to think about this one for awhile, but it surprised me by drawing me in and I ended up really enjoying it!

I found it interesting that it was set in New Zealand in the 1920s, and I enjoyed the slight unfamiliar touches of the setting and time period. Very loosely based on Snow White, I simply LOVED finding little hints and parallels to that fairytale. Unless you knew to look for them, they could easily slip through the cracks and not be noticed, so I found them to be quite clever and fun to look for. 🙂

It’s more of a thriller, murder-mystery type story, and much of the time you don’t know who to believe or trust, which only added to the suspense and mystery. Normally I really dislike stories which leave out key bits of information that we ought to know but for some reason I didn’t mind in this one. I guessed a lot of things, but despite that the mystery kept me on the edge of my seat.

The heroine, Ruby Black, was somewhat strange and I wasn’t sure if I liked her at first, but I found that didn’t really matter because by the end the characters were so real to me that I found “liking” or not had no say in the matter. They just… were. The other characters were interesting too, particularly Max, who we saw the most of besides Ruby, and who I was really kept on my toes wondering about.

There was also some poetry and imagery woven in, which only added to the ethereal feel. It was exciting and beautifully written, and the tiniest bit eerie, but in a way that didn’t bother me. I just… really really liked it! 🙂 Which surprised me, because it started out a little rocky and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. I’m so glad I kept reading!

Somewhat haunting and gorgeous and strange and unique, and I liked the clever fairytale twists in it. Another favorite!

WITH BLOSSOMS GOLD (by Hayden Wand)

5starrating5 stars!!! Favorite of the collection! ^_^

THIS STORY!! *shrieking* I just loved it so so so much! ^_^

A retelling of Rapunzel, set in Renaissance Italy, this story was like golden sunshine and I LOVED it. What if Rapunzel (in this story, Nella) didn’t want to leave her tower?

It starts out a much lighter-hearted story than the rest, but it has its share of reality and war and adventure and peril as well. All of that comes later, but first we must meet quiet Nella, and two princes who are SO much fun to read… seriously, the dialog in this story is FANTASTIC. It’s mostly about Nella, who’s odd but nice and has to face many fears, and Prince Benedict, who is just… asldkjflk HE’S GREAT OKAY.

The humor in this story is superb and had me laughing aloud several times, or just grinning and grinning, quite unable to stop. The banter Benedict has with Nella, and with his brother (seriously great brother scenes with Benedict and Orlando, even if there weren’t a lot) just made my day.

In a way it’s a simpler plot than some, but it was just so refreshing and fun and gorgeous and I adored it. ❤ When war threatens and peril engulfs our main characters, they must be brave and press on in the face of adversity, with only their love, ingenuity, and faith to guide them.

There wasn’t a lot of Christianity, exactly, but it was worked into the story and certainly more prevalent than in the other stories in this collection. I quite liked how it weaved in. I also loved how some of the original fairytale things got worked in, in different ways than you’d expect. The labyrinth, for example, was cool. 😀

It was a beautiful, sweet love story and fairytale retelling, with princes and castles and towers and knights, loads of humor, and priceless character interaction and bickering which I seriously cannot say enough about because I LOVED the humor and fun and characters and banter! ❤

I just… *flailing* I don’t even think I can think of anything I disliked about it. IT WAS AWESOME, OKAY? The perfect note to end this collection on, it left me grinning and beaming and just so happy. ^_^ This story is the BEST. EVERYONE, READ THIS COLLECTION IF JUST FOR THIS STORY!

I loved it so very much and it made me incredibly happy. ❤

There you have it! My thoughts on ONCE. Overall, I enjoyed them. 🙂 How about you, my Roadlings? Have you read, or do you wish to read, these tales? Which most interests you? Hurray for fairytale retellings! ^_^

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson (Book Review)

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The Silent Songbird

by Melanie Dickerson

Young Adult / Christian / Historical Romance / Fairy Tale Retelling / The Little Mermaid / Medieval


_225_350_book-2070-coverEvangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal—until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Published November 8, 2016, by Thomas Nelson


Links — find The Silent Songbird on:

Thomas Nelson | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Goodreads


My Review

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5starratingAnother enchanting, romantic Young Adult fairytale retelling from Melanie Dickerson!

Evangeline, a young woman with a beautiful voice (and the ward of King Richard), is kept in a castle but longs to go out into the world. She finds her chance when she must escape marriage to a horrible man, and meets a caring young man named Westley le Wyse. Deception, scheming villains, and misunderstandings all stand in her way, as she tries to escape her fate and find love and a deeper faith in God.

I was curious how a retelling of The Little Mermaid would work with no magic and not even a mermaid, but it worked wonderfully in this book! It was so fun to pick out the references and see how the retelling wove through the story in surprising yet fitting ways.

The plot was so interesting and really kept me on my toes, wondering what would happen next and how it would all work out. It had a lot going on, was exciting and sweet by turns, and kept me totally absorbed in the lives of these characters, who felt so real. I loved them!

Evangeline was a good heroine, who I quite liked. Westley was the best—endearing, noble, kind, with a sense of humor, though also conflicted about a lot of things going on, and quite energetic which for some reason was really cool. I liked him a lot. I also love their names! (Speaking of the name Westley… I couldn’t help grinning when Eva told Westley “as you wish” once. I loved that! :D)

The romance was so sweet and beautiful—loved it—and the Christian elements were also lovely.

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Hagenheim books! Only missing The Golden Braid…

The other characters were great to read about as well: Lord and Lady le Wyse, Westley’s parents—his mother was so nice, and his father was simply awesome. Reeve Folsham, too. He was a gruff character who surprised me by really growing on me. The rest of the characters were all well-written.

The whole book, in fact, was written excellently. And I loved the setting, which I felt so immersed in: the medieval English countryside and castles! So awesome. ❤ I also loved that King Richard was in the story!

The book started out a little predictably (heroine supposed to marry old, ugly, evil man, and determined to escape), so that part sounded somewhat like other books (but I suppose that couldn’t be helped, and it quickly moved on to become surprising and intriguing). Otherwise, I didn’t have any real complaints and I just really enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m aware this is a sort of sequel to The Merchant’s Daughter by the same author, which I’ve not read yet, and I can tell that anyone who read it will love reading this one and seeing references and characters from before. But The Silent Songbird also stands alone, and my lack of familiarity with the first one didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading this. In fact, it’s made me even more excited to go back and read The Merchant’s Daughter, very soon, to read the story of Westley’s parents!

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Three generations of le Wyse brides! 😉

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Melanie Dickerson’s novels, or thinking of trying one for the first time, I highly recommend picking up The Silent Songbird! It’s one of my favorites of her books so far, and I’m eagerly awaiting her next release. 🙂


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Retellings, anyone? I know I certainly can’t resist reading them. XD Have you ever read a retelling of The Little Mermaid?

Steampunk + Roses + Beauty & the Beast (The Rose and the Balloon Review)

Cover5_storyThe Rose and the Balloon

A Beauty and the Beast Story

(Once Upon a Twist Tales, #1)

by Kirsten Fichter

YA / Fairy Tale Retelling / Steampunk / Novella / Beauty and the Beast

I received a free e-copy of this book from the author — many thanks! — in return for my honest review, and these opinions are entirely my own.

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The instant I saw that this novella was coming out, I knew I had to read it. Fairytale retellings are my favorite, and Beauty and the Beast… with hot air balloons? Now this I had to try!

I was delighted to have the chance to read it for review, and I’m glad to report: I. LOVED. IT. I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about it! This novella was a simply marvelous quick read which I so enjoyed. ❤

The story and writing were charmingly witty, crisp and fast-paced, yet flowing with an easy, natural feeling, so that it did not seem too quick at all. It was adventurous, amusing, and alternated between fun and an elegant sort of fairytale feel, all mixed in with the delightful chaos of characters with minds of their own who take the story and sweep the reader along on a wonderfully fun ride.

There was a strong theme of love and of family, which I absolutely ADORED. There don’t seem to be many books with a focus on family, so this one was so nice to read. 🙂 Yes, they’re slightly disjointed families and have a lot to overcome, but you can tell they love each other all the same. ^_^ Janelle and her father, and Dmitri and his mother and twin siblings. Just… really well-written relationships, even in the short amount of pages. The bit of romance in there was so enjoyable too — I always love me a good Beauty and the Beast tale. 😉

The setting and “feel” of the story were great. There’s a light dusting of steampunk (mostly hot air balloons — yay!), and it seemed like a pseudo-historical setting (no magic), which was so well-drawn I felt it must be real; and yet still held the classic sort of fairytale feel I love. (Can I just go live in the castle, specifically the library, please??)

The characters were marvelous! Prince Dmitri was the absolute BEST! I loved him. A great hero, who I was rooting for the whole time, and loved reading about. ❤ Janelle and Dmitri are both fiery whirlwinds, and when they collide — boy, is it a storm to remember! Several storms, throughout… XD I just LOVED their bickering and conversations — it was all gold and really made the book spark. I JUST LOVED THEM TOGETHER SO MUCH. ^_^ And then the twins! They were fantastic! 😀 Princess Nicoline and Prince Nicolas were SO much fun to read about! Their antics were a blast and I loved their prank wars. XD Even “Crazy Maeva” (a.k.a. the queen) and Lord Roux (Janelle’s father, who was an excellently written character, I felt) and the other side characters, were all well painted and so vivid. Overall a great cast, and one I would love to read more about! (I also loved their names. :D)

There were nods to the Disney film version of Beauty and the Beast, and the retelling itself was fun in this little book — fairly subtle but still there, despite the lack of fantasy elements. It’s new and yet still recognizably Beauty and the Beast in some way, and I loved it. ^_^ Also, the role of all the roses in the story was fabulous! ALL THE ROSES. I loved that. 😀

I might have wished it was longer, simply because I didn’t want to leave these characters! I could have spent ages with them. ❤ But really it’s the perfect bite-sized enjoyable length to devour in a sitting or two, so I can’t really complain about that either. 🙂 No complaints! It was just perfect. ^_^ *hugs book*

All in all, it was a delightful little bite-sized retelling, suitable for all ages, with memorable characters and an airballoon full of fun. I highly recommend it and can’t wait to read more from this talented new author!

About the Book

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In a kingdom where fauna and flora are held in higher esteem than breakfast, Dmitri is a prince who yearns for change and plans it in a single daring act that will alter his life forever. However, when his demented mother accidentally causes the destruction of a prized garden of roses, Dmitri is horrified when she proposes his hand in marriage to make up for it. Not only will a wife hamper his glorious plans, he doesn’t even want one.

Janelle has spent her whole life on her father’s rose farm, tending the roses and staying simple. But she really yearns for something greater than the flower beds. But now there’s a wrench thrown in the works – the crazy Queen Maeva wants her to marry the prince, and all for ruining her father’s beloved roses.

This is Beauty and the Beast with a twist like you’ve never seen it before.

The Rose and the Balloon released August, 2016.

Find it online:

Amazon | Createspace | Goodreads


About Kirsten Fichter

AuthorPic1Kirsten Fichter is a twenty-something Christian writer who is trying to find the balance between being one of six kids, a church pianist, a college student, a movie buff, a disaster in the kitchen, and a writing INFP. If you know what the secret is to balancing all of that, she’d be grateful to hear from you. Otherwise, don’t contact her unless you want to send her homemade gingerbread. Or a new piano book. Or an autographed Charles Dickens novel. In the meantime, she’ll be somewhere under a maple tree – trying very hard to finish the seventeen and half other stories she unwisely started all at once.

You can find her online at her blog (Lianne Taimenlore), Twitter: @KiriLiz, and on Goodreads.

Don’t you think Beauty and the Beast and Steampunk is an excellent combination? Are you curious about it? *wriggles eyebrows* Maybe you’d like to give this novella a try! (What am I saying; of course you do, because it’s AWESOME and we all need more awesome in our lives. *nods sagely*)

Also! Do you have a favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling?? TELL, TELL! 😀

Timey-wimey, Robin Hood, & All the Feels (Defying Shadows Review)

My review is below, but first I just wanted to mention something!

Defying Shadows HAS BEEN NOMINATED for the August edition of a thing called Clash of the Titles, which YOU can help with by popping over HERE to vote (through August 31) on one of four featured books — which one sounds most interesting to you.

So shoo! Go vote!! 😀 Hurry! Time’s a-wasting!

(Get it…? Time…? Ahem.)

Then come back here and read this review because you don’t want to miss out on hearing all about a timey-wimey Robin Hood-ish adventure, right? 😉

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My Review

defyingshadowsDefying Shadows

(book #3 in the Rising Shadows Trilogy)

by Ashley Townsend

Age range: YA

Genre: Christian / Romance / Time Travel / Historical Fiction / Contemporary

Bonus: Retelling / Robin Hood

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“I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me, Bob.”*

*(Sorry to go all VeggieTales on you but the quote seemed appropriate. Ahem.)

THIS BOOK, PEOPLE. This review is going to be one of the hardest ones I’ve ever written, because almost all of my favorite things about it are in major spoiler territory… But part of the fun is going on this plot-twisty journey of discovery yourself when you read the book, so I’ll try to keep my review spoiler-free! 🙂

The third book in the Rising Shadows trilogy by Ashley Townsend, Defying Shadows, finally wraps up the adventures of Sarah and her friends in Serimone—and what a wrap-up! *flailing*

This book had EVERYTHING. List, because lists are grand:

  • time travel and everything timey-wimey involved with that
  • historical fiction of a medieval variety
  • contemporary parts
  • sweet adorable romance
  • threads of Christian faith
  • a retelling-of-sorts involving Robin Hood (!!!)
  • mystery and intrigue
  • all sorts of different character arcs
  • PLOT TWISTS AND REVEALS GALORE
  • swashbuckling action
  • heartfelt parts
  • humor/banter/character relationships that are so fun to read
  • even a dash of nautical adventure!

It just has EVERYTHING, I tell you.

(I also feel like this series would make a stunningly gorgeous awesome movie or TV show. XD Somebody get on that.)

I loved the time-travel stuff—it was BRILLIANT and made me happy. 🙂 Just… everything time related was so cool. In the first two, it’s basically a “portal” method to get Sarah into Serimone, and doesn’t do much beyond that, which was fine. BUT IN THIS ONE IT WAS SO INVOLVED. So much timey-wimey going on. And I loved that. 😀

There were so many revelations and plot twists, which I so enjoyed! I guessed a few of them, but if anything that made me love it even MORE, simply because I was so excited to see them unfold the way I wanted them to. 😀 It blew my mind SO. MANY. TIMES. and made me so excited and I just loooooved that.

The romance element was so sweet. Really enjoyed it! It wasn’t the main focus of the plot, so there was a lot of other stuff going on, but it weaved in really well. Will and Sarah are ADORBZ and PERFECT together and I don’t know if I ever shipped anyone so hard. XD …Okay, I was really shipping a certain other spoilery side-couple there too. 😉 SO MUCH SPOILERS BUT SO WONDERFUL. ❤

And the retelling/Robin Hood stuff!!! It made me so happy and it was so unique and awesome, loose but still noticeable, and I just… ksldkjfalsdkjf I CANNOT BE COHERENT UPON THIS SUBJECT. I will try though. 😉 Okay, so I ADORED how the retelling stuff came out in this book. Between that and the characters and the time stuff, those three totally made Defying Shadows AMAZING for me!!! ❤ *hugs book* It was completely brilliant how the Robin Hood things were slipped in, kind of subtly sometimes, recognizable in their way and yet with such NEW twists. AWK IT WAS AMAZING. *flailing around* It’s killing me not to expound upon the subject because I loved SO many particular aspects of it, but I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it’s AWESOME and everyone must read it just for the Robin Hood ish elements. Because Robin Hood things are awesome and that is all that needs to be said upon the subject. *nods* (BUT TWISTS THOUGH.)

Defying Shadows was definitely a feelsy book—the emotions run deep, y’all! It made me laugh and smile and get excited and get angry (in a good way) and feel torn and left me teary-eyed a couple times, which isn’t all that common for this here reader… It made my feels a bit of a mess (who am I kidding—a LARGE MESS AWK) and I normally get annoyed at books for doing that but this one was just right and I didn’t actually mind. ^_^ (For those who don’t know me: this is a MAJOR deal. Props to the author for pulling it off.)

I enjoyed the first two books (Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows), but this one I really LOVED. I was daunted by its size, but while I was reading it, it didn’t seem long at all—it was just the right size and needed that length because of ALL the things that happen. I would also say the writing is AMAZING in this book. It’s improved a lot since the first two. (They were by no means bad! But with this one, the writing has grown by leaps and bounds!) It’s exciting to watch an author grow from book to book, and I’d say Ashley Townsend has definitely come into her own. This book was so well written. Huge thumbs-up on all of that!

Do I have any complaints? Honestly, hardly any. I had a couple minor nitpicks along the way about characters doing things where I was like “WHYYYY, GUYS??” or coming to odd-seeming conclusions, but otherwise the book held together and was amazing on the whole. 🙂 I am very much on the fence with mixed feelings over the epilogue, though… There’s a part of me that likes it because it was a brilliant epilogue, but there’s another part which would have rather had it end on the simply INCREDIBLE high note of the actual ending of the final chapter! ❤ The epilogue was bittersweet (to me at least) which is not my sort of cup of tea? But I’m probably weird and most people will probably love it, so. 😛

Okay, character time. 😉 I loved being back with these characters in Serimone—it was like coming home. ❤

  • Will is of course AWESOME and my favoritest of all. <333 His story-arc was the best. I so enjoyed reading about him in this book! I think he came really far and he’s just… I HAVEN’T WORDS. He’s just such a great guy, heroic and a little dark/sad sometimes, but still learning things, and he’ll do anything for those he loves, and just… WILL. Will Will Will. That is all. ❤
  • Sarah really grew on me in this one! She actually kind of annoyed me at times in the first two? But this time I liked her! I actually felt a lot of the things she was feeling, which is different for me. XD She’s a good heroine. *thumbs up*
  • Damien is… ACK MY FEELS FOR DAMIEN. In Chasing Shadows, he was funny and charming and all, but I spent so much time while I was reading that one, worrying that Sarah would fall for him instead of Will, so that Damien was very much the unwanted-corner-of-the-love-triangle/villain, for me. I didn’t totally dislike him, because his charm DID get to me and sometimes I felt bad for him, but I didn’t see what Sarah saw in him, because Will was so much more awesome. 😉 But in Defying Shadows, Damien had a lot of focus and character stuff involved, AND THE AUTHOR MADE ME LOVE HIM TOO. I’m super impressed. I went from hating this guy to feeling bad for him to really liking him, and his whole plot in this story just… salskdjldkj. I have many feelings that I can’t sort out. I will say nothing more because oh-so-many-spoilers, but wow. (And the yew tree! UGH MY FEELS. D:) But his story-arc was really well done and I liked how it fit in with the rest of the story, and I’m okay. Really. (FEELS THOUGH.)
  • And then there’s a character whose very NAME is a spoiler, so she shall remain nameless, but her story-arc was AMAZING and I loved it to pieces, which really surprised me. O_O This coming from a character I loathed for awhile but came to really like and just… I’m speechless. The talent from this author just blows me away. Not to mention how many times my mind was blown about revelations concerning this character. Speaking of mind-blowing…
  • Robert and Richard were both awesome, and my favorites. (I keep saying that, I know. WELL THEY’RE ALL MY FAVORITES.) I absolutely LOVED their roles in the story!! *bouncing up and down* You will have to read it, but suffice it to say they are awesome and the best and that is all. 😀
  • And Karen! She’s great. And I LOVED her friendship with Sarah, not to mention Karen and Seth together—just so much yes. Also Will’s friendship with Seth and Robert and Richard—I loved seeing those relationships! So much awesome bonding in this book. ^_^
  • We got new characters too, like Merek, who was cool. He’s one of those instantly  likeable characters, and all wise and everything too. He wasn’t in it for very long but I really liked him. He made me think of a Friar Tuck type character. 😀
  • Obviously I abhor the villains who shall also remain nameless and are all horrible which means they’re doing their job. XD They were just UGH. Really nefarious and well-written.

And just… SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON. I’m so amazed at how many character plot threads managed to fit in this story! So many characters had so much going on and it managed to weave together and just wow. Call me impressed.

ANYWAY. This review has gone on quite long enough (though I didn’t even flail and squeal over all the spoilery parts I loved! AWK! <3) so I shall wrap up now. In my defense, the book is long, so there’s a lot to talk about. 😉

Overall, Defying Shadows is an extremely enjoyable time-travel Christian YA romance with a dash of Robin Hood retelling, marvelous writing, lovable characters with deep story-arcs, many feels, and… overall just a lot of fun. It did a splendid job of tying up the threads of the whole series and just… it made me really happy. ^_^

I highly recommend trying Defying Shadows out! (Though you might want to read the first two books, Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows, first so that you understand things… But hold out till the end, because Defying Shadows is the absolute BEST! ❤ )

Disclaimer and thanks: I was a beta-reader for this book before its publication, so I received a free copy of it for that, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own. Many thanks to the author, the lovely Ashley Townsend, for the chance to go on this journey through Serimone with Will and Sarah and the gang! I had a blast and I think a part of my heart will remain with them. ^_^

About the Book

defyingshadows

One choice can define your future.

At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.

In Will’s desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.

As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world–between the easy choice and the right one.

Defying Shadows released July, 2016.

Find it online:

Amazon | Goodreads


Check out the first two books in the series & my reviews for them:

Rising Shadows (#1)

risingshadowscovernew

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

Chasing Shadows (#2)

chasingshadows

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

About Ashley Townsend

ashleytownsendAshley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She hopes that God will use her wild imagination and love of storytelling to further entertain and encourage readers in their walk with God.  She currently lives in Southern California with her parents and three sisters.

Follow her quirkiness at Ashley-Townsend.com.

So, what think ye, readers? Robin Hood + Time Travel = pretty awesome, huh? 😀 Do you enjoy retellings, and what’s the best time travel book you’ve read?

Kate’s Innocence by Sarah Holman – Audiobook Review

katesinnocenceaudioKate’s Innocence

(Kate’s Case Files, #1)

by Sarah Holman

Christian Fiction /  Contemporary / Mystery / Suspense / FBI

Audiobook version from Audible.com, narrated by Sheri Sheridan.

5 stars — Awesome!

My Review

I had been meaning to read this book for awhile, and was planning on getting to it soon… when the author asked if I’d like to be a reviewer for the audiobook version from Audible.com. I had never reviewed an audiobook before, or used Audible, but it sounded like fun, so I thought why not jump on this? I’m very glad I did!

The Story

I don’t read a lot of contemporary, mystery sort of stories, and agent-y stories even less, but I found this one intriguing for the most part.

The book as a whole kept my attention the whole time and was rather gripping — I was on the edge of my seat more than once, and let me tell you, I was pretty worried about some of the characters there for awhile! The mystery was interesting and kept me reading. I will say I made one early guess as to whodunnit which was incorrect but quickly moved on to the one which turned out right, so I’m pleased on that account. 😉

It had some action and tension tossed together with some fun (always a plus!) and varied characters. Occasional things bothered me but overall it seemed very well researched, and it’s quite clean. Also different since the heroine is at college and I don’t feel like I read a lot of that…

I think it took me a little while to fully connect with the characters and get to know them at a deeper level, but by the end they kind of wormed their way into my heart and I was sort of inwardly squealing over the final scene. Cuties. ^_^ They’re fun together. I always liked Patrick; Kate was all right and at least I was rooting for her; Kim wasn’t there much but was nice, and the same with Brian; Logan was interesting (I love her gun and skirt). Thomas was a little annoying at times but that may have been the narration turning him into a bit more of an antagonist? But I really liked him by the end. Like I said, it took awhile, but by now I’m looking forward to more adventures with this team. 🙂

The Christian messages were well done. I liked how Patrick used Bible verses to comfort Kate — great scene — and I really liked the themes of trusting God instead of doing it on your own, and how He is still there for us even when we feel we’ve abandoned Him and can’t imagine He would still want us — well, He does. Those were both good reminders. (It is the most Christian FBI team I’ve ever heard of; but there you go. ;)) Anyhow, I liked the message.

As far as downsides, a few things bugged me, including some things I can’t quite put my finger on. Why didn’t they think of security cameras way earlier on? Why was the murder hardly mentioned, as if a death was less serious than blown up buildings where no one was killed? Why were they so biased against Kate and then didn’t bat an eye at the suspiciousness of someone obviously suspicious to me? (Okay, that may have been for the plot, but still. ;)) Kate didn’t seem to always act like someone who had been in the military and a few of the attitudes of the characters felt narrow-minded or judgmental toward others.

Those are a few examples off the top of my head. But overall they were little things that didn’t detract too much from the story — I just absorbed and enjoyed it. 🙂

The Audio

The audiobook is narrated by Sheri Sheridan, and I really enjoyed getting to listen to it. She was a pleasant narrator and did some great voices and got some of the emotion and action down really well. Hearing it in audio form like this was almost like watching a movie or TV show! I was very immersed in the story and it was very fun. 🙂

My only problem with the audio version was that the “extras” (dedication, author’s notes, acknowledgements, etc.) at the beginning and end seemed like they repeated? Which was kind of annoying. Unless it was my own total lack of knowledge regarding Audible audiobooks (which I’d never used before), which is entirely possible. *shrug*

I do wonder what I would have thought of some of it if I had read instead of heard it… I speculate that I may have liked Kate less and Thomas more if I didn’t listen to the audio version. But that’s just speculation, so I’m not sure.

Anyways, I definitely recommend picking up an audio copy if you want to give this adventure a try! I’m sure the book is enjoyable to read as well, but there’s something special about absorbing it this way, and it was a nice way to pass the time while I was exercising or folding laundry. 🙂

Conclusion

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I loved going along for the adventure with this cast. If you like mysteries, agents, FBI, contemporary, Christian stories, with possibly a dash of hints at a maybe-someday-romance (Maybe? 😀 *wriggles eyebrows*), then be sure to give a go at reading Kate’s Innocence! Or if you’d rather feel like you’re watching a TV show, let Sheri Sheridan read it to you. 😉 Either way, you’re in for an enjoyable ride. 🙂

(I received a free audiobook edition of this book from Audible.com from the author in exchange for my honest review.)

About the Book

katesinnocence

What would you do if you were accused of a crime you didn’t commit?

Kate watched as her campus was torn apart by bombs and now is being accused of perpetrating the crime. As the evidence quickly stacks up against her, she begins to lose hope that the truth will come to light. Even though the handsome FBI Agent, Patrick, has taken up her cause, will they be able to prove her innocence? Will God, who she neglected for so long, listen to her prayers for help?

Patrick is an agent with a very special team of agents. He wants to help Kate prove she is innocent, but as each new piece of evidence is revealed, that goal seems harder. He wonders why he feels so compelled to help her and so sure she is innocent despite the evidence. Will he be willing to put his job on the line to help her? Can he trust in God to make sure the truth will come out in the end?

Find it online:

Audible (Audiobook) | Amazon (book) | Goodreads (book) | Goodreads (Audiobook)

Giveaways! (Giveaway Ended)

Want to win a copy of the audiobook? Sarah Holman is holding a giveaway for it! Go check out this post where we’re introduced to Sheri Sheridan, who did the narration for Kate’s Innocence, and if you scroll down to the bottom there’s a giveaway for the Kate’s Innocence audiobook, running till the end of August, I believe. Anyways, check it out if you’re interested! (And if you read this review, I’m assuming you are. ;))

That’s just one of several giveaways that Sarah is holding on her blog during the month of August, so if you’ve been meaning to try some of Sarah’s stories, now’s your chance! So go on with you, check out her blog and enter the giveaways! ^_^

(Giveaways in August 2016 at www.thedestinyofone.com)

About Sarah Holman (Author)

sarahholmanauthorphotoSarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of many published books and short stories. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

You can find her online at her author blog, www.TheDestinyOfOne.com. She is also the administrator at www.HomeschooledAuthors.com.

About Sheri Sheridan (narrator)

Audiobook narrator of Kate’s Innocence and other books. Check out Sheri Sheridan’s website, Facebook, and the very fun interview/intro with her that was posted on Sarah Holman’s blog! 🙂

What do you think? Do you ever listen to audiobooks and do you like them? Why or why not? How about FBI-type mystery books? Tell all in the comments!