BOOK REVIEW: ‘Treachery and Truth’ – Katy Huth Jones

I’ve been looking forward to reading this historical saint story, and I wasn’t disappointed. I really didn’t know much about King Vaclav (Wenceslaus), even struggling to recall the words of the carol, so it was nice to learn more about him.

I liked the characters, especially Vaclav and Poidevin his servant (through whose eyes the story is told). I thought telling the reader at the outset what happens at the end might reduce the tension, but as it turns out there is one more big twist at the end that is unexpected.

I did feel Vaclav was perhaps presented as a little unrealistically ‘saintly’ and could have come across more human. On the other hand, we’re seeing the story through the eyes of a freed slave whom Vaclav has taught to read and treated as a brother, so the aura of perfection/hero-worship in how Poidevin sees Vaclav is actually very convincing.

SPOILER ALERT

I had a bit of a niggle with the way the martyrdom was presented at the end. I seriously wanted to pin Vaclav to a wall and give him a lecture on his duties and responsibilities as a husband, father, king, and master. He seems to totally drop the ball on all those things, with catastrophic results. A Christian is not supposed to seek martyrdom, and I’d have liked to either see his stubborn determination to put himself in that position explained/made acceptable by him feeling a strong specific calling from God to do so, or I’d have liked him to be genuinely taken in by his brother (as was probably the case historically). Clearly knowing that his brother wasn’t necessarily to be trusted but doing it anyway came across as plain irresponsible.

My other niggle was that the focus on his brother when it came to his martyrdom really obscured his martyr-status. I actually caught myself thinking, after finishing the book, ‘Of course, he was a saint, but he wasn’t actually a martyr, because he was simply killed by an envious brother.’ And then I was like, ‘Hang on! He WAS a martyr, he was actually killed by pagan nobles who didn’t want a Christian on the throne, of whose number his brother was just one.’ So that really didn’t work well for me.

Other than that one scene, I really enjoyed the book. I loved how the author worked the events of the Christmas carol into the story, and the way she showed what it was like to live under the old pagan religion. After so many centuries of Christianity it’s very hard for us in the West to understand what such religions can be like, so that was particularly interesting.

Overall, a great read for teens and adults, and, needless to say, a great Christmas gift!

Get it HERE.

 

[I am acquainted with the author through an author group but bought my own copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.]

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Anyone But Him’ by Theresa Linden

Anyone But HimThe title says it all! Caitlyn Summer has been saving herself for marriage, all through her teens. Then one morning she wakes up in bed with the school’s bad boy, Jarret West. If that’s not awful enough, he claims it’s three whole years later than she thinks it is. She’s not a teenager any more.

Oh, and they’ve been married for a year…

Okay, amnesia plots have been done a lot, but they’re popular for a very good reason! If you’re writing a suspense thriller romance, they really work! I was lucky enough to read this book prior to release, and I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed reading the final published version. It’s incredibly gripping, moving, and challenging.

The faith element gives this a fascinating and delightful dimension entirely missing from most amnesia stories. It’s also where the ‘challenging’ comes in. Caitlyn believes in the sanctity—and permanence—of marriage. But she never imagined a situation like this! Can she hold to her ideals, even now?

Combining suspense thriller and romance with a strong pro-life subplot, this is one not to miss!

 

Get it HERE.

 

[The author is a fellow member of Catholic Teen Books, but my opinions are my own!]

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Mermaid and the Unicorn’ by Elizabeth Hayek

The Mermaid and the UnicornAuthor: Elizabeth Amy Hayek

Publisher: Geek Haus Press

Publication Date: 7th August, 2016

This book is written by someone I know, but I bought a copy myself and wouldn’t be bothering to review it if I didn’t think it was good! So here goes:

This is a lovely, gentle read, in the best sense. But exciting too! It starts off at a steady pace and builds up to a thrilling climax with some very precious things at stake, through which another problem is very satisfyingly resolved.

The existence of the magical beings is smoothly reconciled with Christianity in a credible and inoffensive way and I liked the role played by the rich Christian symbolism of the Middle Ages.

I was particularly impressed by the subtle skill with which certain characters were depicted (with the exception of one small wobble). Also, although there were reasonably large groups of similar characters – a group of college girls, a group of nuns, etc.—by and large I was able to keep track of who was who, so this was handled well (I’m terrible at keeping track of large numbers of characters, so most readers probably won’t have the slightest problem at all).

The ending for the main character was, on a personal level, extremely satisfying, although unusual. The author mentions in the afterword that she considered changing this, but I’m very glad she stuck with it, seeing the whole book was working up to it, especially in terms of the MC’s character growth.

Fans of Regina Doman’s ‘Fairytale Novels’ will love this, or indeed, anyone wanting something gentler to read after my ‘I Am Margaret’ series! And the good news: there is not one, but two more books in this series already in the pipeline! Enjoy!

 

Get it HERE.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The King’s Prey’ by Susan Peek

kings-prey-front-cover-1_2Synopsis:

An insane king. His fleeing daughter. Estranged brothers, with a scarred past, risking everything to save her from a fate worse than death. Toss in a holy priest and a lovable wolfhound, and get ready for a wild race across Ireland. Will Dymphna escape her deranged father and his sinful desires? 

For the first time ever, the story of Saint Dymphna is brought to life in this dramatic novel for adults and older teens. With raw adventure, gripping action, and even humor in the midst of dark mental turmoil, Susan Peek’s newest novel will introduce you to a saint you will love forever! Teenage girls will see that Dymphna was just like them, a real girl, while young men will thrill at the heart-stopping danger and meet heroes they can easily relate to. If ever a Heavenly friend was needed in these times of widespread depression and emotional instability, this forgotten Irish saint is it!

I recently read (and reviewed) Peek’s ‘Crusader King’ and loved it, so I was delighted to receive a review copy of her new book, ‘The King’s Prey’. ‘The King’s Prey’ tells the story of little-known Saint Dymphna of Ireland, patron saint of those with mental illness. I hadn’t really heard of this saint before reading and I deliberately didn’t find out about her, so I read the entire novel not knowing whether she was a confessor, a martyr, a hermit, or what—which hugely added to the suspense of the story, so if you don’t know anything about her, don’t go and look her up, just buy ‘The King’s Prey’! It’s all the introduction you could need!

Although there was the odd hint of plot convenience here and there (characters making stupid-but-convenient decisions being the chief offenders) I could not put this book down. Peek interweaves what is actually known about St Dymphna (Princess Dymphna, in fact) with the fictional story of her companions, and others. I was gripped from the first chapter, desperately wanting to know not only what happened to the princess saint, but also what happened to estranged brothers Breoc and Turlough—and not to forget the wolfhound, Sam.

Some of the misunderstandings that take place between characters were absolutely agonising—and something I was totally not expecting happened part way through that eclipsed them all. Ultimately, I simply had to read straight to the end to find out what happened. It’s full of adventure, heroism, romance, and lovely characters, and it also gives a sensitive look into the world of someone suffering from mental illness. I don’t feel I can say more without giving things away, so I suggest you simply read it for yourself.

I would highly recommend this book to both adults and young adults. I think it is suitable for all but the most sheltered and sensitive teens, since although St Dymphna’s insane father wants to marry her, it is all handled extremely discretely and age-appropriately.

Get it HERE.

[I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The author is a fellow member of ‘Catholic Teen Books’ and the Catholic Writers Guild.]

 

BOOK REVIEW: Freeing Tanner Rose by T.M. Gaouette

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Tanner Rose is a wild Hollywood starlet, with a toxic, party-orientated lifestyle and no taste for quiet rural life or country pursuits. So for her, being sent to stay with conservative, quietly religious Gabriel and his mum is like receiving a jail sentence. Queue much culture clash, and a steep learning curve—for both sides.

I’m not really sure why, but my expectations weren’t all that high when I opened this book. I think maybe because it’s book 1 in the ‘Faith & Kung Fu’ series and I have next to no interest in Kung Fu. But I could hardly put it down. It was a gently gripping, and deeply satisfying read. And, I should mention, it turned out no interest in Kung Fu was necessary whatsoever!

I would perhaps have liked to a see a little more of Tanner’s interior life, so we got a better idea of how she moves mentally from A to B at times in the story (and maybe a little more of Gabriel’s thoughts and backstory as well) but it’s a minor niggle only. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series!

Get it HERE.

 

[I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.]