Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.


My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I don't know much about the original Rapunzel tale aside from long hair and a tower so I'm unsure what twists are original here, but I have to say that the Christian angle fits very well into the story--basically seamlessly. The Bible is naturally incorporated into the plot but it's not overpowering or preachy in the least. Very well done!

I enjoyed the coming-of-age feel surrounding Rupunzel, and also the relationship development between her and Sir Gerek. (And there was a lot of development! They were not the best of friends at first...) Rupunzel's mother really confused me by her actions, but at the same time it was rather interesting to see what she would do next. Her intentions and motives eventually do become clear towards the end.

One thing I noticed was there were quite a few mentions of women possibly being attacked, taken advantage of, or similarly misled by men. There's nothing particularly graphic and innuendos are not used, but nevertheless these topics just seemed to keep popping up. It may be that it's realistic for the era, but for the story I would've preferred fewer mentions of these things... especially since a younger age group will likely be a large portion of the audience. 

Overall, I really think this is some of the author's best work. My unfamiliarity with the original Rapunzel tale meant that I had no idea at all of what to expect, and I was quite enthralled through most of the story. I enjoyed very much it and I also really appreciated how the Christian/religious angle is incorporated so well. If you are a fan of fairy tales I would definitely recommend checking this one out! It's a winner!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Thomas Nelson) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World's Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn't merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I found it very interesting to watch Lydia and Sebastian form a friendship despite their extremely different lifestyles. I liked how Sebastian seemed slightly different when he was around Lydia, because her influence made him want to be a better person. Honestly I'm not sure how realistic the whole storyline is, but it's definitely intriguing and it makes you think about differences in lifestyles, class, and even good vs. bad parts of town.

I was somewhat appalled by Lydia's mother's behavior as she languished in bed waiting for her daughter to catch a man to save them from their money troubles. I don't know how authentic this was, but it certainly shows the emphasis placed on a good match in the era. I liked how Lydia didn't necessarily follow her mother's money-grabbing wishes; instead Lydia thought to look ahead to her future instead of only her present circumstances.

This is apparently the final book in a series, however it works well as a stand alone. There are a few quick references to side characters that feel placed especially for those who've read the other stories, but I personally haven't read any of the previous books and I had no trouble jumping right in to this one.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the story, though I do feel it lost some momentum towards the end and unfortunately it never really recovered. The "separation" that always comes near the end of romances seemed a bit forced and didn't really fit the tone that the book had already established. Still, I did mostly enjoy the book and it makes me curious to try some of the author's other works.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.