A Christmas of Hope by Danyelle Ferguson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

A Christmas of Hope by Danyelle Ferguson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Three mothers enjoy a friendship sparked by their shared journey of raising their autistic little boys. Now as one of the mothers, Holly, is struggling through her first holiday season since her divorce, she’ll need all the encouragement she can get in A Christmas of Hope by author Danyelle Ferguson.

Gee. It’d be hard for me to describe the nuggets I liked most in this story without giving away all the good stuff. It’s a little pet peeve of mine when book blurbs and such basically spell out the moral of a short story because there isn’t a whole lot of material to pull the descriptions from.

But I’ll say that I appreciate the correlations the three mothers find in their situations to that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whether or not you’re a parent, the overall principles Holly and her friends share with each other are encouraging and universal principles for life.

Besides that, this quick read really put me in the mood for a warm mug of Christmassy cocoa or another such treat.

 

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Would that I could make as many treaties by marriage and never give up a portion of my throne! Yafush had been right all those months ago: a woman could not rule like a man.
No, we must be far more clever.

Ever since I read this novel’s prequel, with its apt and intriguing call to “Seek wisdom, and rise,” I looked forward to reading The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by author Tosca Lee.

Even with this story’s biblical link to one of the most famous kings of Israel, Solomon was not the major draw for me here. I chose this novel specifically for her, to read of the rise of the Queen of Sheba, otherwise known as Bilqis and Makeda. Different aspects of Bilqis’s account reminded me so much of Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, stunning films about Elizabeth I of England.

Indeed, a queen—an unmarried one, at that—must be exceedingly strong and clever to rule.

Besides the interesting weight of politics and some of Bilqis’s adversity as a woman that struck me, I much appreciated this story’s exploration of worship. I think the question of whether one’s faith observance is “nothing but the brokering of deals” in hopes of receiving blessings from God is a relevant question for many.

Now, albeit King Solomon wasn’t my focus, and he doesn’t enter this tale until halfway through or so, I knew the love story would be inevitable, of course. While this isn’t a type of romantic storyline I particularly enjoy, I do realize you can’t demand a relationship like that of this queen and king to match an accepted, modern, Western one. And though the additionally inevitable jealousy and bickering got a mild eye-roll from me, it’s good that this love story isn’t a simplistic fairy tale.

Lyrical prose, lavish depictions, and moving reflections on the heart, intellect, and spirit—a worthwhile read for fans of historical fiction.

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Note to my blog readers: not out of keeping with the subject matter, sex is a prominent theme throughout this novel, though the sexual content isn’t explicit.

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Here’s my review of Ismeni: Prelude to The Legend of Sheba.

 

When Paths Cross by C.L. Wells

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

When Paths Cross by C.L. Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Truth be told, she’d hopelessly isolated herself… In doing so, she wondered how many opportunities she’d missed out on.

Marti copes with memories of the past and her present widowhood by holding on to predictability and aloneness. But meeting a young mother and daughter in trouble brings the sameness of Marti’s life to a halt in When Paths Cross by author C.L. Wells.

I was looking for something short but meaningful when I picked up this novelette, and that’s what I got. It’s a good illustration of how what we need most in life sometimes is linked to the needs of others.

The story’s pacing is a bit awkward in a couple places, and it seems like one twist takes too big a leap without enough time or emotional development to keep it from feeling somewhat trite and too perfect by the end. But overall, the compassion and renewed life in this story make it worth the read.

 

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Although it’s unheard of in Caldon for women to go to college, Rhen Tellur wants to do just that and become a scientist. Her chief point of motivation is the fact that her mother is dying from a disease that Rhen hopes to develop a cure for. The upcoming, annual, hazardous competition in a labyrinth will earn one college hopeful a full scholarship to Stemwick University, and Rhen schemes to become the competition’s first ever female contestant in To Best the Boys by author Mary Weber.

As I read this fantasy novel, the class division and simmering of social unrest in Caldon is what tugged at me the most. It reinforced to me how problems that some can downplay by labeling as “just politics” (likely because the issues don’t directly or personally affect them) are critical matters for other human beings’ lives. I cringed at politicians’ attitudes in the story. I cringed at the depictions of citizens’ rising anger stemming from desperation. I felt every bit of Rhen’s dire desire for change.

And I love how the feminist message in the tale doesn’t suggest that all women have to be like Rhen in order to be legit and worthy as women.

Now, the overall story didn’t quite “wow” me or throw me for any loops. Some of the turns of phrase struck me with their beauty while at other times the writing would spell out the obvious or overuse italics for emphasis. I found a number of parts to be creepy and/or fairly gross, with much ado about ghouls and dead bodies and excess references to characters either retching or coming close to doing so. The way the young men so easily fall for Rhen’s scheme is unbelievable, and the big labyrinth sequence didn’t really amaze or surprise me much. My interest waned during parts of it.

Nevertheless, as a YA novel featuring an ambitious heroine determined to flesh out her purpose against the odds, this is a worthwhile read.