The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron Review

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Synopsis: Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Thoughts: This book contains a lot of things that I love…Vaudeville, mystery, illusionists, and a surprising twist. The story revolves around Wren Lockhart, a famous illusionist who was an apprentice for Harry Houdini. After a magician performs an illusion that results in the death of a man, the FBI gets the help of Wren to decipher what really happened on that day.

I am gaining more and more appreciation for historical fiction and I love the time period of the 1920s.  As I was reading this book, I felt like I was transported to the 20s…I could picture the theaters and flappers and glamorous parties that were vividly described in the story.

The characters were well developed, although I didn’t care for Wren at first but she grew on me as the story progressed.

I absolutely loved the scenes from Wren’s performances…I always loved watching illusionists and felt like an audience member watching her perform her amazing feats. I love Kristy Cambron’s writing style…it is very fluid and descriptive. She is very gifted at pulling the reader into the story.

The mystery seemed too weak to carry through the entire book. I found the resolution to be a bit rushed. I also didn’t care for the romance…it was very predictable and had an insta-love feel that seemed very unrealistic based on the personalities of the characters.

Overall, the story was a lot of fun and a great escape. I would highly recommend it for fans of historical fiction and the world of illusions.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

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The After House by Michael Phillip Cash Review


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Goodreads Synopsis: Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life after a failed marriage in a 300 year old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Little do they know, another occupant is lurking in the haven of their own home. Will the After House be their shelter or their tomb?

My Thoughts: I requested this book because of the cover…it is one of my favorite book covers of all time. Based on the cover and synopsis, I expected a very creepy ghost story, but the story was a lot different than what I thought it would be. The story is not very scary and crosses many genres…paranormal, romance, historical.

I loved the setting of the story…it takes place on Long Island in a very old cottage that is inhabited by an old sea captain. I also  liked the writing style, it was very easy to fall into and adapt to. The story was unique and unlike anything I’d read before.

My main issue with this book was the romance…I despise insta-love, especially in an adult book. The romance in this book was ridiculously fast paced and immature (I tend to give some leeway to YA insta-love as the characters are teenagers).

Overall, this was an enjoyable book when taken for what it is. I do think people would be disappointed if they go into it expecting a scary horror story.

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron Review

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About the book:

The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson, June 2016)

An ounce of courage. A split-second leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures to call her own, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England, boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her life is planned out for her. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties in the grandest ballrooms the country has to offer. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, instead choosing the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the greatest show on earth!

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/28JxcaK

About the author:
 
 

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal Reviews’ “Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)” for February 2015.

Cambron is an art/design manager at TheGROVEstory.com storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

My Thoughts: I have always been a fan of circus stories…something about the circus setting is a lot of fun to read about. This story is loosely based around Mabel Ringling’s life but the main focus is on the fictional characters of Rosamund Easling and Caleb, a worker at the Ringling Brothers circus. The author paints the picture of the story very vividly. I felt like I was transported to the circus while I was reading…this is definitely a great book to escape into.

The characters were well developed. I liked learning about the real people of Mabel and John Ringling but the fictional characters also felt very real. There was some mystery and suspense to the story that added to my enjoyment. There was a moment in the story that really warmed my heart. The pacing was great, it was hard to put down.

My only problem with the story was that the plot was very similar to a movie that I’ve seen. I can’t mention the movie as it would give a lot away. I was a bit disappointed by the similarities because it became a bit predictable.

Overall, this was a great story, definitely one that I’ll revisit in the future when I’m in the mood for a trip to the circus.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

The Prophetess by Jill Eileen Smith Review

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Plot According to Goodreads: Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she’ll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai–and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan’s armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God’s calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped?

My Thoughts: This book gave me great insight into what life was like, particularly for women in the times of the Old Testament. I’ve read the stories in the Bible but didn’t reflect on how difficult and scary life was for the Israelites who spent their lives being terrorized. This book focuses on Deborah, who is in the book of Judges. She judged people by explaining the law to them and solving disputes according to the law, as well as received visions of prophecy from God.

I liked Deborah’s character, she was strong and assertive, which I imagine was a rare trait in women at that time. I also liked that she was respected by men and women in the city. The story takes place at a time when the Canaanites were terrorizing Israel and going into towns and kidnapping and raping the women as well as killing the men. A war was brewing and Deborah was waiting on the Lord’s instruction of what to do.

There were a lot of subplots to the story and I found that I enjoyed the subplots a bit more than the main story. Towards the end, during the battle scenes, I found myself getting a little bit bored as I don’t usually enjoy battle scenes. I realize that these scenes were very necessary to the story but I didn’t find them entertaining.

Overall, it was a very interesting story and I would definitely pick up another book by this author.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review.

Risen by Angela Hunt Review

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Plot According to Goodreads: A Powerful Novelization from Bestselling Author Angela Hunt. Epic in scope, yet deeply personal, this novelization offers a unique perspective on the story of the resurrection. Roman Tribune Clavius is assigned by Pilate to keep the radical followers of the recently executed Yeshua from stealing the body and inciting revolution. When the body goes missing despite his precautions, Clavius must hunt it down.
His investigation leads him from the halls of Herod Antipas to the Garden of Gethsemane and brings him in touch with believer and doubter alike. But as the body still remains missing, Clavius commits to a quest for the truth–and answers that will not only shake his life but echo throughout all of history.

My Thoughts: I am very familiar with the story of the resurrection of Christ but this book made the people in the story seem more real. The story follows Clavius, a Roman Soldier charged by Pontius Pilate with locating the missing body before the Emperor arrives in Jerusalem.

Fast paced and vividly described, the story came to life and was highly enjoyable. The author took liberties with the story, as it is historical fiction, but I imagine that many of the scenarios in the story were fairly accurate. The Romans would have been very frustrated and panicking over what happened to this man’s body…the man who many were calling the Messiah. I really loved the story, and I could see myself revisiting it yearly, as Easter approaches.

My Rating: 5 Stars!

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

11/22/63 By Stephen King Review

skGenre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Judging the Cover: I love it!

Plot according to Goodreads: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

My Thoughts: I had a love/dislike relationship with this book while reading it. There were times when I was loving the story and was engrossed in the world and then there were times when I wanted to put the book down permanently because I was getting lost in all the talk about political figures and situations that I was not familiar with. By the end, I was feeling very satisfied (partly because I finished the massive 849 page beast of a book) with how everything was presented.

The Good: Stephen King writes like no one else and I consider him one of the most gifted authors of our time. He tells a story with so much detail that the reader feels like they are a part of the world he has created. The characters were rich and the story was woven together very well. I am not generally a fan of romance in books but I fell in love with the romance in this story. The relationship developed very realistically and it was true love.

I also learned a lot about the Kennedy assassination and the events surrounding it while reading this book. I found myself googling many of the characters in the book to learn more and also to check the credibility of the story (I found that Stephen King really did his research for this book).

This book was different from some of the other Stephen King books that I’ve read as it wasn’t scary. Unfortunately, a lot of people have pigeon holed him as a horror genre author and that is not true. He does write some very scary and disturbing books but not all of his books are in that category. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the Kennedy assassination, particularly to those who lived through it.

I really felt like I was in 1963 while reading this book, there is something magical about the story. The time travel element was also very fascinating. I found myself thinking about the butterfly effect throughout the day when I wasn’t reading the book.

The ending was also perfect. While reading it, I had a lot of possibilities in my mind of how it would end and King surprised me with an ending that was better than any that I had envisioned. The ending was my favorite part of this book.

What I didn’t Like: The fact that Stephen King is an amazing story teller and loves details is a double-edged sword for me. There were times when the details became too numerous and I would lose interest. I also had some trouble at times keeping the characters straight. There are a lot of characters and sometimes a character from the beginning of the book would be mentioned some 300 pages later. I will try to remember to write down each character and a brief description the next time I pick up a Stephen King book…this would be very helpful.

Personally, I felt that this book was just too long. It is more of a personal preference, but I don’t tend to like books over 400 pages because I start to tire and become bored with the story. Some people love big books, so this may not be an issue for them.

My rating: It was very difficult for me to rate this book but I have decided to give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed it and I’m very happy to have read it.

Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol Review

Doctor DeathI won this book from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. It is published by Atria Books and will be on sale on February 17, 2015.

Genre: Medical Thriller, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime Fiction

Judging the Cover: I originally thought the cover was decent but as I type this, I see that there is an image of a wolf on the right side of the picture, which makes me like it a lot more. I wish the wolf was easier to see because it’s a great image and tends to blend in too much.

The Plot: Madeleine Karno is a 20 year old young lady who lives with her father in France in 1894. She loves to assist her father who is a forensic doctor, and when a young girl is found dead in the snow, she helps him unravel the mystery associated with her death.

My thoughts: I went into this book blind. I had zero expectations and no idea what the book would be about. What I discovered was an extremely interesting story with a lot of surprises.

The Good: The setting of 19th century France was perfect. I could really imagine the clothing and places that were described thanks to the descriptive imagery. I also loved the main character, Madeleine. She was unwilling to conform to societies’ expectations on how a woman should act in that time period. There were some twists that I didn’t expect, which is always something that I love. The storyline was also extremely interesting and I really liked seeing how crimes were investigated in the 1800s.

The Bad: There are some explicit sexual scenes (I mean VERY explicit) that just aren’t my cup of tea. The ending felt a bit rushed and I was still a bit confused about some of the things that happened in the story and how they all connected and came together.

My rating: All in all, this was a great story that was very unique. I rated it 4/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime fiction, medical thrillers and historical fiction.