Book Review: In the Beginning By Abby L. Vandiver

18144641***I received a free copy in exchange for a book review***

In 1997, Biblical Archaeologist Justin Dickerson is unhappy with her life in general and has decided to run away from her problems. Intervening, her mentor asks that she go with him to the Fifty Year Jubilee commemorating the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem. There she finds that in 1949 Jerusalem some of the 2,000 year old manuscripts, hidden in clay pots in the caves of Qumran, may have been destroyed.

Justin, obsessed with this revelation, is determined to get to the bottom of the deceit. Uncontrollable emotion takes hold of her, and family and faith help guide her as she unfolds the truth of Earth’s ancient mysteries discovering what really happened In the Beginning…

I enjoyed this book. It was easy to follow because each chapter was labelled with a place and date. The story switched from the 1940’s to the 1990’s often. It was written through Archaeologist Justin’s first person point-of-view. She was depressed but stayed focused on her job. I admired that she kept moving–some people completely shut down emotionally. Her family was a trip. I loved their back and forth with teasing each other.

Dr. Sabir had interpreted some manuscripts that described creation of man on Earth by man himself. Since the editor-in-chief Samuel Yeoman wanted to hide the book’s secrets, he did whatever necessary. Flash forward to the 1990’s. Justin and her team attended a conference to talk about those manuscripts.

My favorite lines: 1) “Mase,” he continued, “do you know your wife is strange? I mean like borderline mental?” 2) “I’m so sad. I hate my life and I don’t know why.”

I loved the plot. Justin’s boss told her to stop obsessing over the manuscripts, so she asked her brothers and sisters to help her discover the secret. They embarked on a journey to find the hidden manuscripts, then she had the task of having to re-interpret them. It helped that Justin had a photogenic memory. Her life was in danger because an organization went through great lengths to keep the secret hidden. As a reader, I’m all for strong females. I loved that Justin fought for the truth. That she wasn’t swayed to keep her curiosity at bay. I also loved that she was the ringleader in the adventures of solving the mystery.

I wish the story could’ve played out instead of everything being explained to the readers. It could have had more tension and suspense that way.

I have an idiosyncratic personality, so my favorite part of the book was the epilogue. I’m all for conspiracy theories. They’re always fun to dwell over. As a reader, I got a sense that Justin was based off the author’s real life. I wondered if those manuscripts were really real or just an exaggerated version of the truth for entertainment purposes. Either way, it was a great book.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

 

Book Review: Vanguard of Hope By Kathy Steinemann

***I received a free copy in exchange for a book review***

LISETVILLE, 1890 — Murders are committed; homes are burned; family secrets are buried; an unexpected romance complicates lives. Amid the mystery and violence, a vigilante brigade emerges to administer justice.

Flowing through the intrigue and drama is a dark undercurrent that will touch your heart as you empathize with the victims.

What Readers Are Saying:

“I am hooked. I do hope that I will be able to get all your novels.” – Lorene Charlton

“It’s not chick lit.” – A Male Reader

“This book keeps you in suspense right to the end. The dark underlying theme is tackled in a sensitive manner.” – S.L. Banks

“I started reading this novel to help quiet my mind at a late hour, but found myself still awake in the morning. Its intense read was much more than I expected. It has ‘all’ the elements from love, betrayal, suspense, and romance, to murder. ‘Vanguard of Hope’ will touch everyone who reads it. If you’re a young adult or older, this excellent novel will awaken you deep within your soul.” – Toni Gee

“The book was excellent! I really enjoyed reading it. I could not stop. Every chance I got, I was trying to sneak in just a couple more diary entries! I look forward to reading the next book in the series. And I will most certainly be recommending this to others to read!” – Brandy Mayan-Rooks

17372535I loved this 6 part book. It was narrated as Hope’s diary entries from 1890 to 1912. My favorite lines: 1) Mystery, murder, vigilante justice, romance, treasure. Who knew that my ancestors led lives stranger than fiction? 2) Why should I bring babies into this miserable world of arranged marriages, where women have no rights, and are treated like ornaments or slaves? 3) Another month of my life has passed, and the loneliness increases every day. 4) I finally realized that my husband loved me, just as I was about to abandon him. 5) Physical attractions are common, but mental connections are rare.

I respected Hope because she was a strong female character. She loved her husband but still questioned the world around her, instead of keeping quiet like women were expected to do in the olden days. She was my favorite character. I also loved Solomon, her husband, and her sister. Even though it was written in first person point-of-view, the author did a great job with characterization. Hope’s narration and interaction with the other characters really brought out everyone’s personalities. The different relationship dynamics were cool to see.

  • Solomon was a slave. When slaves were freed, he became Hope and her husband’s worker around the house. She ended up cheating on her husband; maybe I should’ve been appalled, but I wasn’t. I liked Hope’s secret relationship with Solomon; I rooted for them to end up together. I felt bad that they had to go through all that discrimination and threats because of the society’s racism.

The story was more than romance. The author did a fine job with conflict, tension, and suspense. I liked the reveal that Hope and her sister had a dark secret regarding their dad. The brigade helped them out when their dad ends up dead. The mystery: who killed him? I loved all the twists at the end. This story was a fast read.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on the author or book:

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: Orphan of the Olive Tree By Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

Two families bound by a blood oath,

A dreadful curse and the casting of the evil eye that will shatter lives,

And the dark family secret one woman will risk everything to keep buried.

From two neighboring villas in the heart of the Tuscan countryside to the elegance of Siena; from a world steeped in ancient superstitions to a culture where family honor is paramount comes, this multi-layered novel of the lives, loves, secrets and strivings of two women and their families in the 13th century.

Felicia Ventura dreams of a happy future raising a family, but her hopes are shattered because of a curse and the casting of the evil eye by her envious neighbor, a dark Sicilian beauty named Prudenza. Prudenza’s envy of Felicia turns into a dangerous, frenzied obsession and she revives an ancient superstition, spreading the rumor that Felicia’s twins were fathered by different men. The scandal destroys Felicia’s marriage. But when Prudenza gives birth to twin daughters of her own, she is desperate to save face and rids herself of one infant, keeping the child’s existence secret. As the years go by, the truth has a way of making itself known. Soon Prudenza’s deception will lead to the unraveling of everything she values in life.

An absorbing novel about wicked intentions, medieval superstitions, a curse uttered in envy, undisclosed secrets, unstoppable destinies, and two generations of women and the extraordinary event that will vindicate or destroy them.

I enjoyed this 122 chapter book. Even though the chapters were very short, I would have never imagined reading a novel that was more than 70 chapters. Instead of using scene breaks, the author chose to rotate chapters between every character (around 10 characters).

My favorite lines: 1) “Looks can deceive,” said Cosma. “Often what gleams on the outside is rotten within. Peace is a state that must be guarded for it can easily be lost.” 2) This woman whom he barely knew had through no deliberate act of her won, infiltrated his mind, his heart and soul. 3) The past is best left to rest. It is the future that carries hope.

Enrico and Carlo were best friends. Enrico was married to Felicia while Carlo married Prudenza. Felicia had twin boys: Luca and Lorenzo. Prudenza had twin girls: Giustina with the mom giving up Olivia.

  • Prudenza was a jealous hater, who could cast the evil eye. A horrible lie she spread came back to bite her in the butt after her children were born. To avoid scorn, she gave the oldest baby up.

Even though Luca and Giustina were allegedly destined to marry, they didn’t love each other. It boggled my mind that the parents were adamant that love wasn’t part of the equation for marriage. I loved all the drama, tension, and conflict that ensued because of this. I wanted to give the kids a hug because of the pain they endured, trying to convince their parents to change their minds.

My favorite scenes: 1) Cosma (a healer) and Vincenza were on a journey to start a new life when a horse causes something tragic for the both of them. My heart broke during that scene. 2) the scenes with the star-crossed lovers Lorenzo and Giustina/ Olivia and Luca. 3) the ending when karma finally catches up to Prudenza.

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer had a great talent with dialogue. The conversations were realistic, yet full of passion from all sides. Especially when the fathers spoke; they were so stubborn. My favorite characters were the kids and Felicia. They could do no harm in my book, but I truly despised Prudenza. I loved that the author made all the characters three-dimensional, so I got a chance to get to know all of them. I cared or loathed them–it was never a situation where I thought ‘why is she spending so much time on this person that I don’t care about?’

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on the author or book:

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: The Contessa’s Vendetta By Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

To be buried alive is everyone’s worse nightmare! A deadly plague is killing thousands in 17th century Vicenza Italy. Contessa Mancini struggles to protect her family and servants, but despite her precautions, she is the one who falls prey to the deadly illness. Her body is tossed into a coffin and swiftly buried in the underground, dank confines of her family’s vault. But Contessa Mancini is not dead. No, she is very much alive. She awakens terrorized, trapped in dense darkness surrounded by the flimsy wood of the coffin they buried her in. Desperate, she claws and kicks until she escapes its stifling restraint, only to find herself trapped in the mausoleum with the decaying bodies of her ancestors. As she seeks to escape, she discovers a vast treasure of gold, silver, and gems secretly hidden in the vault by brigands, and the secret tunnel they used to hide there. Free at least, she returns home to her beloved husband, her best friend, and her darling daughter. But before she reveals herself to her loved ones, she learns of an endless series of lies, deceits, and betrayal. As she unravels the labyrinth of shocking treachery, her wrath breathes life to an overwhelming need for vengeance. Slowly, meticulously, she launches her diabolocial vendetta. The Contessa’s Vendetta is a retelling of the classic novel, Vendetta by Marie Corelli. Inspired by this epic story, the author weaves her own captivating tale in a new setting, a new century, and with new plot twists while remaining faithful to the key story elements.

I liked this 35 chapter book. It was told through Carlotta’s first person point-of-view. Beware of a woman scorned. My favorite line: A false man or woman deserves death. It was amazing how most people in this time period thought it was acceptable to kill your cheating husband or wife since there was no law/punishment for adultery. Instead of going that route, Carlotta decided to devise a plan to seek revenge on her husband Dario, who had a secret affair with her best friend Beatrice.

Dario and Beatrice were cold-blooded–especially the way they treated the daughter Chiara. You don’t have to be a murderer or someone violent to be a villain. They were both despicable; they had no shame as though they were narcissistic psychopaths. But that takes a brilliant talent with the author’s ability with characterization. As a reader, I really loathed some and really cared for others. It felt good to have a strong reaction toward everyone, instead of a blah, not caring reaction. Readers should hate Dario and Beatrice because, of course, Carlotta wouldn’t shed them in a positive light.

  • After escaping from being buried alive (they thought she had died from the plague), she wised up. Instead of crying in a corner, she got revenge. Mirella Sichirollo Patzer was also great with voice. The novel had a storytelling vibe as though Carlotta was talking directly to the readers. This tied in to the beginning where it’s revealed she’s transcribing her events (I believe as a letter).

I understood the concept of the story from the get-go, she would seek revenge, so I wished the word “vendetta” wasn’t used so often in the narration. But then again, Carlotta would’ve been obsessed with that scenario, so I can see why the word was repeated over and over. I also wished that there weren’t so many exclamation points, but it didn’t distract me from the story.

My favorite scenes: 1) when Carlotta meets a crazy old woman at the market who encourages her to kill her husband if he’s not excited for her return back from the grave, hinting he’d already have another woman 2) all the scenes with Carlotta and Paolo. I like that even though she got burned, she still believed in love and wanted other couples to make it 3) when both parts of the vendetta were executed.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on the author or website:

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: The Journey By John A. Heldt

Seattle, 2010. When her entrepreneur husband dies in an accident, Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and directionless. She yearns for the simpler days of her youth, before she followed her high school sweetheart down a road that led to limitless riches but little fulfillment, and jumps at a chance to reconnect with her past at a class reunion. But when Michelle returns to Unionville, Oregon, and joins three classmates on a spur-of-the-moment tour of an abandoned mansion, she gets more than she asked for. She enters a mysterious room and is thrown back to 1979.

Distraught and destitute, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets widowed teacher Robert Land and finds the love and happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates. Filled with humor and heartbreak, THE JOURNEY gives new meaning to friendship, courage, and commitment as it follows an unfulfilled soul through her second shot at life.

I loved this 60 chapter book. It was told through Shelly’s third person point-of-view and Michelle’s third person point-of-view, each rotating chapters. What if you were transported back to your high school days and got to relive your life again? Had a chance to meet the younger version of yourself and see the people who had died along the way? Man, I don’t know what I’d do, but I respected that Michelle took charge to make sure she made a positive influence on people’s lives so they could rethink mistakes made in the past. I liked the shout-out to The Mine character’s Joel and his mom meeting Michelle.

I thought it was sad when Michelle reflected on her life after her husband Scott passed away. She had missed the opportunity to become an author. Since that’s my dream, I couldn’t imagine letting someone stop me. I enjoyed hearing about Writer’s Market and other writer terminology through her perspective.

My favorite lines: 1) There was a lot to remember when you lived a lie. 2) Sometimes the right answers come in unusual packages. 3) Michelle sat up and shifted her eyes from one tablemate to another, as if searching for a source of sanity. She came up empty. 4) I knew her better than anyone and she was still a mystery.

John A. Heldt did a wonderful job with imagery, especially with metaphors. I thought they were really original, and I loved the humor throughout the novel. He also has a great talent with writing romance. The way he built up Michelle and Robert’s relationship was engaging and sweet. I really rooted for them. I also loved how the story focused on Shelly and her friends, April and Brian, trying to search for true love in school. He made me root for all the characters to have a happy ending. My favorite aspect was the friendship dynamic. There were positive female friendships instead of girls being catty with one another. A refreshing change.

My favorite scenes: 1) in the classroom, Robert asked Michelle out on a date 2) in present day, Michelle hung out with her old friends at the class reunion; they were funny together 3) when Michelle realized Brian had a crush on Shelly. The reveal was cute 4) when Michelle met her dad and fainted 5) when Michelle and Shelly first met in the school office

I wish I could discuss the ending because that was my favorite part too. I’ll just say that Michelle was my favorite character, and I thought she was really brave. The last few chapters made me cry, which I happened to be sitting at a table in a busy coffee shop.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: The Mine By John A. Heldt

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will altar their lives forever. THE MINE follows a  humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

I loved this 70 chapter book. Joel, Ginny, Grace, and Tom were my favorite characters. Their friendship dynamic was cool, and the sense of humor in the book made me laugh. I’m a huge fan of the “what if” scenario, so I thought of how I’d get along if I was transported back into the 1940’s. Joel was from 2000, trespassed into an abandoned mine, then entered 1941. Being a charming guy and one to think swiftly on his feet, he managed very well.

My favorite lines: 1) He had an encyclopedic mind, the curiosity of an inventor, and the judgment and discipline of a three-year-old.  2) Sensing an opportunity to clear the air, he pressed ahead with the kind of candor that would make their relationship or break it. 3) Her thirty-six months at the university were less a full educational experience than a frustrating self imposed exile. 4) What sane woman traded love and security for a stranger who would not even come clean about his past?

There were a couple of parts in the story that made me shed a tear. One of their friends, Katie, was a Japanese character. I kept thinking how drastically her life would change once World War II started. Plus, it was sad how the young men in the story wanted to get married and start a career after college graduation, but they were drafted into war. Most scared. Had no choice in the matter. I especially felt bad for Tom.

The author had a brilliant talent with setting. He was so descriptive that I could picture the story vividly in my head–like a movie. I thought of The Notebook while reading this because the way Grace and Joel’s relationship blossomed was so sweet and romantic. I appreciated that even though the characters accepted and liked Joel, they still were suspicious that he never mentioned his past. That at times they caught him in a lie. I also liked how history facts were revealed throughout the narration when Joel would know what would happen in the future but the other people didn’t have a clue. I loved that he felt the need to keep his identity a secret; it made for great inner-conflict scenes.

My favorite scenes: 1) whenever Joel would visit Grace in the library 2) Joel and Grace’s picnic date at the park 3) when Joel realizes that Ginny is his grandmother 4) when everyone says goodbye to Tom before he heads off to train for the war 5) the twist at the end (can’t give it away)

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: Red Hawk–A Civil War Journal By Kenneth Postalwait

I have mad respect for the author Kenneth Postalwait for making his dreams come true. He’s from Texas and travels the country to get his set of Civil War poems published into different newspapers. I appreciate his creativity geared throughout Red Hawk–A Civil War Journal. He took the time to create several poems (sounding authentic like a Civil War soldier) based off of different famous battles during the war:

  • Battle at Bull Run
  • Second Battle at Manassas
  • The Battle of Antietam
  • The Hills of Shenandoah
  • Fall on Rappahannock
  • Battle of Fredericksburg
  • Etc, Etc

I love that this 140 page, 13 part book had everything written as a rhyme. That was the coolest part for me because it gave it a smooth flow while reading it. If you’re a history buff, you should definitely take a look at the book. I also enjoyed the illustrations.

It wasn’t just one long poem. It had several one page poems that revealed certain aspects of the soldiers’ emotions–how they were bored and cold when no battles were going on, how they were scared to die ( a lot of battles had confusion where they were accidentally firing off at their own men), how they missed their loved ones. It was a nice surprise to find a love story in the mix–a General fell in love with Clara (woman wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and help out) but he was too shy to tell her. So sweet.

You can’t go wrong with mentioning John Brown and Harpers Ferry. Those were my favorite moments. I also loved the Battle of Antietam section because it seemed to have the most tension. After each poem, there’s cliff-notes (which I thought was pretty cool) giving details about fun facts. So, readers get a glimpse of events in sequenced order with the same recurring characters. Readers get to see their lives and journey evolve during the war. My favorite aspect was also the fact that Cherokee role in the Civil War was mentioned. I liked looking at a different angle, instead of always the Union and Confederate. Fun fact: Cherokees fought for both sides in this story.

My favorite section of poems in no particular order (to give you a glimpse of what I’m talking about):

Trial at Harper’s Ferry

You stood amid the mess on a tidy form

A man you just had saved, shot in your arms

I grabbed a shovel, not to turn’n till…

Raised ‘gainst my Southern soul pressed now to kill

The Battle at Antietam

Well the Major might a made it but to call, she turned and stopped

Strait thru hell she yelled to save us spared! the instant he dropped

Caught ‘tween cannon, our own colors! canister’d cut ‘n low

Then raked of our own New Yorkers frantic fire on friend and foe!

Fall on Rappahannock

Just a glance at the correspondence the penmanship caught my eye

This is personal I ain’t nosey (strange quality for a spy)

And I closer examined the dispatch and I stare ’til I can’t even blink

Somethin about that staff orderly and the way I was given the wink

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on Red Hawk–A Civil War Journal and/or the author Kenneth Postalwait:

  • RHawk61@gmail.com (Email)
  • 830-660-6790 (His phone number, so brave wanting to include it)
  • Website

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter By Seth Grahame-Smith

Have you seen the movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter? Was it good? My ears perked up when Robin told me it was made into a novel. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it once she said I could borrow her copy.

Normally, I read books and don’t post reviews unless I’m supporting another writer I met through blogging or any other social media. So, I didn’t have pen and paper by my side to jot down memorable plot points or my reaction throughout scenes. I was simply going to return the book after I finished, keeping my feelings to myself or sharing my thoughts with friends.

However, this story concept was awesome–it felt wrong to not do a book review. I ended up changing my mind at the last second. Here’s my thoughts on the book:

Indiana, 1818. In a one-room cabin, nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his mother’s bedside. “My baby boy…” she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, young Lincoln sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving the Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for almost two hundred years-until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln. Now, using the journal as a guide, Seth reconstructs the true life story of America’s greatest president. For the first time ever, he reveals the hidden history behind the Civil War-and uncovers the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of the nation.

If someone would’ve told me I’d be reading historical fiction, I would’ve told them to “shut the front door.” History was my least favorite subject in school. That’s why it was a nice surprise when I enjoyed this 3 part, 14 chapter novel. I loved that it didn’t read like fiction at all. The author was so dedicated in Abraham Lincoln’s journal entries (to make them sound authentic) and stuck strictly to the facts that happened (instead of dabbling into the emotional aspect) that this novel read like a textbook or a research book at the library.

  • The photos added in the story with the circles, emphasizing the president on his vampire hunter escapades, were awesome! For a second, my mind started playing tricks on me LOL. I knew this didn’t happen. But what if it did?

The scene were settlers are tricked by the evil vampire doctor caught my attention. It reminded me of Mindhunters (starring Johnny Lee Miller and LL Cool J)–a guy told the group about an old myth where an entire village was wiped clean. Croatoan had been carved on the tree, leaving people to believe either a body of water or an American Indian tribe killed everyone.

  • In the book, the evil doctor carved “Croatoan” into the tree to put the blame on the Indians. He thought it’d be funny to have settlers going after the innocent. Man, none of my ancestors could get a break. Between American Indians being blamed for victims’ deaths (no one could believe it was vampires) and slaves being treated like property, this novel made me sad during those parts (not because of getting lost in the story, but because I knew that’s a terrible part of United States history that truly happened). Made me take a moment to reflect how awful it was back in the olden days. The story wasn’t written in the slaves point-of-view but Lincoln wrote powerful images in his journal.

Like I said before, it was strictly an account of what happened. So, if I was supposed to feel bad in certain scenes, I didn’t. The emotion wasn’t there for me–like when Lincoln lost his first love, his mom, his two sons. It was kind of like “wham, bam thank you ma’am.” There was no time to process what happened because the next action scene was already taking place.

I loved hearing about people in history–like Edgar Allan Poe, Martin Luther King, etc. It was cool that Seth Grahame-Smith managed to create this fake world with real people. The ending was perfect!

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby