Belle Meade Plantation: horses, history, and romance {book reviews}

I somehow failed to review book one way back whenever I read it (Goodreads says it was May), so I decided to squish it in here with book two. I hope you don't mind.

To Whisper Her Name
by Tamera Alexander

from Goodreads (brief synopsis)
Set at Nashville's historic Belle Meade Plantation, the most influential thoroughbred stud farm in America's history, To Whisper Her Name weaves the struggles of real people of the post-war South with the journeys of a man and a woman scarred by betrayal.

my review
Looking at the covers, I thought this would be a fluffy romance with little substance, and that book two had all the good horse content. You've heard it before: don't judge a book by its cover.

I love Uncle Bob, Belle Meade's head horse trainer. I could read an entire book about him. However, the focus of this novel is on Olivia and Ridley, who are both very well developed characters. Their story is rather predictable, but I enjoyed reading it, and a few things did catch me by surprise.

The best part: the historical setting. The Belle Meade Plantation was (is) a real place, and Tamera Alexander seems to have done her research well. I loved how she portrayed the freedmen in this book -- their story is woven throughout that of Olivia and Ridley, and it's just beautiful.

my rating

To Win Her Favor
by Tamera Alexander

from Goodreads (brief synopsis)
A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

my review
Mostly, this is romantic fiction. I spent the majority of the first half of this book saying "WHERE ARE THE HORSES." (Answer: in the second half.) I spent the rest of the first half wondering when I was going to get some character development. Seriously, who are these people? Why do they act the way that they do? (Again, this all comes in the second half.) So what does happen in the first 200 pages? Sadly, it involves people acting stupidly, and it's unfortunately quite predictable. As is most of the book.

But there are some redeeming qualities. 1) The male protagonist is Irish, which, besides being awesome in itself, adds another layer to the racism theme introduced in the first book. 2) The freedmen, how they are portrayed (with great humanity), how white people in Tennessee respond to them, etc. This is equally beautiful and haunting. 3) Believe it or not, there are horses. One is a Percheron named after a mythical creature, and he actually commands a lot of attention in the first chapter or two.

Warning: This book is surprisingly intimate for a Christian novel. I got really tired of reading about a certain married couple sleeping together and wanting to sleep together. Those pages would have been better spent on some much-needed character development.

my rating
(it really deserves 2.5, but I don't have an image for that...)

*Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for sending me a free copy of To Win Her Favor in exchange for my honest review!


to change ourselves

I often find myself praying for patience. Especially with people. And while I can prepare well for guests, once they arrive I prove to be a terrible host (this tends to happen when one is an introvert with borderline social anxiety). I clean the house, bake coffee cake, set clean towels on the foot of neatly made beds, and then forget to show the guests where the bathroom is or to offer them something to drink once all their things have been tucked into their room.

Let me tell you a story.

This week a huge, international conference is taking place nearby, and the non-profit organization my husband and I work for is heavily involved. In fact, I have been putting together the logistics for much our organization's involvement over the past several months.

Today I had the... privilege of handing out t-shirts to staff involved in this conference, which meant half a dozen people would crowd around the table at a time, with more pressing in from behind, and ask me to simultaneously look up all their names on my list and pass out t-shirts like a three-headed octopus. And a good number of them had unrelated questions to pepper me with. Because this occurred before and after a lunch meeting, I also had no lunch break (although I did eat. standing up.). I was exhausted.

After packing up all the remaining shirts and returning to my desk, I sluggishly slogged through a few pressing items before tai chi class and a long-awaited nap. I didn't want to see another human being for the rest of the day. But almost as soon as I crawled out of bed--conscious, if not alert--I received a phone call that sent me back to the office (which, thankfully, is just across the street).

I walked into the front lobby to see two frazzled-looking men and a pile of luggage. "Do you work here?" the older man asked. "Yes," I said. "Is that a dangerous thing to admit to?" He laughed and explained that he had just returned from the train station where he had been to pick someone up, and another young man had recognized our organization on the sign he was holding and asked for a ride. This young man is from Colombia and speaks little if any English, and while I know some Spanish, I called my near-fluent husband to come assist him.

Long story short (or a little shorter), Paul gave the man a room in our guest facilities and, since the dining hall was closed tonight, invited him home for supper. I tried to make myself busy in order to avoid conversation, but eventually the pizza came and we all sat around the table together. I even remembered to set out drinks and napkins.

Our guest showed us a picture of his fiance, talked about his job at a university, and asked how long I'd been working on the extremely complicado 2,000-piece puzzle that was taking up half the kitchen table. I was surprised to find that I not only understood most of what he said (did I mention my Spanish is, um, not very good?), but I enjoyed his unexpected company. And I almost laughed to think that less than an hour before I'd wanted to stuff my nose in a book and remain blissfully oblivious to the outside world.

God may not change us, but He will give us opportunities to change ourselves. Especially when we least expect them.


Half-Blood (Ilyon Chronicles #1.5) {blog tour & giveaway!}


Jaye L. Knight’s new novella, Half-Blood, was released on Tuesday! Learn more about this prequel story to the Ilyon Chronicles and make sure you enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00026]about the book
The gasps and murmuring grew. Though some were hardly more than whispers, clear words reached Jace’s ears — dangerous, monster, animal, soulless. He tried to back away from their accusing eyes, but the collar pulled hard against his throat and held him in place.

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood — one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. But, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed.

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will not to become the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master’s harsh punishment, Jace’s world is upended yet again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace’s life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery?

See where Jace’s story all began . . .

my rating

my review
I said in my review of Resistance (Ilyon Chronicles #1) that Jaye L. Knight has a talent for character development, and I'll say it again here: Jaye L. Knight has an amazing talent for character development.

In her first novel, Jace is a distant character with veiled emotions that we can sense have great depth to them, but we can only wonder at what he hides. In Half-Blood, we finally get an intimate look at Jace, his past, his emotions -- and this person who was a strong supporting character suddenly comes to the forefront and becomes startlingly, tragically real.

This is not a story that begs for pity, nor is it a heroic fight to overcome and conquer. It is a story of survival, and Jaye L. Knight makes it feel very realistic. She captures our hearts and our attention at the very beginning with six-year-old Jace, and guides us on a journey through the experiences that shaped him, and those that he didn't allow to.

I cannot recommend the Ilyon Chronicles enough.

Half-Blood (Ilyon Chronicles #1.5)

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website or read my review of Resistance!


JayeAuthor2015about the author
Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Etsy, and on her new fiction forum where you can interact with other readers of the series.

Prizes: an autographed copy of Half-Blood, a blue feather bookmark hand crafted by Jaye, a bronze sword pendant, and a $5 Amazon gift card! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

tour schedule
Tuesday, July 14
  Tour Introduction at Jaye L. Knight
  Review and Author Interview at 26 Countless Possibilites
  Review and Author Interview at Lianne Taimenlore
  Review and Author Interview at Crumpets 'n' Cream
  Review at Tialla's Tellings
Wednesday, July 15
  Review at The Destiny of One
  Book Spotlight at One Servant's Heart
  Review and Author Interview at Leah's Bookshelf
  Review and Author Interview at Red Lettering
  Review and Author Interview at Zerina Blossom's Books
Thursday, July 16
  Review and Author Interview at Sutori no Hana
  Review and Author Interview at Scattered Journal Pages
  Review and Author Interview at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
  Author Interview at A Writer's Faith
  Review and Author Interview at writinganyone
Friday, July 17
  Review and Author Interview at Written Rest
  Book Spotlight at Tell Tale Book Reviews
  Review and Author Interview at The Pen of a Ready Writer
  Review and Author Interview at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
  Review at Poetree
Saturday, July 18
  Review at A Writer's Heart
  Review at Reality Calling
  Author Interview at The Art of Storytelling
  Book Spotlight at Thilly Little Nothings
Sunday, July 19
  Review at Through My Lens
  Review at Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
  Book Spotlight at Letters from Annie Douglass Lima
  Review at bookend
Monday, July 20
  Review at Pencils Can Change the World
  Review at Backing Books
  Review at Melody Jackson, Author
  Book Spotlight and Author Interview at In the Character's Shadow
Tuesday, July 21
  Review at A Vintage Girl in the Modern World
  Book Spotlight at However Improbable
  Review at God's Peculiar Treasure Rae
  Review and Author Interview at Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections
Wednesday, July 22
  Review at To Be a Person
  Tour Conclusion at Jaye L. Knight

*Thanks to Jaye L. Knight for sending me a free e-book in exchange for my honest review!


Tiger's Paw {blog tour}

by Kimberly A. Rogers

book description
What if history didn’t quite play out the way we know it? What would stay the same? What would change? Even in a world where Elves and Humans coexist, there are secrets. Not all the old legends are accurate, but neither are they false. Hidden among the Humans are the Therians, those gifted with the ability to shift into beasts. How long they will remain unseen by Human eyes depends on how well they adhere to their code of life and honor – The Therian Way.

When secrecy is vital to survive among Humans and Elves, the Therian Way offers balance. The Fringe, a militant group of discontented Therians, threaten to expose their race to Mankind. It falls to General Baran to track down and remove the Fringe Nest before time runs out. Who can he trust when the fate of his people lies in the Tiger’s paw?

my rating

my review
This is a fun, fast-paced novella with an interesting premise. I enjoyed reading about the Therians, but wanted to know more -- where they come from, what their culture is like, when and why the peace marriages started... All of this was hinted at, but being a novella, Tiger's Paw lacks some of the detail I crave. It's a prequel, though, meant to whet our appetites and set the stage for the series itself, and for me, at least, it has succeeded.

I was a bit disappointed that this turned out to be more of an action/adventure story than fantasy, but I'm trying not to let that count against the book since it's a matter of personal preference. Additionally, there were a few mechanical errors throughout the text that distracted from the story and could be fixed with a good, thorough proofread.

If the description interests you, definitely add this book to your to-read list and keep your eyes peeled for book one (slated for publication in December, unless I'm mistaken)!

about the author
Kimberly A. Rogers writes in-depth reviews of Christian and secular fantasy as well as articles for Christian fantasy writers at her blog So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy? Of course, only when not in the midst of writing papers and taking exams in the pursuit of her Masters in Religious Education. Kimberly lives in Virginia where the Blue Ridge Mountains add inspiration to an over-active imagination originally fueled by fantasy classics such as the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Website ~ Goodreads ~

*Thanks to Kimberley Rogers for sending me a free e-book in exchange for my honest review!


the last page

A friend gave this journal to me for Christmas some time in high school (way back when flip phones were cool), and I remember thinking what an odd gift it was. But after graduation, when the small yellow writing tablet I'd been scribbling poetry in ran out of pages, I dug this spiral-bound stack of paper out of a drawer and kept writing.

For nearly seven years I wrote in this book, sometimes laying it aside for months, and sometimes flipping to a new page every day. It contains more memories and emotion than any diary I ever kept, and in far fewer words. You've seen some of its contents spilled on this blog -- all of the poems I've posted originated from this journal's pages.

I knew that I couldn't end it with just any poem, and during a solitary walk this evening I found, if not perfect, sufficient words to fill the last page. It's the end, and yet, somehow, it feels like the beginning.

here's to hope--
to having a voice,
to being a voice
the blank page of invitation
a line, a letter, a word,
a soul on paper


soul scribbles {an untitled poem}

long walks
ice cream cones
warm green grass under
calloused bare feet
sunshine in cloudless sky
thunderstorms and
captivating paperbacks
hot tea with
local raw honey
bunny yawns and joyful leaping
soft fur for stroking
and contented silence

This is my take on a "happy list." What has brought you joy recently? Maybe stomping in puddles or buying new journals puts a smile on your face -- tell me in the comments!