Book Love, Christian fiction

Book review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Book cover of Romanov by Nadine BrandesBack cover copy: The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad … and he’s on the other.

My review: I read Romanov by Nadine Brandes for my historical fiction choice in the Read Something New 2021 Book Challenge. It wasn’t the book I originally planned to read for that spot but kept begging me to take it from my ever-growing to-read stack. So I finally gave in – and am glad I did.

Portions of Romanov are based on historical fact. The father, Emperor Nicholas II, was the last czar of Russia. Their family was exiled and later executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. When the gravesite of the family was found years later, two members were missing: Anastasia and her younger brother Alexei. Rumors persisted for years that they had somehow survived the firing squad and lived out their lives in secret and/or under different identities. Their remains were not found until 2007, buried in a separate grave near the rest of the family.

Romanov adds magical aspects to historical facts to weave a fantastical but believable story. Anastasia is a beginning-level spell master who knows just enough magic to create spells that help relieve the pain and injuries that Alexei experiences because of hemophilia. She is fiercely loyal and feels tremendous responsibility to help him however she can, but the Bolsheviks are hunting down and killing spell masters (in addition to wanting the Romanov family out of their way).

But Anastasia also is a typical teenage girl in many ways – playing pranks, doing things to make her sisters or Alexei laugh, navigating the feelings associated with her first crush, and learning to remain hopeful despite grappling with frustration, anger, and forgiveness.

The characters of Romanov are multi-layered and believable, even the secondary characters and antagonists. That’s part of what kept me reading and enjoying the story.

Faith elements are also strong, despite having magic be such an important element in the story. The family prays together and talks about things related to their faith, plus topics related to living a life of faith (hope, respect, forgiveness, grace) are integral to the story.

Who should read it: Historical fiction fans should enjoy Romanov, though sticklers who might get hung up on the magical aspect might enjoy reading something like I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon more (I read that one a couple years ago and liked it). Romanov is categorized as young adult fiction, but I can see it appealing to readers from middle school to adult. It covers some fairly heavy topics related to the war and violence, but they aren’t too much for a mature middle schooler to handle (and are much less graphic than plenty of other books targeting that age group).

Your turn: Did you read a historical novel for this month’s challenge? If so, tell us which one and what you thought of it! If not, share what you did read – because there had to be something, right?

Coming next month: The February book category for our reading challenge is science fiction or fantasy. Any idea what you’ll read?

Book Love, Just for Fun, Writing life

‘I Love Words’ for Word Nerd Day

January 9 was Word Nerd Day, so today’s post shares a little fun in honor of that (because it’s almost as great in my word world as National I Love to Write Day in November).

Years ago, I participated in Career Day at our kids’ elementary school several times. I tried to change things up a bit each time since I would visit several classes and usually talk to some students who had heard me another time.

One year I wrote a poem to highlight the different things I would do as a writer – write content, edit or copy edit something another person wrote, or help someone with public relations or publicity.

And, even though I’ve never claimed to be a poet, here’s my tribute to word nerdiness.

I Love Words

By Leigh DeLozier

I love words.

Long or short, big or small –

Just give me words ’cause I love them all.

They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you cry

They can paint pictures vivid as the sky.

I pull them together like beads on a string

Just give me a chance and you’ll learn something.

Because – I love words.

I love words.

I love what you wrote – really, I do

Now let’s make it shine with a change or two.

Why say ‘sit’ when you can use ‘slouch’?

And don’t settle for ‘chair’ when you really mean ‘couch.’

Cut a word here, change a phrase there

I make you look better, so please don’t despair.

Because – I love words.

I love words.

Typos and glitches fill me with fright

Dreams of misspellings haunt me by night.

Misusing ‘its’ or ‘their’ or ‘too’ –

It happens more often than you might think is true.

Some people believe I’m just fussy or picky

I promise I’m not – I just don’t want things to look icky.

Because – I love words.

I love words.

Radio, newspapers, Web or TV –

When there’s news to share, they’re all targets for me.

Need to raise money? Got a new book?

I’ll send out the info to get you a look.

My press release sings, the articles dance

I’d love to promote you – just give me a chance.

Because – I love words.

And: Speaking of word love, are you reading something for the 2021 Read Something New Book Challenge? January is historical fiction month. 🙂

Book Love

Read something new 2021 book challenge

I read a pretty wide variety of things but am always telling myself I should branch out more. 2021 will be my year to start, with a Read Something New book challenge. I would love for others to join!

Here’s how it will work.

stack of books against a yellow and blue backgroundA different genre or topic is assigned to each month of 2021. Toward the end of each month, I’ll post something here and on my social media pages reminding what the next month’s category is (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram). If you want to participate, read something in the category that month. It’s as easy as that!

The schedule is:

  • January: Historical fiction
  • February: Science fiction or fantasy
  • March: Fiction or nonfiction centered on a specific event or time period
  • April: Young adult
  • May: Reread a favorite from middle or high school
  • June: Contemporary fiction
  • July: A classic you’ve never read
  • August: Fiction or nonfiction that takes place in your state
  • September: Biography
  • October: Mystery or suspense
  • November: Fiction or nonfiction written by a local author
  • December: Something for personal growth

I’ll post reviews of whatever I read and invite you to share about yours in the comments. Join in whenever you want – you don’t have to commit to participating every month.

Plus: Anyone who shares about what they’ve read will be entered in some bookish prize drawings along the way.

So, let’s get ready for historical fiction in January. Plenty of amazing options there! I’m leaning toward Colors of Truth, which is the newest from Tamera Alexander. What are you thinking about?

Happy reading,

Leigh

Book Love

Book Review: The Discovery

Last week I posted a photo of some books from my to-read stack. Today I’m going to share my review of one of those books, The Discovery by Dan Walsh.

The DiscoveryI’ve read two of Walsh’s previous novels, The Unfinished Gift and The Homecoming. They were both set in the World War II era, so The Discovery is a bit different from those because it’s set in modern times. But – Walsh still shares his love of WWII tales with us because The Discovery actually is a story within a story.

Here’s part of the back cover blurb:

When aspiring writer Michael Warner inherits his grandfather’s venerable Charleston estate, he settles in to write his first novel. But within the confines of the stately home, he discovers an unpublished manuscript that his grandfather, a literary giant whose novels sold in the millions, had kept hidden from everyone – but which he clearly intended Michael to find. As he delves deep into the exciting tale about spies and sabotage, Michael discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well.

So … an aspiring novelist, a story set in Charleston, and some spies and sabotage. The combination hooked me from the get-go.

DSC00893 (1)
The top of the St. Augustine, Fla., lighthouse. I learned a lot about World War II spies when we visited a few years ago. Some of those same things were in The Discovery.

You’re about 60 pages into the book before Michael comes across his grandfather’s hidden manuscript. From there, The Discovery alternates between Michael’s present-day life and the story within the old manuscript – which you read along with Michael in its entirety. I felt like the “hidden” story dragged a bit in a few places, but it wasn’t so bad that I wanted to stop reading. I think it was partly because I anticipated some things and was ready for them to happen. But at least I didn’t jump to the ending to make sure things worked out like I wanted.

Basic fiction tools like flashbacks and back story can be tricky to work into a story, and what Walsh attempted here was much bigger than that. But he managed to pull it off and reward his readers with not one enjoyable story, but two. If you’re looking for a novel about young love during World War II that stays more “light” than “grim,” The Discovery could be worth checking out.

Your turn: What good World War II novels have you read? Do you have a favorite author who writes about that time frame?

And … I had the chance to interview Dan Walsh on the Novel Pastimes blog when his debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, was released. You can read Day 1 of the interview here and Day 2 here.