What I’m Reading #5

These are a few of the books I’ve been enjoying lately.

 The Worth of a Shell by M. C. A. Hogarth – This is not light reading, although it’s not “difficult” in the sense of reading level or language. It’s a story of consent and culture and the value of a person as an individual, not for the role in society they occupy but simply for existing. I discovered the book when it was included in the StoryBundle last year with The King’s Sword and only recently got around to reading it. Color me impressed. Hogarth managed to present an alien society as both truly alien and incredibly human, writing with deep emotion and tenderness. I haven’t read the rest of the trilogy, but I intend to. The blurb:

Born to a harsh world, we Jokka have evolved three sexes to survive: neuter, male and female. Twice in our lives we may change from one to another. A change we accept with grace… or resignation. It was our way. …until one female defied all tradition: Dlane Ashoi-anadi, revolutionary, intentionally childless, runaway.

This is not her story.

This is mine.

I am Thenet Reña-eperu, female-guardian, voice of orthodoxy… and Dlane’s first and dearest companion. This is the tale of how we changed each other… and how that changed everything.

Book 1 of the Stone Moon Trilogy (continues with Book 2: Pearl in the Void, and Book 3: A Bloom in the North).

 Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest – I also discovered this book in the StoryBundle. It is lovely and haunting and beautiful in every way. I can’t wait to read what Francesca writes next. I’ll let the blurb speak for itself.

Pen Pal starts with a message in a bottle and ends with revolution.

Em, a child from a floating community off the Gulf Coast, drops a message into the sea. It ends up in the hands of Kaya, an activist on the other side of the world, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Em and Kaya are both living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon their correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.

Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

 Sand of Bone by Blair MacGregor – Another book from the StoryBundle, this one was much darker than the other two, yet still enjoyable. The characters are harsh and often cruel, but the world is not without redeeming bright moments (mostly of the stoic courage variety rather than generosity or gentleness). It is both grim and dark but I don’t think it’s grimdark. It is full of interesting, complex characters and difficult decisions. If you’re looking for a light, pleasurable read that will cheer you up, this isn’t it, but if you’re looking for an intense dark fantasy with memorable characters and an unusual setting, I’d recommend it. The blurb:

Syrina – descendent of the gods, one of the Velshaan who rule the deserts and deltas, cast out by her bloodkin for daring to reject their intrigues.

They thought exile to Salt Hold – surrounded by parched earth and outcast Blades who despise her – would end her defiance. But Salt is safer than the grand alcazar of home when she uncovers the secrets of commanding sand, fire, water, wind – the power mixed with ambition that nearly destroyed her bloodkin in generations past.

Pyrius was the desert’s most respected Blade Commander until the bloodkin sentenced him into Salt. But he finds a way to keep his Blade vows while still exacting revenge: serve the exiled Velshaan Syrina. When her bloodkin’s threats become actions, Pyrius sets a plan in motion that will either prevent the looming civil war simmering in the desert’s heat or see them all fed to the sands for sedition.

Because Syrina’s ability to touch the desert’s deepest elements is still fickle and raw – too weak to defeat her bloodkin, strong enough her bloodkin want her stopped before she learns more. The gods demand a soul in trade, and the fate of the living rests upon the redemption of the dead.

 Kinsale Kisses by Elizabeth Maddrey – A lovely Christian romance novella by my favorite romance author. I’m not really much of a romance reader, mostly because in my admittedly limited reading of romances, there are a great many thin, boring characters. Christian romances (again, in my limited reading of fairly dated books) often skirt around the hard questions of sin and grace… can characters who aren’t perfect find love? Can characters be forgiven if they’ve really blown it? What does repentance look like? Grace that extends only to characters who’ve had a misunderstanding, or said a few unkind words, doesn’t ring true to me, and I could imagine that it wouldn’t be particularly reassuring or enticing to someone who is considering Christianity but thinks he/she needs to “clean up” first before even asking for grace. This is one of her easier books, and the first I read, but I knew immediately that I would enjoy her characters.

She wants stability. He wants spontaneity. What they need is each other.

Colin O’Bryan cashed out of the software company he founded and started a new life in Ireland. Content to wander from town to town as a traveling musician, he had no goals beyond healing from the betrayals that led to his career change, and finding his next gig.

After the death of her parents, Rachel Sullivan hoped her aunt’s B&B on the Southern coast of Ireland would be a place for her to settle and start a new life. Though she can’t deny the sparks in Colin’s touch, his lack of concern for hearth and home leave her torn. Can this free-spirited minstrel win her heart or will Rachel choose roots and stability over love?

This gentle inspirational romance will take you on a journey to Cork County, Ireland and give you a glimpse of Kinsale, Charles Fort, Blarney Castle, and Cobh as Rachel and Colin undergo their own journey of self-discovery as they learn that God’s plans are bigger than their own and that waiting on Him is worth the insecurity it brings.


 Wisdom to Know by Elizabeth Maddrey – This one is a bit more serious than Kinsale Kisses above, but no less lovely. It’s also free on Amazon, so if you want to check out Maddrey’s writing, it’s a great place to start.

Is there sin that love can’t cover?

Lydia Brown has taken just about every wrong turn she could find. When an abortion leaves her overwhelmed by guilt, she turns to drugs to escape her pain. After a single car accident lands her in the hospital facing DUI charges, Lydia is forced to reevaluate her choices.

Kevin McGregor has been biding his time since high school when he heard God tell him that Lydia Brown was the woman he would marry. In the aftermath of Lydia’s accident, Kevin must come to grips with the truth about her secret life.

While Kevin works to convince himself and God that loving Lydia is a mistake, Lydia struggles to accept the feelings she has for Kevin, though she fears her sin may be too much for anyone to forgive.


 Operation Valentine by Elizabeth Maddrey – Maddrey’s newest release, this is on the lighter side. As usual, her characters are real, flawed, and adorable.

Once love is lost, can it be found?

When Annabelle Elliot returned his engagement ring six years ago, Rick Wentworth buried his broken heart in his job at Intelligence Associates, Inc. Returning from his overseas assignment, a newly awarded contract forces him into daily contact with her.

Working with Rick is a constant reminder of what Annabelle gave up when she let herself be persuaded to focus on a career instead of love. Now, she admits she made a mistake, but reconciliation seems impossible.

Can Annabelle find the courage to let Rick see her heart? And if she does, will he forgive her?

This sweet contemporary Christian romance novella, inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is a modern reminder that love is worth waiting for.


 City of Masks by Mike Reeves-McMillan – Another enjoyable book by an author I trust to write good, likable characters. This book was thoroughly fun, and the epistolary style worked exceptionally well for the story. About as far from grimdark as you can get.

In the city-state of Bonvidaeo, by custom and law everyone must wear a mask and act in character with it, or face civil, social and religious penalties.

Gregorius Bass is sent to Bonvidaeo as the Envoy of Calaria, mainly to get him out from underfoot. Masked as the Innocent Man, and in the company of his radical young Bonvidaoan servant, Bass stumbles into mystery, intrigue, heresy and murder.

(Imagine if G.K. Chesterton and Alexandre Dumas adapted Pepys’ diary into a serial killer mystery set in a mad version of Shakespeare’s Italy. With wasps.)