Book Review - Armor for Orchids (Audio)

Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Christian Romance, Religious & Inspirational Fiction
Buy the book: Amazon

Confession (see what I did there? πŸ˜‰).  I make dumb jokes, I know.  Being totally honest, though, I don't really like Christian romance books.  Like any genre, there are things that automatically come along with this type of book...things that I don't love.  To be clear, I am a Christian, so I know what I'm getting into on that side of things, but a lot of the things the mainstream church in America does annoys me...to put it really lightly.  That being said, Armor for Orchids really impressed me in some ways, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was fortunate enough to win an audiobook version of this book from the author, Diana Anderson-Tyler, herself.  How did I do this, you may be asking yourself.  Audiobooks aren't cheap, so that's a pretty sweet prize.  Because I'm signed up for her newsletter!  You should sign up for it too.  You get a free book and opportunities to win cool stuff.  Plus, Diana is a super sweet person, and I can personally attest that she won't spam you or sell your email address.  You can sign up here to be cool like me. πŸ˜Ž  So I won the audiobook.  Hooray!  Again, if I'm honest, there were a lot of things working against me and this book ever coming together.  I already said I'm not really a fan of Christian romance books and for a long time I thought I hated audiobooks.

In general, I can read faster than an audiobook can be read to me, so I'd better enjoy what I'm listening to.  This was not the case with the first audiobook I ever listened to: The Hunger Games.  Golly Pete, I hated that series.  It was Cecil Baldwin, the voice of the amazing podcast Welcome to Night Vale that salvaged any remaining shreds of enjoyment I had in me for listening to a story.  The narrator of Armor for Orchids, Margaret Glaccum, did such a lovely job.  I think my favorite thing about her reading was the subtlety with which she characterized each different person.  I always think it sounds ridiculous when a female narrator goes super low to portray a male character or vice-versa.  The different voices were distinct enough to be able to recognize one from the other but not so much that it was distracting.  After you got to know each voice and who it represented, they all flowed really well.  Well done!

As for the story itself, let's start with what I liked.  Firstly, I really appreciated that one of the characters, Marissa, struggled with an eating disorder.  Granted, it wasn't dealt with on a super deep level, but the book is about four different women.  It would have had to have been much longer in order to address the specific issues of body dysmorphia, self-esteem and self-image, etc.  Given that some people don't take eating disorders seriously and that Christian romance has a tendency to be quite Saturday-morning-cartoon-esque, I really applaud Diana for bringing this very serious issue into the light.

I also really liked how distinct each character was.  All four women had different personalities, histories, interests, etc.  My two favorites, however, were Elise and Poppy.  I can forgive the gender role complaint I make further down in Poppy given that she's a much older lady from a time where those gender roles were very much in play and a part of life.  And the proud geek in me loves Elise for her interest in Star Wars and science, though her character does still fall prey to the gender role assignment issue.

And I loved the flower theme that runs throughout the entire book.  You know how some themes are really labored and you're like, "Yes.  We get it!  It's a metaphor.  Blah."  The theme in this book is woven artfully, naturally, throughout the book.  I would kind of forget about it for a while, and then it would reappear in some small way before moving on.  Excellent book craftsmanship!

Okay, now for what I didn't like so much.  Basically, I had two hang-ups with this book.  Firstly, I hated just about everything that had to do with Charlotte's story.  Her attitude pissed me off, I could have smacked her husband (he just up and leaves the room left, right, and center!), and Charlotte describes herself as "belonging" to him and vice-versa.  People are not objects; they are not possessions to be owned.  They are independent, free individuals, married or no.  And I found the description that Charlotte uses for erotic romance novels as "filth" to be quite a judgemental descriptor.

Secondly, the super-duper-mega-strong gender role assignments.  I dislike any entertainment that separates men and women, dumps them into separate boxes, and says, "Okay, now all these characters are women so they have these specific traits and predilections and personalities.  And now we do the same thing to the men-folk."  As I said above, I can forgive this in Poppy because she's much older, and that sort of outdated thinking is applicable to a much older time period, but not for a modern-thinking, younger character.  Lots of movies and TV and books need to learn this, though, so it's not like this book is alone in this issue.

All in all, if you like Christian romance stories and authors like Francine Rivers, you will love this book!  Thanks for reading!

Book Review - Stella's Awakening

I started the book one sunny afternoon...

I started the book one sunny afternoon...

And finished around 4am that night/next morning.  That gives you an idea of how this review is about to go, ;)

And finished around 4am that night/next morning.  That gives you an idea of how this review is about to go, ;)

Star Rating: 5/5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Erotica
Buy the book: Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon): A painful past. A forbidden romance. Will she choose love and make the ultimate sacrifice?  For Stella Welsch, buying a home and starting her own business has already pushed the boundaries of her strict upbringing. When she meets the sexy and powerful executive, Conrad Adams, Stella knows he’s off limits, but can't help daydream about forbidden romance. As sparks begin to fly, Stella reveals that the relationship could have her cut off from her family and life as she knows it.

If I had to describe this book in three words, I would say, "Very sexy fairytale."  And I am an absolute sucker for fairytales, so I mean that as a huge compliment.  It ticks all the right boxes for me, plus a few extras that I didn't expect.  You've got the handsome romantic interest, check.  Engaging and enjoyable female lead, check.  Ridiculously unrealistic and wholly enjoyable fantasy element in the form of Conrad's wealth, double check.  Honestly, this man could probably buy a small country and rule as king if he wanted to.  Okay, that last one is actually true for a small fraction of people in the world, but for plebs like me, it's a fantasy. :)

And then there's the pacing.  Man!  It pushes you along at just the right pace.  I think that's actually one of the things that impressed me the most.  Like, a transitionary bit would come along where it's building up to more exciting, plot-progressing stuff, but little promises for the future were dropped in to keep you reading through the transition points.  And those points (which I think are a challenge for any author) were made really interesting - little glimpses into the sweet side of Stella's life with her family, which really spoke to me on a personal level because her family in the kitchen sounds a lot like mine: carefully controlled chaos. XD

Warning: there is one bit that is very sad and brought me, the not-cryer (seriously, go about your business and stop looking at me I'm totally not crying) to tears.  It's so hard but sooooooo good.

So all those basic elements are fantastic.  Here's what I didn't expect and really appreciated.  So I was annoyed with Conrad at first because he is a bit bossy and obviously used to getting his way.  I got a little defensive for Stella because I was worried the relationship would be unhealthy and one-sided and maybe even potentially dangerous.  When it came down to it, though, he asked her if she was sure, making sure he had her consent, making sure she felt safe.  This.  Is.  So important!  And I cannot express how much I appreciate that RK did this.  Yes, fiction is an escape and it's not realistic all the time (which is part of what makes reading so fun), but this is one of those things I think is an immutable necessity.  I won't get into all the reasons here because it is a long, complicated, incredibly nuanced, multi-faceted conversation.  Suffice to say, consent and feeling safe is necessary.  So bonus points for making that an important feature.  At least, I definitely didn't see it as being glossed over in any way.

Now, there is one bone I have to pick.  Fair warning, this might get a little hippie-dippy-Kumbaya-soapboxy...I dislike the position Conrad takes with Stella's religious beliefs, specifically the fact that he calls them "weird".  Not the most respectful way to describe someone else's faith.  Now, I admit that I have a bit of a personal vendetta against this word, weird.  I've heard people use it my entire life to describe things different from them, as if being different is somehow wrong.  The world is full of different beliefs.  One of my good friends is Muslim, I am a Christian, and my twin sister is Wiccan.  Our beliefs vary widely.  We respectfully disagree about the way we believe the world works, but I would not call either of their beliefs weird.  I don't think they would do that to me either.  So that does bother me, but I didn't deduct points (why do I always rate books like a game show?) because different characters have to have varied opinions and viewpoints to make them diverse and three-dimensional and realistic.  Doesn't mean it doesn't still irk me, but it is good character creation.

So there you have it!  Will I be reading the next book in the series.  Oh!  It seems to have already fallen into my Kindle library.  Imagine that. 0:) Yes, I fully enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take an emotionally complex, steamy rollercoaster ride.  Just be sure your calendar is clear because you will not want to put it down!

Thanks for reading!