Posted in blog stuff, Book Review

Book Review: Furyborn

Furyborn.jpg

(Isn’t this cover gorgeous???)

Title:  Furyborn (Empirium #1)

Author:  Claire Legrand

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Pages:  512

Genre:  Fantasy

Setting:  Empirium Fantasy World (If they name the world, country, etc., I missed it.)

Source:    I received this novel from NetGalley for my honest review

Publication Date:  May 22, 2018

Blurb:

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

What I Say:

I am excited to write this review. This was such a great read and it’s nice to have a positive review versus my previous one (which I’ve considered deleting, and may still do so, many times).

This story is told from the perspective of Eliana Ferracora and then, in the past, Rielle Dardenne. Both are young women trying to survive in their respective worlds but in entirely different ways.

Rielle has to prove that her powers over the elements are completely within her control and that she intends to use them only for the protection of her world. She’s forced to do this in the form of trials, one for each of the elements, where the goal only seems to kill her. All the while, trying to resist her attraction to the prince, who is already betrothed to Rielle’s best friend.

Eliana is a bounty hunter trying to earn enough money to send her mother and brother to a safer part of the world. She exchanges her own peace for violence in order to achieve her goals.

How do their lives, with Eliana living 1,000 years in the future, intertwine? The reader is brought along on both of their journies in a fast-paced story filled with magic, danger, and love. These are all themes that most are familiar with, however, Legrand writes them in a way that’s totally unique and new to the genre. And it’s fun! I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. (This is what sucks about ARCs, lol.)

My only beef with this book:  This book is labeled as young adult but I’d be surprised to see this turn up in a high school library. The amount of violence and sex sets it above young adult. Just my opinion.

4 Hearts

 

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Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Player’s Game

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TitlePlayer’s Game

Author:  Desirae Clark

Publisher:  BLVNP Incorporated

Pages:  186

Genre:  YA Romance

Setting:  Scottsdale, AZ

Source:    I received this novel from DigiWriting via NetGalley for my honest review

Publication Date:  Dec 2017

Blurb:

And when I turned around, I expected to see my annoying little sisters but was instead greeted by a familiar face. In the threshold stood Parker Brady with a devious smirk on his face and the looks of a god. 
Samantha Valentine’s life turns upside down when she finds out her family is returning to her old town, Scottsdale. It took her a while to make the city her home, and now all of that is for naught, as she has to learn to settle in a quiet town again.

Parker Brady is perfectly happy to make a mess of his life after his best friend, Samantha, left him. He felt betrayed by his most trusted friend, and now he doesn’t care about anyone anymore. The only thing that matters to him is getting girls.

The two are not so thrilled when they meet after years of being away. Old grudges resurface from the past.

Will Samantha and Parker restore their broken friendship? Or will something else rise from its ruins?

What I say:  

The book opens in Manhatten with Samantha finding out that her mom’s been given a transfer (or new job?) in Scottsdale. This means returning to the town from which they had moved six years prior. Samantha had to endure the painful process of moving, leaving her friends behind, and starting a new school only to turn around and do so again, ending up where they started. The only part of this story that made perfect sense was Samantha’s angst and worry about moving, which she gets over the very first day at her new school.

Enter the old “best friend”, Parker, she left behind who’s turned into a teenaged Lothario and has made his way through all the girls at his high school. Samantha turns to him as her friends from her NY school fade out of her life. He spends the night at her house and her mom even says that it’s ok for Samantha to spend the night at Parker’s. Who does this?

Speaking of her mom, barely three months after they move back to AZ, the mom finds out that she has to take a business trip to London. It could last a few days or a few months (at one point, Samantha says she hopes it isn’t years) but that’s ok because Samantha can stay by herself for an indeterminate amount of time and Samantha’s 14-year-old twin sisters can conveniently stay with a couple that the mom has just met. Who does this????

Even more strangely, Samantha’s old classmates turn up at her AZ high school as part of some alien off-world exchange program in which private Manhattan schools drop their kids off at public, rural-type schools in Arizona. Who does this?????

The romance that blossoms between Parker and Samantha was cute and it played out as it’s played out in dozens of YA romance novels throughout history. This bothered me a bit too as the writing style and level of writing is suited to the YA set but the sexual themes were more than I’d want my 15 or 16-year-old to be reading. But this is very much my own opinion and personal to me.

I could go on about other things that were wrong with this book. For instance, how the book ends with talk about their upcoming senior year when throughout the entire book, I was thinking these kids were already seniors and guessing Samantha’s age to be about 18 from context clues (doing the math from when Samantha says they moved to NYC and how long they lived there). Or how about when their class goes on a “field trip” that spanned a weekend and the principal gave some of the kids (conveniently, Samantha and her group of friends) to stay in their own vacation houses that were owned by their families. Never in a million years would this happen at a school-sanctioned event.

I hesitated writing this review because there was so much wrong with this book. Another reviewer pointed out that a lot of the problems could have been solved if Clark has just set this in college and not high school. Still, if some of the off-the-wall, confusing elements of this book were slightly altered, it’d have great potential as a YA romance.

1 Heart

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Bookworm

The Bookworm

Title:  The Bookworm

Author:  Mitch Silver

Publisher:  Pegasus Books

Pages:  352

Genre:  Mystery

Setting:  Russia and Alaska mainly.

Source:    NetGalley

Publication Date:  February 6, 2018

Blurb:

Europe, 1940: It’s late summer and Belgium has been overrun by the German army. Posing as a friar, a British operative talks his way into the monastery at Villers-devant-Orval just before Nazi art thieves plan to sweep through the area and whisk everything of value back to Berlin. But the ersatz man of the cloth is no thief. Instead, that night he adds an old leather Bible to the monastery’s library and then escapes.

London, 2017: A construction worker operating a backhoe makes a grisly discovery—a skeletal arm-bone with a rusty handcuff attached to the wrist. Was this the site, as a BBC newsreader speculates, of “a long-forgotten prison, uncharted on any map?” One viewer knows better: it’s all that remains of a courier who died in a V-2 rocket attack. The woman who will put these two disparate events together—and understand the looming tragedy she must hurry to prevent—is Russian historian and former Soviet chess champion Larissa Mendelovg Klimt, “Lara the Bookworm,” to her friends. She’s also experiencing some woeful marital troubles.

In the course of this riveting thriller, Lara will learn the significance of six musty Dictaphone cylinders recorded after D-Day by Noel Coward—actor, playwright and, secretly, a British agent reporting directly to Winston Churchill. She will understand precisely why that leather Bible, scooped up by the Nazis and deposited on the desk of Adolf Hitler days before he planned to attack Britain, played such a pivotal role in turning his guns to the East. And she will discover the new secret pact negotiated by the nefarious Russian president and his newly elected American counterpart—maverick and dealmaker—and the evil it portends.

Oh, and she’ll reconcile with her husband.

What I Say:

First of all, isn’t that blurb a little spoiler-ish?

I chatted about this book a little in my previous post. It turns out that I was wrong about it going back and forth in time. The 1940s perspective is told from recordings that Noel Coward made.

This book was a multi-pronged story. You have the historical aspect of it and the “truth” of how Hitler chose his targets. How much truth is there to Coward’s testimony? Where’s the bible? Then you have the Russian side of things and the main character, Lara. She’s a history professor and she’s approached by shady looking guys with dictaphone cylinders and a handsome “reward” if she uncovers the whereabouts of the missing Bible. Then she’s given an even more handsome offer by another party. Who’s working for whom? Who are the bad guys here?

We also have the American aspect of things. Lara’s brother, Lev, just happens to be working in Alaska at an oil field. He makes an unexplained discovery in the daily course of his job and the next thing you know, his American counterpart turns up dead. How does Lev’s discovery and the President of the United States fit into this puzzle?

This was a well-written story. Silver has quite the imagination, which made the book interesting and fun to read. With the Russian, American, British, and German characters, settings, and histories, making a play, there were times when I got lost and had to do a bit of backtracking (mainly at the rushed ending). I don’t think Silver was trying to do too much, necessarily, I think this was just me being me. This book was very political. I’m not sure if Silver was being a storyteller or a conspiracy theorist, lol. I thought the ending felt slightly rushed, but ends were nicely tied off. Maybe a little too cleanly, but that’s purely my opinion.

I gave this two stars on Goodreads simply because I don’t enjoy politics, especially extreme politics. This story very clearly and emphatically took sides. For me, “it was ok”. Purely on the writing alone, I’d give this a very solid three stars. Silver’s storytelling skills are strong, his characters fleshed out and likable, but the politics bogged it down for me.

One last tidbit…The title is incredibly misleading, lol. This is not a book about books or readers at all.

2 Hearts

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Grey Mask

grey mask

Title:  Grey Mask

Author:  Patricia Wentworth

Publisher:  Warner Books

Pages:  256

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Setting:  UK

Source:    I purchased this novel for myself.

Publication Date:  November 1, 1986

Blurb:

After Charles was jilted at the altar by Margaret, he discovers that she is mixed up in a vicious kidnapping plot masterminded by a sinister figure in a grey mask. Charles turns to Miss Silver to uncover the strange truth behind Margaret’s complicity, and the identity of the terrifying and mysterious individual behind the grey mask.

What I Say:

I mentioned this book in a previous “What I’m Reading” post. I hesitated adding to those initial thoughts because honestly, my opinion didn’t change. At the time of that post, I still had more than half of the book to read. Again, I’ll say that the mystery part of the novel kept me guessing until the end. However, and without spoilers, I don’t think it was possible to have guessed the outcome prior to the ending because the author held back those revealing details.

Also, as I previously stated, this series of books is called “A Miss Silver Mystery”. I found it completely odd to name a series after a character who only appears in the book on a handful of pages and she was, at best, superfluous to the story. Yes, she aided in helping Charles solve the mystery of Grey Mask, however, the reader never gets to see how Miss Silver conducted her investigations. Seriously, I’ve never read a series of books where the title character was so underutilized.

In the end, I gave this two stars on Goodreads and have no intentions of reading any more books from this series despite other reviews. My review is definitely in the minority with this book having garnered an average of 3.74 stars on Goodreads, so maybe I am being overly critical. I stand by my opinions because, for me, the characters were forgettable and the world-building was flat. For a cozy mystery, this novel had little atmosphere.

 

2 Hearts

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Fountain of St. James Park

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Title:  The Fountain of St. James Park or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

Author:  Sena Jeter Naslund

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Pages:  448

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction

Setting:  Revolutionary France and modern day Kentucky

Source:    I purchased this novel for myself.

Publication Date:  Sept 17, 2013

Blurb:

How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the realities and heartbreaks that lie behind such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the artistic processes and lives of creative women

Sena Jeter Naslund’s inspiring novel-within-a-novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, creates the lives of a fictional contemporary writer and of a historic painter whose works now hang in the great museums of Europe and America. Both women’s creative lives have been forged in the crucibles of family, friends, society, and nation.

The story opens at midnight beside a beautifully illumined fountain of Venus Rising from the Sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished her novel about painter Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, a French Revolution survivor hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Though still haunted by the story she has written, Kathryn must leave the eighteenth-century European world she has researched and made vivid in order to return to her own American life of 2012.

Naslund’s spellbinding new novel presents the reader with an alternate version of The Artist: a woman of age who has created for herself, against enormous odds, a fulfilling life of thoroughly realized achievement.

What I Say:

The premise of this novel is so intriguing:  a story within a story, one being told in the 3rd person in modern times and the other being told in 1st person from a historical perspective. The modern-day main character is Kathryn, an older author who has just completed her latest novel about Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun, our historical main character. Kathryn’s story is told mainly in the present, mixing in perspectives from other characters that touch her life. Kathryn’s part of the story is extremely introspective with very little dialogue.

Then we have our artist, Elisabeth Le Brun. Elizabeth was a celebrated artist in Marie Antoinette’s court. She is known for her portraits of Marie Antoinette as well as other nobles from the era. Also, some of her more famous paintings include her self-portraits. We get to know Elizabeth from the time that she was a child in convent school until she is an old lady, having survived the guillotine, the loss of her daughter, and fleeing France to travel as an ex-patriate.

These chapters of the book, for me, were the most enjoyable. I found Kathryn to be annoying. Also, vignettes were tossed in from time to time from the perspective of her friends and her ex-husband. I thought these additions detracted from rather than added to the story. One specific scene involving her neighbor and her ex-husband left me baffled as to what the point of it was.

I could go on with the many things that I found wrong with this novel, devices that were used that were obvious, plot holes that were never filled, etc., but instead I will say that I learned quite a bit about Elizabeth because the tidbits that Jeter Naslund included were intriguing enough that I conducted quite a few Internet searches while reading this novel. Another thing that I will say, as a result of my own research, is do not take the historical bits of this novel as fact because, WOW! did Jeter Naslund take liberties, which is her right as a fiction writer, I know. But she presented certain events as factual when they were, in fact, either rumor or just didn’t happen the way she wrote them. Sheesh.

I rated this book as a 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because of Elizabeth’s chapters. This is the second Sena Jeter Naslund novel that I’ve read and disliked. I just don’t think her writing is for me. It took me 11 days to read this book, which is a very long time for me.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors

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Title:  Behind Closed Doors

Author:  B.A. Paris

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Pages:  304

Genre:  Fiction, mystery, suspense

Setting:  Modern day England.

Source:    I received this novel in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher.

Publication Date:  Aug 9, 2016

Blurb:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

What I Say:

This was very Sleeping with the Enemy-esque but unique in its own way. The story starts out in the Present with Grace and Jack hosting a dinner part at their home. Things seems pretty much normal and even pleasant if it weren’t for Grace’s nervousness about the entire evening. This is our first hint that things aren’t as they appear and that Jack and Grace aren’t the perfect couple that their friends think they are.

The story goes on to switch from the Present to the Past in alternating chapters and is told in the first person point of view from Grace’s perspective. This was the first thing that I thought was unique about this book. Granted, this isn’t a novel in a genre that I normally read, but I fully expected it to be told in the third person. How can an author maintain that edge of suspense when the main character is giving everything away? Paris does so and very well. She manages to reveal certain things in the present but the reader doesn’t truly get their meaning until Grace is relating events from the past.

Another unique aspect of the book is that though the chapters alternate from past to present, they gradually come together in time. I don’t recall another novel using this same method and I thought it was really clever. Paris managed to portray a woman at the mercy of her husband who was both strong and flawed, which is something that I personally appreciate in female characters. I don’t need them to be perfect, but I can’t get on board with pathetic either, lol.

While Paris does use some of your traditional suspense writing methods, I thought it was balanced out and equaled a very enjoyable suspense novel. I read the book in one sitting in about five hours (my Internet went out in the middle of the day, lol). It was an entertaining and easy read, great for a cold afternoon on the sofa with a blanket over your lap.

4 Hearts

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Lost Property Office

lost-property-office

Title:  The Lost Property Office (Section 13, #1)

Author:  James R. Hannibal

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages:  400

Genre:  Middle grade, fantasy

Setting:  Modern day London

Source:    I received this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher.

Publication Date:  Nov 8, 2016

Blurb:

James R. Hannibal presents a thrilling adventure through history, complete with mysteries, secret items, codes, and a touch of magic in this stunning middle grade debut.

Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace.

But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance.

Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short?

What I Say:

This book was a lovely mix of middle grade fantasy and London history. We meet Jack and his sister Sadie in a London hotel. Sadie wonders off looking for her father and Jack goes in search of her and finds not only his sister but the Lost Property Office. Here, we meet Gwen, an apprentice clerk. Gwen reveals the true nature of Jack’s dad’s work and how Jack is also a part of the Lost Property Office. Together, they meet the Clockmaker and discover that he is responsible for Jack’s father’s disappearance and in order to get his dad back alive, Jack must find the Ember and hand it over to the Clockmaker. Thus, the adventure begins as Gwen, trying to prove herself, helps Jack search for the lost Ember. Through their detective work, Jack learns more about the Lost Property Office as well as other secret societies that exist in London.

This book is full of fun, adventure, and laughter. It is cleverly written and hard to put down. I had a great time reading this book and I’m looking forward to future installments in the series. This is Hannibal’s first foray into middle grade writing and he does a superb job. He stays true to writing in the middle grade form, nothing overt in terms of language, violence, or Jack and Gwen’s relationship; he kept the focus on the kids’ adventure. I also loved the elements of steampunk added in for flavor. As if all that weren’t enough, you even learn about London’s Great Fire of 1666 in a clever and witty story.

I highly recommend this book to all middle grade readers and fans of adventure mysteries.

4 Hearts