Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Bone Witch

the-bone-witch

Title:  The Bone Witch

Author:  Rin Chupeco

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Pages:  400

Genre:  Science Fiction, High Fantasy

Setting:  The fictional world of The Eight Kingdoms

Source:    I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date:  March 7, 2017

Blurb:

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

What I Say:

This novel follows the story of Tea (pronounced Tay-ya, which wasn’t revealed until the very latter part of the book and I spent almost the entire time reading this book pronouncing it as Tea, like the drink. This really annoyed me.) from the moment when she discovers she’s a bone witch until she is about 17 years old. The story switches focus from following along her journey in learning who she is and how to be a bone witch in the world of asha, or witches, to a point in the future where Tea is exiled and communicating her story to another exile, The Bard.

I mostly enjoyed the parts of the story where it is being told in the first person from Tea’s point of view. During these scenes, we get to see how Tea is being trained as an asha. There’s action, humor, and a bit of romance. It’s very Harry Potter-like. The other scenes where the reader is given a third person point of view from the perspective of the Bard were a little confusing. The only thing you really get from these scenes is the Bard’s nervousness around Tea but not what her motivations are. What is she doing, exiled with only bones for company?

The book also ends on a cliff-hanger, not having resolved anything at all in the entire book. I get cliff-hangers and why this device is used in series and trilogies, but Chupeco could have chosen to, at the very least, clear up some of the cloudiness and mystery surrounding Tea. We don’t find out why she’s exiled, whose grave she mourns, who the Bard is and what role is he going to play, if any at all, what Tea is going to do now that her preparations on the beach seem to be completed, or why her brother and all of her friends seem to have abandoned her. Chupeco was a little bit too mysterious and I felt like she could have fleshed out Tea’s world a little better and the people in it.

That being said, I liked Chupeco’s lyrical writing. She is very poetic in her prose. It was easy to read and, like I said before, I really had fun with the parts of the story told from Tea’s perspective. This is an ARC though, so there’s room for changes to be made before the final release.

3 Hearts

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Iron Cast

iron-cast

Title:  Iron Cast

Author:  Destiny Soria

Publisher:  Harry N. Abrams

Pages:  384

Genre:  Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Setting:  1919 Boston, MA

Source:    I received a copy of this novel from SocialBookCo in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Publication Date:  Oct 11, 2016

Blurb:

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

What I Say:

What I liked about this book:

  • It has a diverse cast of characters.
  • The pace is steady.
  • It talks about racism, both real and with the fictional hemopaths.
  • The dialogue and use of period colloquialisms.
  • The cover is beautiful.
  • Soria’s writing makes you care about the characters.

What I didn’t like about this novel:

  • Having finished this book, I am still unclear as to what hemopaths are and the extent of their “powers”.
  • Some of the plot twists were predictable.

Iron Cast takes place during such an interesting time in U.S. history. In 1919, World War I has ended, but people are still scarred and recovering. It’s also on the cusp of the Roaring 20s. Prohibition is getting ready to pass, jazz and new dances are all the rage, fashion is beautiful and expressive of the atmosphere of the time and the slang and lingo is outstanding and fun. This story is about Corinne and Ada who had very different backgrounds growing up, but their hemopath affliction threw them together and they become thick as thieves…literally.

I liked both girls but Corinne is my favorite. She’s the spoiled rich girl in the story, but she’s also dynamic, funny, and Soria gives her more depth than she does Ava. Ava is the daughter of African immigrants and she knows nothing of a life of privilege. Together, she and Corinne are spunky, brave, and adventurous but alone, Ava is a bit one dimensional, which is a shame.

There are bits of romance in the story, but it would be on the bottom of the list of themes in this novel. The romance added just the right amount of spice without it becoming the main focus or feeling like Soria was trotting it out just to cross off boxes. Mostly, this story is about friendship and loyalty with some fantasy thrown in, in the form of hemopaths, and action and suspense from the cons that the girls run for their gangster-type boss. When Ava becomes imprisoned, you very much feel the suspense wondering if she’ll be tortured or killed and if Corrine will be able to rescue her. It was, at the foundation, a fun read.

However, Soria was light on the details surrounding hemopaths. We know from the blurb that Corinne and Ada are able to create illusions from singing and playing instruments. We also know that their abilities come from some sort of mutation to their blood. The reader also discovers that other hemopaths have different abilities all coming from different aspects of art. But why and how and how many people? When did the mutations start? Is it hereditary? This type of fantasy writing, overall, is pretty unique. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with characters with these type of abilities. Still, it would have been a much more satisfying story to have some of these questions answered, for Soria to have gone into more detail and background on the hemopaths.

Overall, I had fun reading this book and enjoyed it. It’s a great young adult novel and would have been fantastic with just a bit more detail. Still, for me, I read it in a couple days because I had a great time with it and I would recommend it to anyone who likes young adult novels with some unique fantasy topped off with suspense and romance. Check it out for yourself at SocialBookCo

(Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.)
Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Victoria

victoria

Title:  Victoria

Author:  Daisy Goodwin

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Pages:  352

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Setting:  Victorian England (I laughed when I typed this.)

Source:    Net Galley

Publication Date:  Nov 22, 2016

Blurb:

“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”

In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

What I Say:

I thought this book was very well written. In all honesty, I know very little factual information about Queen Victoria; most of what I know about her I’ve read in fictional accounts and Wikipedia. I cannot write about the veracity of Goodwin’s story, but then again, this is fiction and I shouldn’t have to.

What I judged this book by is how it pulled me into the story. I followed along with Victoria growing into being a queen and enjoyed the adventure from page one. We first meet Victoria when she is younger and before she’s become queen of England. It’s a bit of the backstory that portrays the uneasy relationship that she had with her mother and this relationship plays an important role in how Victoria rules and how she makes decisions.

The main story, however, is the struggle that this 18 year old girl makes as she transitions to being queen. How does one prepare for such an important role, let alone a teenager? She leans heavily upon the advice and wisdom of Lord Melbourne to the point where her mother, other nobles, and her subjects begin to question the actual extent of their relationship. Was there something going on between the two of the beyond subject and queen?

The story proceeds through time and takes the reader to when the romance between Victoria and Albert commences. If anything at all bothered me about this book, it would be the romance bits. At first, Victoria and Albert don’t get along. He’s too serious and she’s too flighty. Then it seemed as if it was an all of a sudden epiphany that Victoria realizes she loves him and proposes marriage. Maybe it happened this way in real life, but it really felt rushed to me. Then again, Victoria was being pressured by all sides to find a husband and one that her people would accept and she, herself, was looking for an ally.

That aside, I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the character development, Goodwin’s writing style, and the pace of the story. When I reached the end, I literally yelled out loud, “That’s it???” Reading eBooks tend to surprise me like that, lol. I truly felt like there was more to the story and I was sad that it ended where it did. I can easily see Goodwin developing this into a duology or even a trilogy. I definitely would read any further books she would happen to write about Queen Victoria. I gave this 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and consider this book one of my favorites from 2016.

5 Hearts

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Timekeeper

timekeeper

Title:  Timekeeper

Author:  Tara Sim

Publisher:  Sky Pony Press

Pages:  368

Genre:  Young Adult, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Steampunk?

Setting:  Victorian England

Source:    Net Galley

Publication Date:  Nov 1, 2016

Blurb:

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

From Me: 

Timekeeper was an intriguing novel. Set in Victorian England, the story is about Danny who is a clock mechanic. Without Danny and others like him, clock towers would not continue to function properly and thus, time would not function properly.

On a job, Danny meets a clock’s spirit, Colton, and they fall in love. It’s kind of a star-crossed lovers type of romance.

This book has a lot of romance and suspense. It’s definitely a page turner. The writing was good and Tara Sim doesn’t lose focus despite writing about several themes:  Victorian England, LGBT, science fiction, and fantasy. Other than the clocks controlling time, this novel was pretty light on the steampunk elements, which is why I added the ? in my beginning description. The time element itself was pretty unique. I can’t recall another book that I’ve read that used this theme in quite this way.

I was mildly annoyed by the relationships that Danny had with the adults in this book. They constantly doubted him, made decisions without Danny’s input, and generally were negative aspects in Danny’s life. Sounds pretty typical when you think of a 17 year old and adults. However, at times, it felt contrived and nitpicky rather than moving the story forward. This was minor though but still felt it was worth mentioning.

Over all, I enjoyed this novel and I can see the appeal to a younger audience. It was a fast read and I was surprised when I saw that it’s almost 400 printed pages since I read it as an electronic advanced copy. I’m not sure I’ll follow this series through and read the next one though.

 

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: To Capture What We Cannot Keep

to-capture-what-we-cannot-keep

Title:  To Capture What We Cannot Keep

Author:  Beatrice Colin

Publisher:  Flatiron Books

Pages:  304

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance

Setting:  1887-1890, mostly in Paris, France

Source:    Net Galley

Publication Date:  Nov 29, 2016

Blurb:

In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France–a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family’s business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.

Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live–one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman’s place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.

What I Say:

This was an interesting book. Set in the late 1800’s Paris, it’s filled with drama and romance. Cait is damaged, but strong and a survivor. She’s paid to be the chaperone to Alice. Alice is young, naive, spoiled, and easily led. What saves her from being completely irredeemable is that she’s very sweet. Alice’s brother, Jamie, is a playboy, spoiled, selfish, and entitled. I really disliked this character but I guess you could say that his redeeming quality is that he’s too young to know better, but that’s a convenient excuse. Then we have Emile. He’s the man behind Eiffel’s tower. Smart, complex, and flawed in many ways.

What I liked about this book was the history. Colin’s writing gives the story momentum and you’re definitely given the feeling of wanting to know what’s next.

What I didn’t like was that too many aspects of the story weren’t addressed in the end, which isn’t the same as an ambiguous ending, it was more like plot holes. Colin also jumped back and forth in time in the form of the characters recollecting past events. This, oftentimes, was confusing and felt more like an interruption than going with the flow of the story.

I thoroughly disliked the ending but can’t say why without spoilers. It’s the kind of the book with writing and characters that I’ll forget completely in a week or two. As a matter of fact, I finished this book on Oct 9th and without my written notes to jog my memory, I would’ve had a hard time writing this at all.

2 Hearts

Posted in Book Review

My Thoughts: Brave New World

brave-new-world

Title:  Brave New World

Author:  Aldous Huxley

Publisher:  Harper Perennial

Pages:  268

Genre:  Speculative Fiction

Setting:  Mostly in a dystopian London, England

Source:    Purchased for my own reading pleasure.

Publication Date:  Originally published in 1932

Blurb:

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

My Thoughts:

I read this book to coincide with Banned Books Week. I’m happy to say that I finished it on the last day. Yay! With that in mind, I can see why this is a challenged book. Take into account that it was first published in 1932, I’m honestly surprised it even saw the light of day.

In Huxley’s speculative future, promiscuity is the new religion. Big deal, right, until you take into account that it’s encouraged among small children as well. This shocking concept is used to demonstrate just how much social mores and ethics of this alternative world have changed from our reality. Not only is promiscuity a main theme of the novel, but so is materialism and genetic engineering. Huxley used these extremes as a parallel for how capitalistic and materialistic he viewed society as well as how he predicted the world would be in as few as 200 years from the time he wrote Brave New World. 

I enjoyed this novel despite wrinkling my nose whenever the children were trotted out in the novel which, thankfully, wasn’t often. I’m honest enough to say that I didn’t enjoy their role in the novel. I think that Huxley more than made his point about overt sexuality with the other characters in the story and adding in the children felt more like  a shock factor than a necessary additive.

What I found most surprising about this novel was how modern it felt when I was reading it. I had a very hard time remembering that this book was written in the 1930s. In the so-called utopian society that was genetically engineered I pictured it, in my head, looking like something out of the 1950s, kind of like The Jetsons. Huxley had some really advanced thinking and imagination with the technology he invented.

This book is a fast read, possibly one sitting, and easy to read as well as to get into. While I don’t think I’d recommend this book to a 8th grade or younger reading list, I would recommend it to any other reader.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Mathematician’s Shiva

mathematicians-shiva

Title:  The Mathematician’s Shiva

Author:  Stuart Rojstaczer

Publisher:  Penguin Books

Pages:  370

Genre:  Fiction

Setting:  Madison, WI, USA

Source:    Purchased for my own reading pleasure.

Publication Date:  Sept 2014

Blurb:

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch and his family would like to mourn the passing of his mother, Rachela, with modesty and dignity. But Rachela, a famous Polish émigré mathematician and professor at the University of Wisconsin, is rumored to have solved the million-dollar, Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem. Rumor also has it that she spitefully took the solution to her grave. To Sasha’s chagrin, a ragtag group of socially challenged mathematicians arrives in Madison and crashes the shiva, vowing to do whatever it takes to find the solution — even if it means prying up the floorboards for Rachela’s notes.

Written by a Ph.D. geophysicist, this hilarious and multi-layered debut novel brims with colorful characters and brilliantly captures humanity’s drive not just to survive, but to solve the impossible.

From Me:

I have to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I had no idea what to expect going into it, but after the first few pages, I was hooked.

This novel is poignant and funny and even ruthless in its honesty at times. It’s told from the viewpoint of Sasha, the son of Rachela who is a famous mathematician. Before this book, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as famous mathematicians. When Rachela passes, mathematicians descend upon Sasha’s family en force to sit shiva with them. In actuality, they’re there to find the solution to the Navier-Stokes problem, thinking that Rachela had solved it and hidden the solution somewhere in her house or office.

It turns out that mathematicians, while brilliant and intimidating in their brilliance, have little to no social skills. They figure that finding this solution is more important than giving the family peace and privacy to grieve. In their social ineptitude, they’re a funny bunch. This element of comedy keeps the novel from being too heavy. Added to the mathematicians are Sasha’s family, who are old school Slavics and Jews and eccentric in their own ways. It was fun getting to know this entertaining cast of characters.

This book, with Sasha “speaking” to the reader on occasion, really makes you think and feel like this is a true story. I had to stop myself several times from Googling something or a name that I read in the book. Stuart Rojstaczer is that good of a storyteller. Aside from being a smarty pants himself with a Ph.D. in geophysics, he’s an exceptionally talented writer. I highly recommend this book to all readers.

5 Hearts