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.)
Advertisements
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: 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

Book Review: The Heretic’s Creed

heretics-creed

Title:  The Heretic’s Creed (Ursula Blanchard #14)

Author:  Fiona Buckley

Publisher:  Creme de la Crime

Pages:  224

Genre:  Mystery, Historical Fiction

Setting:  Elizabethan England

Source:    Net Galley

Publication Date:  Jan 1, 2017

Blurb:

Ursula Blanchard must acquire a mysterious medieval manuscript in the latest enthralling historical adventure.”
“February, 1577. ” Sir William Cecil has a dangerous new mission for Ursula Blanchard. He has asked her to visit Stonemoor House on the bleak Yorkshire moors, the home of a group of recusant women led by Abbess Philippa Gould. In their possession is an ancient book, and the Queen s advisor, Dr John Dee, is eager to get hold of it.
However, while the Abbess is anxious to sell the book, others such as her half-sister Bella believe it to be heretical and demand that it be burned. It is not Sir William s first attempt to secure the book. His two previous emissaries vanished without trace. What happened to them and will Ursula suffer the same fate?

From Me:

Overall, I liked this book. It had a good story and Buckley is aces at setting a scene. Her descriptions of the English moors makes the reader feel the cold and desolation of the scene.

What I didn’t know when I requested this book, was that it was the 14th book in the series. I had never heard of this series or author prior to seeing the book on Net Galley. That being said, and without having read any of the other books, I still think it does just fine as a stand alone. Every once in a while, prior references were made to previous “adventures” so you know you’re missing something, but it didn’t seem pertinent to the story. However, I thought that character development was on the light side. This could be because by now, the reader should be familiar with these characters and maybe the author takes that for granted. Still, it makes it so that the novel is more story driven than character driven. It also makes the main character, Ursula, feel contradictory.

On the one hand, she’s an agent of Queen Elizabeth and has been sent on many “missions” in the past. This makes her a strong, independent woman for the times, in charge of herself and of others. She carries lock picks and knows how to use them. Then, the next thing you know she’s in a panic, fearful, and crying. Is this supposed to be her character’s flaw? Is this normal for Ursula? I can’t really say.

In the end, it was an interesting book and read very much like a gothic novel. It’s eerie and suspenseful in the same vein as Jane Eyre or Northanger Abbey but not like Stephen King. I’d recommend this book to fans of Gothic novels, period novels, and strong female leads. I’ve been considering getting the first book and seeing how that goes.

3 Hearts

Posted in Community

Top Ten Tuesday: Fave Books

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

toptentuesday

This week’s topic is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre. I don’t like this kind of pressure. So, I’m adding a caveat to mine to say these are books that I really like in the historical fiction genre at this moment in time. I’m not listing them in any particular order either because that’s too much pressure.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
  2. The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. Madame Tussaud:  A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
  5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey
  6. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  7. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
  8. Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

For some of my picks, I only listed the first book in a series. I could have filled my list with books by just one or two authors because they’ve written so many books in a series, but I wanted my list to be more diverse.

Posted in Book Review

Let’s Pretend This is Tuesday

I am so upset that I didn’t get to this post yesterday. It was National Read a Book Day!! I’ve been fighting a summer cold for about a week now and yesterday, I was convinced my head was trying to throb its way off of my neck. I could barely move let alone type. My headache did back off around 9 last night so I was able to read, which was nice, but I wasn’t able to chat about it until now.

sherlockian

Yesterday, I finally finished The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. It took me 15 days to read this book. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have a flow that kept me from putting the book down. Moore wrote this book from the perspective of Harold, a Sherlock enthusiast/scholar/fan/ and from Arthur Conan Doyle’s perspective; alternating chapters from 1900 to 2010. Just when I started getting into the story, the chapter would end and I would have to switch times and characters. Oftentimes, I would forget where the one time had left off and would have to go back two chapters to refresh my memory. Considering the story that Moore was trying to tell here, I can’t imagine another way that he could have written it and maybe other readers have an easier time staying with the flow of a book like this than I did.

Harold’s story involved trying to solve the murder of a fellow Sherlockian and recover a missing volume of Conan Doyle’s diary. Harold is by no means a detective, but he figures that he would have as much of a chance as anyone else at solving the murder with all of his Holmes knowledge. Arthur Conan Doyle’s part of the story is Moore’s speculation as to what is in the missing diary. Since nobody knows what’s actually in the missing diary, Moore’s story is as good a guess as any. This book is almost a retelling of the events that actually occurred surrounding Conan Doyle’s diary and Moore does an excellent job of it.

I considered dnf’ing this book a couple different times, mostly because I was frustrated with myself and not the book. However, considering how much I enjoyed Moore’s The Last Days of Night I was convinced that it would be worth it to finish the book, so I did, and it was. I liked the ending and Moore’s author’s notes made the entire journey worthwhile. I think that somebody with Harold’s enthusiasm for all things Sherlock Holmes would have enjoyed this book more than I did and they wouldn’t have struggled with it quite the same way that I did either. That being said, I would recommend this book to people who like to read books about books and authors, historical fiction, and those who imagine themselves to be sleuths. I’m giving this 3 hearts out of 5 only because I don’t do fractions. In reality, it’s more of a 3 3/4 hearts.

3 Hearts

 

Posted in Book Review, Reading

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

The Last Days of Night

Title:  The Last Days of Night

Author:  Graham Moore

Publisher:  Random House

Pages:  384

Genre:  Fiction, Historical Fiction

Setting:  Mostly NYC, but also in Pittsburg, and a few other midwest places. 1888.

Source:  Net Galley

Release Date:  Sept 27, 2016

Blurb:

New York, 1888. The miracle of electric light is in its infancy, and a young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing Paul is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown attorney shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it? In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

From Me:

I’ve been on a real historical fiction kick lately. I can’t seem to get enough of these novels and what’s more, I can’t find enough of them!

Moore’s prose is lyrical and inventive. He not only brings these historical characters to life, makes you takes sides, and helps you to better understand them past their notoriety, but he also brings the reader into the setting and era through his descriptive writing. In this novel, we get to know Mr. Westinghouse, Mr. Edison, Mr. Tesla, and Mr. Cravath, all inventors, of a type, in their own right.

Before this novel, I had never even heard of Cravath, but upon doing some research, I learned that he’s responsible for the ways in which law offices work today and they even still call it the “Cravath System”. What’s more surprising, is that through Moore’s writing, I realized that I had no idea who George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla are beyond their contributions to science (and some of those I didn’t know either) and their inventions. Moore weaves a story and presents a dramatic stage for these men and I was enthralled from page one. Honestly.

I think, beyond the story, my favorite part of this book was the author’s notes. Moore gives a chapter by chapter breakdown of where the story diverged from history and where it remained true. As a history buff, I was deeply appreciative of this. Knowing these changes, additions, and embellishments adds to my personal enjoyment of a historical fiction novel. Moore also included his sources with each note so that the reader can find out more for themselves, which I plan on doing. I had no idea that Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla, and J.P. Morgan were such fascinating men beyond what I know of them from the very basic. They are no more simple than the debate of who really invented the light bulb is.