Friday, March 31, 2017

The Dark Alchemy Trilogy

A few years ago I read a really creepy young adult book called The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle. Most of the time when a YA book claims to be creepy I end up being really disappointed, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. It really was a good creepy book. I read that book and it's sequel and then I looked for more by this author. In my search I came across her latest trilogy written for adults, the Dark alchemy trilogy. While I can't say I enjoyed it as much as her YA books it was still pretty darn good. What I like about it the most is that it's a bit different from other paranormal fantasy books I've read.



Dark Alchemy (Dark Alchemy, #1)Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal



Petra Dee is a geologist looking for her father who disappeared in the town of Temperance, Wyoming twenty years ago. Why she waits so long to look for him, I'm not exactly sure, but she has just come from a traumatic experience where she lost the man she loved because of an accident and blames herself for it. Petra doesn't believe in anything she can't prove through science. Little does she know how much her world view is about to change. While in Temperance Petra discovers that there is a whole lot of weirdness there involving alchemy and magic.

I liked Dark Alchemy quite a lot aside from the fact that there is a whole lot of cursing in it that I could have done without. I can ignore it to an extent, but I felt like it was excessive here. There is a lot of mystery to unravel in this book and it kept me turning the pages. The story has a bit of a wild west feel to it, mixed with the whole "somethings not right in this small town" theme. Petra and Gabe were probably my two favorite characters. Gabe had me feeling all warm towards him, yet repulsed at the same time. Not repulsed by his personality, but by his secret and what it entailed. I did feel like the kissing scene in the trailer after Petra "rescued" Gabe was kind of came out of nowhere. The romance definitely could have been developed better, but other than that I liked the way their uneasy relationship progressed.

This is the first adult novel I've read by Laura Bickle. I read her YA duology The Hallowed Ones and really liked it. I was expecting this to be on par with The Hallowed Ones as far as creepy horror goes, but it wasn't really that creepy at all. I really want to categorize this as Urban Fantasy, but it's not in an urban area, so I'm going to go with paranormal for now. The ending left me feeling sad for one character, but there is a sequel, so I'm hoping that part of the story continues.




Mercury Retrograde (Dark Alchemy, #2)Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal 



At the beginning of Mercury Retrograde it has been 2 months since the events in Dark Alchemy. This time around Petra Dee finds herself battling a basilisk and a female motorcycle gang/cult who call themselves The Sisters of Serpens. I'll give you one guess what they worship. It's also been 2 months since Gabe last spoke to Petra. The ending of Dark Alchemy was rather heart wrenching as far as Gabe went and was the main thing that kept me reading this series.

While I did not find this book as good as Dark Alchemy I did enjoy it. What I enjoyed about it were the parts about Gabe and The Hanged Men. If there had been more focus on The Hanged Men and less on the giant snake I might have given this a higher rating. I'm not even sure I really liked the overall plot of this book. The parts with the giant snake felt like watching one of those Syfy channel B movies at times. I also kind of felt like the motorcycle gang/cult was a little pointless, and I never really cared about Cal or what happened to him. But I was very happy that Gabe got some resolution to his story line.

I kind of wish this had just been a duology instead of a trilogy or series or whatever it's going to end up being, but I will probably stick it out and read the next book because I don't mind continuing on with Petra's and Gabe's story.




Nine of Stars (Dark Alchemy, #3)Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal 



Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.

As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.

It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.
 


Nine of Stars was a good entry into the Dark Alchemy series. I liked it better than the last book, but that ending! Way to leave us all hanging. Apparently the author has decided to make this trilogy a prequel to another series called The Wildlands. At least I think that's what she's doing. I'm a little confused. I'm still enjoying this series though and I'm curious about what direction it is taking in the new series. I do want a couple of things resolved in the next book though.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.



The Rook is what I would describe as Jason Bourne meets Men in Black meets X-Men with a touch of James Bond thrown in. It sounds like nonstop fun doesn't it? Well the beginning is very intriguing and had me turning the pages. However it became a less compelling read when the info dumps in the form of letters from the original Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with an M and if you don't know what I mean by original, then you haven't read the book description) began to intrude on the present day action. I'm not sure why we had to have two missions interrupted by these letters. It was kind of aggravating to me, and just made the whole story less compelling which in turn made it seem like the book was far longer than it actually was. I didn't mind the letters themselves. They were vital to the story, but I just didn't always like where they were placed within the story.

I ended up liking Myfanwy a lot, at least the present Myfanwy. I don't think I would have liked her predecessor very much. The book was loaded with interesting characters and good action scenes, at least when they weren't interrupted. I think the book had the right amount of humor and action. Parts of it still make me giggle if I think about them.

Overall this was a fun read that was at times more compelling than others. I originally wanted to read the sequel, but now that I've found out it's a companion novel with different characters I'm not so sure.



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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two ghost stories by Simone St. James

Back in October I was really in the mood for some ghost stories and author Simone St. James's books caught my eye. Although the romantic relationships in these really bothered me, I was mostly happy with these as they filled my need to read something creepy. I also really enjoyed the time period that these are set in.



An Inquiry Into Love and DeathAn Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery



After her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must travel to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents - a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own - escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house and is haunting the woods around Blood Moon Bay. If Toby discovered something sinister during his investigations, was his death no accident?

This is the first book I've tried by this author and I enjoyed it a lot. It had the creepy ghost story element to it that I loved. I do wish there had been a bit more of it though. I felt like it was overshadowed a little by the murder plot which I thought was too easy to figure out. The best thing about this book and the thing that kept me reading was the whole atmosphere of it. I enjoyed the setting, the characters, and the creepy ghosts enough to give this 4 stars.

There is a fair amount of romance in this book. I didn't mind the romance in general, but there was a certain aspect of it that I wasn't crazy about, namely the nature of the relationship from the beginning. It didn't seem too convincing as anything more than insta-love, or maybe lust in this case. I was happy with the way the romance ended up in the end though.

I've heard that the author's first book, The Haunting of Maddy Clare has more ghosts in it so I think I will try that one next.




The Haunting of Maddy ClareThe Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery



Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

The Haunting of Maddy Clare was a good but not great read for me. I was somewhat disappointed for a couple of reasons, the first being that although there were a lot of ghost scenes in this book, they were not really all that creepy to me. I found the ghost scenes in An Inquiry into Love and Death to be creepier, even if there were fewer of them. The second thing I disliked was the insta-love/lust. I wasn't crazy about the romance in An Inquiry into Love and Death, but it was even worse here. The reason I had an issue with the romance so much in this book is because of the first romantic (really not romantic) encounter and how it was portrayed.

*Minor spoilers here so skip down to the next paragraph if you don't want to read about the love scene...The love interest enters Sarah's room in the middle of the night, says nothing to her, and roughly thrusts himself upon her. As soon as he's done he apologizes, saying he won't do it again. Sarah actually tells him she's glad that he did, even though she thinks he has probably just used her. She seems to blame it on his PTSD, which still doesn't make it ok! Seriously ladies, don't ever be ok with someone using you for any reason. This scene was rather disturbing to me. He never asked her permission and up to this point he had hardly even spoken to her. He barely knew her. And even though she kissed him back and raised up her night gown I felt like some verbal communication was needed.

Even though I was disappointed in some things about this book, there are things I like about this author's writing style. Her story telling is excellent and I like the setting of the 1920s a lot. It's a nice departure from the Victorian and Regency era historicals that I've been reading, despite the fact that I feel at times the characters are a bit too modern in their morals for the setting. I like ghost stories so I may get around to reading more from this author. I do have a couple more of them on my to-read list.





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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Scarlet Widow (Beatrice Scarlet #1)Scarlet Widow by Graham Masterton

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Horror



London, 1750: Beatrice Scarlet is the apothecary's daughter. She can mix medicines and herbs to save the lives of her neighbours - but, try as she might, she can't save the lives of her parents. An orphan at just sixteen, Beatrice marries a preacher and emigrates to America.

New Hampshire, 1756: In the farming community where Beatrice now lives, six pigs are found viciously slaughtered, slices of looking-glass embedded in their mouths. According to scripture this is the work of Satan, but Beatrice suspects the hands of men. As she closes in on the killer, she must act quickly to unmask him - or become the next victim herself...


This would have been 3.5 stars, but I'm docking a whole star from this book because of the rape scene, which I will talk about later. When I picked up Scarlet Widow I was expecting something a lot milder; something along the lines of a mild historical mystery. I probably should have done more research, especially on the author before I read this. This is an author who has a history of writing horror and that became obvious as I read this book. There were some very gruesome murders. This is definitely not for the squeamish.

The things I liked about the book were: it kept me glued to it from the first page; the protagonist was a strong, intelligent person; and it kept me guessing throughout most of it.

There was something about the writing style that kept me turning the pages. I found Beatrice to be very likable and intelligent, and her interest in her father's profession was one part of the book I really enjoyed. For a girl back in the 1700s, Bea was an independent thinker. I liked reading about Bea's past with her parents in London, and I found the part with her relatives interesting too, although they were not ideal. That part with her crazy uncle was shocking and weird and personally I think it could have been left out of the book completely as it didn't really seem to fit.

After Bea immigrated to America, the mystery behind what was happening to the townspeople kept me guessing for a long time. Not the part Jonathan Shooks played, that was obvious, but who or what was behind the whole thing. Was Bea right about it being a person behind it all, or were the townspeople right that it was a demon or Satan himself? Logic says that Bea is right, but I've read enough supernatural type books to know that it isn't always the logical answer. And if it is just a person then who? Those were the questions I kept asking myself. The mysterious person in the brown cloak was an easier mystery to figure out. I kept wondering if that person was who was behind the murders. I'm not going to say if it was or not though because of spoilers.

The things I didn't like so much were: the strict puritanical views of most of the people; the superstitious beliefs of most of the people; the lack of any real emotion or romance between Bea and Francis, whom I didn't find very likable at times; and the rape scene.

Superstitious Puritans do not always make for pleasant reading. It's hard to believe that people could be so ignorant and superstitious, but they can- The Salem Witch Trials come to mind. Also the way women were viewed really angered me. Bea was such an intelligent woman and I had a hard time not being disappointed in who she chose to marry. He was a good man, but I think she would have thrived in a less puritanical setting. I felt like her husband Francis was mostly boring, and we really aren't given any reason why she fell in love with him. Their whole courtship is skipped over. Their scenes in bed as husband and wife are just the mechanics with no romance or real emotion. I would have rather they had just been skipped over completely because they didn't add anything to the story. This might sound sexist, but I've yet to read a romance scene written by a man that I've liked.

That brings me to the rape scene. The author couldn't craft a good love scene, but he didn't have a problem writing all the awful details of a rape scene. I don't know if that was done on purpose, or just the way it ended up, but it bothered me. I've read rape scenes in books before and they fit the story and were a part of the plot. They didn't leave me as disturbed as this one did. This rape was really unnecessary and I didn't want to read all the details of it. It bothered me more than the grisly murders did. For the writer to put the main character through that after reading through over 80 percent of the book was just needless. It did nothing for the story and felt like it was just put there for shock value. I kept thinking someone would come and help her, but no one did. Where was the mysterious person in the brown cloak then? I'm sorry if anyone thinks this is a spoiler, but I think potential readers need to know this is in the book. Had I known, I probably wouldn't have read this book.

It turns out that this is the first book in a series. While I would kind of like to know what happens next in Bea's life, I'm not sure if I can go there again. The rape scene just tainted the whole reading experience for me.



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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



***There are some relationship spoilers in this review.

The Bands of Mourning is the third book in the Second Era Mistborn series and it was just as good as the first two. It's rare that I like every book in a series equally, but that's what happened here. Hopefully the fourth and last book will be just as good too.

There's a fair bit of traveling in this book, but it's a good thing. A kandra has images that seem to depict the Bands of Mourning, metalminds that belonged to the Lord Ruler, that are supposed to give whoever wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had. Wax is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate, while Marasi has a mission to find a missing Kandra spike. So Wax, Wayne, Marasi, and even Steris this time, travel to New Seran and beyond to investigate. While there they encounter Wax's uncle and learn more about what he is up to, and as usual with a Sanderson book, there end up being a few big surprises.

Yet again I came away loving each of the characters. I did feel like Wax dove headlong into things a couple of times without thinking them through, but I can't help but like the guy. I still loved Marasi and although the Mariwax ship has sailed- I'm not gonna lie, I did find that a little disappointing- I feel like things ended up how they should anyway. It's rare that I'm this ok with a relationship I've been such a fan of not happening. Steris grew on me a lot in this book and I can see how she and Wax are not only good together, but good for each other. They sort of balance each other out. Steris makes him think before he acts.

One thing I really like about the Mistborn world is that the magic system continues to be added to and evolve. It's just really cool how that happens. I don't think I've ever read another fantasy series that accomplishes that the way this one does. I'm looking forward to reading the next book. I just wish I didn't have to wait so long!



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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Archived and The Unbound

I picked up this book, The Archived,  to read a couple of years ago. I had never read anything by Victoria Schwab (she goes by V.E. Schwab for her adult books) so I didn't know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the description of this book. It sounded rather macabre but fascinating. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, so much so that I read the sequel as soon as I could get it from my library. The best thing that came out of reading this book was that I was introduced to an author that I enjoyed reading and I eventually read her Shades of Magic books, which I liked even better than these.



The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Archived by Victoria Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

In this story the dead are called Histories and their bodies rest in a place called The Archive. Each body has a story to tell, and only the archive librarians can read them. Recruited by her grandfather, Mackenzie Bishop has been been working for The Archive for just four years. The Archive is a secret place that not many people know about so Mac has kept it a secret from the rest of her family just as her grandfather did. After her grandfather dies, Mac becomes a Keeper. When Mac discovers someone is deliberately altering Histories and erasing essential chapters she sets out to find out who is doing it and why.

The Archived is kind of like Warehouse 13 with dead bodies. The bodies are copies of dead people that contain the history of those people. Or picture a library with stacks of morgue type drawers containing these bodies instead of books. Sometimes these bodies wake up and escape and it's the Keeper's job to return them to the archive. The younger the body, or the more recent the history, the more restless they are and the more prone to waking up they are. The older the history the deeper asleep they are. Most of the time the older histories do not wake up. I liked that the older histories were asleep and kind of forgotten; a lot like real history is to a lot of people. How many times do we really think about things that happened a long time ago? Mostly we think about more recent events.

I thought this was a pretty original idea. I liked the character Mac and I also liked Wesley, even if I could have done without the guyliner. Yes, he wears guyliner. The biggest weakness of the book to me is that there is no real reason given for why the archive exists, other than it's the Keeper's job to protect the histories. It's kept a secret from everyone but the people who work in it or for it, so who really uses it and why are all of those histories stored there? It just kind of seems to exist for no reason. Despite that I enjoyed reading this so I am planning on reading the next book. Maybe the reason the archive exists will be explained in it.






The Unbound (The Archived, #2)The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy









Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

I thought The Unbound was a very good follow up to The Archived and I had a really hard time putting it down. I liked the way we get to see Wesley in a whole different light here. There was a side to his life that was hidden from Mac in the first book. Also the edition of some new characters was nice.

I do have a few of small complaints. One would be that Mackenzie keeps one bit of information from everyone including Wesley and Roland and there was no real reason for her to, except to create drama later in the story. Another is that there just doesn't seem to be any reason for the character Sako to dislike her so much, or Agatha for that matter. And I also disliked that Mackenzie kept wanting to protect Wesley like he was some fragile flower. But most importantly, did it answer my questions about why The Archive existed? No, not really. Despite those things I still managed to like the book quite a lot. The story is wrapped up pretty well in the end, but there looks to be a planned third book, although the author has said she doesn't know when it will be released. When or if it ever is I will most certainly read it.



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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Through Waters Deep (Waves of Freedom #1)Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Romance, Mystery



It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.


Through Waters Deep is a light romance/mystery. There were some Christian elements to it as well, which at times I liked and at other times I thought was a little heavy handed. What I liked most about this book was the time period. I've always been interested in the 1940s, especially during WWII. I've seen countless movies from that time period, but have not read many books from it or about it, so it was interesting to read about what was going on just before the U.S. entered WWII.

Although this book was mostly fictional, there were a few aspects of it that were pulled from real events. I thought the conflicting opinions about entering the war were very well drawn, and the tension felt very real. The mystery of the saboteur was pretty easy to figure out, although there were a few red herrings thrown in, only one of them fooled me into believing that person was involved.

The romance between Mary and Jim was sweet and I liked that it was a slow building one, at least up until the point Quintessa comes to town. The book went downhill for a while after that. I didn't really see the need to throw that obstacle in the way. Mary's going overboard with the pride thing and being a martyr for her friend annoyed me, even though I could understand why she thought the way she did. Jim's not speaking up about his feelings for Mary annoyed me as well. I wanted to shake both Mary and Jim a couple of times. I mean oh my gosh, JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER! At a couple of points I felt like throwing my Kindle against the wall. This is the reason I couldn't give this book 4 stars.

Like most romance novels, this one is part of a companion series. I plan on reading the second book, which features Jim's best friend Arch and his sister Lillian.



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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cuckoo SongCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Horror



When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...
 


It took me forever to finish Cuckoo Song simply because it wasn't compelling me to pick it up and read it. I kept finding other things that I would rather do and that's when a book usually ends up on the abandoned book pile. I liked this book, so I stuck it out. I can't really explain why I wasn't drawn into it as much as I would have liked to have been. Maybe it was the author's writing style, I don't know.

I don't really want to say anything about the plot. One of the reasons I wanted to read this was because the description intrigued me, so I really don't want to take the experience of unraveling the mystery away from anyone. I wanted to find out what horrifying thing had happened to Triss. I think once I found out I lost interest a little, even though the rest of the story was good, I wanted the book to get to the conclusion a lot sooner than it did. The best things about this book were the relationships that formed and were repaired. And also if you like creepy dolls, then there are some in here.

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak. 

I think the author did a good job with the dolls. They ramped up the creepy factor which I liked. This is the first book I've ever read by Frances Hardinge, but I think I can say that she has a uniquness to her writing that I haven't encountered elsewhere. I'm not sure if I will read anything else she has written yet, but I'm definitely not crossing her off my list.



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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



Shadows of Self is the second book in the Wax and Wayne series (Mistborn Era 2), and it lives up to its predecessor in every way possible. I would say this one isn't as funny as The Alloy of Law and it has a heavier tone to it. That makes sense though because the stakes are higher here as our heroes combat a rogue Kandra who is not only a deranged killer, but also deals some shocking revelations along the way as she tries to throw the city into chaos, while pitting religious factions against each other.

If there is a downside to this book, I would say it is that we don't really get any plot progression concerning what Wax's uncle is up to with the women he has kidnapped. I was really hoping to find out more about that. I guess we will have to wait until book three to find out more.

I once again loved the characters. Wax, Wayne, Marasi, Melaan, and even Steris were all great. Steris grew on me a little more, even though she does play a disappointingly small role in the books so far. I can relate to Steris with her social awkwardness, but not with her super planning and plotting of everything. She was a little too cold for me in the beginning, but we get glimpses of warmth underneath her cold façade here and I like that.

To me, Marasi is the best female character in the books. I like her adventurous spirit and her courage. I also like that even though she has a thing for Wax she doesn't sit and pine over him or act stupid about it. I think Sanderson did a good job of showing her disappointment in Wax's rejection without making her bitter or jealous. Some of her best parts in the books are during her interactions with Wayne. They are always priceless. And Wayne - what would these books be like without him? I don't even want to think about it. He is the comic relief for sure. He is to Wax what Ron is to Harry in the Harry Potter books; a great sidekick.

Here are a few of my favorite Wayne-isms from the book:

“Spectacles. They were kind of like a hat for smart people.”

“I ain’t drunk,” Wayne said, sniffling. “I’m investigatin’ alternative states of sobriety.”

“Proper loafing requires company. One man lying about is being idle; two men lying about is a lunch break.”

“It's better if I have a hat...You wanna know a guy? Put on his hat."


I also loved the conversation Wayne has with Melaan about accents. And Melaan is a great addition to the story. She is a truly interesting character. I foresee lots of good stuff in future books involving her character.

Wax is his usual self, the lawman from the Roughs who isn't quite comfortable being back in the city. I enjoyed the scene near the beginning of the book where he and Steris enter the party by landing on the balcony instead of walking through the front doors. And he wears his mist coat to the party. His interactions with Steris are nice and they have a good rapport, but I'm holding out hope that he will end up with Marasi. Those two belong together!

There is a shocking twist thrown into the story that is pretty devastating for Wax and in the end we leave him at a very low point. I thought the ending was pretty agonizing and I'm glad I have the next book right here so I can start on it right away. Originally I thought this was a trilogy with all the books already released, but I just learned that there is a fourth book being released and it's not going to be released until next year! Ugh, I was trying to avoid a wait like that! Hopefully the next book will not end with a huge cliffhanger or anything.

Oh and before I go - this fan art! I love it so much.
description




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Monday, March 20, 2017

Julie Klassen Books

Occasionally I get in the mood for a historical romance. I discovered Julie Klassen's books a few years ago and although Christian romance wasn't really something I was looking to read, I really ended up liking these at lot. The religious aspect in these is usually done just right for me, not too preachy and overt. The historic Regency setting coupled with a little mystery is what really drew me to these books to begin with. Here are my reviews for six of Julie Klassen's books...



The Girl in the GatehouseThe Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance



Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself by writing novels in secret.

Captain Matthew Bryant returns to England after the Napoleonic wars and leases an estate from a nobleman. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past.

The Girl in the Gatehouse is the first book I read by Julie Klassen and I liked it enough to want to keep reading more of her books. I enjoy the theme she explores in this book about redemption. Mariah, the main character here has made her share of mistakes and has paid for them. I really liked Mariah a lot. I thought she was a lovely person and Matthew was an idiot for being so hesitant about the relationship.

I had a harder time liking Matthew at certain points in the book because he was too worried about social standing and what other people thought, and too quick to judge Mariah for her mistakes, but he eventually comes around

There were a few too many coincidences in the story, but it was still very enjoyable.




The Silent GovernessThe Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 
Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery



Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret that could change his life forever. When he sees a person lurking around on the grounds of his estate, he's afraid a spy or thief has overheard this secret. But he soon learns the intruder is a woman who has been badly injured. Fearing the woman will tell his secret, he gives her a post and confines her to his estate.

There were several mysteries to figure out in The Silent Governess. It wouldn't have been half as good without them. The romance between Edward and Olivia was slow in developing, but I thought that made it all the more believable. I enjoyed seeing the slow change in Edward, and it ended very nicely.

 



The Painter's DaughterThe Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance



Sophie Dupont assists her father in his art studio, while painting her own landscapes of the picturesque north Devon coast. When handsome artist Wesley Overtree, takes an interest in Sophie she quickly falls in love with him. Eventually the carefree Wesley ends up leaving Sophie and traveling to Italy, leaving her in a precarious position.  

Soon after, Wesley's brother, Captain Stephen Overtree, is on leave and comes to Devonshire in search of his brother to try to bring him home so that he can take care of his responsibilities there. He meets the lovely Sophie and feels duty bound to help her because of his brother's actions. Stephen ends up proposing to Sophie, offering to marry her in name only to save her from scandal. 

Sophie is desperate for a way to escape her predicament, but she finds herself torn between her feelings for Wesley and his brother whom she barely knows.

The Painter's Daughter is another great Julie Klassen book. I loved all the characters in the book, well except for one, but he wasn't meant to be all that likable. I do feel like things ended a bit too neatly wrapped up for everyone, especially with the situation concerning the child. Surely some complications would arise from the situation. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it's one of the only historical romance books I've added to my favorites list.




The Tutor's DaughterThe Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery



Emma Smallwood agrees to travel with her father to the distant Cornwall coast when his academy fails. A baronet whose two older sons attended the academy has hired Emma's father to tutor his two younger sons at their manor there. But after they arrive at the manor some mysterious things begin to happen.
 

The baronet's two older sons, Phillip and Henry, who used to attend her father's academy, both remembered Emma as an awkward young girl, but she is very different now that she's all grown up and one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her. 

The Tutor's Daughter is a Christian Regency romance with a bit of Jane Eyre (the large mysterious house with a family secret and odd noises in the middle of the night), a little of Jamaica Inn (the wreckers who profit off of ships sinking off the coast) and a dash of Sabrina (The 1954 Audry Hepburn movie) thrown in. I liked this combination a lot. I also really enjoyed the slow build of the romance.

I did feel like the book was kind of long and I usually prefer the religious aspects of these type books to be more subtly woven into the story. Unfortunately in this one it got a little heavy handed for me near the end, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.






The Secret of Pembrooke ParkThe Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery



Abigail Foster's family is forced to sell their London home because of financial problems. With next to no dowry Abigail is afraid that she will end up being a spinster. Soon the Foster's are visited by a solicitor who offers them something unexpected that they cannot refuse; the use of distant manor house, Pembrooke Park, that has been abandoned for eighteen years. 

The Fosters make the journey to Pembrooke Park and are surprised to find that it seems the previous occupants just vanished and left everything. There are tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, and a doll's house left mid-play. They also hear rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

There is lots of mystery surrounding Pembrooke Park, and of course it was the mystery that really drew me in. It reminded me a lot of The Tutor's Daughter in that aspect. Although I wasn't sure about a few of my guesses until they were revealed, I did figure out all of the mysteries.

Though a bit long (this is Klassen's longest book to date), I found it hard to put down. I liked reading about all the characters. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the Parson being a love interest at first, but he was humble and not overly preachy which was nice. There was the irritating trope of characters thinking the one they love is in love with someone else that runs prevalent in these Regency romances, but I was able to overlook it.

Minor spoiler here...I did feel like the message of not seeking worldly treasures was a little heavy handed near the end with the way things end up for the character Miles. I was kind of sad and disappointed about that. I really thought he was going to come around and find happiness.




Lady MaybeLady Maybe by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Historical Romance



Hannah is a ladies companion who has been in an accident and has lost some of her memories. After the accident she awakens in a room she has never seen before and she is tended to by unfamiliar faces. But she does remember fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby, and a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie. But most of all, she remembers a secret that she can trust no one but herself to keep.

I've read several books by Julie Klassen and usually know what to expect. She writes Christian romance that is usually not too preachy, which I like. They are sweet, completely clean romances. Lady Maybe actually surprised me because it is unlike anything else I've read by the author.

There have been several reviewers who disliked this book for one reason or another. Some because they felt like the romance or "sexual" scenes got too descriptive, or because the main character was too tempted and made too many wrong choices throughout the book. Personally I didn't have a problem with this book at all. I like my romances to be clean and I honestly didn't feel like this one wasn't. There is a flash back scene with more description than usual for a Julie Klassen book, that leads up to an act between an unmarried woman and a man, but it was still fade to black with no detail written about the act itself.

This isn't the first Klassen book that I've read that has a character who has done something in their past that they are ashamed of. I like to read about characters that struggle and learn from their mistakes. The difference in this book is that the main character is still struggling with honesty and is tempted morally, and she has several choices to make about her present and future which could lead her down the right path or the wrong path. In the end she does her best to right the wrongs in her life which I think makes the book worth reading.

The point of the book was that there is redemption for all and I thought that point was very well drawn without being preachy. The part where the main character stops the boy from throwing the apple at the woman in the stocks and quotes "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" was a nice touch and helped to drive home the whole message of the book. It was interesting that she went and sat beside the woman in the stocks, and that she forgave her for the things she had done to her. How many of us would do that?

At times I struggled to like the main character or either of the two love interests in the book, but that somehow made the story better and the characters more real to me. Also the fact that there is a love triangle in a Klassen book surprised me as I don't remember any of her other books containing one. But this was a love triangle done right and it made a lot of sense to the story.

I thought one of the best things about this book were all of the twists and secrets involved. It really kept me reading and wondering and hoping I was guessing right about things. In the end I was happy with the way things turned out.




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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Never Knowing: A NovelNever Knowing: A Novel by Chevy Stevens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery



All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara never had an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure.

But some questions are better left unanswered.


I picked up Never Knowing and was sucked into it pretty much immediately. The story is told through therapy sessions with the main character, Sarah telling her Psychiatrist, Nadine what has been happening in her life. This could have worked well if it had been done differently. Unfortunately I didn't think it worked all that well because all we get is Sarah starting to talk to Nadine and then it goes into the story and we forget that she is even talking to her psychiatrist until the end of each chapter when she once again addresses her. It would have been nice to get some feedback from Nadine, but it just feels like Sarah is rambling on and on and Nadine isn't really there.

In the beginning I liked the main character, Sarah and her fiancé, Evan a lot, but as the book goes on I liked them both less and less. Sarah actually began to really get on my nerves. Her constant going back and forth and in circles, obsessing over everything, and blaming herself for things a serial killer was doing got old and started to drag the book down after a while. I really got tired of reading the word "guilt". If she were a real person that I knew she would drive me crazy. The thing is that even though I found her annoying, I totally understood why she was the way she was. She grew up with her adoptive dad blaming her for a lot of things that weren't her fault, withholding affection from her, and pretty much causing her to feel like she didn't matter. One really frustrating thing about this book is that she never confronts him about all of this. I really, really wish she had.

Evan began to bother me with the way he dealt with her and treated her over a few things in the book. He got jealous over stupid things and just seemed like he wasn't very available emotionally for her. However, I could see how Sarah could be emotionally draining so I get why he reacted the way he did at times.

What if murder is in your blood?

This could have been an even better story if the author had explored the relationship between Sarah and her serial killer father on a deeper level. The thing about this book that really gripped me was the dialog between Sarah and her father. I went from being horrified and scared right along with Sarah when he first contacts her to─ and I never thought I would say this─ to actually feeling sorry for him at times, even though he was a serial killer. He was a sick person who didn't want to be, but there was just no fixing him even though he thought Sarah could.

There is a twist in this book, but unfortunately the twist was something I saw coming for miles and was hoping it wouldn't go there because it was just so implausible. I could believe everything else about the book could really happen, but not that, and it kind of ruined the book for me.

I enjoyed reading this book even though I found it disappointing in some ways and I may eventually read something else by this author. There is a book that was written a few years after this one with Nadine as the main character that looks interesting.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.



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Friday, March 17, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal



A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.


Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children was well- a peculiar book. I liked the inclusion of the vintage photos. Some of them were pretty creepy and you have to wonder what in the world people were thinking when they took them.

For me this book was just mediocre. There are a few reasons for this. For one, it took too long to get to the real meat of the story. I think it's around 30 percent in when it finally starts to take off. Even after we get there the majority of the characters are not as fleshed out as I would have liked. I also felt that the romance between Jacob and Emma was weird. In the beginning Jacob realizes that she is attracted to him because he reminds her of his grandfather, whom Emma was in love with. Emma and the other peculiar children are really in their 70s and 80s but have not aged because they are stuck in a time loop, so they all are stuck as teens. Initially Jacob shies away from her attentions for this reason. However, just a couple of days later, Jacob seems to have forgotten this and he's kissing her anyway. This resulted in not only an insta-love type relationship, but it's also a weird one because of the whole grandfather thing and it sort of seems like she just likes him because of who he reminds her of and not for who he is.

I did really like the end of the book. It packed a little bit of an emotional punch as Jacob made a decision about staying with the Peculiars or his family. This is one of those books that will probably make a good movie, and truth be told I saw the movie trailer in the theater and thought it looked interesting. That is what led me to read the book. I'm not sure if I will continue reading the series.





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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Winner's Trilogy

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. 


It's always a plus when you love a book not just because the story is good, but because the book itself is beautiful. Everything about this book was good; the story, the cover, the pages in between. I'm categorizing this one as fantasy. It's set in a fantasy world even though there is no magic in it, and it reads like a traditional fantasy in many ways. I'm not really sure what other category I could put it in.

The world in The Winner's Curse is so full of gray. It is about the conflict between two nations of people. One has been conquered by the other and is enslaved. There is no easy answer for either side. I felt for both sides of the conflict. It illustrates how, even if one side's intentions might be in the right, there are good and bad people on both sides of a war. I wanted the Herrani to be able to be free, but I felt some of the things their leader did were wrong and made him just as bad as the Valorian leaders who had enslaved his people. All of this made the story a very compelling read.

I enjoyed the way Kestrel was written. It was refreshing that she wasn't good at combat. That in no way made her a weak character. She had a sharp mind and was a good strategist, who also happened to really love music. So we got something a little different here. I liked the way the relationship between Kestrel and Arin unfolded. No insta-love here. Thank goodness! There is what some people would call a love triangle, but I didn't really consider it one since its clear from the beginning that Kestrel doesn't feel that way about the other guy.

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the next book in this trilogy.




The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy


I was very happy to find that The Winner's Crime does not suffer from that middle book slump that a lot of second books in trilogies suffer from. The best way to describe The Winner's Crime would be frustratingly good. Frustrating because I wanted to slap some sense into both Kestrel and Arin at times, but oh so good despite that.

This book employed the trope of keeping a secret from the person you love. Normally that frustrates me to no end and it effects my enjoyment of a book, but in this case it somehow didn't. I got why Kestrel kept the secret, at least at first, but there was a point where I just wanted to shake her. And there was a point where I just wanted to shake Arin because I thought he could have seen the truth behind things a lot sooner if he had really wanted to.

The reason the book was so good was due to the very real emotions of the characters. There were so many conflicted feelings and even loyalties, just like the first book The Winner's Curse. It had a way of getting under my skin and wrenching my heart. This is not one of those YA trilogies with easy answers.

The ending has left me feeling like a rock has settled in the pit of my stomach and it's going to be there until next year when The Winner's Kiss comes out. So if you aren't a fan of waiting between books I wouldn't recommend reading this series until all three books have been released.




The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy


The Winner's Kiss starts off pretty much where The Winner's Crime left off. Kestrel is on the way to a work camp, devastated by her father's actions in the previous book. Meanwhile, Arin wants nothing more than to forget about Kestrel and move on. Arin with the help of the Eastern prince, Roshar is busy battling the Valorian army. I have to say that I never really came to like Roshar a whole lot, but that was probably due to the fact that we are kept guessing about his intentions throughout most of the book.

For the most part I enjoyed this book, but it seemed slower than the two previous ones. The one thing I wasn't real crazy about was the memory loss. It just felt like a convenient way to keep Arin and Kestrel apart longer. It was still a 4 star read for me though. The romance aspect of this book was just right for me, very sweet and romantic. My favorite thing about this book was the theme of forgiveness and love. Kestrel's relationship with her father was interesting and I wish there had been more dialog between them. I was very happy when Kestrel realized that she still loved her father despite everything he had done. I also liked that I was never sure if both Arin and Kestrel would survive. There was one twist that I didn't see coming at all and when I finally got what was happening, it made the book so much better.

This whole trilogy has been one that has kept me on the edge of my seat wanting more, and this was a really good ending for the trilogy. I will be looking for more books by this author.




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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

'til Death (Rockwell Return Files Book 1)'til Death by Jason Anspach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Comedy



'til Death was a fun, light read. Sam Rockwell is a private investigator who specializes in Returns, or ghosts who have not crossed over yet because they have some sort of unfinished business. In this book Sam's father is murdered and comes back wanting his help. I enjoyed the combination of hard-boiled mystery, ghost story, and comedy. There were some funny moments in the book, but it wasn't quite as funny as I was expecting it to be.

I mostly liked the characters in the story, even though Frank was off-putting at first, and Alice was like a regular June Clever. Frank ended up growing on me over time. In the beginning he wasn't a very likeable character, but his growth and realizations about himself were what made me like him in the end. Too bad he didn't come to those realizations until after he was already dead. I didn't blame his wife for not being upset over his death in the beginning, even though I did find the nonchalant attitude most people in the book had about death a little odd. The reasoning behind it made some sense, but was still a bit of a stretch. I would expect at least a little shock at finding out a loved one is dead.

On the other hand I liked Sam and Amelia almost immediately, even though Amelia wasn't all that well fleshed out as a character. I especially enjoyed the parts where Sam tried to pretend, with varying degrees of success, to be like the detectives in the hard-boiled mystery novels he was reading.

There is a sequel to this and I'm guessing there will be quite a few more books written in this series. If you're looking for a good clean, light mystery that harkens to the days of hard boiled mystery, but doesn't take itself too seriously then you might like this book.



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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seraphina and Shadow Scale: A five star book with a one star sequel

Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of reading Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. It ended up being one of my favorite books that year and I waited and waited for the sequel to be released. It ended up being a three year wait after the release of the sequel got pushed back. In the world of YA publishing three years between books is a really long time. I was so happy when I finally got my hands on Shadow Scale. Unfortunately this ended up being one of my biggest reading disappointments ever. What exactly happened, well...I feel like the author lost direction and wasn't sure what she wanted to say in book two, and then ended up saying something completely different than what she was saying in book one. There were themes in book one that I simply adored and I felt like they were trampled on in book two. Were those themes accidental in book one? Did I read too much into them? I don't know. Here are my reviews for one of the best YA fantasy books I've read, and it's sequel, one of the worst...




Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides.
 
When I first started reading Seraphina I thought it would probably be a 3 star book. It was pretty slow moving, but still interesting. As I progressed through it and got through the middle portion of the story, I just knew it would be a 4 star book. Then as I neared the end and it was so beautiful, I had to give it 5. I also love a good dragon book. This one in particular included the type of dragons that change into human form.

One thing I thought was interesting about the dragons in this world is that they do not understand the human emotions they experience when they are in human form. As dragons they suppress emotions. This reminded me a lot of the Vulcans in Star Trek. I thought it was a pretty cool idea.

The main character, Seraphina is a half dragon/ half human girl who has to hide this fact because of people's attitudes and fear of dragons in general. I thought Seraphina was a very well done character who was intelligent and brave. I also loved that she was a musician. Her relationship with her Uncle Orma, her friendship with Princess Glisselda, and her budding and forbidden relationship with Prince Kiggs were all aspects of the story that made it such an enjoyable read. I just loved the messages about love, truth, and courage that seemed to be prevalent in this book. There were moral dilemmas that I thought were dealt with really well. There were also messages about self-loathing and self-harm that I think many teens deal with and I liked the way that was handled in the book as well.

I thought the world building was excellent and even though this is a very slow moving story, it was still so very good because the characters were so very interesting to read about. Overall this is a beautifully written story. It appears to be the first in a series and I can't wait to read the next book. I've added this one to my list of favorites.




Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



What happened? I loved Seraphina. I gave it 5 stars. But Shadow Scale has left me so bitterly disappointed I could cry. All the things I loved about the first book were gone in this one.

This book was so slow, and so long and just dull. It was hard to get through, and it took me forever to read it. Seraphina was slow paced as well, but it wasn't dull.

In this book Seraphina spends the whole book blaming herself for things that aren't her fault and not doing what needs to be done. She was very much a pacifist because she was so guilt ridden over her treatment of someone who was just plain bad. What Seraphina did to Janoula had to be done because of Janoula's behavior. There was nothing wrong with what Seraphina did, she had to protect herself and she should have protected everyone else as well, so I don't get the guilt over it. She just wasn't the Seraphina from the first book at all.

I thought Janoula was very villainous and well done. I truly hated her, which is what all good villains cause me to do. I just wish the heroine would have been her match. She just really wasn't.

There was a lot of world building in this book done mostly through Seraphina traveling. The traveling got old after a while. We get to meet all of the characters that are in her mental garden and I enjoyed meeting most of them, however the character development was not there. This was partly because of Janoula invading their minds and taking over, but not entirely. There was one character that was thrown from his horse and terribly injured and Seraphina was upset about it, but I wasn't because he wasn't developed enough as a character for me to care.

The ending makes me kind of angry. After reading all those pages there couldn't have been a resolution to the whole thing with Orma? And the romance was just a huge disappointment the way it ends up.

**This next paragraph is a spoiler so if you don't want to read it skip it and go down to the next paragraph. I debated whether of not to include this spoiler here, but I really want to talk about why the romance bothered me so much. Kiggs and Glisselda who really have a brother-sister type relationship, marry near the end of the book for the good of the kingdom, and because they promised the Queen they would before she died. And it seems as though Kiggs and Seraphina are to become lovers. Glisselda has revealed that she is also in love with Seraphina. She revealed this after she finds out that Kiggs and Seraphina are in love with each other. This seemed to come out of nowhere. There were no hints to it at all, ever that Glisselda had those sorts of feelings for Seraphina. It felt forced into the story. She kisses Seraphina at this point and tells her she and Kiggs have her blessing. Seraphina then realizes something about herself, but we are not told what that is. In the end it is stated that they are all fine with the arrangement they have made and the way they feel about each other is between them. It made me wonder if they weren't going to have some weird sort of threesome. I seriously don't want to have thoughts of threesomes in my head while reading a YA book. Hopefully I was reading too much into it. Regardless, I don't like the idea of Seraphina being Kiggs's mistress and not his wife and her possibly having that sort of relationship with Glisselda too.

On top of the way the romance ends up, the resolution to their problems is a huge deus ex machina. How disappointing! I looked forward to reading this for three years and now I wish I had not read it. It pretty much ruined all the good things about Seraphina.

Oh and one more thing, I have no idea why this book is called Shadow Scale. I found nothing that eluded to the title in the book, but maybe I just missed it.




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Monday, March 13, 2017

SnapshotSnapshot by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



Sanderson and I have a rocky relationship. At times I think his writing is incredible, but then there have been times I have found it terribly tedious and boring. I know I'm in the minority when it comes to that opinion, but that's just my personal experience. I loved what he did with WoT, I enjoyed Steelheart but didn't love it, I liked Elantris tremendously even though it had some flaws, and so far I love the Wax and Wayne books, but the original Mistborn trilogy was hit and miss with me and I almost didn't finish it. I think he really shines with this story.

Snapshot is a novella seemingly set in the same world as the Steelheart trilogy. While that trilogy was written for young adults, snapshot is more for adults. The only real tie here between the two is that the snapshot that is generated in this story is generated by a person with super powers.

If you could re-create a day, what dark secrets would you uncover?

Anthony Davis and his partner Chaz are sent into a snapshot, which is a recreation of a certain day that looks and seems very real, to investigate a crime that happened on that day. They can interact with this fake world and cause deviations so they are supposed to be careful to preserve things as they really happened. While in the snapshot they decide to investigate a case that they have not been asked to investigate. From there on things get more and more interesting, resulting in a story that is utterly brilliant. I loved the whole concept of the snapshot.

In the postscript that Sanderson wrote at the end of this novella, he seems to think that most readers will automatically come to certain conclusions in a certain order while reading this story. I have to say that I was not one of those people. I'm not sure what that says about me as a reader, or if it says anything about me at all, but there were some twists that I didn't see coming. Should I have seen the twists coming? I don't know, maybe. I usually find it pretty easy to solve the mysteries in detective stories, but as I was trying to figure this one out my mind actually went in a completely different direction. A completely wrong one, but to me, that just made the reading experience even better.

I'll leave it at that, because I don't want to spoil this read for anyone. If you like detective novels, if you like The Twlight Zone, if you like stories by Phillip K. Dick, then you might like this novella. I've heard that film rights have been optioned by MGM. Personally I think that's a good move on their part, because I think this would make a great movie.




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Green Rider Series

Today is all about the Green Rider series. This is one of my favorites and I eagerly await each book. It's always an automatic pre-order for me. I just finished book 6 and loved it. Now comes the excruciating 3 to 4 year wait for the next one. I didn't really start writing reviews until after I read the last two books in this series. On the others I left more like blurbs about what I thought. I would really like to go back eventually and write more about my thoughts and feelings on those first 4 books in the series, especially since my favorite book out of the whole series is book 2, but for now I'm just posting them as they are.




Green Rider (Green Rider, #1)Green Rider by Kristen Britain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy




On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount's neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a "life and death" message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission "for love of country." As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, "Beware the shadow man..."

This was excellent! High fantasy is probably my favorite type of reading and Green Rider doesn't disappoint. I Can't wait to read the whole series.




First Rider's Call (Green Rider, #2)First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy




This is quickly turning into a favorite series. Sometimes I get very emotionally invested in the characters I read about. Parts of this book near the end had me tearing up. I can't wait to read what happens in the next one!





The High King's Tomb (Green Rider, #3)The High King's Tomb by Kristen Britain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy




The High king’s Tomb was another great addition to the series that I had a hard time putting down. The new character Amberhill was interesting and I'm wondering how he will factor into the story later on. I also loved revisiting Miss Bunch and Miss Bay. They make me giggle. I also found Damian Frost and his wife Lady fun and interesting characters.

My only complaints were that I really wanted to read more things from King Zachary's point of view. I was dying to know what he was thinking through some of it. Unfortunately that didn't happen until the end of the book. And the forbidden love aspect of this series is rather torturous. I keep telling myself to get over it because it doesn't look like anything will come of it, which is disappointing. I've also become very annoyed with Captain Mapstone and her meddling.




Blackveil (Green Rider, #4)Blackveil by Kristen Britain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy



I'm developing a love/hate relationship with Kristen Britain. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, some of the things that happened in it were agonizing.

At the end we are left with a cliffhanger, which I don't necessarily dislike in general, but it looks like there are 3 to 4 years between the publishing of the last two books. It will be pure torture to wait that long for the next book. I am beginning to think Kristen Britain likes to torture her readers along with the main character in her books.




Mirror Sight (Green Rider, #5)Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Where to begin...

I was extremely happy to be reading Mirror Sight. I've waited for 3 years for it to be released. There were major cliffhangers and plot threads just waiting to be resolved or to be moved forward even just a little. Unfortunately none of that happened in this book, well with the exception that we find out where Karigan ended up at the end of Blackveil, and we find out what happens with Amberhill. But then again it is nullified at the end of the book because it hasn't happened yet and likely will all change. So with a few small exceptions, this book is mostly irrelevant to the rest of the series. This was like one of those TV episodes where one of the characters finds themselves stuck in an alternate time or place and makes a life for themselves there only to have to leave and go back to reality. It's a well used trope in TV and books and I wasn't crazy about it being used here.

My biggest problem besides no real plot progression for the overall series is that I'm not even sure who I was reading about in this book. Karigan was so out of character throughout the whole thing. I had already figured out that she would most likely be thrown forward in time from the ending of Blackveil, but what I didn't expect was for her to stay there throughout the whole book and be so un-Karigan like. Where was the feisty Karigan? Sure she had her moments, but not enough. This resulted in a very unsatisfying read.

Also, so many of the regular characters were absent. We got very little of Zachary, nothing of many others. It was just a huge let down after waiting so long. The characters we did get in the future world were ok, but I never really cared about any of them. Cade was an alright guy, but the relationship that developed there felt forced.

There was also a lack of action in this book that made it very dull. It does finally pick up a little in that aspect, but the tone and world of this novel is so different from the others in the series it was too little too late.

I will say that despite my disappointment the book deserves 3 stars because the world building and the writing were excellent, even if it did feel out of place in the Green Rider series. Had they been characters from another series I probably would have liked the characters and the adventure and would have had no complaints.

I will still be reading more of this series because I'm convinced this was just one of those times where the author got sidetracked by subplots. Robert Jordan comes to mind. By the way this ended, I think the next book will be back on track...hopefully!




FirebrandFirebrand by Kristen Britain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Zachary Davriel Hillander, High King of Sacoridia, rues how much he has had to give up for his realm, including the freedom to live and love as he chooses. 

I feel for you Zachary. I really do...

The Green Rider series is one of my favorites and I've been anxiously waiting to read this book. I had high hopes for Firebrand, especially after Mirror Sight was a bit of a disappointment, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to them! We are back to the present in this book and I couldn't be happier with the direction it has taken.

The book starts out pretty much right after Karigan gets back and she is on leave recuperating from her experiences in the previous book. Meanwhile Grandmother is up to her usual evil tricks, and she unleashes a powerful elemental who comes after King Zachary, and becomes fixated on the beautiful Queen Estora, who is now expecting twins. There is quite a lot of Estora in the first part of this book and pretty much all I can ever think of while I'm reading about her is "Die, Estora, Die!" But unfortunately I know she isn't going to die any time soon. At least not before King Zachary's heirs are born. Her parts of the book were a bit of a drag for me. So let's get back to Grandmother, who I think deserves much more mention here than Estora. I just love the concept of the evil, knitting Granny. She is truly a scary person and she is a formidable enemy and she doesn't disappoint in this book. What happens with her character in the end though is priceless!

Much happens in the book that I don't want to spoil so I will just say that Zachary and Karigan end up in the same place for a good part of the book and their interactions and the time spent with Zachary made the book worth reading. We get to spend a good chunk of the book reading Zachary's point of view and I absolutely loved it! At one point after Karigan has been gravely injured and feeling broken he is there at her side...

"If I could change it all for you, if it were in my power to spare you, I would do so. If I could trade places with you, I would. But I can only be here with you, and I will tell you this: you are not broken, and every inch of you is dear to me and whole."

There was some heart fluttering going on while I read this part of the book. Zachary may be heading toward being added to my literary dream guys list. This book was a lot about Zachary, thus the title Firebrand, which is what the Eletians call him. I felt like he was truly in his element here as the king and leader of his people. How refreshing to see him in the middle of the fight. There are so many sides to him that I really love.

Other things that I really loved were the gryphons disguised as house cats. Even though they did seem to appear at some really convenient times to help save the day, I enjoyed their presence in the story. And as usual I loved the horses. A book that has cats and horses in it can't go wrong with me!

There are some things that I found to be holes in the story, like Westrion and why he needs an avatar. It's not explained real well and I'm not clear on why he can't protect the seal himself. And the wall is greatly ignored in this book with only small glimpses of what Alton is doing. And it seemed like Karigan bounced back too easily when it came to losing the use of her eye. I'm no sword fighter but I would assume that the loss of vision on one side would be a hindrance and I felt like it was very glossed over and not even noticed by Karigan, but in the overall scheme of things those were minor issues for me.

A bigger issue for me was that I felt that Karigan mourned the loss of Cade too much and for too long (throughout most of the book). Cade is largely a character that I never really got attached to and so can't really see the attachment Karigan had to him. That may be because as a reader I feel like I barely knew the guy. I mean after all, he was only in one book. The other relationships in the series have gone on for much longer and so I care about those people way more.

It seems like things may be starting to move forward now plot wise, and after the side trip that was the last book, that is a very good thing. On the forbidden romance front, there was a small amount of movement there, but of course, nothing that could be resolved. I do think at some point Estora will have to die. The most predictable way is while delivering the twins. Whether Kristen Britain goes the predictable route remains to be seen, but Estora's death would help to fix the forbidden romance problem, because Zachary would have heirs and wouldn't have to marry again, at least not for the good of the kingdom.

I had so many feelings when I got to the end of this book and it was hard to actually write a review. Why is it so hard to write reviews for the books I love the most? Karigan once again was really abused in this book and I hope that things will be a little easier for her in the next one because it gets increasingly harder to read about these things happening to her. Please let some good things happen to her in the next book without all the terrible things!

This is my second favorite book in the series so far, right behind First Rider's Call. I wish it wouldn't take three plus years to get the next book, because as usual the wait will be torture.



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