Monday, August 29, 2016

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | Review

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | ReviewCrow Mountain by Lucy Inglis
Published by The Chicken House on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

A sweeping tale of love, legacy, and wilderness set between the present day and 1866 in the dramatic landscape of modern-day and territorial Montana.
While on a trip to Montana with her mom, British teen Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, Hope and Cal take shelter in a cabin, where Hope makes a strange discovery in an abandoned diary. More than a hundred years earlier, another British girl -- Emily -- met a similar fate. Her rescuer, a horse trader named Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

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Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres and it’s one that I feel does not get enough love.  I picked up Crow Moutain because it had been so long since I’d read anything historical fiction and this one seemed really unique.  I was definitely right about that.

Pros:

  • Story:  The story was the best thing Crow Mountain had going for it.  I lumped this into the historical fiction genre but it’s not only historical fiction.  The story alternates between present day Montana and 1866/67 Montana.  Since I felt there was more focus on the past than the present, I considered it historical fiction.  You could really classify it as both historical and contemporary. The story follows Hope/Cal in the present and Emily/Nate in the past.  Hope is spending some time in Montana with her mother while she does research on the land.  Cal is the son of the ranch owner they are staying with.  Emily is a young British girl traveling to San Francisco to meet her future husband.  Nate is a former soldier she briefly sees at one of the stops along the way.  When Emily’s coach crashes, Nate is there to rescue her.  However, he doesn’t return her to town so she can be on her way.  Instead he takes her home with him and teaches her the ways of the land.  Hope and Cal’s story is almost identical to Emily and Nate’s.  As Hope reads Emily’s journal she starts to see the similarities between the two stories and wonders if she discovered the journal for a reason.  Cal’s family has been feuding with the Hart family for centuries and it may be up to Emily and Cal to put an end to the feud before it kills any more people.
  • Characters:  To be completely honest, I liked Emily and Nate but Cal and Hope were a bit lacking, in my opinion. I’ll get to that part later though.  Emily and Nate were in an odd situation.  Emily didn’t know her future husband but she assumed she would be fine with him.  She was drawn to Nate from the moment she first saw him but that doesn’t mean she wanted to run away with him.  He essentially kidnapped her.  He didn’t force her to stay with him but he knew there was no way she could leave him.  She would have died in the wilderness on her own.  He used that to his advantage, that’s for sure.  He figured if he bided his time, she’d eventually come to love him.  I wouldn’t normally be okay with a situation like that but Nate was a good guy and he never took advantage of her.  He took care of her and he taught her how to take care of herself.  Emily was pretty helpless at first but Nate didn’t allow that for long.  It was easy to see that Emily really liked learning how to do things for herself.  She didn’t want to have to rely on Nate and eventually, she didn’t have to.
  • Romance: This is definitely one of those slow burn romances.  Emily and Nate are attracted to each other but they don’t act on it.  Rules were very different back in the 1800s and Emily was a proper lady.  She wasn’t sure she’d ever make it back to her fiance but she knew that if she did, she had to be pure.  She wanted to do what was right for her family and she wasn’t willing to risk that even though her feelings for Nate kept growing.  She also didn’t know anything about love or relations between men and women.  She was pretty clueless when it came to that so of course she wasn’t making any moves on Nate.  It was kind of adorable how awkward she was about it all.  As for Hope and Cal, they had a similar attraction but they knew they could act on it if they wanted.  There was an age difference between the two and Cal had lots of secrets from his past but that didn’t really slow them down all that much.  Their relationship moved a little too quickly for my tastes but I blame part of that on their situation.  It forced them to really get to know each other and in a really short period of time.

Cons:

  • Characters: Like I said, Hope and Cal didn’t hold as much appeal to me as Emily and Nate.  Hope was very sheltered and she could come across as kind of snobby.  Cal was blatantly rude to her at times.  While I felt like I could understand both of their issues, I would have been better with it if I felt like I knew them more.  Most of the book was set in the past and I felt like Hope and Cal’s stories sometimes got pushed aside.  I just didn’t feel the same connection to them as I did to Emily and Nate.
  • Ending:  The whole feud with the Hart family was not really explained very well and felt almost like an afterthought.  Everything tied together really nicely at the end but I felt like it just came out of nowhere.  I also felt like it was very rushed and some of the things were just not very believable.  It’s already a pretty long book so I understand why things needed to wrap up quickly but I would have liked a bit more backstory as far as how things got started between the Harts and the Crows.

Overall, Crow Mountain had things that could have been improved upon but was still an enjoyable read.  I loved that Lucy Inglis based a lot of it off of true events.   I’ll have to see what else she has written and look for more historical fiction from her in the future.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Crow Mountain:

The Review Diaries’ review: “A surprising read that really crept up on me when I least expected it with a beautiful love story woven through its pages.”

Daisy Chain Book Reviews’ review: “Crow Mountain is far from perfect, but it has drama, a wonderfully unusual setting, and a great story for fans who loved True Grit and The Next Together.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + GiveawayThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on March 8th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

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The Steep and Thorny Way is my first foray into Cat Winters’ work but it won’t be my last.  While the Hamlet retelling aspect of this one was what first caught my attention, it was Cat Winters’ writing that kept it.  I’ll hold out judgment until I can read at least one more of her books but I think she may earn a place on my favorites shelf.

Pros:

  • The writing: As I said, the writing definitely got me with this one.  The Steep and Thorny Way is historical fiction with a twist and Cat’s writing is perfect for this type of story.  It’s atmospheric and haunting.  The story itself was extremely interesting and I was hooked for that aspect but the writing definitely added to my enjoyment.
  • The history: I’m a huge history buff and I loved that Cat Winters didn’t choose the typical 1920s to portray.  The Steep and Thorny Way shows a darker side of the 1920s and it’s not always easy to read.  And while it is very much fiction, Cat Winters did a great job making her story as accurate as possible.  She doesn’t shy away from the reality that would have been Hanalee’s life as a mixed race teenager in that time period.
  • Hanalee: Hanalee certainly had her flaws but I really liked her overall.  She reminded me a lot of myself in some of the things that she did.  I felt that I could relate to her, even though our situations are nothing alike.  She was strong and capable but she didn’t always think things through before acting.  I couldn’t fault her for that but sometimes I could see how things would happen because of her actions.

Cons:

  • The other characters: I was not a huge fan of any of the other characters.  While I felt like I could relate to Hanalee, she was the only one I felt that way about.  Everyone else needed to be a bit more rounded out and I felt like I never really got to know or like them.
  • The retelling aspect: I love Hamlet.  I took a Shakespeare class in high school and college and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him but especially Hamlet.  I feel like saying this is a retelling was a little bit misleading.  There were definitely things about it that tied back to Hamlet but I would say it was more inspired by Hamlet than a retelling.

Overall, The Steep and Thorny Way really did impress me.  I love that I have found a new author that I feel can do the historical fiction genre justice.  I look forward to checking out the rest of her books and if you haven’t already, this one is definitely a good place to start.

Giveaway

5 US readers have a chance to win their own copy

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Week One:

2/29/2016- Adventures of a Book Junkie Interview
3/1/2016- The Forest of Words and Pages Review
3/2/2016- Two Chicks on Books– Guest Post
3/3/2016- A Dream Within A Dream Review
3/4/2016- Stories & Sweeties– Excerpt

Week Two:

3/7/2016- Jessabella Reads Review
3/8/2016- Bookish Lifestyle– Guest Post
3/9/2016- Katie’s Book Blog- Review
3/10/2016- The Fox’s Hideaway– Interview
3/11/2016- MEREADALOT– Review

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin | Review

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin | ReviewWolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

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I am pretty much the biggest history buff ever.  I have a very weird fascination with anything Nazi Germany related (probably something to do with my History minor) so Wolf by Wolf was added to my TBR as soon as I heard about it.  Ryan Graudin had been on my radar since I heard about her debut novel, The Walled City, so I had pretty high expectations for this one.  I’m happy to say that this definitely met my expectations and left me dying for more.

Pros:

  • Writing:  Ryan Graudin’s writing is seriously beautiful.  You have to know going into the story that it’s going to be depressing.  Yael is a Jew who watched everyone she loved die because of Hitler.  Some of the chapters take place in the concentration camp that she is imprisoned in and it’s extremely hard to read.  Ryan Graudin’s writing honestly adds to the depressing air but also shows the beauty in everything Yael goes through.
  • Characters: Yael is obviously the main focus of this story but there are many more characters who fill the pages with her.  The depth that went into each character was pretty fantastic.  Yael is this badass who was raised in a terrible situation.  She spent time in a concentration camp and had to see most of the people she loved die.  Even when she left the concentration camp, she couldn’t escape death.  It seemed like that was a big reason for why she chose to take on the task of killing Hitler.  Having lost so much, she didn’t want to see anyone else suffer like that.  She also wasn’t afraid to die.  She knew it was a strong possibility when she took on Adele’s life.  I had some mixed feelings towards the people who put her in that situation though.  Everyone in the resistance wanted one thing and that was to rid the world of Hitler.  They knew that they would lose people to the cause and they were willing to take that chance with Yael’s life.  I truly think they loved her but they were more concerned with the world than with just one person.  It was hard for me to think of it that way but I understood why they were willing to put her life so at risk.
  • Romance: The romance in Wolf by Wolf is really subtle and I loved that about it.  Yael is posing as someone who has a history with Luka so of course there has to be something there.  However, it’s hard to tell where things are going to go with them.  Luka and Adele have a history (that no one knows all the details about, including the reader) so Yael has to figure out that history and guess how she needs to act with Luka.  Luka doesn’t make any of these things easy for Yael.  He’s kind of an ass but I have a feeling that has something to do with Adele’s actions in the past.  Their interactions with each other were really pretty great.  They had some serious chemistry and the banter between the two of them was perfect.  I really thought it helped lighten the mood at times.
  • Family: I have to mention how much I loved Felix.  I know he was trying to stop Adele and bring her home to their family but it was because he loved her and feared for her safety.  He was a good brother and he always meant well.  That wasn’t the only family in the book though.  I have to say that while Yael lost her real family, the resistance pretty much adopted her.  She created a family within in the resistance and even though they were willing to risk her safety, they loved her.  Family doesn’t always have to be about the ones who share your blood.

Con:

  • Unanswered Questions: I really only have one complaint about Wolf by Wolf and it’s the mystery surrounding Adele and Luka’s history.  I know that it will eventually be explained (in the novella or sequel) but I really think it would have added to this story.  I just kept wondering what could have led up to their end of the first race.  I think I’m just being nitpicky now because I truly did love this book.

Overall, I can’t recommend Wolf by Wolf enough.  I know it’s been getting a lot of praise and it deserves every bit of it.  Even if historical fiction isn’t really your thing, you should give this one a chance.  I don’t think you will regret it one bit.

What others are saying about Wolf by Wolf:

Prettybooks’ review: “Wolf By Wolf is a clever and impressive combination of alternate history and fantasy.”

Please Feed the Bookworm’s review: “I was on the edge of my seat for this entire read!”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | ReviewThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

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The Song of Achilles wasn’t even on my TBR until about a month ago.  I saw Nikki from There Were Books Involved reading it and after seeing her reactions to it, I added it to the TBR.  I didn’t think I’d get around to reading it for a while but I decided to just throw it on my November TBR and see what happened.  I couldn’t resist it for too long and it was definitely a good life choice to read it.  The Song of Achilles made the history nerd in me very happy.  Madeline Miller did a wonderful job with this retelling of the story of Patroclus and Achilles.

Like I already mentioned, I’m a history nerd.  I’m minoring in history and I only just recently took a class on mythology so the story of Achilles was not new to me.  Heck, even the story of Patroclus and Achilles wasn’t new to me.  That didn’t matter though because Madeline Miller took this age old tale and made it all her own.  She has a way with words that completely blew me away.  I’m not always a fan of writers that are really wordy but in this case it just works.  The writing only made this gorgeous story better.

I truly don’t even know what to say at this point.  The Song of Achilles broke me.  I knew this story, I knew what was going to happen, I knew exactly how it would end.  That did not matter one bit!  Patroclus and Achilles came to life through Madeline Miller’s words.  They were more than just the things they became known for.  Patroclus was always in the background of the story but that’s because he chose to be there.  He didn’t need to be the center of attention, he just needed to be the center of Achilles’ attention.  As for Achilles, he was more than just the son of a goddess or the hero he came to be known as.  He never wanted any of that.  He just wanted to be loved by his people and by Patroclus.  The development of their friendship and their romance was just beautiful.

Overall, I just want you to read The Song of Achilles.  I can’t even begin to put into words the beauty of this book.  It’s something you have to experience for yourself and I suggest you do that.

What others are saying about The Song of Achilles:

There Were Books Involved’s review: “If you are at all into Greek mythology/The Iliad or historical fiction (despite its mythological elements, itdoes almost read like historical fiction), if you like a good tragic romance, and/or if you just need a good cry, pick up this book.”

Angieville’s review: “What an exquisite agony reading The Song of Achilles was.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Blog Tour: A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl | Review

Blog Tour: A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl | ReviewA School for Brides: A Story of Maidens, Mystery, and Matrimony by Patrice Kindl
Series: Keeping the Castle #2
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on July 14th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

The eagerly awaited companion to the award-winnng Keeping the Castle.The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has one goal: to train its students in the feminine arts with an eye toward getting them married off. This year, there are five girls of marriageable age. There’s only one problem: the school is in the middle of nowhere, and there are no men.Set in the same English town as Keeping the Castle, and featuring a few of the same characters, here’s the kind of witty tribute to the classic Regency novel that could only come from the pen of Patrice Kindl!

picadillyblueA School For Brides, the companion to Keeping the Castle, is an adorable read.  Having read Keeping the Castle, I was intrigued enough to come back to this setting once again.  While A School For Brides can definitely be read as a standalone, it reminded me why I enjoyed Keeping the Castle so much.

Like I said, this can totally be read as a standalone.  I read Keeping the Castle a few years ago and I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read since that time so it’s not like that story was fresh in my mind when I started this one.  I only very vaguely recalled what happened and the characters from that story only make a couple appearances throughout A School For Brides.  This story focuses on a new cast of characters and they are quite a mix!

The girls at the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire are technically there to be educated and trained in the arts that they will require to run a household.  They all know they are really there to find husbands though.  That’s harder than they imagined though since Lesser Hoo only has one eligible bachelor and he’s not one that anyone is terribly interested in marrying.  That all changes though.  When an accident causes a young bachelor to break his leg and be forced to move into the Academy, he brings some friends along and the young girls at the Academy suddenly have quite an array of men to choose from.

The girls were all extremely unique.  Some of them were younger and didn’t play a huge role in the story but their antics were cute.  The older girls who were of marrying age were determined to make something out of all the young men suddenly in Lesser Hoo.  Each girl really found her match in some way or another.  The men and women varied from incredibly intelligent to rather clueless.  However, each one had something different to offer the story.  Some of them were clearly there for humorous reasons and they definitely played their parts well.  I found myself giggling a time or two while reading A School for Brides.

The story really reads like a Jane Austen novel or something similar to that.  It’s definitely historical fiction, that’s for sure.  I got a bit annoyed with all the talk of how women were inferior and only required to run a household once they got married.  I understand that that is how people saw things back then but it was a bit repetitive.  There were definitely some girls at the Academy though who put that idea out of their minds and did what they wanted.  I appreciated that.

Also, while it is a story about girls searching for husbands, it’s not really a romance.  Being set in the time and location that it is, romance was very different.  It’s nothing like a romance today.  It was very chaste and slow moving.  Like I said, very much like a Jane Austen novel.  The romance aspect was extremely cute though so I liked it.

Overall, A School for Brides is perfect for fans of historical fiction and Jane Austen novels.  It was fun seeing the cameos from Keeping the Castle and I enjoyed revisiting Lesser Hoo.  If you ever get the chance to read these books, I would recommend them.

What others are saying about A School for Brides:

The Psychotic Nerd’s review: “This was a very quick and easy read with charming fun!”

The Book Cellar’s review: “A School for Brides is an absolutely charming read that captures everything I love about a good historical fiction read.”

And if that’s not enough to convince you, check out this super cute limerick from the author!

Limerick 3
Limerick #3

Once there was a girl with a brain,
Stuffed to the brim with knowledge arcane.
She spoke Latin and Greek
(These days we’d call her a geek)
And she dwelt on a cerebral plane.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boxers & Saints (Boxers & Saints #1-2) by Gene Luen Yang | Review

Boxers & Saints (Boxers & Saints #1-2) by Gene Luen Yang | ReviewBoxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Published by First Second Books on September 10, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.

picadillyblueGraphic novels are quickly becoming some of my favorite things to read.  They tell stories so beautifully while also being really fast reads.  Boxers & Saints may be two books that total 512 pages but I flew through them both.

Boxers tells the story of Little Bao, a young Chinese man who is tired of the Christians coming through China, taking their food and land with no repercussions.  Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Red Lantern, Little Bao uses his skill in kung fu to fight the Christians.  He learns to summon the ancient Gods and channel their powers against the Christians and their followers.  He creates the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist along with his brothers and other men from his village.  They go through China, taking out Christians along the way and picking up more men for their cause.

Saints tells the story of Four-Girl (Vibiana) who is taken in by the notions of Christianity and decides to become a follower of the faith.  She takes up residence in a compound full of other Christians, thinking she has finally found a good home where she will be accepted and loved.  However, at the time, the Boxer Rebellion is in full swing and closing in on Vibiana and her new friends.

This is one series that you really do need to read together.  You truly only get half of the story in each book.  Once you read the first one though, you’ll be intrigued enough to check out the second one.  The stories are amazingly told through beautiful (extremely graphic) illustrations.  I knew absolutely nothing about the Boxer Rebellion before reading Boxers & Saints and I truly felt like I learned a lot from these books.  Gene Luen Yang did a great job keeping both books relatively unbiased and presenting readers with both sides of the story.  My heart truly hurt for both Little Bae and Vibiana for their circumstances.  It’s unusual for a story to be told like this one where the villain of one book is the hero of the other and vice versa.

Overall, Boxers & Saints is great for long-time fans of graphic novels or for readers looking for a good place to start.  It’s an extremely interesting tale of war, family, and love of country.

What others are saying about Boxers & Saints:

Alice Marvels’ review: “Boxers & Saints are two thought-provoking reads that overlap and intersect beautifully in unforgettable, emotional ways.”

Good Ok Bad’s review: “To this end, Yang has intentionally created a work designed to interact with our sense of self by pushing us to understand the human story from multiple vantage points.”

YAdult Review’s review: ” I also give a great hand clap to Yang because the drawings and the story had me intrigued throughout Boxers.”

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly #3) by Susan Dennard | Review

Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly #3) by Susan Dennard | ReviewStrange and Ever After by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #3
Published by Harper Teen on July 22, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

picadillyblueThis review is going to be extremely hard for me to write.  My feelings for Strange and Ever After are all over the place!  I loved it, I hated it, I couldn’t stop reading it.

Strange and Ever After picks up immediately after the ending of A Darkness Strange and Lovely.  Eleanor, Daniel, Joseph, and Oliver are heading to Marseille to chase down Marcus and get Jie back.  They aren’t sure what Marcus wants with Jie but they know she’s been compelled by him and the only way to break the spell is to kill Marcus.  However, Marcus is always one step ahead of them and he’s much more powerful than even Eleanor, Joseph, and Oliver combined.  Strange and Ever After takes the crew on a journey through Europe that tests their magic and their loyalties more than any of the other books.

Eleanor really bothered me in Strange and Ever After.  I loved her in Something Strange and Deadly, lost some respect for her in A Darkness Strange and Lovely and really couldn’t care less for her in Strange and Ever After.  Her magic has completely taken over her mind and she can’t even see what it’s done to her.  She cares so much about her magic that she has lost sight of her friendships and relationships.  She has pushed everyone away and she constantly blames others for it, especially Oliver.  Oliver really confused me in Strange and Ever After.  I liked him but didn’t completely trust him in A Darkness Strange and Lovely but this time around I didn’t even really like him all that much.  He had a  horrible temper and he treated Eleanor pretty badly.  Sure, sometimes she deserved it but I felt like he could have taken a different approach.  However, he did some things throughout the book that made up for that and by the end I really did like him.  Daniel really shined in Strange and Ever After. He grew so much throughout the course of the trilogy.  I can’t even put into words how amazing he was.  He was caring, smart, kind, and brave.  He has got to be one of the best love interests I’ve ever read about.

The story wasn’t quite as fast-paced as the first two books but it was definitely never boring.  Marcus had lots of surprises in store for Eleanor, Oliver, and the Spirit-Hunters.  I truly never knew what he was going to do next.  However, sometimes I was a little skeptical about how he knew to be one step ahead of them all the time.  How did he possibly know what they were going to do next when sometimes they didn’t even know what they were going to do next?

The ending completely broke me.  I’m not even kidding.  There were not enough tissues in my house for the ending of this book.  I know some readers didn’t believe the ending was completely necessary but I really don’t see how it could have worked out any other way.  I’m still torn up about the way things worked out but I can totally appreciate how great this ending was.

Overall, Strange and Ever After is a wonderful conclusion to the Something Strange and Deadly series.  Susan Dennard has definitely gained a fan and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for readers next.

What others are saying about Strange and Ever After:

Lili’s Reflections’ review: “I will continue to recommend this series to anyone who wants to read it, and if you haven’t already started it yet now is the time to do so because book three is officially out! “

Scott Reads It’s review: “ SAEA is less about zombies and isn’t as Gothic as the previous novels, but it does have more poignant, heartbreaking moments and so much character development.”

Finding Bliss In Books’ review: “That aside, Strange and Ever After is an entirely satisfactory conclusion to the Something Strange and Deadly trilogy (or, as I’ve penned it, the Ke$ha zombie trilogy).”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon | Review

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon | ReviewDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Published by Dell on July 1, 1992
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 947
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland's majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones ...about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ...and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his ....

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire's spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart ...in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ...and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves....

picadillyblueDragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series, brings readers back into the lives of Claire and Jamie Fraser.  This book just confirmed my love for this series.

All the original characters are back in this sequel but it also introduces readers to a bunch of new characters.  Two of those characters play a prominent role in the story but I wasn’t all that impressed with them.  Brianna Fraser and Roger Wakefield are introduced early in the book but readers are not given a lot of background information about either of them.  I know this is a long series and these characters are going to play parts in the following books though so I’m assuming Diana Gabaldon did that on purpose.  I liked them both but I look forward to finding out more about them.

As for the original cast of characters, I didn’t think it was possible to love them more but I was wrong.  Jamie and Claire only grow more amazing throughout the course of the book.  Claire is just as strong as she was in the first book, if not stronger.  She may not fit the mold of women in the eighteenth century but she doesn’t care and neither does Jamie.  Jamie is a strong man who loves Claire exactly the way she is.  They are both stubborn and like to argue but I think that only added depth to their relationship.  I loved Jamie but he was seriously hard-headed and made some very bad choices in Dragonfly in Amber.  He did make up for them though.

The story is full of politics and mystery and a good amount of romance.  The politics are what really had me hooked though.  The majority of the story is set in the eighteenth century and it focuses on the rising of Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie.)  I don’t know how much of the story was fact and how much was fiction but it was so captivating!  This is definitely one of those books that will have you intrigued enough to actually look into more of the history surrounding the story.

Overall, Dragonfly in Amber is a solid sequel to Outlander.  I’m continuing my binge read of this series with Voyager and I seriously need to get started after that crazy ending!

What others have to say about Dragonfly in Amber:

The Lit Bitch’s review: “Now that I am done with Book II, I absolutely MUST continue on with the series…though they are long (each book is about 800-900 pages) but I simply cannot move on to something else until I know what happens next.”

The Hope Chest Reviews’ review: “With her amazing talent and enthralling writing style, Diana Gabaldon has also earned a place among my favorite authors.”

I’m Loving Books’ review: “It was a great follow up and although it’s very long, it was fairly easy to keep turning the page to continue.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon | Review

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon | ReviewOutlander by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #1
Published by Dell on June 1, 1991
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 896
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life . . . and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire . . . and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

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After watching the first episode of the new Starz TV show, Outlander, I couldn’t resist picking up the first book in the series that it was adapted from. I’d heard about Outlander before watching the show but I’d never actually picked it up. I’m so glad the show gave me that final push to give the series a try.

Outlander is unlike anything I’ve read before.  It’s such a mix of genres that I honestly have a hard time describing it when people ask about it.  It’s definitely mostly historical fiction but it’s also romance with a hint of science fiction and fantasy.  Outlander incorporates everything I love from all those genres and it all blends so perfectly in this series.

The characters are what will keep readers invested in Outlander.  The book is long.  The version I read was almost 900 pages but I never once felt the urge to stop reading.  By 100 pages in I wanted to know everything that would happen to Claire, Jamie, Frank, Colum, Dougal, and the others.  Every character is extremely unique and that’s hard to do with a cast of characters that is so large.  Jamie and Claire were by far my favorites though.  Their love story was absolutely amazing.  Jamie was strong, fierce, protective, and kind.  Yes there was one thing he did that I did not approve of but it didn’t change my opinion of him.  (If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!)  Claire was a lot like Jamie.  She was strong and protective but she was also so smart and so outspoken.  It definitely made for some interesting situations seeing as women weren’t really like that back then.  She and Jamie butted heads quite a bit but it only made their relationship stronger.  Also, don’t ever think you can trust someone in this book.  Holy crap were they a bunch of backstabbers.

The first 100 pages are a little dull.  Don’t let that stop you from reading though.  Outlander is a wonderful start to the series of the same name and I’m eager to continue with the series.  I’m 100% invested in the lives of these characters now.

Note: There are explicit scenes in Outlander.  It is an adult novel.  It contains graphic descriptions of torture and rape.  You have been warned.

What others have to say about Outlander:

Eating Bender’s review: “Her ability to portray historical characters is outstanding, and even though I will caution that there are some very explicit scenes (see the section below for more on this subject), the story feels authentic and heartfelt.”

I’m Loving Books’ review: “Despite what I didn’t like I liked the book overall and I just adore their love story, it’s very lovely.”

Confessions of a Book Addict’s review: “I can’t wait to revisit Jamie and Claire’s captivating world.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard | Review

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard | ReviewA Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #2
Published by Harper Teen on July 23, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 406
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Darkness has come to the City of Light...

With her brother dead and her mother on the verge of insanity, Eleanor Fitt is utterly alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor begins to hear the vicious barking of hounds and see images of haunting yellow eyes, she fears the worst—that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are coming for her.

To escape and search out the Spirit-Hunters, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. Though friendly, Oliver entices Eleanor with necromancy and black magic, yet as long as she can resist his powerful temptation, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over the city...and there's a whole new evil lurking. With the body count rising, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there's a price for this darkness strange and lovely...and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

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A Darkness Strange and Lovely is a strong sequel to Something Strange and Deadly.  It follows the same trajectory of the first book which is to say it’s fast-paced, full of surprises, and surprisingly emotional.  It’s exactly what a sequel should be.

A Darkness Strange and Lovely picks up a few months after Something Strange and Deadly ends.  Things in Eleanor’s life are rather rough.  Her mother took the loss of Elijah harder than expected and now must remain in a mental institution.  To pay for her bills, Eleanor has had to sell almost everything they own.  When Marcus shows back up in Philadelphia it’s actually kind of a good thing because it forces Eleanor to flee to Paris to meet up with the Spirit-Hunters.  And thus the adventure begins anew!

So all the old characters are back but there are some new additions this time around.  Both the best and the worst new addition was definitely Oliver.  I loved him but I also didn’t trust him at all.  He was friendly and witty but also very secretive.  Even at the end of the book I knew he had secrets that he had yet to share.  I look forward to finding out more about him in Strange and Ever After.  It’s really difficult to tell if he’s a good guy or a bad guy.  I think the worst thing about Oliver though was what he brought out in Eleanor.  I really lost a lot of respect and liking for Eleanor in A Darkness Strange and Lovely.  She pushed people away and she blamed everyone but herself for it.  She was so consumed by her new powers that she couldn’t see how they were  beginning to control her every thought and action.  Also, Daniel, Joseph, and Jie could see what was going on and they tried to help but they kind of took the wrong approach.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked them all still but I think they could have handled things with Eleanor a little better.  Especially Daniel.

The romance was very hot and cold, just like in Something Strange and Deadly.  Eleanor and Daniel love each other, that’s pretty obvious from the start but what’s not so obvious is how they are going to make things work between them.  They come from very different worlds and while Eleanor is okay with that, Daniel is not.  He wants to be worthy of Eleanor and I love him even more for that.  He had tons of flaws but in my eyes he was perfect.

The plot fits surprisingly well with the first book.  I wasn’t sure how things were going to tie together but they all do in the end.  There were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming and some that I definitely did.  However, those little things I was able to guess didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, A Darkness Strange and Lovely is a wonderful sequel that will leave readers eager to check out the third and final book, Strange and Ever After.

What others are saying about A Darkness Strange and Lovely:

The Page Sage’s review: “A Darkness Strange and Lovely met my expectations and then some.”

Romancing the Laser Pistol’s review: “ I think it I liked A Darkness Strange and Lovely because it was full of: hot kisses, zombies and old fashioned Paris balls.”

Stories and Sweeties’ review: “To you give a clear picture of my feelings for this book, I simply say this: every night, in the ridiculously wee hours of the morning, I had to tear myself away and force myself to put this down.”