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
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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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | Review

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | Review

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | ReviewMortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Published by Houghton Mifflin on November 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

picadillyblueWhere do I even begin?  I didn’t care much for Annith in the first two books and I was nervous that I wouldn’t love Mortal Heart as much as Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph because of that.  I could not have been more wrong.

Annith is just as awesome as Ismae or Sybella, just in very different ways.  I think that’s one of the reasons these books are so awesome.  Each character brings something new to the table.  Annith is a little too obedient at first but it’s quickly clear that she has a mind of her own and she’s going to follow her own instincts.  She’s smart and feisty and I did not see that coming. She’s very guarded and she expects very little from people.  That’s why Balthazaar takes her by surprise.  He wants to protect her and she can’t figure out why.  All she knows is that she is drawn to him from the first moment they meet.  And let me tell you, I can’t blame the girl.  Balthazaar is my favorite of the three male love interests in this trilogy.  Beast and Duval are awesome but they can’t hold a candle to Balthazaar.  Once you read Mortal Heart, you’ll know what I mean.

The story is a lot faster paced than the first two books or maybe it was just that I loved the characters so much that I couldn’t stop reading.  There was still a lot of politics in the book but not quite as much as the first two books.  The politics are extremely interesting though.  I’ve never been a fan of them but this series is just so well done that I find every little thing about it fascinating.

Also, the cameos were beyond perfect and I loved seeing Beast, Sybella, Ismae, and Duval again.  I didn’t remember everything from the first two books when I first started Mortal Heart but things quickly came back to me as I read.  It also helped that the stories are all overlapping.  Some of the things that happened in the first two books haven’t actually happened yet and so it’s refreshing to be able to read about them again.

Overall, it’s hard for me to put into words my love for this series.  It’s not often I read a trilogy and love every book but that was the case with this one.  I can’t recommend this series enough and if you’ve already read the first two, rush out and get this one as soon as possible.

What others are saying about Mortal Heart:

Waking Brain Cells’ review: “A fitting end to a grand trilogy, I can’t wait to see what LaFevers has for us next!”

Good Books & Good Wine’s review: “Readers who like their trilogies to have breathtaking endings, kick ass heroines, self contained but connected stories, and expansive character development paired with intricate world building would do well to pick up Mortal Heart as well as it’s predecessors, Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph.”

Read Breathe Relax’s review: “This final book did an amazing job of wrapping up all the stories, and I think Annith is my favorite leading lady yet.”

Robin-Pushing-Tree-281x300 About the author:

Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.

Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.

While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.

In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. You can learn more about those books at www.rllafevers.com.

Where you can find Robin:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr

Giveaway!

(1) One winner will receive a rustic arrow necklace, a leather bound notebook and a hardcover of MORTAL HEART! US Only.

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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
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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).”

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.

picadillyblue

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.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard | Review

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard | ReviewSomething Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Published by Harper Teen on July 24, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia...

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor... from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

picadillyblueSomething Strange and Deadly was one of the series on my list to start and attempt to finish this year.  I’ve had Something Strange and Deadly on my shelf since before the book was published but I never got around to actually reading it until now.  The hype for this series is definitely warranted.  Something Strange and Deadly is a unique, entertaining, and thoroughly addicting story.

Eleanor is an extremely feisty and smart heroine.  She is unique to heroines in YA these days but especially in heroines from her time period.  She stands out among everyone she knows and while some might consider it a bad thing, I considered it one of her best qualities.  She is not afraid to speak her mind and go after what she wants.  When her brother, Elijah, goes missing she sets out to find help from the Spirit-Hunters, certain that the necromancer tormenting Philadelphia has her brother.  The group of Spirit-Hunters are made up of the classy Joseph, the quirky Jie, and the sarcastic Daniel.  Daniel is rude, outlandish, and rather odd but that didn’t stop me from completely falling in love with him.  He lacked manners but he made up for that in other ways.  Joseph and Jie added a certain flair to the group of Spirit-Hunters and they all brought something unique to the book.  Even Clarence and Allison Wilcox were interesting additions to the story although I would have enjoyed a bit more backstory to Allison.  She came up a little short compared to everyone else.

The story is fast-paced and pulse-pounding from the very first page.  I read straight through the book in one day.  I haven’t been that captivated by a book in quite some time.  While Eleanor’s escapades weren’t entirely plausible, they were fun to read about.  Eleanor was always escaping from places to meet the Spirit-Hunters and I felt that she probably wouldn’t have gotten away with that for long in the time period she lived in.  However, that is a minor complaint of mine.

The ending completely surprised me and actually brought tears to my eyes.  Every time I thought I figured something out, a new secret would pop up and I definitely could not figure out how things were going to tie together.  I was pleased that the story tied up rather well and while it left me eager for the second book, it wasn’t a horrible cliffhanger.

Overall, Something Strange and Deadly brings something new to both the historical fiction genre as well as the horror genre.  Susan Dennard has a promising start with this debut novel.

What others are saying about Something Strange and Deadly:

Cuddlebuggery Book Blog’s review: :”Overall, this was a great read and I strongly anticipate the next one!”

A Page of Heaven’s review: “Something Strange and Deadly was a rather okay book; my feelings for it ranged from love to content to majorly annoyed.”

The Flyleaf Review’s review: “An original blend of historical, paranormal, and a slight touch of steampunk, Something Strange and Deadly is an impressive package to savor.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman | Review

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman | ReviewPrisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Published by Harper Teen on April 22, 2014
Pages: 401
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

picadillyblueI’m not sure where to even start with Prisoner of Night and Fog.  This is definitely going to be one of those reviews that can’t even come close to doing justice to how amazing the book is.  Anne Blankman’s debut novel has me eager to check out anything else she ever plans to write.

First off, this is the most unique historical fiction novel I’ve ever read.  Never once did I think about how Hitler’s followers thought of him.  Gretchen, the main character, is a family friend of Hitler and she never once thought he was planning to exterminate the Jews.  She believed him when he said he wanted them out of Germany but that he was just going to relocate them.  One of the points made throughout the book is that Hitler was a gifted public speaker and people wanted to believe in him.  They wanted a strong leader and they saw that in him through the persona he showed when public speaking.  Nobody saw the bad side of Hitler until it was too late.  Throughout Prisoner of Night and Fog, readers get to see both the bad and the good sides of Hitler and it really changes the way you think of him as well as the people that followed him so blindly.  Not all of them were evil people, they were just strung along like Gretchen.

Gretchen was a strong girl but she had poor odds of coming out alive.  Her father was supposedly a martyr who sacrificed his life for Hitlers.  Her mom was incapable of doing anything to protect one child that might hurt another.  Her brother was a psychopath who cared nothing at all for Gretchen and really wanted her out of the picture.  Like I said, not good odds.  Then she meets Daniel Cohen, a Jewish reporter who tells her that there was more to her father’s death than she’d been told.  And her odds for surviving only got worse from there.  People didn’t get to dig into Hitler’s past and get away with it.  Especially not while living under the roof of a psychopath who believed everything Hitler said.  Gretchen was beyond brave and sometimes I think her bravery actually crossed the line into stupidity but she was willing to do anything to discover the truth.  Her father was a good man who loved her dearly and he deserved to be remembered not just as the martyr who saved Hitler’s life but as the man he was.

Gretchen and Daniel’s relationship was surprisingly realistic.  You have to remember that Gretchen was raised believing Jews were not only bad but really a whole different race of people, not even quite human according to Hitler.   At first she wanted nothing to do with Daniel and it took her quite some time to even be willing to deal with him.  After that it still took a lot for her to see him as a person and not only a person, but a good guy.  From there things grew between them and it was a really sweet relationship.  It was easy to see why they would be brought together and why they would be attracted to each other.  Like I said, Gretchen was brave, smart, and ambitious.  Daniel was also supremely brave as well as smart and he and Gretchen had a lot of common goals.

The pacing is a little slow but you have to expect that with a historical fiction novel with such a heavy subject matter.  And when I say slow I do not mean boring.  The story was never boring.  There is just a lot of information to digest and so it does take some time to get through Prisoner of Night and Fog.  That’s not a bad thing at all though because this is a book that you will want to savor.  The writing, the content, the characters, every last piece comes together to make for one fascinating story that will captivate readers from beginning to end.

Overall, Prisoner of Night and Fog is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever read, right up there with Code Name Verity.  I can’t recommend this book enough!  Get a copy as soon as possible!

What others are saying about Prisoner of Night and Fog:

Gypsy Reviews’ review: “I will throw this book in your face and get you to read it.”

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “Rich in its history and complex in its story-telling, this is a book that is going to appeal to many YA historical fans.”

Writer of Wrongs’ review: “Please read this book. Please please please. It’s so compelling and intense and chock full of history.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | Review

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | ReviewSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

An empty mind is a safe mind.
 
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

picadillyblueI picked up Sekret, Lindsay Smith’s debut novel, hoping for a good historical novel with some hints of intrigue and romance.  What I got was something so much better!  Lindsay Smith puts a whole new spin on the Cold War and spies both Russia and the United States.

The characters really make Sekret so amazing.  Each character is so complex and amazingly well-developed, especially for the first book in a new series.  Yulia is a very family focused young girl who just so happens to have psychic abilities that the KGB would like to exploit.  She’s a strong, independent girl but her family is both her biggest blessing and her biggest weakness.  She will do anything to protect them, including using her abilities for the KGB.  However, her morals never change, no matter what she is forced to do.  She learns to cope with her job with the KGB but she will not stop trying to get away.  She’s feisty and smart and such a wonderful main character.  The other psychics in the employ of the KGB are all very different people.  Some of them are forced to be there, others are there to please their family (also members of the KGB.)  Yulia connects with two very different boys, one who is forced to be there and the other who chose to be there.  Sergei and Valentin were both great characters but in very different ways.  From the start, Valentin wanted out of the KGB and he was willing to do anything to leave.  He and Yulia originally bonded over their shared hatred but that wasn’t all they had in common.  They quickly grew to become friends and watching their relationship develop was so fun.  Sergei was easygoing and funny.  He helped lighten the mood of the book, that’s for sure.  It was clear from the start that he wanted more than friendship from Yulia but friendship is what he got.  That friendship forced him to finally look at what his life was like and Sergei really grew as a person throughout the course of the book.

Villains aren’t usually as good as Rostov, the head of the psychic division of the KGB.  He was supremely creepy.  He was willing to do whatever it took to restore Stalinist Russia.  He is a cold blooded killer but the worst part is that nobody knows it and nobody can prove it.  His ability as a scrubber (as Yulia calls him) allows him to erase things from people’s minds.  Even if someone saw him murder someone, he could just erase and they would be none the wiser.  It’s a truly scary thought to wonder if you’ve seen or done something but not be able to remember it.  Yulia must go through that feeling many times throughout the course of Sekret.

The story takes time to get into but it’s worth it once you make it past the more informative first chapters.  The first few chapters are just spent building the world and explaining the abilities that people find themselves with.  I will admit that it’s a little dull and made for some slow reading but, like I said, it’s worth it once you get past those chapters.  This truly is an espionage thriller.  The US and Russia are in the space race and the KGB is determined to help Russia stay ahead of the race but they can’t do that if the US manage to steal their plans.  When the psychic division of the KGB discover that the US spies are also employing a scrubber like Rostov, the stakes become even higher.  It’s a pulse pounding race to the finish and there will be plenty of shocking revelations for readers throughout Sekret.

Overall, Sekret is one of the most thrilling, unique historical fiction novels I’ve read in recent times.  I look forward to continuing this series and I highly recommend this debut from Lindsay Smith.

What others are saying about Sekret:

Allodoxophobia’s review: “For me, rarely does every aspect of a book come together as seamlessly as it does in Sekret.”

Step Into Fiction’s review: “Sekret was an enjoyable YA sci fi spy novel that may have you checking rooms for bugs and wondering who is listening to your thoughts.”

I Swim For Oceans’ review: “Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab | Review

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab | ReviewThe Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Published by Disney Hyperion on August 2, 2011
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget.

picadillyblueThe Near Witch is one of the few books that I have nothing bad to say about. From the very first line I was hooked and I was on the edge of my seat until the very last page. Victoria Schwab’s debut novel deserves every word of praise that it has gotten.

Lexi is one of the best main characters I have ever read about. Her life was not easy but she never let that change her positive outlook on life and people. She was one of the few people in the town of Near who was not afraid of witches and instead she treated them just like everyone else. She was open-minded, loving, and very brave. I feel like teenage girls should read this book just to see how a heroine should really act. Lexi is a role model or she should be.

The rest of the characters were wonderful as well. Cole was very sweet and caring but he did have a troubled past. His story was very heartbreaking. Lexi’s little sister, Wren, was fun and bubbly and she helped lighten the mood at times. Lexi’s mom was a little confusing at times, as was Lexi’s uncle, Otto, but in the end I liked them both.

As for the plot, I don’t want to give anything away but I will say that it was very suspenseful, unique, and creepy at times. Victoria Schwab’s lyrical writing really brought this story to life and I can’t wait to see what is next from her.

Overall, The Near Witch is a must-read for everyone, boy or girl, young or old. I’m sure that everyone will find a little something to fall in love with (or a lot, like me).

What others are saying about The Near Witch:

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “Finishing The Near Witch was like having the perfect cup of coffee in the morning – it left me feeling relaxed and satisfied.”

Ivy Book Bindings’ review: “Ultimately, I have to admit that it was the slow pace that made me put this down far before I’d reached the end.”

Great Imaginations’ review: “Victoria Schwab did it all, and she did it well in this book.”