I absolutely loved the first book in Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copyI absolutely loved the first book in Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of its follow-up, Tower of Thorns. In fact, Tower of Thorns is one of my most anticipated reads of the fall. And let me tell you, it completely lived up to the exceedingly high expectations that I had. It's beautifully written, filled with magic, and inhabited by two fascinating characters.
What appealed to me in the first book, are the characters and Blackthorn and Grim. They are both so tortured. Blackthorn in particular is haunted by the murder of both her husband and son and burns to take revenge on the man that had them killed and her locked away. In the first book, Blackthorn had made some progress in moving away from revenge, but that quickly changes when she is confronted with a friend from her past who encourages her thoughts of revenge. In Tower of Thorns, Blackthorn seems to truly move past her revenge; it's not the only thing she desires and she starts to recognize that the new life she has been forced to create is worth living. There is one instance where she longs for her home at Winterfalls, and for me, that is the turning point in Blackthorn’s character:
And I felt, for the first time, a longing to be back at Winterfalls, in the cottage, just Grim and me with the woods close by and the settlement a safe distance away across the fields – close enough so folks could reach us if they needed to, far enough so they did not often disturb our peace. “A pox on it, Grim,” I said to my absent friend. “I’m turning soft, I’m becoming an old woman.” (p. 264)
Unlike Grim, Blackthorn has never really been content with her new life. As soon as a person from her past arrives she’s quite willing to reconsider her bargain that states she must not seek out revenge for seven long years. Blackthorn's tentative reconsideration of what is truly important is what I found so engrossing in Tower of Thorns. Character development, Marillier does it so, so well.
The other standout character is Grim. In Tower of Thorns Grim’s back story is shared and readers begin to understand what drives his intense motivation to protect Blackthorn. The way Grim sees it is that he’s failed so many in the past, he absolutely refuses to fail another. There’s an interesting vulnerability about Grim that is incongruous with his rather fearsome appearance, but this only serves to make him a more compelling character. Grim is self conscious and uncertain about his place in Blackthorn's life, yet on every occasion Grim displays his willingness to go to bat for her. For a man that too often viewed as simple, he is one complicated dude.
Together, the characters of Blackthorn and Grim are dynamite. I love the supportive relationship between these two. Blackthorn shows a lot more consideration for Grim in Tower of Thorns; they are on a much more even playing field in their relationship. No romance between the two, but I think we can safely say that hints are dropped. My romantic heart is happy and I have high hopes for book three.
Aside from the truly fantastic characters, the story is also beautiful and sad. Like Dreamer’s Pool, Tower of Thorns is also grounded in a mystery. This time round, the pair are investigating the presence of a howling monster in a tower, but all is not what it appears. The woman asking for their help is keeping secrets, which just might have disastrous consequences. The tale of the monster is the tower is interspersed with Blackthorn and Grim’s narratives. It’s a tale that’s both sad and horrifying – the lengths that Lady Geiléis will go to solve the problem of the monster doesn't exactly endear her to the reader. At the same time, its difficult not to feel feel sympathy with Lady Geiléis and all she has suffered for one instance of youthful pride. If you like stories that have an old fashioned fairy tale feel, look no further than Tower of Thorns.
Marillier introduced two flawed and well developed in Dreamer’s Pool and she continues to reveal new facets of each character while thrusting them into magical mysteries in Tower of Thorns. I can’t describe how much I love these characters and the relationship they have with one another. Blackthorn and Grim are the foundation of this series and I cannot wait to see what mystery they are involved in next.
The Gilded Hour is latest (and launch of a new series) by historical fiction writer Sara Donati. Having loved her Wilderness series, I jumped at the cThe Gilded Hour is latest (and launch of a new series) by historical fiction writer Sara Donati. Having loved her Wilderness series, I jumped at the chance to read her latest that features the ancestors of the fictional Bonner family introduced in Donati’s Wilderness. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the fall. Here, the setting in 1883 New York and focuses on two cousins, Drs. Anna Savard and Sophie Savard. Both these young doctors face trials, both personally and professionally, and through them readers are taken on a tour of historic New York. And, it’s one of those books that you finish and can’t quite let go – which makes writing a coherent review that praises the awesomeness that is this book quite difficult!
At 752 pages The Gilded Hour is a behemoth. With this somewhat daunting length you would expect or assume that this due to be a tedious read. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Gilded Hour was a book that I flew through and thought about when I wasn't reading it. The subject matter and the characters that are introduced create a compelling and emotionally engaging read. It's a story that I wanted to talk about, and talk about it I did. I'm fairly certain co-workers are sick of hearing me rave about the book, but if it gets them to read the book, well, mission accomplished.
What I really like about Donati’s writing in general and in The Gilded Hour in particular is her ability to elicit an emotional reaction to historical details. Rather than giving readers the facts and figures, readers get a sense of the people who lived during the period the book is set in. There were many instances in The Gilded Hour where I could feel myself getting so angry because of the behaviour of people our heroines encountered. The opposition that Anna and Sophie face as women doctors is infuriating as well as the comments and disrespect that they receive from their male colleagues. Birth control, abortion and women’s rights are all themes that are explored extensively throughout the book. And being a woman, I, you know, care about these things. What I didn’t expect was the anger I felt on these characters’ behalf. Anna and Sophie are treated as second-class citizen in several notable occasions and their professions also open the doors to the patients they administer. The information that Donati delivers with this peak into history wasn’t new, but I think it’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten. The fact that I was emotional invested in the book, and sharing it with every reader I know, is a testament to the strength of the storytelling in The Gilded Hour.
While themes of women’s rights, immigration, and race were are an integral part of The Gilded Hour what makes this book something extra special is the characters that are introduced. Both Anna and Sophie are strong woman, but strong in different ways. Anna is more clinical and practical and Sophie the more compassionate and emotional. Unlike many women their age, both are unconventional in that they have both pursued a career in medicine. While both characters were interesting and complex, I think readers get to “know” Anna much better than Sophie. Arguably, The Gilded Hour is Anna’s book.
Anna Savard grew up cared for but also impacted by the fact she was orphaned as a child. By circumstances Anna encounters a family of four young, recently orphaned Italian children, and she becomes embroiled in keeping these children together because of the parallels she sees to her own childhood. These children also bring Anna into contact with Italian police sergeant Jack Mezzanotte, who assists her when two of the four orphaned children go missing. Jack is all too happy to help since he’s been captivated by the practical Dr. Savard since laying eyes on her. The romance between Anna and Jack is a significant aspect of the story and it was absolutely lovely and it provided a means for Anna’s character to explore other facets to her personality. Anna was more than a doctor and this romance helped to show that. Seriously, it was swoon worthy. It helps that Jack is really quite cool with having a working wife and respects her opinion and knowledge, even seeking her help when he and his partner investigate what appear to be the work of a serial killer.
Finishing The Gilded Hour there is not the sense that the story is completed. There is so much left at loose ends. Jack and Anna are still trying to track down the doctor that is butchering woman that attempt to have abortions. Sophie’s narrative seemed to have dropped off when she left the country for Europe. And new characters are introduced like former nun turned aspiring doctor, Elise. There is so much fodder for future books I’m left astounded that this book was only 700+ pages – it needs to be more! Anyone familiar with Donati’s writing will love this newest book, and it sparks my own desire to go back and revisit the Wilderness series. Romance and a rich historical setting were combined so effortlessly in The Gilded Hour I can’t recommend it enough for historical and romance readers alike.
It's hard to put into words what makes The Gilded Hour such a wonderful read. It's smart and thought provoking, and I can say is that you should read it. Right now.
Giving away a 1 copy to the luck winner on my blog. Contest runs until January 21st, 2014.
Fantastic! Super excited to hear that the author is writingGiving away a 1 copy to the luck winner on my blog. Contest runs until January 21st, 2014.
Fantastic! Super excited to hear that the author is writing a follow up. 2015 why are you so far away?
Robson captures the realities of war, while balancing that out with a lovely romance. Absolutely loved it!
Full review closer to pub date...
Edit - Dec 29th, 2013:
Somewhere in France is a historical novel set during the turbulent times of the First World War. While romance was a significant part in the novel, the historical detail and realities of daily life during wartime made this far more than a romance. I read the entire novel in one sitting and I can’t wait for more from this debut novelist. Somewhere in France was lovely, harsh and optimist all at once, and I recommend it to historical fiction fans that are interested in this period in history.
I cannot express how much I loved Somewhere in France! This was a thoroughly engrossing read, and I couldn’t put it down. I was initially intrigued because of the romance aspect to the novel, but there was some much more to this story than an unlikely romance between the social classes. The historical details were fantastic. We didn’t get a romanticized version of Lily’s experiences during her time as an ambulance driver. She was confronted with the effects of war, the destroyed bodies of the soldiers that she transported to the hospital. She also had to deal with the everyday hardships of no rest, no bathing, catching lice, and living without the luxuries that she used to. I felt that we really got a picture of what life was like for those supporting the soldiers on the front lines, and it was completely fascinating. I don’t really think these support workers are considered all that often, so it was an interesting change. I also liked the fact that Lily was an ambulance driver rather than a nurse, which is what you might expect to see. But because of Lily’s upbringing and her lack of education, she wasn’t qualified to be a nurse. Even being an ambulance driver meant that Lily had to learn to drive, something she had never done before.
Lily was really a fascinating character in the novel. She had a luxurious upbringing and gave it all up to follow her dreams. While it wasn’t always easy for her to do without, she eventually came to terms with it because it finally meant that she was doing something worthwhile. I think the author handled this transformation within Lily well, and I believed that someone as sheltered as Lily had been could become the competent and confident young woman that she was by the end of the novel.
As for the romance between Lily and Robbie, it really was swoon worthy in a sweet sort of way. The romance didn’t overpower the novel, but complimented the wartime atmosphere. I liked the fact that Lilly and Robbie had already known one another as children, otherwise I would have been tempted to believe that they were swept away in a romance that was started by the wartime atmosphere, but would ultimately not have had much substance. Instead, Lily and Robbie know each other, they knew each other’s history and dreams, and it made their relationship all the more endearing.
To sum it up, historical fiction fans need to read Somewhere in France. It was a fantastic read and anyone who enjoys a highly atmospheric setting with a good helping of romance will love this one. This period in history is tragic, but it’s also compelling. Robson is writing a follow-up to be published in 2015 and I can only hope that it will feature a romance between Charlotte and Lily’s viscount brother, Edward. I feel like Somewhere in France was hinting at this relationship, and I would like to be proven correct.
I loved this debut mystery!! I'm not generally a huge fan of mysterious, but the book description of its historical setting and unusual heroine had meI loved this debut mystery!! I'm not generally a huge fan of mysterious, but the book description of its historical setting and unusual heroine had me picking up this one. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
The Anatomist's Wife is set in 1830 at a house party in Scotland. The novel opens with a murder at Lady Kiera Darby's sister's house. Kiera is one of the first people at the scene and suspicion falls on her because of her scandalous past as an illustrator for her husband, an anatomist. Kiera's brother-in-law allows for one of his guest, Mr. Sebastian Gage, to start an investigation while they wait for the proper authorities to arrive and it is requested that Kiera assist. Kiera has a unique skill set because of her knowledge of anatomy and quickly proves her usefulness to the reluctant Mr. Gage.
The mystery aspect was well done and interesting, and I think the drama at the house party would certainly appeal to fans of Downton Abbey. Huber provides a vivid description of this era that I think would appeal to fans of the popular t.v. series.
My favourite part of the book where the two main characters. Lady Kiera narrators the story, so you don't get Gage's reaction to the mystery or Lady Kiera, but Kiera as a character is fantastic. It was heartbreaking to hear what Kiera has went through in her marriage and I think Huber further comments on the state of marriage during this time period with the murder culprit. I also liked the fact that Kiera wasn't a traditional lady and how she eventually embraced her role as an investigator. Now Sebastian Gage - Kiera initally thought he was just a ladies' man and nothing else. Through the course of their investigation Kiera learned there was more to the charming man. While Gage didn't provide his own side of the story, I liked how Kiera described his reactions to her. Kiera was grateful that someone outside her own family believed that all the stories about her were not true. I cannot wait for the next book to see how their relationship develops. ...more
I really enjoyed reading the second book in Manda Collins Ugly Duckings series. I had just finished the first book and I was on the fence about the seI really enjoyed reading the second book in Manda Collins Ugly Duckings series. I had just finished the first book and I was on the fence about the series but I really wanted to read Juliet's story, so I ended up buying the ebook when it turned out that my library did not have a copy. And I was not disappointed. The romance between Juliet and Alec was adorable, and the whole book was just a lighthearted read; there wasn't a lot of drama between Alec and Juliet and how they finally got together, which was nice for a change.
The only thing that I take issue with is the title. I really didn't think Alec was much of a rakish character compared to some other historical romances. He was pretty nice actually and there really wasn't too much reference to a rakish past either. But, other than a mismatched title, I liked the book.
I would highly recommend Sabrina Jeffries' A Notorious Love for those who enjoyed this book. The physical issues that both heroines deal with in both books was similar; however, the characters' personalities were markedly different. ...more
Gah! This was an amazing conclusion to the trilogy. Review soon...
Ruin and Rising was one of my most anticipated reads this summer. The more reviews IGah! This was an amazing conclusion to the trilogy. Review soon...
Ruin and Rising was one of my most anticipated reads this summer. The more reviews I read about it, the more eager I was to get my hands on a copy. There was no question of waiting for my library to order a copy - I was getting myself to the bookstore on release day. And folks, the hype lived up to the book. This was a fantastic and satisfying conclusion to a trilogy. The main character did not die (Allegiant, you know I'm looking at you) and all of the complications that were thrown Alina's way were resolved. If you know nothing about the first two books in the series, I also reviewed them on Monday and Wednesday as I re-read them.
The final book of The Grisha picks up soon after Siege and Storm. Alina has not succeeded in defeating the Darkling and she has barely escaped with her life. And now that she is essentially held prisoner underground, she has no hope of getting stronger, her link to her power all but gone. Getting back to the surface and it's sunshine is the only way that Alina can get strong, so her cohorts stage an escape from the priestly order "protecting" the Sun Summoner.
Of course, escape only solves half the battle. The Darkling is still out there and stronger than ever. The only choice Alina has is to locate the final amplifier: the phoenix. Only by taking on more power does Alina stand a chance at defeating the Darkling. And while she yearns for the next amplifier (she is a little like the Darkling, after all), the price she must pay might be unexpected and require a sacrifice that she's not willing to give up.
Ruin and Rising is, by far, the best conclusion to a trilogy that I've read in a long time. There were times when I didn't think things would go the way that I wanted them to; that sacrifices would be made and hearts would be broken. But the author did an amazing job of pulling all of the threads together to create a cohesive and meaningful ending to the series. The Darkling was dealt with, the romance triangle was obliterated, and Alina came into her own as a character.
The first thing I want to tackle is Alina as a character. As I mentioned in my Wednesday post, I was really taken with Alina's independence (or, at times, lack thereof) and the responsibility that she now has because of her power. With her sun summoning powers, came a lot of responsibility, her life was no longer her own. Choices were being taken away from Alina simply be virtue of her new status, and in a sense, I found this heartbreaking. Who doesn't want to have a choice in their future? But what changed in Ruin and Rising was Alina's ability to understand that she wasn't the only one to make sacrifices; just because she had power, didn't make her isolated. Too often is this understanding of others an empty gesture, but I think Alina got it:
"None of them were easy of soft or simple. They were like me, nursing hurts and hidden wounds, all broken in different ways." (p. 269-70)
I liked that there was more to Alina than her "special status" and that she did recognize this - it made her a more respectable heroine. In my opinion, Alina has grown so much as a character, she's not perfect, but I think she's changed in a way that makes her someone you can relate to. She's no longer a person that allows others to guide her decisions, she's fully capable of being a leader when she has to and taking a back seat when that makes more sense.
And of course I have to mention the romance. Folks, she does pick a guy, which one, I wont say, but a decision is made. Huzzah! Whether it's the right one or wrong one, I think that's something that is subjective to the person reading the book. In my opinion, the choice was always clear and I think Alina certainly weighed all of her options before deciding on a guy, and the subsequent path for her future. But don't worry, the romance doesn't play a huge roll in the book, there's still lot's of action and adventure.
At this point, I don't want to say much more, since I wouldn't want to spoil this awesome book for you! All I have to say is that this was a fantastic book and it's warranted it's rave reviews. I can't wait to see what the author comes up with next. Now go out and read it!
I received an advanced reader copy of The Assassin’s Curse courtesy of NetGalley.
Pirates, assassins, a thwarted arranged marriage, and an impossible cI received an advanced reader copy of The Assassin’s Curse courtesy of NetGalley.
Pirates, assassins, a thwarted arranged marriage, and an impossible curse, how could I resist?
Ananna Tanarau, a seventeen-year-old pirate, is not having a good day when the novel begins. She is meeting her betrothed, Tarrin, for the first time and hates him on sight. Ananna’s marriage has been arranged by her parents, who want to form an alliance with Tarrin’s family, also pirates in what is known as the Pirate Confederacy. Ananna is understandably perturbed by the idea and decides to make a run for it. However, this action is not without its consequences. Tarrin’s family sets the assassin, Naji, after Ananna. The scarred and brooding anti-hero unwittingly becomes Ananna’s protector when Anana saves Naji’s life from a poisonous snake. Naji must now protect Ananna from harm and cannot be physically far away from her or he experiences pain and may ultimately die. Neither character is initially happy about this curse and they set off to find a way to break the curse. However, the curse is not Ananna’s and Naji’s only problem, mysterious characters from the mist are also tracking Naji and could use Ananna is kill him. Naji will ultimately have to rely and trust Ananna in order for him to survive.
The characters of Ananna and Naji are the main reason that I enjoyed this novel so much, neither is the perfect, stereotypical protagonist. Ananna is a pirate! She has no qualms about stealing or doing what needs to be done to take care of herself. As Ananna is the narrator in this book we get to see her thought processe in her actions, and I loved hearing her reflections concerning the advice she received from her father – mainly evading capture and jail as a pirate. Her narration style and way of speaking isn’t perfect either; again she’s a pirate and not totally educated and that is clear in the way that she speaks in the book. At the same time she values education and is somewhat uncomfortable with her lack of education in some areas, like mathematics.
As for Naji, he’s an assassin, so enough said on that departure from the perfect hero. Naji also has a scar on one side of his face disfiguring him (hence the brooding hero vibe he has going). It’s not revealed in this book how Naji got this scar, but it is obvious that he is self-conscious about it as he wears a mask to keep it hidden from sight. It seems like there is a lot more to Naji in terms of his own history; however, I feel that this book was firmly Ananna’s story and I liked that the author didn’t try to cram too much about both characters in the novel. I am hoping that we get to learn more of Naji’s history in the next book.
In terms of the world building, I felt that there are some holes that need to be filled in the next book. I didn’t totally understand how the Pirate Confederacy worked and the way it was described made it sound like a legitimate profession rather than a criminal activity. I also didn’t understand the concept of Ananna’s confederacy tattoo and its significance. However, I loved the concept of the world and how magic is an integral part of everyday life and just an accepted fact – like it is totally normal for someone to be cursed.
Overall, I loved this novel and I can’t wait for the next one to come out to find out if Ananna and Naji are able to complete the three impossible tasks to break Naji’s impossible curse. It will also be interesting to see how the relationship between the main characters develop as Naji is obviously clueless as to how Ananna feels at this point, partly I think because of his facial scar and how he has been treated in the past. Its kind of obvious where the romance is going but I like the direction that the author is taking in how that relationship is unfolding. I think this book will appeal to teens who are fans of fantasy fiction, including books like Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, Kristin Cashore's Graceling, and Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock. ...more
The Haunting of Maddy Clare follows Sarah Piper as she finds herself investigating a haunting. Through a temporary employment agency, Sarah is contactThe Haunting of Maddy Clare follows Sarah Piper as she finds herself investigating a haunting. Through a temporary employment agency, Sarah is contact by ghost hunter, Alistair Gellis, to be his assistant in a haunting investigation. The haunting takes place in a small town in England, where a young girl, Maddy Clare, is haunting the home that she lived in. Sarah has been employed to make contact with the ghost because Maddy is afraid of men and it is hoped that Sarah will have better luck than the vicar who attempted to contact Maddy. Sarah does make contact with the ghost and seems to have an intense connection with the ghost, who wants Sarah to solve the mystery behind her suicide. The haunting gets continually worse and the ghost causes Alistair to mentally return the war. Sarah teams up with Alistair's assistant, Matthew Ryder, to solve the mystery.
The ghost story in this book was intriguing and I thought that St. James did a great job of describing a haunting and the atmosphere that is associated with that. But I liked that the novel was not just a ghost story; there was also a significant back story to all of the characters involved. Alistair and Matthew were both in the war, bearing the scars of that experience, and Sarah has also had a family tragedy. For me, this character development was great.
I also liked the historical aspect of the book. I think St. James did an excelled job of depicting life after WWI, and I thought the characters depicted a realistic representation of people during that time.
I would recommend this book for fans of the ghost story and historical fiction. Its a book that will be going on my wish list of books to buy. ...more
In the fantasy world of Poison Study deadly criminals are given a reprieve: execution or employment as the Commander of Ixia's food taster. Yelena hasIn the fantasy world of Poison Study deadly criminals are given a reprieve: execution or employment as the Commander of Ixia's food taster. Yelena has been imprisoned for murder and she has been offered the choice; she does not want to die so she decides to become the Commander's food taster. Responsible for training Yelena in identifying the poisons that may be disguised in the Commander's food is head spook and assassin, Valek. When the Commander makes some questionable political decisions, Valek has to decide whether or not to trust his criminal apprentice or risk the fate of the nation, and Yelena has to decide where her loyalties truly lay.
I cannot rave about this book enough! It was a great start to a fantastic series. The characters of Yelena and Valek were compelling and grown-up and the plot was intriguing and dark without going too far for an older teen audience. One thing that readers should be aware of is the circumstances that led Yelena to commit murder. So fair warning for spoilers ahead. Yelena was taken in as child by a seemingly benevolent man; however, his son conducted disturbing experiments on those that were adopted. Yelena was of particular fascination for the son and it eventually led to rape. This was not a pleasant part to read in the story and may make some readers uncomfortable. This type of violence in books is something that very much bothers me and had I know about this I may have opted not to read the tale. In the end, despite the darker subject matter I was satisfied with how Snyder dealt with this serious issue. I liked the fact that Yelena was able to find strength and develop relationships at the Commander's palace after all that has happened to her. Ultimately, is was a story of renewal for Yelena and I think she was able to find herself again.
What I think will also appeal to readers is the romance aspect between Yelena and Valek. This was a slow developing relationship, but it could hardly be anything less due to the circumstances of their meeting and Yelena's past. But the wait is worthwhile for romance fans. Fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass will be sure to find something to like with Yelena and Valek. Yelena reminds me a lot of Katsa (Graceling) and Celaena (Throne of Glass) both of whom where woman who are trapped in rather hash circumstances and able to overcome those odds (it doesn't hurt that they were also able to find a bit of romance as well).
For readers interested in the fantasy elements of the story, Snyder develops an interesting world where magic has been outlawed and the Commander of Ixia will go to dramatic lengths to ensure that magicians do not breach it's borders - a problem considering that Yelena may have some magical ability herself. The world is well constructed and for some reason makes me think of Russia, but I think that is more due to the names than any overt setting elements. So, for readers who are looking for a good fantasy story, this one delivers an interesting world.
Overall, if your looking for a great teen fantasy romance with lots of intrigue and action you need to check out this one post haste. Having read some of Snyder's other series, I would also recommend giving her other series a try.