Mobile Library didn't stick with me nearly as much as I had hoped. I pegged this one as a hidden gem and, yes, it was definitely enjoyable while readiMobile Library didn't stick with me nearly as much as I had hoped. I pegged this one as a hidden gem and, yes, it was definitely enjoyable while reading, but now that it's said and done, I'm having a hard time remembering just what was so special. Don't get me wrong: this book is truly lovely and packed multiple punches, but it's not one I would revisit. The stay was great, but I'm not saddened to move on to the next book.
While I’m still not entirely sure just what’s going on here, I’m having an absolute blast with these books. The humor is brilliant (and the names! ProWhile I’m still not entirely sure just what’s going on here, I’m having an absolute blast with these books. The humor is brilliant (and the names! Professor Shrimpdittle! Lord Dingleproops!) and I’ve found myself giggling like crazy over entire passages. I’m a tiny bit worried I’ll continue to be lost with the plot in the third book (I have a feeling that if I’ve not gotten it already there’s a good chance I won’t), but I’m looking forward to getting back to these characters and their late-night snooping.
I liked First Impressions. Really liked it...as in an Any-Time-I-Wasn't-Reading-It-Was-On-My-Mind, Rush-Home-From-Work-To-Read kind of deal. That saidI liked First Impressions. Really liked it...as in an Any-Time-I-Wasn't-Reading-It-Was-On-My-Mind, Rush-Home-From-Work-To-Read kind of deal. That said, I'm wondering if I enjoyed it so much because I haven't read Jane Austen. Mr. Lovett took several liberties here and entertained some ideas that Janeites definitely wouldn't find amusing. Can you imagine the mass hysteria that would erupt if evidence was shown that Jane Austen didn't write her novels? Or worse, that she blatantly stole the ideas and characters? You're looking at the start of World War III. So I'm wondering if my ambivalence toward Jane actually worked in my favor.
It's hard to believe this novel came from the same writer as The House at the End of Hope Street! In fact, were it not for a cameo from one of Hope StIt's hard to believe this novel came from the same writer as The House at the End of Hope Street! In fact, were it not for a cameo from one of Hope Street's characters, I honestly would have assumed the two books were written by completely different authors. The Dress Shop of Dreams might enchant a newcomer to Magical Realism, but reading this after having experienced the magic of The House at the End of Hope Street, I'm left with a sour taste in my mouth. This book was a huge letdown....more
Last summer my life as a reader changed when I discovered Jojo Moyes. Until then it was virtually unheard of for me to read books in a single sitting or stay up later than normal to squeeze in just one more chapter. It was even rare for me to read an author's entire backlist - unless it was someone I truly adore, I would have my favorite series or standalones and not worry about the rest. Then Jojo came along and I found myself staying up later, reading longer, and tracking down old titles. At this point it's a given that she'll be a 5-star read and she hasn't let me down yet (not that I expect her to).
Liza McCullen lives with her 11-year-old daughter in the tiny seaside town of Silver Bay. She makes a living giving whale and dolphin tours and doesn't envy the larger (and louder) tourist destinations in the area. Her aunt is something of a local celebrity, 50 years previously Kathleen caught the largest shark on record and the fame helped keep their small hotel and whale museum afloat. Unfortunately, while the residents of Silver Bay might like the peace and quiet, it's the other islands that are bringing in money.
Mike Dormer is a corporate hot shot, having worked his way up the ladder and has his eye on becoming partner. He's engaged to the boss's daughter, has a swanky flat in London, and is granted the kind of peace that only comes from never having to worry about money. His latest project nearly tanks until he volunteers to find a new location for a resort. His research takes him to Australia, more specifically, Silver Bay. The bay would be perfect for a water park, a spa, a hotel. The longer he stays in the town, however, the more he comes to see just what Silver Bay really means to its residents and when he gets the chance to see whales up close his once-firm resolve begins to falter.
Let's get this out in the open: I love Jojo. Absolutely love her. That said, Silver Bay wasn't my favorite and for a good part of the beginning, I actually had a hard time getting into the story. I became overwhelmed with the technical terms the whalers were using and Mike's trysts with the secretary didn't impress me. I have complete faith in Jojo, so I stuck with it and am so glad I did! Once Mike flew to Silver Bay I was hooked.
As with Jojo's other novels, Silver Bay features a wide cast of characters and they're all given screen-time, so to speak. I'm a HUGE fan of multiple narratives, so you know this was totally okay by me! Not only was it a treat to get inside the heads of some of the secondary characters, but it was also a great insight into Liza's past. Only Hannah (Liza's daughter) and Kathleen know the true story of what really occurred that made Liza flee London, but the other characters know something happened. Why was she so cold? Why did she close off her feelings? What on earth was she so afraid of? The other whalers speculate and over time the details are told. I won't give any spoilers, but I'll just say I think all of Jojo's books should come with a box of tissues. I have yet to make it through one dry-eyed!
There were twists I didn't see coming and some I could have done without, but overall, this is Jojo Moyes and she's phenomenal. If you're brand new to her, 1) you should seriously fix that! and 2) Silver Bay shouldn't be the book you go with for an introduction. If you're a long-time fan, however, by all means pick this up! Any Jojo is a great Jojo and Silver Bay is no exception. I laughed, I cried, I was thoroughly captivated....more
Chloe is a features editor at Babe, a conventional women's magazine, but has loftier goals. She's eager to reach an untapped market, an audience who dChloe is a features editor at Babe, a conventional women's magazine, but has loftier goals. She's eager to reach an untapped market, an audience who doesn't slave away on the perfect five-course meal, one who doesn't care about which household appliances are ranked the highest. Her ambition catches the eye of her publisher, James, and he's just as enthusiastic about this new project. Perhaps a bit too enthusiastic.
Maggie has a beautiful house in a charming neighborhood, a family she adores, and a well-respected-if-a-bit-stagnant job as a food journalist. She's looking for something more exciting to write about than souffles, but knows the money is decent. If Maggie was totally honest, it's another baby she wants, but Jamie doesn't share her excitement. In fact, these days Jamie hardly leaves the office. Maggie tries not to worry - Jamie has a new and very demanding job, after all! - but the long hours (some nights he doesn't even come home) are beginning to take their toll. Not just on Jamie, but the entire family.
The Other Half was a completely new experience for me. For the past few years I've made it a goal to be more open when it comes to reading, and I've been eager to branch out and try new genres I normally wouldn't. A novel where a wife and a mistress are the focus is definitely out of my comfort zone and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!
Naturally this book isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but the short chapters and readability made it such a breeze. It's hard not to feel for Maggie: for the majority of the novel she has no idea her husband is carrying on an affair - and at one point she even visits Chloe about working for the magazine! When Maggie first notices her husband acting distant, she goes out of her way to be affectionate and caring. Little does she know what's going on behind her back.
Chloe, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as sympathetic. She knew from the start James was married, yet she entered into this relationship - despite her roommate's warnings. She knew there was no way things would end well, even if James left his wife for her everyone at the office would hate her. Particularly her ex-boss, Maggie's best friend. No matter what, there was no outcome that looked promising. Ignoring this, Chloe still carried on a near six month long relationship.
Things eventually come to light and each woman deals with the blows in an incredibly satisfying way. They're both hurt and hopeful, and it's the affair that causes them to truly step back and decide what they really want out of life. The Other Half was a bit predictable in the end, but not in a bad way. These two women grew from the experience and that in itself was enjoyable to read.
I will admit I'm a bit confused by the blurb on the cover. Cosmopolitan UK said this novel was "wickedly funny!" While The Other Half wasn't a down-in-the-dumps, overly-depressing novel at all, there definitely weren't any joke-y scenes or witty one-liners. I never had any laugh-out-loud moments and that wasn't negative - it's just that this wasn't a feel-good type of story. I'm not sure what they found so uproarious.
Like I said, The Other Half isn't a book for everyone. However, I found it extremely readable - read it in only two sittings - and enjoyed it!...more
The House at the End of Hope Street is that rare kind of story that initially comes across as wholly unassuming and it isn't until you look up and see it's going on 3am that you realize this book has completely enchanted you. There are few books I'll read in a single sitting and even fewer that I'll sacrifice sleep for, but with this book I happily ignored the rapidly-approaching dawn. For 280 gorgeous pages I lived and breathed this story. When I finally finished I wanted to hold the book close, somehow make it a part of me. I seriously considered starting over again, turning back to the very first page - and I have never reread a book immediately after finishing.
At 19, Alba Ashby is well on her way to a bright future. She was Cambridge University's youngest student (15) and is now the youngest PhD student. Her world collapses in an Unspeakable Moment - throughout the novel the truth is hinted at, though never fully detailed until later on - and she sees herself with no option but to leave school. Not wanting to return to a home where her siblings hate her (Lord Ashby's children prefer the latest and greatest, not understanding their youngest sister's passion for books and history) and finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street.
As if she fully expected to see Alba on her doorstep, an older woman introduces herself as Peggy and invites the girl in. She invites Alba to stay in the house for ninety-nine days while she gets her life back on track. Once inside, Alba notices the photographs lining the walls. Hundreds on photos of famous women, all of whom had taken up residence in the house at one point or another. Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, and Sylvia Plath had found the house in their time of need and now it's their turn to offer advice to Alba - literally. The house on Hope Street isn't an ordinary home, it's a living, breathing place ready to provide inspiration and assistance to any woman who finds herself at the door.
The characters in The House at the End of Hope Street are just as magical as the house itself. Along with Peggy and Alba, there are two other women who have taken up residence in the house. Greer, a starlet pushing forty, recently discovered her fiance entertaining a woman young enough to be her daughter and Carmen, a beautiful Portuguese woman who fell in love with a musician and is now holding onto a dark secret. The story's narrative alternates between these four women and nothing - nothing - makes me happier than some multiple narratives! There's Stella, a ghost only Alba can see, who has filled the role of friend and confidant that was missing from Alba's life. There's also Mog, a cat who has been in the house for decades - and let's not forget the photographs! The entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining Harry Potter-esque photos. The women in the frames are fully capable of interaction and, whether Alba wants it or not, are quick to offer advice. At the very end of the book there are a few pages devoted to these women which give mini-bios. There are suffragists (Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst), writers (Daphne du Maurier, George Eliot), actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh), scientists (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville) and so many, many other remarkable women and let it be noted that my interest is definitely piqued. Don't be at all surprised if future reviews include a biography or two!
The House at the End of Hope Street is a book I could keep talking about for AGES. For such a tiny novel, there's so much to be said about this story! It's also one of those books I loved so much that I fear anything I say could never do it justice. There are novels that I enjoy enough to declare a top pick for the year. This one, however, has gone above and beyond. It's achieved that special status: a favorite not just for the year, but overall. Some books I like enough to reread - at some point. This time I know I'll be revisiting these characters.
Whether you're a Young Adult reader who's looking to dip your feet into the Adult genre or a reader who's looking to get lost in a beautiful world, I cannot recommend this book enough. It had everything I didn't know I had been looking for and Menna van Praag is an author I'll now be keeping my eye on....more
While the young demographic has me raising my eyebrows once again, I still thoroughly enjoyed Dangerous Deceptions. It doesn't leave the reader hanginWhile the young demographic has me raising my eyebrows once again, I still thoroughly enjoyed Dangerous Deceptions. It doesn't leave the reader hanging from the events that happened in Palace of Spies (though it's entirely possible the year-long wait in between these novels will do that on its own!) and Peggy's uncovering answers for her questions. This series provides a refreshing change from my usual 1800s-era Historical Fiction and I'm loving the closer look at the Jacobites! Although I'd be hesitant to recommend this series to a younger reader, older teens and adults are sure to be pleased!
Whenever Jojo Moyes releases a new novel I know I'm in for a good time. The moment I have it in my hands I begthis review will go live on the blog7/1
Whenever Jojo Moyes releases a new novel I know I'm in for a good time. The moment I have it in my hands I begin planning my day around it (I do not appreciate being interrupted while reading her books!) and set aside huge blocks of time in which to dive deep into Jojo's worlds. Since reading the incredible The Girl You Left Behind last year, I have since gone on to work my way through her backlist (something I rarely do). One Plus One is my fourth Jojo to date (The Last Letter from Your Lover and Silver Bay were both devoured earlier this year) and, while I've adored them all, Jojo's growth and ever-sharpening skills as a writer are evident with each novel.
Because my first two forays into Jojo's works were dual-era novels, I had mistakenly assumed this was her shtick. Silver Bay taught me that wasn't the case and One Plus One follows in its footsteps while still employing the multiple narratives that I love so much. Jess doesn't have much. She lives in a government-provided home, works as a house cleaner for wealthy vacationers, and struggles to make ends meet. Her husband took off two years ago and left Jess to support their daughter and his son on her own. Nicky, a smart-but-brooding teenager, is relentlessly bullied by the neighboring kids. Tanzie is an odd little girl, but phenomenal at math.
One phone call changes their world. When Tanzie is granted a hefty scholarship to an elite private school, Jess is left to find a way to come up with the rest of the cash - and fast. Word of a Mathematics Olympics has the family - and their gigantic dog - piling into a less-than-reliable car and on their way to Scotland.
When Ed was in college, the world was in his palms. He partnered with a buddy and together they created a booming software business, leaving both of them very well-off. Unfortunately, Ed ended up in a rather compromising position with an old college friend and now phrases like 'insider trading,' 'litigation fees,' and - the worst - 'jail time' have become a part of his life. In an attempt to lay low for a bit, Ed heads down the coast to stay in his beachfront home. When he first meets the cleaner he doesn't give her the time of day. The second time he meets her (and her kids and dog broken down on the side of the road) he decides to do something right for once: Ed offers to drive them to Scotland.
To say One Plus One is a road trip novel would be selling it short. Yes, technically, it is, but it's about so much more. These are flawed, broken characters who, over the course of the book, discover what it's like to love and be loved in return. My emotions ran the gamut: I laughed, I cried, I fretted over several choices made but stood in their corner through it all. While reading I lived and breathed these characters and now that it's over, I'm left feeling like I'm six years old again and my best friend has just moved away. I cannot praise Jojo's skill highly enough. She took a relatively ordinary story - single mom trying to support her kids - and turned it into something extraordinary.
One of my favorite things about any Jojo novel is the sheer amount of character growth. She has a no-holds-barred kind of attitude when it comes to her stories and seriously puts her characters through the wringer. Nicky, a Goth boy who likes eyeliner and prefers online friends, became so much more than a moody teenager. Ed, at first an extremely unlikable, egotistical man, did a complete 180° and turned out to be a fantastic - and fascinating - character.
I feel this review is more of me spouting my love for Jojo than anything and, as with each of her books, I'm struggling to find just the right words to say. One Plus One is story that made my heart swell and break - usually within the same chapter! For me, it's a perfect summertime read, though in a different way than your average beach read. The characters come alive and their circumstances - trying to keep up with bills, going from paycheck to paycheck - hit home for many. While most beach reads are about escape, One Plus One takes hold of your hand and shows you there are others out there just like you. And who doesn't love a smelly, drooling dog?
One Plus One is a phenomenal novel and firmly secures Jojo's rank as one of my favorite authors. Are you a long-time fan? Read this. Are you still new to her work and feel a bit overwhelmed by all the love she's received? Read this. Are you looking for a damn fine story? Read this....more
Admittedly the ending felt a little overwhelming and rushed, as though Millar had a deadline she needed to reach and tried to cram another hundred pagAdmittedly the ending felt a little overwhelming and rushed, as though Millar had a deadline she needed to reach and tried to cram another hundred pages into thirty. A few outcomes weren't what I was hoping for (certain characters needed put in their place and I didn't get the satisfaction of seeing justice served here) and even felt a little sitcom-y, but overall The Hidden Girl was an exciting, fast-paced ride and I enjoyed it! It wasn't as great as Accidents Happen and could have benefited from a little tightening, but I’d definitely recommend it to readers looking for something a little darker this season.
Alyxandra Harvey is a completely new-to-me author. I haven't read her Drake Chronicles series, Haunting Violet, or any of her other works, but the moment I came across A Breath of Frost I was instantly intrigued. Regency London, witchcraft, opened gates to the underworld - it all left me dancing in delight and I couldn't request it fast enough.
Three cousins - Emma, Penelope, and Gretchen - are in the midst of their first Season. As debutantes, they're expected to attend ball after ball in the hopes of obtaining a husband. Unfortunately for their parents, these girls have other ideas.
Emma's mother descended into madness shortly after Emma was born. Since then, Emma has carried around a small perfume bottle that had belonged to her mother. When a party-goer bumps into Emma and the bottle smashes to pieces, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Suddenly there are dead girls and whispers of magic - things Society would never discuss in public - and somehow Emma discovers herself in the middle of it all.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed A Breath of Frost. This was definitely an instance where I was at the right place at the right time, the-star-were-aligned sort of moment. A Breath of Frost was exactly what I hadn't realized I wanted to read and it was fantastic. The sheer size (clocking in at just shy of 500 pages) is definitely going to put off some readers, but for all its heftiness, this was a fairly light read. Oh sure, there are multiple murders and hellhounds, but it kept me entertained the entire time - and that's certainly not something that can be said for every 500-page book I've come across.
Although Emma is very much the main character, Penelope and Gretchen have their chance to shine and from the looks of things, the sequel focuses on Gretchen. I'm a big fan of series where each book follows a different character, so this only adds to my eagerness for more! The secondary characters: Cormac, Daphne, Moira, were all given their fair share of screen time so-to-speak and felt wholly unique. I will admit that for the first few chapters I was under the impression that Moira's scenes were some sort of flashback or time skip, but that turned out to not be the case once she started interacting with Emma - whoops!
For such a long book, I'm really at a loss of things to say. A Breath of Frost contained fluff when I wasn't looking for something heavy, but also held enough substance to keep me entertained and invested. The romance, while not a love-triangle, was of the I-hate-you-but-I-love-you variety that I'm not overly fond of. While he was never physically abusive, Cormac was definitely cruel to Emma - yet couldn't stop thinking about her during his own chapters.
There were multiple plots I easily called (Ewan, the identity of the murderer, etc) and Emma's newly-sprouted antlers were more amusing than anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed A Breath of Frost and am looking forward to Whisper the Dead (coming later this year!). If you like your paranormal with a side of fluff and enjoy a full cast of characters (seriously, there are a LOT with multiple perspectives to boot), pick up a copy of this book!...more
After last year's A Corner of White (read my review here), I was sold. Who wouldn't want to read about a world totally separate from ours where colors can execute deadly attacks!! Immediately after finishing I knew I needed to read The Cracks in the Kingdom - I wanted to read it so badly it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. While I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the first, it was still a solid second novel and worthy sequel, setting up the scene for a fantastic third book!
Madeleine Tully lives with her mother in Cambridge, England. Once spoiled by a lavish lifestyle, Madeleine now resides in a cramped, leaking apartment and the building's residents take turns homeschooling the children. A few months ago she discovered something remarkable: a small crack in a parking meter leads to another world. Naturally Madeleine assumed it was a prank - there's no way another world exists, right? The more she and Elliot communicated, however, the more she came to believe what she was seeing.
Elliot Baranski lives in a small farming community called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. It's a world much like ours, only with the added danger of colors. Yep. Certain colors can be wonderful things - turquoise, for instance, can give you an adrenaline rush like none you've experienced before! - while other colors can be devastating. Elliot recently lost his uncle to a Purple attack and his father still hasn't been found, although there are rumors floating around that he's been seen. When the entire royal family (save for Princess Ko) mysteriously vanishes, the entire matter is treated with the utmost secrecy; dealing with the World is extremely illegal and punishable by death. Elliot is among a small group recruited to help rescue them and now he needs Madeleine's help more than ever.
While The Cracks in the Kingdom wasn't a bad book by any means, it definitely suffered a big from Second Book Syndrome - and was very much Elliot's story. A Corner of White beautifully set up both worlds and was chock-full of character development. This time around I didn't get that at all. Madeleine's mother played a large role in the first book; she wasn't in it at all in the second. The same with her friends (and we'll get to Belle's mindboggling change of character in a moment). Instead, this book gave much of its focus to Elliot's story and Cello - understandable, since the plot revolved around finding the missing royal family.
The Cracks in the Kingdom gives a deeper look into Cello and I loved exploring this world! There's a lake where you can catch spells - and only if you're under a certain age. There are strange new sports and, of course, the color attacks. Unfortunately, I felt the lack of both worlds ultimately made the story suffer a bit. I could have dealt with that if it wasn't for the abrupt character changes. Out of nowhere Madeleine's friend Belle leaves a note (the others joke that it's a suicide note and her own mother doesn't seem worried) and runs away from home to be with a "man" she's fallen for. A grown man. These are 14-year-old children. That entire subplot not only seemed tacked on last-minute (particularly since it was at the VERY end of the book and lasted all of a few pages), but completely rubbed me the wrong way.
The end provided a few surprising reveals - I honestly didn't see a certain one coming! - and sets things up nicely for the third book. The royal family, now found, is stuck in the World, half-remembered who they really are and unable to get home. Elliot and Madeleine have finally managed to see each other (in the first book I wasn't quite sure how a potential romance could work out, but The Cracks in the Kingdom does a decent job of making it not only plausible, but a reality), and the cracks between the worlds are becoming larger. Despite my issues with this novel I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book!...more
And if you feel that your decision was the right one, know this at least: that somewhere in this world is a man who loves you, who understands how precious and clever and kind you are. A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment, suspects he always will.
I am not a sappy girl. I don't get mushy or go all starry-eyed over forbidden romance. That said, I truly believe Jojo Moyes is on a one-woman mission to utterly destroy me. The Last Letter from Your Love ripped out my heart and stomped all over it...and I loved every second.
Much like The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover follows two stories over two different eras. In the 1960s, Jennifer Stirling had it all: a fabulously wealthy husband, a beautiful house, all the finest dresses, and her parties were renowned. A devastating car accident left her with memory loss and as she slowly pieces her life back together, she uncovers letters. Passionate letters from a man who certainly is not her husband. Times were different then - a woman was expected to maintain the house and children while the husband worked and divorce could ruin her reputation. Despite this, Jenny wants, needs to find this man she loved so fiercely.
In 2003 Ellie Haworth isn't where she envisioned herself to be at 32: a year into an affair with a man who has no interest in permanently leaving his wife and trapped in a newspaper office constantly searching for the next big story. With the building undergoing massive renovations, Ellie's tasked with searching through the archives and writing a feature on life in a previous era. While going through decades-old files, Ellie discovers letters - not just any letters, but love letters. The more she reads the more she becomes attached to these two strangers and their forbidden romance that so clearly mirrors her own. She decides then and there to track down these two people and see what came of their romance: did the woman accept his offer and leave her husband? Did she decide it was a mistake and has spent the past forty years trying to put it behind her?
With two Moyes novels now under my belt, I feel confident in saying she's a favorite author. Even before this book, when I had only read The Girl You Left Behind, I knew there was something special about her and I was left wanting more. Moyes has a way of making me completely incoherent and I absolutely love that her books have such an effect on me.
I will say though, that as much as I love her novels, Jojo Moyes has a slightly jarring way of switching eras. The novel opens in 1960 and although there were a few small skips to 1964, the story followed Jenny and Anthony for so long that I began wondering if perhaps I read the summary wrong and 2003 had been left out completely. It wasn't until page 231 that the second story line appeared and by then I was so invested in the previous story that I struggled a bit to get into it. Roughly 150 pages were left to not only wrap up the first story, but also introduce and complete the second, and I felt Ellie's story suffered because of this. My other minor (minor! This is Jojo we're talking about and she can do no wrong in my eyes!) issue is with the letters. While Anthony's words were breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt, they are read and reread so many times by so many different characters that it felt like overkill - especially since each instance features the letter in its entirety.
With only two small distractions, I'd say The Last Letter from Your Lover is about as close to a perfect novel as you can get. My heart ached for Anthony and Jennifer and I fell in love with their story. In hindsight, several plot twists are obvious, but while I was reading I was shocked and surprised - definitely the sign of a great writer! Also, Moyes threw in a Doctor Who reference and that alone is enough to warrant five stars! I loved this book and I adore Moyes: do yourself a favor and read The Last Letter from Your Lover. It's sweet and sad and beautiful and heartbreaking....more
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his esthis review will go live on the blog11/01
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his estate. Despite their difference in status, Peggy and her cousin Olivia are more like sisters and Peggy knows that when the day comes where Olivia will be married, she'll be right there by her cousin's side. Much to her surprise, it's Peggy who receives a marriage proposal - and after a disaster of a first meeting she's swiftly forced out of her uncle's house.
All alone with nothing to her name, Peggy is taken in by Mr. Tinderflint and his associates Mr. Peele and Mrs. Abbott. Under their careful instruction Peggy is transformed into Lady Fran, maid of honor to Princess Caroline. Disguised as Lady Francesca, Peggy will enter the court of King George I at a time when tensions ran thick - loyalties were split between George and James the Pretender. The more time she spends around the other maids the more Peggy begins to have her suspicions about what really caused Francesca's death.
Palace of Spies was fantastic! I was intrigued when I first heard about the book, so when it was available to Read Now it was a total no-brainer. Peggy's narration is fun and clever - and more than once I laughed out loud. She thinks for herself during a period when women were ruled by their husbands and fathers. She isn't afraid to speak her mind (though that tends to come with grave consequences) and she's an expert cards player.
I've read my share of Historical Fiction and while I enjoy the genre, I have to admit I've never read anything set during this particular time period! Palace of Spies provided enough background that I wasn't completely bewildered, but as a history buff, I would never argue with more. Tell me more about King George I! Tell me more about James the Pretender and his claim to the throne! The events at the end of the novel lead me to believe more will come out of this in the next book and quite frankly, I can't wait.
Guys, the romance in Palace of Spies is definitely worth reading! Yes there's a love triangle, but don't forget that the entire court believes Peggy to be Lady Fran. Just because she looks like the girl it doesn't mean she has the same taste in men. Also, I'm very excited to see how the relationship will play out - there's a bit of handholding in this novel and that's only due to sneaking around pitch-black manors. This definitely seems to be a slow burn romance and I absolutely love it.
Unfortunately there's one sense in particular that could be triggering. It was graphic enough that I certainly raised my eyebrows at the young age group this novel is targeted toward and it didn't seem to serve much purpose other than showing Peggy's betrothed is a terrible person (and that could have been accomplished in a number of other ways). Despite this, however, I had such a wonderful time with Palace of Spies and am eagerly awaiting the next!...more
Esio Trot is more a novella than anything - my copy is only 62 pages and that's including full-page illustrations. I'm a bit ashamed to admit this, but this reading was my first. Naturally I had heard of the story, but apart from seeing it at work, I literally knew nothing about it. Imagine my surprise when I found out it's a love story!
Mr. Hoppy lives above Mrs. Silver and harbors a secret. He's terribly in love with her, but Mrs. Silver loves another: her pet tortoise Alfie. Every day Mrs. Silver and Mr. Hoppy chat and he can't help but feel a bit of jealousy at the affection Mrs. Silver has for Alfie. One day Mrs. Silver confides in Mr. Hoppy that, as much as she adores Alfie, he hasn't grown at all in the 11 years she's owned him and she's rather like it if he weren't so small. Mr. Hoppy decides then and there to come up with a plan to win Mrs. Silver's heart.
I've read reviews for this story that claim the relationship is based on lies and deception. While I think that's taking it a bit too far, I can see it. Mr. Hoppy certainly launches a large covert operation and, in the end, he does win her over, all the while the truth remains hidden. In the end Dahl does address this and I was pleased with the outcome.
Esio Trot was a fun little story - and I feel like a total dolt for not realizing sooner that Esio Trot spells tortoise backwards. If you haven't yet read this one and have fifteen minutes to spare, definitely find a copy. It's a little more grounded in reality than some of Dahl's other, more famous works, but it's just as enjoyable....more
I like posting reviews on release dates, but this one drops (ha) on my mom's birthday and I refuse to soil (ha) her day with this book. Instead, the rI like posting reviews on release dates, but this one drops (ha) on my mom's birthday and I refuse to soil (ha) her day with this book. Instead, the review will go live on the blog3/17
With my reviews, I tend to follow a format. Hyde, however, made me so angry - and nauseous - that I'm going to jump right into things. I apologize for the quotes below. I know they're gross, but so is this book. Avoid it.
I'm not alone. Believe me, I am not alone.
I was so looking forward to having a great, albeit creepy, time with Hyde. After all, it's a reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde, but one where Hyde is the hero and shown in a sympathetic light. Unfortunately, I didn't get that at ALL here. Hyde is foul and disgusting, fully willing to do Jekyll's dirty work for him and kill with no remorse.
The chapter titles confused me. They consist of four days, yet the story lasts far longer than that. I wasn't entirely sure what these days meant. At first I thought perhaps that was how long Hyde was in control of the body, but it quickly became apparent that wasn't the case; in one chapter we're with Hyde for over a month!
You would think Hyde would be a fascinating character, right? Sadly, it was the minor, secondary characters I felt more for. Jeannie, a sixteen-year-old prostitute Hyde frequently visits who winds up moving in with him (along with her younger sister) and ultimately becomes pregnant. At one point the sisters are cast out of the estate and that's it. Jeannie wasn't even given the chance to tell Hyde about the baby. I wanted more about her. Where did she go? What happened to the baby? Out of everyone, Jeannie was the character I was the most drawn to, and she was practically written out of the story and forgotten about. Another character I found intriguing was one who wasn't even in the story: Emile Verlaine. Before the novel starts, Jekyll experiences a bit of scandal while in France when a young boy under his care committed suicide. Through a series of narratives, we learn Emile had other personalities, much like Jekyll. These personalities were separate entities with their own characteristics and likes and dislikes. Again, however, the 'screen-time' wasn't enough for me and ended far too soon.
Hyde would have been a fairly lackluster story had I not noticed just how obsessed with fecal matter it was. At first it was a bird dropping on Hyde's jacket. This happened twice and two scenes seemed two too many. It was then it became apparent that Hyde was a book about shit:
Dr. Petit said that L'inonnu mixed his own feces into the paint. pg. 211
The fecal stink from Carew was still in my nostrils... pg. 225
Numbly, I picked at my buttons, dragging off my sticking clothes. I pulled down my trousers and drawers and stared at the filthy streaks down my legs, a blast of stench making my cover my mouth and cough. I had soiled myself. pg. 227
We passed a horse pulled up to the kerb who lifted his tail and ejected a pile of green droppings that steamed like hot food. pg. 258
He dropped the book into the pot, he turned and unbuckled his trousers, hunkered down, and strained out a dry painful curl of movement. He stood and looked woozily down at the soiled book. pg. 289
Nope. No thank you. I wash my hands (both figuratively AND literally, if you please) of this novel and it is with a hearty sigh of relief that I'm finally done with it.
Disgusting and unnecessary, Hyde is a novel that I honestly cannot recommend. To anyone. At the end of the book is the original story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and if you're interested in the inspiration (if you want to call it that) for Hyde, you can easily find a copy for much cheaper at a used bookstore. I hate writing negative reviews without anything positive to include, but there was nothing positive to be said about this book. It was less than 300 pages? I suppose that's a plus. It's really a shame; I love HMH's Young Adult books, but this Adult novel was such a disappointment. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one....more
Love by the Morning Star is one of those rare books that kept me up far later than I intended and the only wathis review will go live on the blog5/30
Love by the Morning Star is one of those rare books that kept me up far later than I intended and the only way I managed to get ANY sleep that night was to physically force myself to set the book down. Bravo, Ms. Sullivan!
Anna Morgan wants nothing more than to be accepted into the arms of high society. Her father, a mere grocer, has started gaining a following with his political viewpoints and Anna welcomes any and all publicity. She's worked hard to look and sound right and now, as far as anyone's concerned, she can pass for a wealthy young woman. Her dreams collapse however, when she's called upon to take a position at Starkers Castle as a lowly kitchen maid - servants were virtually invisible - and spy on the household, looking for any possible pro-Hitler leanings.
Hannah Morgenstern loves singing and dancing in her family's cabaret. All around them Berlin is falling, and the only reason this particular Jewish family has managed to stay afloat is because Mr. Morgenstern's clientele includes many high-standing politicians and members of the Nazi Party. Their luck could only hold out for so long though, and eventually the Morgensterns make the decision to send Hannah to a relative in England. Lord Liripip had once been married to Mrs. Morgenstern's sister and the family never quite forgave her for running off to Germany to buy a nightclub. Family is family however, and Hannah packs her things.
In a classic case of mistaken identities, Anna is presumed to be the family's niece, while it's Hannah who's sent down to the kitchens. Anna can't believe her good fortune, while Hannah believes her position is Lady Liripip's form of punishment. Add in a few cute boys, a fantastic cast of characters, and an assassination plot and you've got the makings of quite a story!
The more I think about this book, the more I love it! Love by the Morning Star was intriguing, it was surprisingly raunchy in some parts, it was thought-provoking. I'm a big fan of dual narratives and while that's employed to great effect, Hannah is largely the focus. To be honest, that was perfectly fine with me; Anna was insufferable at times and her self-centeredness brought out some woefully pathetic opinions (the poor wouldn't be poor if they just went out and got jobs; some songbirds were too loud - hey! the poor people can be hired to hunt songbirds and maybe make a pretty hat out of the feathers; years before the story takes place she had been in love with a florist, but wouldn't admit it - a girl like her couldn't possibly lower herself to be a florist's wife).
Hannah, on the other hand, was a delight! She was funny, she was cheerful, she took to rambling on and on - sometimes at the most inopportune moments! So many times she wants to leave Starkers, but it's the only place she can receive word of her parents' safety and for that reason alone she's determined to stay.
While the reader knows from the start the two girls aren't who they're supposed to be, the truth doesn't come out until the very end. And I mean very end - and what a reveal it is! I delighted in every minute of that scene. It's all the more confusing when two boys enter the picture: Teddy, their heir to the Liripip fortune (and title), has fallen for the girl he believes is Anna (their meetings have only ever been in the dark, dead of night); and Hardy, the charming gardener. If you're a reader who is not a fan of love triangles, have no fear. While the lines are pretty blurred at times, each person is really in love with only one other...they just might have some trouble figuring out who that person truly is!
Although WWII is looming and Hitler is in full control, this isn't a war novel. Yes, Hannah's family had to flee. Yes, Anna's father has some extremely anti-Semitic views. These very real things don't exactly take a backseat to the novel, but they're also aren't at the forefront. Instead, Love by the Morning Star is a story about two girls who are thrown into positions they weren't quite expecting and how they manage to carry on. It's a shame I haven't seen more buzz about this novel - I absolutely adored it and hope others will do the same! I know this is one I'll be recommending to many people. It has just the right amount of humor and drama to appeal to readers of so many genres: YA, Historical, Romance, War Fiction, character-driven stories, I could go on and on....more
Everyone has their personal brand of comfort read, be it a fluffy romance, realistic fiction, or a beloved childhood favorite. For me it's thrillers. Prior to jumping back into YA (and blogging), 95% of what I read fell into the thriller genre and I love revisiting favorites and discovering new ones. Louise Millar's sophomore title, Accidents Happen, definitely classifies as the latter (spoiler alert?).
After a series of tragedies - the sudden death of her parents on her wedding night, the murder of her husband, and a recent break-in - Kate is more than a little protective of her son. Statistics begin to take charge of her life and her cautiousness quickly delves into paranoia and obsession. The iron gate encompassing the entire second floor is the final straw for Kate's in-laws and they begin to wonder if her son might not be better off living with them. Jack is 10, old enough to walk to the convenience store on his own and not worry about monsters in his closet, but Kate's fear has kept him sheltered.
Five years since the death of her husband and Kate is still not ready to move on. It's only at the thought of losing her son that Kate agrees to seek out a therapist and their first meeting couldn't end fast enough. Now each week Kate lies to her sister-in-law about where she's going - anywhere but that therapist.
One day she stops into a cafe and notices a book lying on a nearby table. Beat the Odds and Change Your Life by Jago Martin, Professor at the University of Edinburgh. Kate wastes no time in flipping through the chapters. Topics on how to improve the chance of avoiding car accidents and selecting the best airline ring loud and clear and when the owner of the book returns to his table, she has to force herself to hand the book back. The two strike up a conversation and she realizes he's the author: Jago Martin. More out of necessity than anything, Kate wants to know where he came up with his numbers, his facts.
Back at Kate's house, Jack's closet door opens. It seems his monsters aren't so imaginary after all.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. To say I really enjoyed this book would be putting it lightly. For four days I lived and breathed Accidents Happen, fully immersed while reading and when I wasn't I was thinking of nothing but getting back to it. Right from the start you learn Kate's fears are very real, there actually is someone entering their home any time she's gone. A hole cut into the back of Jack's closet is the perfect passageway from the other side of their duplex. Magnus is free to come and go as he pleases and doesn't hesitate to help himself to some of Kate's lotion or whatever is in the fridge. Logic (and her mother-in-law) tells Kate that perhaps she used a little more lotion than she thought or maybe Jack wanted a midnight snack, but the truth is far more frightening. More than once I was so overwhelmed with emotion I had to set the book down. Despite Kate's alarm system and other precautions, Magnus still found a way to enter her home and that terrified me.
As the story progressed I quickly figured out who the Bad Guy was but it didn't dampen my enjoyment at all. Accidents Happen is a little on the longer side, but the pace is so blindingly fast I actually had to slow myself down in an attempt to stay with this wonderful book as long as possible. Whether you're a long-time thriller fan or a YA fan looking for something new, I highly recommend Accidents Happen. This book was intense and riveting with plot twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat....more
The Bone Season has received an insane amount of hype leading up to its release. Personally, I'm extremely hesitant to give in to any book labeled The Next ______ (especially when it's the next Harry Potter). While I definitely wouldn't say this series is the next HP, the hype is certainly deserved!
2050s London is far different than it is today. In the late 1800s, a seance-gone-wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) ushered forth clairvoyants, normal humans with abnormal abilities. 200 years later, clairvoyants are still on the run from the Big Brother-esque Scion. With a father in the government, Paige Mahoney has a lot to lose if her true nature is discovered. Using a false job as a cover, she spends her time in London's seedy underworld, working for a man with questionable ethics.
Some clairvoyants can read tarot cards or palms. Paige is a dreamwalker, a person with the ability to not only enter others' minds, but - as Paige discovers - their bodies as well. A rather disastrous train ride sets Scion's sights on Paige and she quickly learns there's much more to her world than she ever thought possible.
If you're a fan of massive world-building, The Bone Season is for you. In fact, there's so much to learn it can be slightly overwhelming. Initially I was a bit confused - the first few chapters are bogged down with lots of info and terms - but as the novel progressed these ideas and phrases became second nature and by the end of the book I was fully immersed.
NOTHING makes me happier than opening a book and finding a big ol' map staring at me. I absolutely love it and this one was a complete surprise. It's not as large or as detailed as some of the other maps I've come across in books (although those typically encompass entire worlds rather than a single city), but it made me feel right at home. There's also a chart in the very beginning of the book - even before the map! - that I didn't fully understand until later in the story. It breaks down the seven orders of clairvoyance and once you understand what each ability means, this chart becomes absolutely fascinating. Probably the most helpful though was the nine-page glossary. Trust me on this one: you'll need it. Between words like mime-crime, threnody, and Amaurotic, there's a LOT to learn and you'll quickly become good friends with those nine pages.
The characters were another hit and each one was beautifully crafted (particularly Warden ♥). Whether they were minor, one-scene characters or main characters seen throughout the course of the novel, I got a feel for every single one. Yes The Bone Season is a fantasy novel, but when you get down to it, these characters are still human (some of them at least!) and they're not without flaws and strengths and fears.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the ending seriously left me wanting more (plus the romance I was starting to suspect wouldn't happen!). While I'm a bit unsure of how the story will play out over seven books, you can bet I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel! Don't go into The Bone Season expecting to return to the world of Harry Potter. Honestly, apart from the same publisher and series length, the two are nothing alike. If you go into it with thoughts of Hogwarts and Quidditch you will be let down. However, if you're looking for a fun and exciting new series with an excellent world and class system, The Bone Season is for you!...more
When I was little the doctors called me a hermaphrodite. It's got a lot of stigma, but as a word on its own I like it better. It's a thing. It's not between things. It's an ancient Greek word. It makes me sound old, like we were always around. I like that.
The Walkers are a perfect family. Steve and Karen are both highly successful in their fields, 15-year old Max is a straight-A student who would never dream of talking back to his parents or getting into fights, and 10-year old Daniel is perfect in that he isn't perfect. On the outside, the Walkers have it all; they're media darlings and everyone in town knows their names. Behind closed doors, however, the Walkers are hiding a secret.
Max Walker is the star of the football team. All the girls flock to him and he's just a few tests away from the top schools. No one would assume Max is anything other than a normal teenage boy. Sure he's a bit smaller than the other boys in his class, but his two best friends only just recently started shaving, and football has done wonders for Max's muscles. He goes on dates with girls and leads a normal life.
Max's secret never bothered him; it was who he was. After one of his closest friends does the unthinkable, however, Max suddenly becomes well aware of just how different he is. Max isn't like the other boys - Max is intersex. He has both male and female organs. Until now, he's managed to keep it hidden from the world; his dates with girls never went farther than kissing and while it's not what Max wants, it's worked so far. He's earned a reputation at school as being a Love-Them-And-Leave-Them type and he does nothing to refute the claims.
With Hunter's betrayal, Max is left in a whirlwind of questions, confusion, and anger. His father's recent campaign announcement only adds to his distress. The Walkers are supposed to be the perfect family; how could they possibly explain their son's pregnancy?
You hear about things going wrong during a birth, but when you're pregnant and in labor, you never think it will happen to you. No one thinks theirs will be the baby with the problem. And then it was my baby, and it made me worry all the more acutely for the rest of his life, because I had been right to worry at the birth, because when it had been time to give birth, to do the most important thing I could do for Max, something had gone wrong.
Oh, wow. WOW. Guys, I was so not prepared for Golden Boy. I'm always up for a good - and tough! - read, but I wasn't expecting this. That's definitely not a bad thing though; the author tackled an extremely sensitive subject and I thought she did a fantastic job. Also: SHE'S ONLY A YEAR OLDER THAN ME WHAT.
I don't get squeamish while reading and I rarely cringe at descriptions, so be warned: within the first few pages there is a VERY graphic rape scene. That alone could be enough to turn away many readers. Other triggers of note: attempted suicide, drug abuse, and abortions. So, yes, decidedly not a sunny day, sitting-on-the-porch kind of read. Despite this, however, I found myself absolutely captivated.
Hunter's betrayal was one I had not seen coming. I took the summary to mean he leaked information to the media, not that he would rape Max and get him pregnant! Max and Hunter grew up together, their parents were best friends. The boys considered themselves cousins in a way. For Hunter to do such a horrible thing to Max was appalling. He took advantage of Max and his trust and left Max a shell of a boy. This happens very early on in Golden Boy and the novel is spent with Max - and his family - dealing with the repercussions.
Golden Boy alternates between a number of perspectives. We see the events through the eyes of Max, his parents, his brother, his doctor, and his girlfriend. Each one had a distinct voice and felt authentic. Max is understandably terrified and ashamed, his brother is worried and angry. Sylvie doesn't know why Max's moods have changed so abruptly or why he's avoiding her. Karen blames herself for her son's 'illness' and tries to make it go away. Every character felt raw and open and real.
Golden Boy is definitely not a book for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. It was tough and thought-provoking and powerful. I have a feeling both the characters and issues the story raised will stick with me for months to come. If you're looking to step outside your comfort zone, Golden Boy is worth a read....more
I keep reading your looping, cursive script, until the words are indelible inside me: "I never knew real happiness until you."
In 370 pages Jojo Moyes managed to elicit every possible emotion from me: I laughed and smiled at the character's moments of happiness, I wept right along with them, I raged at the brutality of others, and lost all hope during certain scenes. The Girl You Left Behind consumed me and brought these characters to life. While the characters are fiction, the events were all too real and the trial was something I could easily picture hearing about in the news today.
Split between war-torn France during World War I and modern-day London, The Girl You Left Behind tells the tale of a painting and the lives of the people inadvertently connected to it and, ultimately, to each other. Sophie Lefevre and her sister operate a hotel/restaurant/bar in their town, though supplies - and money - are dwindling. Through the bleakness Sophie tries to remain positive: rather than counting the days since she last saw her husband, she thinks of each passing day as bringing her one day closer to their reunion. One day the war will be over and her beloved Edouard will return to her. Until that wonderful day, she'll continue carrying on and taking care of business.
The day the Germans occupied the town changed Sophie's life forever. Everyone had something taken from them - blankets, dishes, food - and Sophie's family was no exception. In their case, the soldiers and the Kommandant, set up house in the hotel and give Sophie orders to cook for them. Food will be provided and each night Sophie and her sister will prepare a delicious feast. As though the looks from the townsfolk weren't horrible enough, the Kommandant's deepening interest in Sophie (and the portrait of her Edouard painted) tests her strengths and shows how far she's willing to go to see her husband again.
Nearly a century later, Liv is living in London and trying to get past the sudden death of her husband. The house he built now feels far too big and rather than bring her comfort, it does nothing more than remind Liv that David is no longer with her. The only peace she feels comes from the painting he bought her on their Honeymoon. Since David's death, the painting has been Liv's constant companion, but now a lawfirm aimed at returning stolen objects in war to their rightful owners/family sets its sights on Liv's painting and she won't give it up without a fight.
Nobody fights you like your own sister; nobody else knows the most vulnerable parts of you and will aim for them without mercy.
The Girl You Left Behind was my first Moyes novel and...wow. Just WOW. Going into it I expected a light-hearted chick-lit read and was immediately floored by the weight of the story. The despair and pain of this small French village comes through crystal clear and their few joyful moments (such as the night they got to eat meat for the first time in months) was both beautiful and heartbreaking. I knew their joy wouldn't last. Sure enough, the Kommandant came to town and things went from bad to worse.
Having finished the book, I'm hesitant to pass judgment on the Kommandant. There's no denying he was a terrible, horrible man who did absolutely wretched things. But by the end I saw him in a new light. Perhaps he wasn't the soulless man I first thought he was. Things were awful for Sophie and she is a far stronger woman than I could ever hope to be. She was judged for things she had no control over and ultimately sent to a camp. All the while she still remained true to herself and firmly believed in the good of mankind.
While I preferred Sophie's story, Liv's story was equally compelling. She was widowed at 32 and creditors are all but breaking down the door. She's struggling to make ends meet and one day she's told she has to give her painting to some family in France who claims it was stolen 100 years earlier. It's hard not to feel for her, especially after she finds out that the one man she allowed herself to get close to is the opposing side's lawyer.
And you know what? I secretly like the idea that you could have a painting so powerful it could shake up a whole marriage.
As the story progresses, Liv begins to research the painting and piece together details of Sophie's life. She finds herself caring deeply for this woman, not just as a painting, but as a person. A real person. Both the painting and Sophie remain Liv's rock as the trial goes to court and winds up gaining national - and international - attention. Suddenly reporters are calling at all hours and she can't walk down the street without being called names - or worse.
I don't feel it's spoiling anything by saying there's a happy ending and I knew it was coming. That said, my expectations were surpassed. The way Moyes handled the ending surprised me - in a good way! The novel's only issue (and it's seriously minor) was that initially the dual narrative was a little confusing. At first there are dates/locations provided, but after those first few chapters it simply switches back and forth occasionally and that quick change was jarring. However, I quickly made sense of things and lost myself in the story once more.
As I said in the beginning, The Girl You Left Behind was my first Moyes novel. I'm weeping that I hadn't picked up one of her books before now and many, many hugs for the publicist to introduce me to this wonderful book. This is one I'll be recommending to everyone I know and I urge all of you to buy it!...more
I've sat on this review for nearly a week, hoping that inspiration would strike at some point. Sadly my Ah-ha! moment never came and I'm left struggling to come up with something to say about The Book of Lost Things. This is a textbook case of a novel not living up to expectations.
Max Starling comes from a theatrical family - his parents own a theater and are very well-known. So famous, in fact, that they receive tickets to travel to India and perform for the royal court. Unfortunately, disaster strikes and Max discovers the liner never existed; his parents were abducted and now he's the only one who can save them.
Left on his own, Max uses his acting talent to scrape enough cash together to get by. Looking the part is one thing, but actually convincing everyone he comes into contact with - both children and adults - that he's actually a middle aged detective, a shy kitchen girl, etc. is entirely another. The baffling this is no one questions it. Because Max is tall for his age.
He manages to get along just fine while his parents are missing and quickly the story loses sight of them altogether. Instead of trying to solve the case of his missing parents, Max instead decides to take on more trivial cases: locating a lost dog, tracking down a missing serving spoon. What bothered me was that he never came across as sad or upset or worried or you know, any kind of emotion a 12-year-old would feel at having their parents kidnapped and suddenly being left all alone.
I had such high hopes for The Book of Lost Things! It sounded absolutely wonderful and just what I wanted out of a new Middle Grade series. Unfortunately, I was forcing myself to finish and toward the end I was doing more skimming than reading. Even now I'm still unsure what to say about this book. Despite my lackluster experience, I can easily see lots of reading having a great time with this series and I'm very disappointed to say I was not one of them....more
Bellman and Black is that rare kind of novel that enchants and haunts and refuses to relinquish its hold on the reader - even well after the book is over. This was my introduction to Ms. Setterfield's work but let me say, if The Thirteenth Tale is anywhere near as amazing as this book, I'll be picking up a copy ASAP.
When Will Bellman was a boy he killed a rook. He didn't actually think he could hit it from where he stood, but he wanted to prove himself to the group of boys he played with and boasted that with his slingshot and the perfect stone he could hit anything. When the rook fell William Bellman became something of a legend to those boys and his life was never the same.
As he grew he came to inherit Bellman Mill and it was clear to everyone Will had the touch. Even at 19 he was an incredible businessman, fully able to predict and chart and know what to do and when to do it. The mill quickly expanded and grew and soon Will held quite a pretty penny. When he came to the age where it was expected he start a family, Will married a sweet girl and together they raised four children. All the while, the rooks were ever present.
With the arrival of a deadly illness, Will sought the aid of the only man who could help him and a bargain was struck. The sole survivor of the sickness, Will's eldest daughter, miraculously pulled through and Will's newly launched business made him a very rich man. Just as it always had, things seemed to mold themselves to Will's wishes. Time fixed itself in a way to where he could always get through whatever paperwork needed done, any business decision Will made was a profitable one. Unbeknownst to Will, the other constant in his life - the rooks - was there as well.
It's not a stretch to say the climax is Will's slow descent into madness. Mr. Black makes himself known and Will comes to the realization that he had never been in charge at all. Bellman and Black is the kind of novel I loved so much I'm actually afraid to discuss it; I don't want to say the wrong thing that could turn away a potential reader. I'm also aware that anything I say won't do it justice - it's that good.
I wish this had a late-September or an October release date rather than November. Bellman and Black's gothic atmosphere is absolutely perfect for fall and put me in the Halloween spirit. There was just the right amount of creepiness and the gorgeous language made me yearn for crunchy leaves, ghost stories, and pumpkin-flavored everything.
Bellman and Black is a book I will be forcing upon family and customers alike and I highly recommend it. Don't be surprised if this one shows up again on my Top Reads of 2013 list!...more
Determined to save her family from impending doom, Katherine Ann Stephenson - Kat - chops her hair, dresses as a boy, and runs away from home. Unfortunately for Kat, she makes it as far as the garden before she's discovered and hauled back inside.
Kat's oldest sister, prim and proper Elissa (who has a penchant for dramatics - mostly given her love of gothic romances), is set to wed Sir Neville, an enormously wealthy man who would not only raise the family's status but also settle a bit of gambling debt. Stepmama outdid herself with this one: she managed to arrange this marriage and she will not let anything stop it. While Elissa is determined to do her duty to the family, she can't help but worry about the rumors that surround Sir Neville. His first wife had died and he's the main suspect.
Elissa isn't the only one with troubles, though. Angeline has been going through Mama's magic books (their mother was a powerful witch) and created a love spell with disastrous results. Now the boy won't leave her alone, proclaiming his love night-and-day and proposing at every available moment.
Kat has her own share of problems too: in an attempt to try her hand at a bit of magic, she mistakenly discovers a secret Order that her mother belonged to and learns she's more powerful than any mere witch: Katherine Ann Stephenson is a Guardian.
Kat, Incorrigible was delightful. Kat is gutsy and fearless, full of nothing but love for her family - though perhaps not Stepmama. Her running commentary was hilarious and more than once I laughed out loud. Kat is the kind of girl I would have loved to be at 12 and would have loved to be friends with.
The Stephenson family had once been fairly respectable in Society's eyes. Papa was a member of the clergy and was liked by the townspeople. His marriage to Mama raised more than a few eyebrows. Although Mama came from a good family herself, she made no secret of her powers and that ultimately led to her undoing. She died shortly after Kat was born and when Stepmama moved in, she hid all of Mama's portraits and books in a cupboard never to be seen again.
That is, until Angeline decided to work some magic, which led to Kat finding an enchanted mirror, which led to discovering the Golden Hall, which led to Kat learning she was her mother's heir and Guardian, which led to... It was a never-ending spiral and I loved it. The best part though had nothing to do with magic. Kat's bond with her sisters was incredible. Though they may fight and argue and annoy each other to death, they fiercely love one another and would stop at nothing to save the others. When Kat hears about Elissa's engagement to Sir Neville, she makes up her mind then and there to save her no matter what. No matter how much trouble she'll get into nor how many lectures Stepmama will give her.
Kat, Incorrigible was a brilliant, lovely novel full of charm and fantastic characters. Each had a distinct voice and it was magnificent. Between the funny commentary (seriously, read Kat's thoughts on Elissa's obsession with becoming a gothic heroine and try not to giggle!) and the non-stop action, this book kept me entertained the entire time I was reading and I will most definitely be back for more....more
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls and is, by order of birth, doomed to be a failure. Lettie, the middle girl, is breathtakingly beautiful while Martha, the youngest, is certain to find fortune and a happy life. The girls' father runs a successful hat shop and upon his death, their stepmother takes over and begins making arrangements for the girls to take up apprenticeships. Sophie will stay at home and inherit the hat shop one day, while Lettie will train under a highly skilled witch and Martha will learn all there is about cakes and pastries.
At first, Sophie was comfortable. As the months go by however, she feels a longing to do more and be more than a hatter apprentice in drab grey dresses. Unfortunately for Sophie, she crosses paths with the evil Witch of the Waste and soon discovers she has been aged 70+ years. She's now a 90-year old woman, cursed to be old - for she can't tell anyone about the spell - until the day someone comes along to release her.
Because her stepmother obviously would be a bit shocked to discover an old woman in her shop, Sophie makes the decision to leave. She leaves Market Chipping, the town she has known her entire life, and heads off in search of her own fortune. All the while the large, floating castle - home to the evil Wizard Howl - looms overhead.
"That's magic I admire, using something that exists anyway and turning it round into a curse."
It's when Sophie enters the moving castle that things really get going. She meets Michael, Howl's young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon trapped in the fireplace. She quickly strikes a bargain with Calcifer: if she lifts his curse, he'll find a way to change her back. All the while Howl is nowhere to be seen.
When he finally does appear, Sophie is more than surprised. Instead of the fearsome wizard who steals girls and eats their hearts, there stands before her a young man not much older than she is (was?). Over time they become something of a very dysfunctional family: Sophie cleans the castle and cooks the food, Howl and Michael supply spells and potions for the surrounding towns and villages, and Calcifer...well. He's Calcifer.
Unbeknownst to Sophie, Howl is also cursed. The Witch of the Waste has been hunting him down and now she's finally found him.
Howl's Moving Castle is short, y'all. We're taking barely over 200 pages here (my copy is 212). Going into this book I knew about Sophie and Howl, but everything else was completely new to me and not at all what I had expected!
These are the kind of books I love. That lazy Sunday feel is super strong in this book and I love it. Apart from the big battle at the end, not a whole lot happens and I know that's where the book can lose some people. Luckily for me, I'm all about easygoing stories and gobbled this one up.
Over the course of her travels, Sophie meets an enchanted scarecrow, a teacher who might not be all she says she is, and discovers a strange new world: Wales. I was right there with Sophie, taking in every night sight, sound, and emotion.
The ending wrapped up a little too well, but I can easily look past that. It's no wonder Howl's Moving Castle is so beloved and I know it'll be a book I'll revisit time and time again....more
He once thought his own family dysfunctional, but the Tudors proved that there was always something worse.
Cotton Malone, Justice Department agent-turned-antique bookseller, is still reeling from the news of his ex-wive's betrayal. The revelation that Gary is not his son cut deep and hurt Gary even worse. The two plan to spend Gary's Thanksgiving break together - Gary will fly out to Cotton's shop in Copenhagen - but life never goes according to plan.
It seems the job of an agent - even an ex-agent - is never done and, as a favor, Cotton was asked to escort another teenager back home. 15-year old Ian Dunne witnessed a murder and fled the scene with a flash drive containing an unimaginable secret. Now the boy is in grave danger and only Cotton can save him.
Steve Berry is one of my go-to comfort authors and I was ecstatic to receive a copy of his latest. I first discovered Berry shortly after high school when I was coming off my Da Vinci Code high and looking for something similar. Somehow I came across one of Berry's books and haven't looked back. Guys, any of his books are perfect beach reads: blindingly fast pace, super short chapters (a few pages at most with multiple scenes per chapter), intriguing plots. Also, he helped fuel my Romanov obsession.
Don't be intimidated by the length of his Cotton Malone series: one of the best things about Berry's books is that you can jump in anywhere and not feel confused or lost. There are lots of details provided that will catch you up to speed without being overwhelming or bogged down with backstory.
Like his other books, The King's Deception is jam-packed with characters but, apart from a few really minor ones, I never had any trouble keeping them straight and each had a distinct identity. Also in true Berry fashion, there are numerous plots that initially seem unrelated, but by the end, you're left in awe of Berry's mastery.
The main bulk of the novel questions Elizabeth I's identity. Legends have circulated for centuries that the Virgin Queen wasn't quite who she claimed to be and that flash drive Ian Dunne stole? It's all the proof needed to show the monarch was a fraud. The ramifications of such a discovery would be immense: because the monarch was an impostor, any law or creed created during her reign now becomes void. Essentially this means that a good deal of Ireland was handed over to English colonists under false pretenses. This is HUGE and would ultimately lead to war.
Throughout the novel are multiple diary entries and letters describing how the switch happened and how the court ensured its secrecy. When Elizabeth was thirteen, she contracted a fever and died shortly after. A replacement was found - though at that time no one could have foreseen Elizabeth's rise to power (she had been a few places down in the list of heirs). These chapters were SO fascinating and kept me glued to the book.
The only downfall to Berry's writing is that you know from the start who the bad guys are. I like being shocked by a character's double-cross, but here you know everyone's motives from the start. A little more surprise would have been nice.
If you're a Steve Berry newbie and want a good book to take on vacation, pick up a copy of The King's Deception. While reading I kept pausing to look up so many portraits or historical tidbits (the Mask of Youth, for example!). All of it was so wonderfully researched and interesting; don't be surprised if you see an upcoming History 101 post!...more
Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me. I was my father's daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.
After a fairly lackluster start, I'm thrilled to say that 2013's books are picking up very nicely. I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again and again): I love retellings. I don't know what it is about them, but I can't get enough. Luckily for me, it seems the rest of the reading world feels the same way; retellings aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The Madman's Daughter is a new take on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. The original brought the subject of vivisection - dissection on a living animal - to the attention of the public, and this new tale expands on it flawlessly.
An older gentleman came by once a week like clockwork, and Mother would send me out for chocolate biscuits in the cafe downstairs. He wore strong cologne that masked a pungent, stale smell, but Mother never said anything about it. That's how I knew he must be rich - no one ever says the rich stink.
Juliet Moreau is sixteen and one scolding away from living on the streets. Her childhood had been a lavish one: her father was the best surgeon in all of England until the scandal struck. Once Dr. Moreau left his family, Juliet's mother sold everything she could - including her body - in order to keep up with their lifestyle.
Once death took Mrs. Moreau, Juliet had nowhere to go. Thankfully there was still one of her father's friends who hadn't turned his back on the family and found Juliet a job at the university. Scrubbing bloodstains was far from the life Juliet knew, but it was far better than the alternative.
It is a nighttime dare that changes Juliet's life and spreads whispers through her mind that maybe, just maybe, her father might still be alive. England has nothing left for her, and with Montgomery - the former servant of the family - and Balthasar - a sweet, but horribly disfigured man - Juliet leaves the continent and sails to Australia in search of the truth.
Memories of my father flooded me. As a surgeon, blood had been his medium like ink to a writer. Our fortune had been built on blood, the acrid odor infused into the very bricks of our house, the clothes that we wore.
To me, blood smelled like home.
The Madman's Daughter was everything I hoped and then some. It's creepy and horrifying. Countless passages were so expertly written that I read them multiple times. There was one downfall to the story however: the love triangle.
I've been reading YA for quite some time, so love triangles aren't new to me. That said, I'm still not a fan of the romance taking over the story. I wanted more monsters, not moments behind waterfalls!
The two love interests were like night and day. Montgomery grew up with Juliet and was the family's servant. When Dr. Moreau disappeared, so did Montgomery. Now he's back and Juliet's childhood crush is back in full-force. Edward Prince is clearly of high society. He's found stranded at sea and from the moment the two meet there's a strange (yet undeniable) attraction.
Juliet bounces between the two and can't figure out her feelings. One paragraph she's thinking of one boy and in the next the other boy takes hold of her thoughts. Personally, I could have done without the romance.
The horrors that await Juliet on the island are unimaginable. Dr. Moreau had been experimenting with animals in an attempt to develop a creature that could walk, talk, and think like a human. Balthasar, one of the doctor's creatures, was easily my favorite and toward the end I truly felt for him and his fate. Ajax is Balthasar's polar opposite: while Balthasar is sweet and shy, Ajax is cold and calculating. He was the doctor's greatest success. Until the day Ajax became too smart. Now that blood has been shed, the islanders' animal senses are being awakened.
Maybe we weren't wicked, but there was something stained, something torn, in the fabric of our beings.
The Madman's Daughter is truly unforgettable. There was a twist at the end that I wasn't expecting at all and I'm definitely excited to see how it'll play out in the next book! This is one you definitely do not want to miss!...more
Prudence craned her neck and her heart sank. Slender Italianate spires seemed to reach for the sky, rising from an imposing structure so massive it took up more than a London city block. The grounds around it were so immaculate and severe that Prudence couldn't imagine a leaf or stone daring to shift out of place. This was no comfortable home where little girls played hide-and-seek in cozy alcoves, or giggled while they devoured savory meat pies. Poets and artists wouldn't dare argue over their ale while lounging in front of the fire in this household. At this castle, for it was far more of a castle than a manor, everyone knew his place and stuck to it.
Although her mother was but a maid-turned-governess, Prudence Tate never felt different from the two Buxton girls, Rowena and Victoria. Sir Phillip treated the girls equally and raised them to be independent, forward-thinking women. However, with Sir Phillip's death, the girls are sent to live with their relatives at Summerset Abbey and their world is suddenly turned upside-down. Now, instead of living as sisters, Prudence is sent to stay in the servants' quarters and unable to find her place among either class.
Downton Abbey is massive right now and that should come as a surprise to no one. The sudden surge of interest in this time period has led to countless novels and I'm pleased to say Summerset Abbey surpassed my expectations.
The servants' stairway had inconspicuous doors that opened up on each floor, so they could move about the house without their presence being known. It seemed odd to Prudence to have a small army of silent, invisible workers keeping the house running in tip-top shape and not even be aware of them.
Summerset Abbey takes place in 1911 on the cusp of the Suffragette movement and WWI. Rowena, Prudence, and Victoria consider themselves suffragettes and are far more interested in learning skills (Victoria had been taking typing lessons, for example) with which to earn their own money and, particularly in Victoria's case, shun all plans of even getting married.
When their father dies, Uncle Conrad and Aunt Charlotte descend upon Rowena and Victoria and whisk them away to Summerset Abbey. With Rowena being the oldest, Conrad discusses the business side of things: their house didn't belong to Sir Phillip, but instead was the property of the family's estate; he has plans to sell the house; the girls will stay with the family until they're married. Victoria, however, believes they're merely visiting for the winter season. In the beginning she's fine with this - as a child she loved stayed at the manor for the summer - but once she discovers how her beloved Pru is treated, she takes it upon herself to make things right.
"Our sainted mother could flirt with our dearly departed King, outwit Confucius, and make the pope cry, all before breakfast. A most formidable woman."
Summerset Abbey is told through the eyes of all three girls and I'm a sucker for a good multi-narrative. I especially loved Prudence's POV. She knew from the start that she wasn't as highbrow as her sisters, but Sir Phillip never gave it a second thought. Once she reaches the abbey, however, she realizes just how different she truly is. In an attempt to keep all three girls together, Rowena pleads for Prudence to be kept on as their maid. Conrad agrees and Prudence is told about her new position when they arrive at the manor and she's refused entrance through the front door. Instead, she has to go through the servants' door and it's a downward spiral from there.
The servants view her speech, dress, and manners as too 'above' them and hate her for it. Conrad, Charlotte, and their class see Prudence as the daughter of a maid and treat her as such.
It broke my heart to see what Prudence went through and she put up with everything because she knew it was the only way to stay with Rowena and Victoria.
Victoria is the youngest at 18 and is still seen as a child due to her frailty and health issues. Despite her constant asthma attacks, she's prepared to fight for Prudence and when she happens upon an old family photo, Victoria becomes determined to find out just how Prudence is and who her mysterious father was.
Rowena, Rowena, Rowena.. In the beginning I enjoyed her. As time went on and her true colors showed, my fondness for her lessened and by the time the book was over, I was appalled and hurt by her actions.
He reminded her of a man in a fairy tale - not the hero who won the princess, but the sidekick who made it all possible.
There is a massive cast of characters in Summerset Abbey and I'm so glad there are two more books. Hopefully the secondary characters will get their chance to shine. The boys were so very lovely - Sebastian and Andrew being my favorite. I'm eager to see more of everyone in the next book, especially with the coming war.
Lady Summerset could hire extra servants from town to serve dinner, but no one could take the places of those three. In fact, Lady Summerset was certain that if Cairns, Mrs. Harper, and Hortense had been in charge of the Boer War, it would ave come to a much speedier conclusion.
While I saw the plot twist from the beginning, I adored the ride. My only disappointment was with the lack of war, oddly enough. In every summary I've read, I got the sense that WWI was a key plot. Perhaps in the following books?? I hope so!
My only other gripe was the ending and who Prudence ended up with. I so did not expect that! No lies: my jaw actually dropped and I sat there staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the page.
If you're looking for a fun, quick read to get you through the week until the next Downton Abbey episode, or if you're looking for a wonderful new historical fiction series, Summerset Abbey is the book for you. I loved it and absolutely cannot wait for more! ...more
I who had never been haunted, who had been skeptical of visitations, suddenly accepted all possibilities. Or as a priest would say, in that moment, I allowed the devil into my life. But the priest would be wrong. I did more than allow him in. I gave the devil a warm hearth and a hospitable place to rest for as long as he wanted one. I gave him access to my very soul.
Prior to receiving Seduction, I was unaware it was the fifth book in a series. While I was able to follow along with little difficulty, I feel I would have understood much more had I read the other books first. Also, from the summary I had expected a book along the lines of Katherine Howe's The House of Velvet and Glass (read my 5-star review here!). THoVaG deals with seances and reconnecting with loved ones who drowned during Titanic's sinking. It was one of my top picks of 2012 and Sedeuction sounded as though it was going to have a similar feel. Also: Victor Hugo!
Unfortunately I got another City of Dark Magic (read my 3-star review here) - strange obsession with noses and smells included!
Jac L’Etoile comes from a line of French perfumers. She also comes from a family with a firm belief in reincarnation - and that certain smells could evoke memories of past lives. After discovering her mother's corpse when she was fourteen, Jac was sent to a very New Age-y school where she met a boy named Theo. Over time the two came to be close until the night of Jac's accident. When she came to, she had no memories of the event and no explanation as to why Theo was sent away.
Seventeen years later she's reunited with Theo after receiving a letter about the discovering of a possible Druid site. Again the better judgment of those around her, Jac accepts Theo's invitation and heads for the UK where she will not only put her mythological studies to use, but finally find some answers.
150 years earlier, Victor Hugo walked along the beaches in exile. After the devastating loss of his daughter, he partakes in a seance - hoping to communicate with his daughter - and falls into obsession. He's received messages from a number of spirits, but one night a mysterious Shadow of the Sepulcher comes through and his offer to restore Victor's daughter is too tempting to ignore.
Seduction. Where to begin? I think this is a case of each individual part being great, but the combined whole is lackluster. The main components of this novel: reincarnation, Druids, Victor Hugo, seances, these are completely suited to my interests. This should be a good I can't put down. Sadly, it just didn't work for me and I struggled to finish. More than once I was tempted to set it down once and for all, but I kept going, hoping there would be that AH-HA! moment when everything would come together and suck me in.
I don't know if it's because I hadn't read the previous books in the series. Perhaps if I had I would have come to better understand and care about these characters and what they're doing. Instead I'm left with nearly 400 pages of so. much. telling. and confusing decisions. One thing the book had going for it was its dual narrative. I love me some dual narration. Late in the novel a third storyline was introduced - this one taking place millennia ago and focused on a Druid priest and his family. Interesting, yes, but it came far too late in the book to have much of an impression.
It was no surprise Jac's hallucinations were actually past life memories, but when it was revealed they weren't her memories, I had to roll my eyes. The novel had been steadily declining and that scene was where I had had enough. It was a struggle to continue, but continue I did and when I finally finished it was as though a weight had been lifted. The strange love-square-that-went-nowhere frustrated me as well.
In the end, Seduction didn't turn out to be the novel I had hoped. It appears I'm in the minority though, as it's been receiving quite a bit of praise. I had been curious about this series for a while and even had the books on my To Read list. Sadly, I'll be removing them and won't be reading anymore of this series....more