I’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were ki...moreI’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were killed & displayed was completely unlike anything I’ve read before.
The Pleasures of Men is a classic case of a great plot but a terrible execution (aka Matthew Pearl syndrome). I recently discovered Kate Williams has written multiple non-fiction books and I’m open to trying those. The writing in The Pleasures of Men is definitely not suitable for fiction; it really shouldn’t have surprised me that Williams is a notable historian.
I gave up with this one early on after a few attempts at starting it. Even though I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, it just didn’t work for me. I was thoroughly confused at times. The story is told through Catherine’s eyes, yet there were many times where I wasn’t sure who the narrator was or just what was going on.
Despite my best efforts, The Pleasures of Men & I just weren’t meant to be.(less)
Sigh. I was SO ready to love this book. I'm a huge fan of both biographies and history and, while I'm not very familiar with medieval France/Joan of Arc, I was very eager to read it and learn more.
Unfortunately, I was extremely misled by the title. The Secret History of Joan of Arc? Nope. More like, The Secret History of Every King, Queen, and Duke in Medieval Europe. In the introduction, the author mentions that Yolande of Aragon, Joan's biggest supporter, was born decades before Joan, so I wasn't expecting Joan to show up on the first page. I knew there would be some history prior to her birth, but I wasn't expecting it to take up the first half of the book. It wasn't until page 99 that Joan finally makes an appearance, and even then it's only sporadically; the story jumps right back to what various kings were up to.
The biggest strike against this book - and what ultimately led to its DNF status - interestingly enough wasn't the lack of the title figure. Instead, it was the writing. The author clearly spent her time researching. Unfortunately, her writing wound up being very dry; she had gone into painstaking detail recording every movement and action of the characters.
That's not to say the book wasn't interesting. There were parts I tore through and I'm pleased to say I learned quite a bit!
Sadly, despite my high hopes, The Maid and the Queen just wasn't for me.(less)
Hot on the heels of his wildly successful Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson delivers Amped, another near-future sci-fi thriller. Going into Amped, I had no idea it took ploace in Pittsburgh! That's where I live and I love reading books with my city as the backdrop; I love being able to know exactly where a particular character is, know exactly what building they're looking at or which restaurant they're eating in.
You make a tool to fix a problem, right? But - and I've thought about this - it's the boundaries that define us. Bold, black lines that can't be crossed - the limits of human ability. Lately, the edges have been torn off the map.
In Amped, major breakthroughs have been made in technology. Amputees have regained limbs. Mentally challenged children are now able to keep up with the rest of their class, if not surpass the other kids. All because of a tiny, asprin-sized piece of metal (known as an amp) inserted into a person's brain. The amp sends out a constant stream of electrical stimulation, resulting in a heightened - or amplified - state of intelligence, concentration, strength, speed, you name it.
It was new life for kids in need. Until one day an amp kid threw a football hard enough to snap ribs. A high school debate championship got cancelled when the judges realized two-thirds of the participants had amps. A new generation of children was arriving, smart and fast and strong enough to send chills down your human-spine.
At first, no one bats an eye at the new breed of humans. Initially, it was done for strictly medical purposes. Our main character, Owen Gray, received his amp due to seizures. Parents wanted to cure their children and give them a shot at a decent life.
Things slowly changed, however. The amp children were suddenly far stronger and smarter than regular children - or reggies as they're called in the novel. It escalated to such proportions that the Supreme Court became involved. There was discrimination on all levels - reggies didn't want amps in schools, reggie adults felt their jobs were being taken away by amps since they were able to work harder and longer without tiring.
Senator Joseph Vaughn was at the forefront of the Pure Pride movement. Again, initially, it started out as harmless protests. Then things turned violent and a full-scale war was launched.
I wonder what kind of doctor could do this to a man. Ninety-nine percent of amps are regular people who happen to have a dot on their temple. They are mothers and fathers and children. This is something I've never seen or even fathomed - a harbinger of a new world, populated by new people who I can hardly recognize as human.
Upon his father's murder, Owen discovers what he really is: a secret, unknown Zenith. There were originally twelve Zeniths, a classified unity of soldiers created by the Army. When Owen was 14, he suffered a terrible accident and in a desperate attempt to save his life, his father had stolen the technology used in Zenith amps and inserted it into his son. Yes, it did help with the seizures, but Owen is so much more than he had ever dreamed. And now he's the most wanted man in America.
All over the United States, tiny communities are popping up, safe havens for amps and their families. One such community is Eden, deep in the heart of Oklahoma. Before he dies, Owen's father instructs Owen to go to Eden and find Jim, an old colleague. Owen will be safe there and possibly discover some insight as to what he truly is.
Amped was a great book. The technology was beautifully described and enough details were given that at no point did I feel lost or confused. Once Owen awakens his Zenith and consents to its abilities, things got crazy. In a totally awesome way. I could vividly picture each level, particularly toward the end as Owen reached down deeper and deeper.
The only qualm I have with this novel are the fights. Once Owen gives in to his Zenith, it felt as though it was one fight after another. The story never took a backseat to the fighting, but it almost became a chore to read and seemed unnecessary.
I can definitely picture Amp as a movie, particularly given the recent surge in popularly of sci-fi films. Until that happens, though, I'm perfectly content enjoying this book & I can't wait to see what Daniel H. Wilson will give us next.
It's a science-lab nightmare that could make Dr. Frankenstein piss his lab coat.
"Plants, animals, men, angels, then god. Difference between men and angels is that men are stuck in a body. They feel pain, hunger, thirst. But me and you, we don't have to feel them things. Body diagnostics come on level one. Easy. We can turn off the human condition. So maybe we're closer to angels, you know?"
"This is our army. Our people. Strong and hurt. We're the wounded supermen of tomorrow, Grey. It's time you got yourself healed. New world ain't gonna build itself. And the old world don't wanna go without a fight."
Before I started reading A Greyhound of a Girl, I had assumed it would be your average coming-of-age tale - and in many cases it is. What I wasn't expecting, however, was the supernatural element. Ha, and I really have no idea what that is; I suppose I wasn't paying attention when reading the summary?
A Greyhound of a Girl is the story of four women: Tansey (short for Anastasia), who died when she was just 25; Emer, Tansey's 80-year old daughter who was just three when Tansey passed away; Scarlett, Emer's daughter; and Mary, Scarlett's 12-year old daughter. Although Mary is the central character, the other three play equally vital roles and reading about each one - particularly Emer and Tansey - was a joy.
Mary's very best friend Ava just moved out of their neighbor and into another part of Dublin. Understandably, Mary is distraught until an odd woman suddenly 'moves in.' She looks young, but gives off the impression she's much older. Her speech and dress certainly give Mary pause, though she finds it comforting. After a few meetings, Mary discovers this is her grandmother's mother. A real ghost has come to visit.
Although Tansey never left her daughter's side, it is only now she feels the need to make her presence known. She knows her daughter's time is nearly up and wants to help her through. The moments with Tansey and Emer were absolutely lovely. In fact, the entire books could have been solely about them and I would have loved it!
A Greyhound of a Girl executes the multiple narrative flawlessly. I'm actually one of the oddballs who enjoys multi POVs. Unfortunately, not all authors handle this well, but Mr. Doyle did a superb job. Not only were there dual narratives, but these women lived during different eras. Definitely my favorite aspect of this book.
Where the novel lost points was in the characters' speech. I lost track of the number of times Mary said 'like.' Sometimes she said it more than once in a sentence! Also, 'so' and 'grand.' Scarlett quickly became my least favorite character and it was her manner of speaking that sealed the deal. Nearly every sentence ended with an exclamation point. There were a few instances where Mary pointed this out, and the dialogue looked like:
"What happened to the !!!s?" said Mary. "What?" "The !!!s" said Mary.
"Even your whispers end in !!!s" Mary whispered back.
It came to the point where I no longer found it cute or funny.
Overall, A Greyhound of a Girl is a sweet story about mothers and daughters that can easily be read in a single sitting.(less)
This book sounded so cool when I first read the summary! James, a gifted sorcerer at the ripe old age of 17, is convicted of a terrible crime and exiled to The Never - a place from which no one has escaped - and loses his powers. I couldn't wait to read Exiled!
Unfortunately, this ended up being a case where the idea was far more impressive than the execution. Wagner's writing was fine, and there were even a few moments of truly lovely wording and imagery; however, his main downfall was through the flashbacks.
Exiled takes place in Europe in the late 1800s. James Stuart is convicted of murder and as punishment, he is sent to The Never where he is stripped of his powers. Just as you're getting a feel for The Never, there's a flashback - and these were more often than not, not told from James's perspective. I usually enjoy flashbacks, but these ones had nothing to do with the chapter they preceded/followed. ...it was just a random point in the story.
The other issue I had was with the characters themselves. It would appear that many interactions happened off-screen so to speak, because you'd come to a chapter and suddenly these characters would truly care for one another despite having showed no signs of affection previously. It felt as though Wagner was forcing me to have some sort of emotion regarding the characters - particularly when Bad Things Happen, but that simply wasn't the case. The only thing I felt was a hearty meh.
There was a distinct lack of consistency that bothered me to no end. I get that James is a super awesome sorcerer, but he lost his powers once he was sent to The Never. No one is supposed to have any magical ability there whatsoever. ...yet nearly every character James runs into can do magic with ease, and after a while James regains his abilities.
When it comes to fantasy novels, a proper explanation of the magical system/world is absolutely dire. I was left confused by Exiled. There are the faithful and the unfaithful - those who believe in magic (??) are the faithful and obviously the unfaithful are those who did not. James's parents converted and it's apparently as simple as that to gain magical powers. Who'da thunk.
Also left unexplained were reasons regarding why James was the Anointed One. Again, this didn't get more than a 'meh' from me. I just couldn't care. I didn't feel connected enough to root for James in his struggle to find his way home. The Epoch Terminus confused me as well. I'm still not entirely sure what this was. A magical apocalypse of some sort? From what I understand, it was badbadbad for the magical people, but I'm not sure why. And how were these people able to live and work alongside the rest of the world without their abilities becoming known? IT'S A MYSTERY.
And, guys, since this is a young adult novel, let's discuss the romance! James is 17, remember? His love interest is 27. Yep. Seriously (I kid you not), there's a "love triangle" with a man who is over 100. Honest-to-goodness, James is JEALOUS that a man well over 100 is ~close~ to his near-30 girlfriend. I...I don't get it.
Exiled's ending seemed more like the ending of a chapter, than the ending of the book. The last chapter discusses something that happened to a random character and James isn't even mentioned. ..you know, the main character.
Oddly enough, despite all my griping, I actually looked forward to continuing after coming home from work, doing laundry, etc. A LOT happened in this book and I truly can't remember half of it (even though I just finished this morning!), but for some strange reason I liked it.(less)
Tell me a book is comparable to Neil Gaiman and I'm all over it. Tell me a story flows just like a Neil Stephenson novel and I'll drop everything I'm doing. Tell me the writer is similar to Philip Pullman and I'll race to the closest bookstore to grab a copy of their book.
Unfortunately, Alif the Unseen didn't enchant me nearly as much as it did other readers. It certainly wasn't a bad book - not in the least! However, it definitely started out a bit slow for me before things really took off. To me, rather than comparing the novel to Gaiman or Stephenson, I see it as more of a Dan Brown novel set in the Middle East with a little magic thrown in. Now, granted, others might balk at the Dan Brown comparison, but I don't see it as anything negative. His novels are all extremely fast-paced and entertaining and I can't recall a moment in Alif the Unseen where I felt the story dragged.
Alif is a 23-year old hacker working for whoever asks: feminists, communists, Islamists. Because the Hand keeps a close watch on all Internet activity, Alif goes to great lengths to protect both himself and his clients. Unfortunately, he has a momentary lapse in judgment (naturally brought on by a girl) and creates a computer program that leads to disastrous results. Alif quickly finds himself deemed a terrorists and wanted by the government.
Along with his childhood friend Dina, Alif discovers himself on the doorstep of a jinn: Vikram the Vampire. As a good-bye, the girl Alif loves gave him a book, Alf Yeom (or, The Thousand and One Days), a book recounting the jinn's history and tales. After teaming up with an American woman (who Vikram may or may not be in love with), it's revealed the book is the long-lost original. 700 years old. What's more, the book is true. Jinn are real as Vikram's existence proves.
Interspersed throughout the book were snippets of tales from The Thousand and One Days and those were an absolute joy to read. I'm a huge fan of age-old fairy tales and fables and these were great.
The Big Battle toward the end felt a bit rushed to me and it seemed like a lot of the technical ~coding~ explanations were simply glossed over and told as a matter-of-fact (Alif typed so-and-so and this happened).
Despite not falling madly in love with Alif the Unseen, I enjoyed it very much! Once I got into the swing of things, I devoured the book in just a few days.(less)
Although I finished the book last week I sat on this review for a few days. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is the type of book that needs to be digested slowly and given careful thought. Personally, I adore those kinds of books and am absolutely ecstatic I found this one.
My misery is a woman's misery, and it will speak - here, rather than nowhere; to my second self, in this book, if I have no one else to hear me.
Wilkie Collins; Armadale
The book opens in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and introduces Isabella Robinson, the 36-year old wife of Henry Oliver Robinson. Isabella had remarried after the death of her first husband and was left with no inheritance as he willed everything to a son from an earlier marriage.
Isabella's life with Henry was not a happy one (her only joy came from her three sons) and it was her unhappiness that led to her infamous diary.
'Dreaming all night of absent friends, romantic situations, and Mr. Lane,' ran another entry. 'Oh! Why are dreams more blest than waking life?'
Edward Lane had been a family friend for quite some time before becoming the target of Mrs. Robinson's affections. He and his wife are very close with Isabella and on multiple occasions their children stayed with Isabella and her own sons while the Lanes were away.
Over time, however, Isabella's marriage rapidly weakened and her friendship with Edward developed into something more - at least on her part. The two would spend countless hours discussing philosophy or literature and, from what Isabella mentions in her diary entries, the two seemed very compatible.
One thing I loved about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace was that the book doesn't waste any time getting to the story. Things start happening from the very start and I think that would certainly help in keeping the attention of a reader who typically doesn't go for non-fiction. Many times I've picked up a non-fiction book (although fiction definitely applies as well!) that sounded absolutely fascinating, only to be bogged down with technical jargon the average reader wouldn't understand or to have the story start so slowly I've had to force myself to continue. I'm extremely pleased that this isn't the case with Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace.
Oh, thought I, each of these roofs conceals human life with all its mysterious joys and sorrows. Doubtless, many a sojourner in these dwellings has a private history, thrilling, exciting, strange.
Not only does the book have a wonderful pace, but the writing is simply remarkable. At times I completely forgot I was reading non-fiction. Despite the lack of dialogue, I never once felt the story lacking. In fact, I feel I got to know the characters extremely well!
George argued that in women, as in men, 'strong sexual appetites are a very great virtue...If chastity must continue to be regarded as the highest female virtue, it is impossible to give any woman real liberty.'
While Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is Isabella's story, there were a few other story lines woven in and it all came together beautifully. After struggling with his own issues, George Drysdale published a rather radical-minded book on sexuality. Phrenology and hydropathy were two courses of medicine very much in vogue. A new divorce court had made it much easier for couples to end their marriages. Each story line had its center-stage moments without losing focus of the main story and it was great.
All the guests were encouraged to walk in the park. 'I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour & half & enjoyed myself,' reported Charles Darwin in a letter to his wife, '-the fresh yet dark green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the catkins of the old Birches with their white stems & a fringe of distant green from the larches, made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & some Woodpeckers laughing, & it was as pleasant a rural scene as ever I saw, & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds has been formed.'
One thing I was extremely surprised to discover was that Isabella was an acquaintance of Charles Darwin! I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he played a role. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace largely took place before and during his theories on evolution and reading his thoughts through letters was interesting.
The above quote was from Darwin's time spent at Moor Park, a hydropathy spa opened by Edward Lane. Isabella also spent time there and it was at Moor Park, after years of spurned advances, that Edward Lane finally returned Isabella's affections and the two shared a kiss.
'All day,' she wrote, 'this dream haunted my brain. "I never loved any one as I did thee, both mind and body," I had said in my dream, and in my waking moments the same idea was breathed still in my ear.'
While Isabella doesn't go into detail (and it is this lack of detail that ultimately leads to the court's decision at trial), she does mention multiple trysts until Edward ended things one day.
At his sudden rejection, Isabella fell ill and it was while she was bedridden that Henry discovered the diary. That scene was easily one of the most exciting in the whole novel. And how it ended! The moment Henry came across Isabella's diary and realized what it was, the first part of the novel ends. Such a fantastic finish to book one. Loved it!
'We can colonise the remotest ends of the Earth...we can spread our name, and our fame, and our fructifying wealth to every part of the world, but we cannot clean the River Thames.'
The second part of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace focuses on the trial. The divorce court was still in its infancy and in cases of adultery, the odds were definitely stacked against the wives. Multiple witnesses and evidence were required in accusing a husband of adultery, while husbands accusing wives had hardly any opposition at all. Also, accused wives were not permitted to attend the trial, so Isabella's diary had to speak for her.
The summer of Isabella's trial saw record temperatures and with the heat came the stink. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like!
Though the journal contained elements of melodrama and sentimental fiction, the judges considered that as a whole it told a nuanced story, rendered credible by its self-recrimination, disappointment and doubt. Its exaggerations and excesses were those familiar to any diarist, to any desperately unhappy person or to anyone in love. It was ultimately not a work of madness, but of realism, an account of the limits of romantic dreams.
In the end Isabella won her case, although she lost custody of her children along with any inheritance. She also found her reputation in tatters and her own mother disowned her. As her children came of age however, they chose to break ties with Henry and live with their mother.
While Isabella's story doesn't end on a particularly high note, her trial certainly made waves. Numerous books were published afterwards depicting unhappy wives taking on secret lovers. Diaries saw a surge in popularity. Laws changed to enable incompatible couples (as well as abused wives) ways to separate.
Ms. Summerscale definitely did her research. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book: there were still nearly 100 pages left! Those pages were notes and references and a bibliography! Almost 100 pages!
I was so excited to read Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace and it didn't disappoint at all. I absolutely loved it. (less)
Somebody killed my father. I don't know who did it or why, but I'm going to find them.
I'm a girl.
I'm a witch.
I'm a Shadowcull.
Someone is going to pay.
I went into this book fairly blind - I had never read any book by Sean Cummings prior to Poltergeeks nor was I a big paranormal reader. The plot intrigued me and having a strong mother-daughter relationship was a definite plus. Now that I've read it, I'm glad I took that chance.
Julie Richardson is your average 15-year old. Except for the fact that she's a witch. And can see spirits. Her best friend Marcus is her constant companion and one of the few people who knows what Julie truly is.
What initially seems like a typical poltergeist turns out to be far more menacing. An attack on her school has left Julie shaken and her mother in the hospital comatose and under a powerful (and fatal) spell. In an attempt to save her mother's life, Julie makes a deal with an immortal and with the help of her guardian and some friendly advice from the spirit of her father, Julie prepares to face down her demons. Literally.
Poltergeeks is a fairly short book that can easily be read in an afternoon. It was a pretty average read - nothing horrible, but nothing remarkable - and there was a cute romance (and no love triangle!). Unfortunately, I felt the Big Reveal was a bit of a letdown and more than once I was confused and not quite sure what was going on or why the villain did what they did.
It doesn't seem like Poltergeeks will be a series, but the ending is written in such a way that it's certainly possible.
Over the course of the novel, the writing style seemed much more suited to a Middle Grade novel, yet there's quite a bit of profanity thrown about. Originally I would have definitely said Poltergeeks would be right at home with 10-ish year olds (mainly due to the writing style), but once multiple f-bombs were dropped, I reconsidered.
Fans of paranormal YA will most likely enjoy Poltergeeks. There's nothing mind-blowing about this novel, but it's a quick, enjoyable ride nonetheless.(less)
"Okay, I've decided to start simple and work back. So, I am, now formally telling you, as your mother, that I want you never to become a smoker, never to own your own motorbike, never to get a chess board tattooed onto your face - and never ever to write to an imaginary friend in a parking meter again."
Three hundred years ago gaps bridging our world with another were closed. Deadly plagues were wiping out millions of people in our world and Cello's citizens decided it was for the best if the cracks between the two worlds were wiped out as well. Since then any cracks discovered must be reported to authorities immediately and anyone discovered communicating with anyone in our world is sentenced to death.
Madeleine Tully and her mother have recently set up house in Cambridge after having run away from their lavish lifestyle. Now they live in a tiny apartment with leaking ceilings and patches of mold on the walls. Instead of skipping off to various countries and spending all day at the spa, Madeleine's mother now sits inside all day sewing and watching game shows while Madeleine receives schooling lessons from a few neighbors. A far cry from what they're used to.
Elliot lives in the town of Bonfire, a farming community. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, and is a star athlete. The Kingdom of Cello is a mirror image of our world save for one difference: Cello is victim to deadly Color attacks. A warning system alerts citizens to incoming attacks of Yellows or Purples and each color is deadlier than the last. A Purple is to blame for the death of Elliot's uncle and he's convinced the Purple then carried off his father. There have been rumors throughout town that his dad ran off with a teacher, but Elliot refuses to believe it. He's convinced his dad is still alive and is willing to risk his life to bring him back.
One day Madeleine notices a tiny slip of paper sticking out of a parking meter and allows her curiosity to get the better of her. It's a cry for help. Someone is trapped and they want to be rescued. Madeleine decides to play along and writes back. With each note her world turns upside down and she begins to suspect there is more to this world than she realized.
"I didn't have to become Byron," Jack added, "because I already am him, or anyway exactly like him. But without the poetry. Also, girls are not falling over themselves to have my children. As far as I know. If they are, they need to do it more loudly. Apart from all that, I'm just like Byron."
Before reading A Corner of White I had heard amazing things about this book. Much to my surprise - and delight! - I received a review copy and couldn't wait to sit down with it. A good portion of the novel deals with Newton and Byron. As part of their history lesson, Madeleine, Jack, and Belle each chose a name out of a hat and had to research that figure. As the story progresses - and as Madeleine and Elliot communicate further - Isaac Newton comes more into focus and I was pleasantly surprised by how large of a role he wound up playing.
Jack and Belle are Madeleine's neighbors and her only friends in Cambridge. I personally didn't care for Belle much at all - especially once she started her bullying. Jack, on the other hand, was great. He was a good guy with a huge crush on Madeleine. In a bout of frustration and homesickness she winds up hurting him deeply and that was a painful scene for me to read. While I enjoyed Madeleine's character, in the end, I came to know Jack better and saw him as the sympathetic character.
"Cut it out now," said her mother. "I'm trying to think. I need to get my thoughts in order and present them in an incisive, persuasive way. Because I'm the one with the answers today, which won't always be the case - for instance, if you were weeping about a mathematics problems, well, I'd be clueless and we'd both end up weeping. Not that you were weeping, of course."
Elliot's world, well, confused me at times. I never got a real feel for the Colors and their attacks. I kept reading passages about their waves of destruction and how there have been times where these colors would take hostages, but I just couldn't picture these scenes. Other than that, however, Cello was a lovely world.
Interwoven with Madeleine's & Elliot's stories was that of the Butterfly Child. Every twenty years, a Butterfly Child appears somewhere in Cello. She has amazing powers, capable of growing crops and healing sickness. At first I wasn't too impressed, but she grew on me.
Between the Butterfly Child, family problems in both worlds, and multiple mysteries, it felt like there was a lot going on, but it worked. I never felt overwhelmed and enjoyed A Corner of White an awful lot. The ending was perfectly set up for the next book and I'm looking forward to it!(less)
"The Marked have community. Boil everything else down and that's what you're left with. That's what they have right now that we don't."
Sneak, the sequel to Swipe (published earlier this year) is what I consider dystopia lite: a middle grade-friendly post-apocalyptic novel without all the excess gore and violence of the series that are currently in the spotlight. I'd say readers are better off having read Swipe before jumping into Sneak (or at the very least have a decent amount of knowledge as to what the first book/this series' world is all about). For the most part Sneak does a decent job getting readers up to speed, but there were multiple times where I found myself lost and confused. Totally my fault, by the way. This was not the book's fault.
Sometime in the future there's a war and, once again, America finds itself torn apart. The result: Marked citizens (literally. These folks get a barcode-type mark when upon turning 13) and the Markless (who live their lives in hiding).
Sneak kicks things off with Logan Langly, the one and only boy to escape DOME facilities. He's now on the run and determined to find his sister (who has been kept in a prison for the past five years). Logan's an interesting character. It's clear he's made out to be a savior symbol; he becomes a beacon of hope for thousands of Markless who have never even met the boy. On the other hand, for countless people he's seen as someone who's made life much more miserable. Since Logan's escape, DOME has really been tightening the reins and amping up their security. Markless have to CONSTANTLY move from place to place.
One idea I thought was neat was an Underground Railroad-esque system set in place to aid Markless on their way to a safer place. This system has a nautical theme however, and I liked it! A hook meant there was danger nearby (usually in the form of untrustworthy Marked who appear to want to help), an anchor announced a secure shelter, a captain meant there was someone close who could transport Markless to the next spot, etc.
"My job is to cover our tracks," Shawn said. "Completely. I'm not about to cut loose just because of a surprise along the way. I don't work like that." And Erin looked at him admiringly. From one hacker to another. "Besides," Shawn said. "I don't like free rides if I don't know who's driving. You wanna know who's helping us, don't you? Don't you think it'd just the tiniest bit suspicious?"
There are quite a few characters packed into this short novel. Unfortunately, because of the book's length, the sheer number of characters, and the extremely quick scene changes (multiple scenes per PAGE at times!) it became a little hard to get to know this group of kids. For the most part I felt as though I was a mere spectator, watching the drama unfold from afar. I never felt that I was there in the midst of it all. With some of the more minor characters, I completely forgot about them until they were mentioned and even then I couldn't recall the first thing about them.
My biggest complaint about Sneak would be the setting. I know it takes place in the future - not sure on the exact date; it's never stated in this novel (perhaps in the first book?) - but some things just didn't add up. I get that it's post-apocalyptic. Technology changed. Yet the parents all knew (and said they grew up with) radios...and somehow the children had never heard of them before. Same with cars. I can't imagine the world could change that drastically in the span of a single generation. Also, at one point a Bible is found, yet the group doesn't know what it is and writes it off as just another book. Again, a single generation?? It doesn't make sense.
All-in-all, Sneak was a solid book and a good dystopian novel for children who want to get into the genre but aren't yet ready for the violence that typically goes along with it. Don't make the same mistake I did: I highly recommend checking out the first book before reading this one.(less)
I am a HUGE fan of retellings and, lucky for me, there's no shortage of them these days. Fairy tale retellings are a dime a dozen, but I haven't come across a Mexican retelling of the Odyssey before and couldn't wait to dive right in.
Summer of the Mariposas (butterflies in Spanish, and that's just the first of dozens of words sprinkled throughout the book) tells the tale of the five Garza girls, cinco hermanitas: Odilia is the oldest and the narrator of the story; Juanita, the second oldest and the most headstrong; Velia and Delia are the twins, connected by their own bond, yet just as close to their other sisters; and Pita, the baby of the family.
Due to their Papa running out on the family, the girls' beloved Mama has been struggling to make ends meet and, as a result, the girls are more often than not left to their own devices. One day while they're swimming in their favorite spot, they spot a body drifting along in the current. Unsure of what to do, the girls decide to bring the body back to his family. With a little help from ancient Aztec goddesses and Llorona, the five sisters leave Texas and journey into Mexico.
While Summer of the Mariposas deals with highly fantastic elements (the girls battle witches, chupacabras, and trickster demons, to name a few), this is ultimately a story about family and bonds that can never be broken.
I absolutely adored this book. Everything about it, from the sisters and magic to that GORGEOUS COVER (!!), Summer of the Mariposas was a complete homerun. The imagery was beautiful, the wording was remarkable, the characters were fleshed out so well I felt as though I knew them.
Definitely keep an eye out for this book. You won't be disappointed.(less)
With the upcoming election, I thought Election! would be a good book to check out. Even though it's a children's book, the facts and explanations were presented in a way that adults could enjoy it - and learn - as well. The writing never felt dumbed-down over over-simplified.
My major area of study was the Civil War and while I have a fairly decent grasp on other aspects of American history, politics is an area that has never really interested me. I love history and discovering what really goes into the way American government was formed (and continues to run) caught my eye.
The chapters in Election! are broken up into various aspects of the election process: choosing a candidate, voting, Election Day, etc. Instead of a constant narrative, the book is comprised of questions and answers and I really enjoyed the direct, no-fuss approach.
Because this is a book geared towards kids, some of the questions seem a little obvious and silly, but overall I thought this was a great book and I'll admit I definitely learned a thing or two (an 1882 election came down to ONE vote!). Whether a child is curious about how the presidency works or an adult is interested in brushing up on forgotten knowledge, Election! is a fun and informative book that can easily be read in a single setting.(less)
"Find us a king," the corpse called out. "What? Why?" "You stole his place. You are in our debt."
The Corpse-Rat King opens with a bang: Marius, a professional thief, and his assistant Gerd, are combing through a battlefield, looting whatever valuables they could find. Unfortunately, Marius comes upon the corpse of the King and quickly finds his life changed forever. Within minutes Gerd is brutally slain and Marius finds himself in the Kingdom of the Dead - mistaken for the dead king.
Needless to say, the dead are not pleased to discover Marius is, in fact, not their king. Also, he's not exactly as dead as they originally thought. They send him back to the surface with a task: find a new ruler.
Marius was not a fighting man. A thief does not enter the profession because he wants to fight. He was a slinker, a tip-toer. He lived for the time after the fight, when the victor had departed and all that remained were the easy rewards and sightless eyes.
With a fascinating plot, The Corpse-Rat King is unlike any story I've read. The lines between the living and the dead are blurred in Marius's world and I loved that. Once he returns to the surface he notices changes to his body. For starters, he doesn't have a heartbeat. His vision in the dark has also changed - for the better. At times his skin will be grey and withered, yet other times his flesh will be rosy and pink. This aspect was really neat and I enjoyed all the possibilities.
Also, the author has a way with words. The writing was absolutely beautiful. Sadly, this also led to me skimming page-length paragraphs of descriptions. Vivid, lovely descriptions, but descriptions nonetheless.
Early explorers found nothing there to recommend the place to anybody, and indeed, early maps show a simple ovoid outline with the words "Don't Bother" written inside.
Marius meets an entire cast of characters throughout his journey: dead kings, an untrustworthy captain, an island of natives. Each one was wonderfully fleshed out and their own person. Again, I cannot say enough about Battersby's penchant for writing: he is a magnificent writer (with over 70 stories to his name!).
However - and I wish there wasn't a however - once the book hit the halfway mark it felt like the story came grinding to a halt. It felt like I was reading the camping part of Deathly Hallows all over again! Marius is on this exciting, event-riddled journey. I shouldn't be skimming entire pages!
Then he remembered the autumn of his tenth year, when Nandus had ordered that the forests along the Borghan peninsula be set on fire so the squirrels wouldn't get cold, and seven thousands peasants had died in the winter snows.
Some of my favorite characters showed up only to never be heard from or thought about again. The dead King Nandus was fantastic and I could easily have read an entire book solely featuring him.
Keth, the love-interest-that-wasn't is another example of a character that seemed to play a huge role, but then simply vanished. At one point Marius has a Big Revelation and realizes that she's loved him this entire time. He turns her into a mission (find the dead a king, then get back to his home, profess his love, buy Keth a house, have a bunch of kids, and live Happily Ever After), yet not long after that moment, Keth is never thought of again. She doesn't appear again - either in person or in conversation - for the duration of the book.
Gerd, the bumbling sidekick, had the personality of the real hero while Marius could have easily been the sidekick instead. Marius put Gerd through so much - and told so many lies - that it was hard NOT to feel for Gerd.
With no external stimulation, he turned inwards. He tried singing, but there are only so many bottles of beer that can fall before the entire liquor industry goes on strike...
There were multiple lines that made me giggle, but even the humor doesn't hide the fact that there are many things missing from this book. Gaping plot holes, unsympathetic characters with no redeeming qualities, and too-long paragraphs combined to make what initially started out as a fantastic book, an ultimately disappointing and lackluster one. I finished The Corpse-Rat King with a resounding meh.
From the author notes it seems a sequel is in the works. Hopefully the issues I had will be addressed and corrected.(less)
When you think about it, I'm like my 45. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side - not played as often, but the song's just as good.
Like I mentioned in my review of The Waiting Sky, I really shy away from Novels With Issues. Whereas with other genres I can pick up a sci-fi book or a mystery whenever I feel like it. That's SO not the case with books dealing with heavy topics. I need to be in a certain mood for those, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children caught my eye and, like The Waiting Sky, I'm so glad it did. You know, I'm two-for-two now, so perhaps issue novels aren't something I should be so weary about.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children centers on Gabe Williams, a soon-to-be-graduate and, quite frankly, he couldn't be more eager to get out of there. Just a few months ago Gabe told his BFF Paige the secret he'd been hiding his entire life: he never felt like he was Elizabeth Mary Williams. He wants to undergo the transition to become the man he always felt he was. Unfortunately, when he came out to his family, he didn't have the same acceptance and support than he received from Paige. Since then, his brother has barely said a word (despite the two being close prior to his announcement) and his parents refuse to look his way - and insist on referring to him as Liz.
What's life without loud music in your car?
The only thing that gets Gabe through the week is the thought of his radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. When he was 10 a new neighbor moved in next door and John quickly became a grandfather figure for Gabe. Gabe had always prided himself on being a self-professed music nerd, but John has taken it a step further. Their Friday Night Fights (topics include Johnny Rotten vs. Sid Vicious, for example) aren't uncommon and the two can spend all day going through John's 6,000+ LP collection.
John was a legendary DJ and the first to interview Elvis. He's secured Gabe a spot on the local community station and it's in those early hours of the morning that Gabe shines. For his first few shows he wasn't sure whether to introduce himself as Gabe or Liz - especially knowing numerous classmates are listeners. Ultimately he decides not to hide anymore and Gabe makes his public debut.
Got it, world? I'm a guy. A scared guy, though I try not to show it, and a guy with a long freaking road ahead of him. But, still. Just a guy.
I could seriously go on and on about this book. I loved Gabe and John and music played such a huge part in this book. I loved that Gabe doesn't scoff as "mainstream" music and plays Flo Rida and Prince right alongside 50s classics. Also, the chapter titles are so awesome and all involve Elvis: T-Pain is the new Elvis because he's on a boat, motherbeepers, and Elvis probably wanted a boat too, Rush Limbaugh can't be the new Elvis; he's too mean, Conan O'Brien is the new Elvis and he has the hair to prove it, etc.
One thing I wished would have been done differently in this novel is the romance. Not one, not two, but three girls are suddenly involved with Gabe and I just wasn't feeling it. My pick for him didn't work out, and one of the girls came out of nowhere. I couldn't understand why she was suddenly showing interest when she hadn't said a word to him before.
Another fault this book had was the ending. It was very After School Special in that everything wrapped up nicely and everything was resolved and the world was a happy, sunshiney place. There were also things that seemed huge to the story, yet were never mentioned again.
So despite its faults, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a wonderful, beautifully-written book that will stick with me long after I move on to other books.(less)
They said it when they were wishing for crops not to fail and storms to pass, but she realized now she'd heard her mother say it when something happened to scare her, as if to reassure herself: The Lynburns are gone.
Kami Glass has lived in the tiny English village of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life and has grown up hearing tales of the Lynburns. One family loomed over the town, creating laws - and enforcing them. Though Aurimere Manor now stands silent and empty on the hill, the family's presence can still be felt and the family is just as feared.
Apart from hearing these stories since childhood, Kami has also heard a voice. A boy's voice. Jared has been her imaginary friend for as long as she can recall and she still continues to speak to him even though she's well past the age where having an imaginary friend is acceptable.
Her world turns upside-down the day the Lynburns return. Regal Lillian Lynburn is the heir to the legacy and she's brought her family with her: her husband Rob and son Ash, and her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's son Jared. Suddenly Kami isn't so sure her imaginary friend is only in her head.
Sorry-in-the-Vale's records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
I couldn't wait to jump right in and adore Unspoken. Everyone seems to be obsessing over it and it definitely has all the makings of a book I'd love: ancient family, dark secrets, a quiet town.
I tore through the first half of this book. I loved everything about it! The premise was phenomenal, the writing is stunning, the local legends gave me chills, and the characters - with the exception of Angela - were wonderfully done. Even the backstory was done in a way that didn't feel like a massive infodump.
Jared's appearance came as no surprise, though I still have no idea what his issue was with touching. Even when he was protecting Kami he would barely touch her and his avoidance of contact was never explained. That said, save for a few minor problems, Kami & Jared's dynamic was great. It was an interesting, new take on the genre and I ate it up.
"Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will."
A lot of reviews have mentioned the humor in Unspoken and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been toned down a lot. Particularly Kami's father. I liked his character, but did he ever say anything that wasn't a witty one-liner? Even when he walked into Kami's bedroom one morning and found both Kami and Jared asleep in bed, the only thing he had to say was some wisecrack.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Unspoken really started to lose steam. Oddly enough this was right around the time when Things Started Happening. A classmate was murdered (and was never really brought up again), and the secret of the Lynburns' is finally revealed. All of this should have kept me on the edge of me seat. Although I still plowed though, I definitely did not do so with the same fervor I had in the beginning.
The other families say, 'My way or the highway.' The Lynburns said, "I am unfamiliar with the concept of the highway, so that leaves you with only one choice.'
So much was happening by the end: the will-they-or-won't-they angle, a huge fight scene, Kami's life-altering decision, Angela's secret. Everything was happening so fast and the sudden stop at the end - and I do mean sudden (that was so NOT a cliffhanger, that was right in the middle of the scene!) - that it got to be a little jarring. There were so many questions left unanswered, particularly in regards to Kami and Jared, that I feel a little cheated. I want that sense of closure. Yes, there's another book coming out, but even in a series novels should wrap up nicely enough that reads aren't left in a state of confusion and frustration.
I hate that I'm in the minority with this one, guys. I really, really do. I loved the idea for Unspoken and the beginning was FANTASTIC. I'll be reading the next book when it comes out, but I don't think I'll be giving in to the hype next time.(less)
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but little girls usually fared much better.
The Secret Keeper is one of those wonderful - and rare - books that latches on tight and stays with you long after you've turned the last page. I'm a relative newbie to Kate Morton; I've only read one other book (The Forgotten Garden) and I've been aching to read more ever since.
Despite its length - nearly 500 pages - The Secret Keeper is a fairly fast-paced novel. Told with dual-narratives (which seems to be a thing with Morton), the book travels through time (2011 and WWII-era England) as a daughter tries to uncover a mystery that has haunted her for fifty years and a mother makes peace with her actions as a young woman.
Fifty years ago, Laurel told a distant patch of stars, my mother killed a man. She called it self-defense, but I saw it. She raised the knife and brought it down and the man fell backwards onto the ground where the grass was worn and the violets were flowering. She knew him, she was frightened, and I've no idea why.
Within the opening chapters a man is murdered and young Laurel - sixteen at the time - witnessed the entire episode. On the day of her brother's 2nd birthday Laurel hid in her treehouse and watched her mother stab a man, ultimately killing him.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a world-renowned actress and, along with her sisters and brother, has returned to Greenacres for her mother's ninetieth birthday. Dorothy's healthy is rapidly declining and Laurel is eager to finally find out who the man was and what he could have possibly done to make her mother react in such a violent manner.
It was strange indeed, to find herself within this place of childhood memories and see her grown-up wrinkled face staring back at her. Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole; or else falling through it again, fifty years on, only to find herself the only thing changed.
Again, The Secret Keeper is told through a dual-narrative (though, technically, I suppose it's more of a dual-era). If you're not a fan of more than one POV, Kate Morton will definitely change your perspective. She's absolutely brilliant when it comes to dual-narratives and executes this technique flawlessly. The only complaint is that, just when you're this close to uncovering a clue, the chapter ends and suddenly you find yourself back in 1940s.
Normally I'm all about spoilers in my reviews. I'm someone who loves spoilers and they naturally come out in my discussions of books. However, The Secret Keeper's final chapters were so shocking and unexpected that I'm determined not to ruin it for anyone. Everything falls so smoothly into place - it all makes sense why Dorothy was the way she was as a child and why the change was so drastic as an adult and her reasoning for killing a man is understandable.
Laurel found him on the Internet, though. Opposite problem there - one couldn't disentangle oneself from that net for all the love and money in England. Henry Jenkins was one of millions of ghosts who lived inside it, milling wraithlike until the right combination of letters was entered and they were briefly resurrected.
Writing multiple POVs isn't Kate Morton's only area of expertise. Countless sentences were so beautifully written I got chills reading them. Whether it was a sentence about trying to track down an author online or a chapter about air raids, Ms. Morton's writing never lets up. I felt myself sitting beside Laurel in her treehouse, I felt the fear coursing through the veins of everyone running for the safety of fallout shelters. Morton's writing will never cease to amaze me.
One of the things I have come to know most surely in my work is that the belief system acquired in childhood is never fully escaped; it may submerge itself for a while, but it always returns in times of need to lay claim to the soul it shaped.
After having read two Kate Morton books now, I'm confident enough to say she's among my favorite writers. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm someone who can recognize a plot twist coming from a mile away. That said, The Secret Keeper's reveal came out of nowhere and it hit me like a truck. I was not expecting it in the slightest, yet it worked. Lesser authors would have failed, but it was an entirely believable situation in Morton's hands.
If you haven't read Kate Morton before, I highly recommend doing so and The Secret Keeper is a wonderful starting point.(less)
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home - until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn't alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn't the battle that killed him. He's convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days - once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It's SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I've gone to Gettysburg multiple times - yay for only living a few hours away! - so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I'll be reading it. It's one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I'm constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a 'line' stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I'm all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori's parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn't get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more...? I'll admit I delighted in Lori's dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn't know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn't officially begin until the 1880s, yet it's origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany's Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn't a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it's certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s - 40 years before Nathaniel's death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I'd say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature - it's pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were - but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits.(less)
Title:The Infects Author: Sean Beaudoin Pub. Date: September, 2012 Summary:Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Genre: YA, Horror Rating:
Survival is for the ruthless. Everyone else is a hippie poet.
Nick is your average high school student: he lives at home with his dad and little sister (ugh, more on her later), is madly in love with a girl he can barely speak to, and has a crappy job at a chicken factory. It's not until he's fired from his job and swiftly arrested that his world turns upside-down.
Names don't apply at Nick's juvenile detention center. Instead they all receive nicknames. Nick becomes Nero and is known as Nero throughout the rest of the book. On an outing the group wakes to find their two camp counselors have turned into zombies and some unlucky boys were their dinner.
Naturally the boys don't stick around to see who's going to be the next to be eaten. They hightail it out of there and run through the woods in the direction of where the girls were going to be camping.
"It's eatin' time, Busta Rhymes!"
It took me about 100 pages to really get into The Infects, but once I did I devoured (ha!) it. This is a book that can easily be read in a sitting despite it's near 400-page length. The story is blindingly fast-paced and the writing is simple. Also, Nick/Nero's inner voice is reason is The Rock.
That said, a lot of the writing got to me. At first I thought it was because I'm not a 16-year old boy. However, as I read more, I saw that it wasn't me, the jokes and dialogue are just awfully immature. There's a character called Mr. Bator, y'all. Also, is Busta Rhymes still a thing? Is he still big enough that kids nowadays would know and like him well enough to reference him in an everyday conversation?
While I'm still on the topic is Things I Did Not Like, let's discuss Amanda, shall we? Nick briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story that part of the reason why he's working is to help cover the cost of her medicine. I don't remember what the illness was (if it was even stated), but reading entire scenes like this was WAY too much for me to handle:
"Amanda!" "Nick? Is that? You? Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God. "Yeah, it's me. Listen-" "Miss you? Nick? Are you? Coming? Home?" "No, Boo. I'm really far away. Are you okay?" "Yes? Of course? Why?" "Is there...anything happening outside?" "Dunno? Can't go? Outside?" "Why not?" "Dad says? Not to?"
An unturned knob is like a collection of Hungarian folk poems or discount sushi: best left alone.
Once the zombie horde really gets going, there are awesome factoids sprinkled throughout the story. I. Loved. These. They were all really funny and basically called out every terrible cliche in zombie movies (don't pause to kiss your girlfriend; a zombie is guaranteed to be standing right behind you).
Like I said before, The Infects doesn't dilly-dally. The main bulk of the action takes place over a single night. The quick story and humorous moments (and The Rock) ultimately led to an enjoyable book. The night I finished I had a dream about a zombie breakout, so I suppose that should count for something.(less)
It's no secret I have a huge love of cozies. They're so fun and silly and make the perfect afternoon read. They're also fairly easy to follow which makes jumping in at any book in a series totally doable. So despite never having read the first five Home Crafting Mystery books, I leaped at the chance to review this newest addition.
The best thing about cozies is that they're so unique. My favorite series, for example, is about a psychic detective. There's a series about a White House chef, a cheese shop, you name it, there's a series for it. This series deals with organic farming and homemade products like soap and lip balm. An interesting fact about me: I'm actually really interested in learning how to make my own soap. This book only solidified my curiosity.
Sophie Mae lives with her husband Barr (a police officer), her best friend Meghan, and Meghan's 12-year old daughter Erin in a quiet rural community. The Turner family owns and operates a large farm and for a yearly fee members can collect a portion of the harvest. Sophie Mae helps out on the farm and it's there a body is discovered in a compost heap.
In the past Sophie Mae has helped out with cases and it's only natural for her to want to join in on the investigation. Ignoring the concerned advice from her husband and friends (particularly since Sophie Mae and Barr are trying to have a baby), Sophie Mae jumps in and winds up getting for than she bargained for.
Deadly Row to Hoe was a mere 250 and the pacing makes it feel like half that. Cozies are typically easy to figure out and this one was no exception (although early on I had suspected a different character of being the killer). The characters were fun and even minor characters like Sophie Mae's two employees were fleshed-out and I got a real feel for their personalities.
Whether you're already a fan or are completely new to this series, Deadly Row to Hoe will make for a great read. Lightning fast with lots of humor, it's definitely a book that will hold your attention and can be finished in one sitting. Throughout the story there were lots of great backstory details that not only helped me get to know these characters, but also piqued my interest in the rest of the series. :) Don't be surprised if you see reviews for the first five books soon!(less)
Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d'oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you'd rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.
Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I'm pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.
Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick's Captain Ahab.
Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn't care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.
Every single character is great. They're funny, they're flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I'm also very pleased to say that Walter's love of exercising isn't shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.
Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He's a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn't take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he's wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.
We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.
The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.
"Curse that foul tome!" he roared. "I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see."
Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It's issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??(less)
Prince! what you are, you are by circumstance and by birth. What I am, I am through myself. Of Princes there have and will be thousands - of Beethovens there is only one.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
I'll admit, going into City of Dark Magic, I was expecting a book WILDLY different than what I got. ..and, unfortunately, that's not a good thing. On the surface it sounds like a fun fantasy novel with some historical mystery and immortal dwarfs thrown in. In reality it's 300 pages of the main character sleeping with multiple guys (even statues aren't out of the question) and 150 pages of actual - and even interesting - plot.
Sarah Weston is a doctoral candidate living in Boston. Her beloved professor has left for Prague where he's helping restore a royal family's treasures, his area of specialty being Beethoven. After his suspicious death (officially ruled a suicide) Sarah receives a strange letter with a plane ticket and a handful of money along with the promise of a well-paying job for the rest of the summer.
Beethoven is something of an obsession for Sarah and she readily accepts the invitation. It was here my interest went rapidly downhill - and this was still in the first chapter! Mere minutes after meeting her fellow colleagues (each focusing on a particular area of the collection) she not only sneaks off to the bathroom to have sex with one of them - after some fooling around in the middle of dinner - only to realize the man she slept with wasn't who she had originally thought and it's not until 100 or so pages later that she discovers who it really was (while she's in the process of sleeping with him. Again.) Then there's the previously mentioned arousal regarding statues and Sarah's nose. The book mentions numerous times Sarah's sense of smell is so heightened that she makes decisions based solely on it. Decisions like who she's going to sleep with next, for example.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mind graphic scenes in books, but this completely went against Sarah's character and was so over-the-top it bordered on ridiculous.
When Sarah isn't sleeping with someone, the book attempts to weave together a few storylines including the Bad Guy (who we know is bad right from the start, so it's really no surprise once it's revealed) and an interesting mystery involving Beethoven and a mysterious drug.
Sarah sat down on the bed. She was living underground. Like a mole. Like a bottle of wine. Like a corpse. Like nuclear waste. Sarah tried to tell herself that a window was not an essential part of a bedroom. Bedrooms were for sleeping. And with Prague's history of defenestrations, she should be happy there were no windows for her to be thrown out of.
The history and landmarks were beautifully described. That aspect of the story I really enjoyed. Also, there was a secret library and you can never go wrong with a secret library.
Prince Max and Sarah decide to uncover the mysteries surrounding Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. Historians and academics believe this was a person, but Max and Sarah have other ideas. They take a 'drug' of sort (by eating Beethoven's toenails - SO. DISGUSTING. WHY WHY WHY) and are sorta kinda transported to the past. They're able to see into the past, but it's like watching a movie: they aren't able to interact with or touch those they see.
I was on board with this plot and was disappointed to see it didn't go anywhere. That seemed to be the case with the majority of storylines in this book: they simply fizzled off into nothing.
Only the passionate were immortal, it seemed. If you fought, screwed, screamed, laughed, or otherwise experienced life intensely, for better or for worse, you left a record. Those who lived a quiet, well-behaved, well-tempered life? Gone without a trace.
The most interesting character in the novel was the 400-year old dwarf Nico. He was there when the drug first came into being. However, he has no idea where it or the Golden Fleece is hidden because he was knocked out by someone. Convenient. Again, his storyline is never resolved and I didn't get to find out whether or not he found what it was he had been looking for.
It's such a shame City of Dark Magic fell flat. I had expected so much more from it and, at times, it certainly had potential. Unfortunately a jumble of plots and a completely unlikeable main character made this book a chore rather than a delight. Also, the cutesy introduction and multiple mentions of Beethoven farting tried my patience.
I love my cozies. There's something so fun about curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and discovering the identity of the murderer. I was ecstatic about receiving a copy of Hiding Gladys the first in a new series, and couldn't wait to jump in.
Cleo Cooper is a geologist. Super cool. She discovered a bed of granite on Gladys Walton's property and its excavation will make both women fabulously rich. Unfortunately for Cleo, a dead body is discovered and maybe that rattlesnake didn't find its way into her Jeep on its own. Add in two horrible spoiled still-living-at-home children, an ex-husband (who doesn't want to be entirely out of the picture), and a promising new relationship and you've got the makings of a great story.
The characters in Hiding Gladys were great. Robert Earle and Shirley, Gladys's adult children are absolute monsters. They grew up never having to lift a finger and expect things to remain that way. Naturally the giant check their mother is about to receive has them drooling. Nash is a fellow geologist and although Cleo had been on a date or two with him in the past, nothing more developed. That's not to say they wouldn't love to give things another shot, however. Cleo's ex-husband Bud hasn't yet grasped the idea of the ex part and still insists on coming around to her house. Unfortunately, Cleo's own children, Henri and Will, were a bit lacking. I couldn't get a good feel for the two apart from a few basic points the book told me.
As for the story, it was fun! It dragged a bit at times, but once the action started I was hooked. Looking back, I should have realized who the bad guy was, but while reading, I was totally absorbed and thought for sure it was someone else.
While I enjoyed Hiding Gladys, I have to say I had a hard time relating to the characters. Cleo's 23-year old daughter owns a boat. How someone younger than me could afford their own boat - and it was a fairly large one, not some dinky canoe - is beyond me. Also, my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets when Cleo went to the bank for a $4 million loan. Who knew becoming a geologist could be so lucrative.
Apart from a few minor issues, I did enjoy Hiding Gladys, though I'm still debating whether or not to continue with the series.(less)
I wanted monsters. Instead I got an 18 year-old sex god and a deer with a limp.
Broken was hailed as a fresh, new retelling of Frankenstein. That alone was enough to command my attention. I'm a huge sucker for retellings and they're certainly in abundance these days. That there was a Frankenstein retelling... I couldn't pass it up.
Unfortunately Broken is a classic example of an intriguing idea with a horrible execution (something I've dubbed the Matthew Pearl effect). Broken is a typical YA romance - awful poetics (and the fastest case of insta-love I've ever seen) included.
A few short months ago Emma Gentry lost her boyfriend Daniel in a horrific accident. Since then she's retreated into herself, sleeping in his hoodie every. single. night. and hanging out at the local cemetery where she feels his presence. Emma's haunted by his memory and when she closes her eyes all she can see is Daniel's broken, bloody body.
All of that changes when a new boy, Alex Franks, shows up at school. There's something familiar about him and his mannerisms that Emma can't quite shake. Why does he remind her so much of Daniel? Why does he call her by the nickname Daniel gave her?
Ugh. Really, that's all I have to say. Broken was one steaming pile of meh. Emma stubbornly refuses to let go of Daniel until Alex shows up. Naturally he's got a jawline to die for and amazing cheekbones. And don't forget that brooding, mysterious aura! I wonder if the author has ever read Frankenstein. But of course she has! Alex has scars all over his body, guys. See how wretched and horrifying he is?? Not at all. In fact, Emma muses - multiple times - over those scars and how hot they are.
Emma is a typical girl who sits at the Theater Nerds lunch table. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why she was the sole piece of gossip. She wasn't a popular cheerleader, but she also wasn't a part of the out crowd. Somehow there's a new rumor about her everyday and I just didn't get it.
The fact that Alex's last name is FRANKS, his father is a crazed doctor, and the high school is SHELLEY HIGH never raised an eyebrow. For an English project, Emma has to read Dracula and other classic gothic novels. If those books exist in this world, wouldn't Frankenstein exist as well?
I could go on and on with my list of grievances: Emma only loves Alex because Daniel is a part of him, certain elements are introduced (Alex's ex-girlfriend, for instance) only to never be discussed again, etc etc.
I'll admit that at the very end I was interested. All the talk about memory fusion in tissue was great. Sadly, by that point, I was reading Broken just to finish. I don't think I could have handled one more page detailing Emma's school day - including a play-by-play of each class - or her on-going text conversations.
When all is said and done, Broken is 250 pages of overly dramatic high school days (and don't forget the coffee shop!) with a few chapters that were relatively interesting. If you're looking for a creepy monster tale, look elsewhere.(less)
"There was one artifact on display there...a chess piece found under Ivy Street not far from my home. I remember thinking - a person used this. Not because they had to, or because they thought we would find it one day, but just to bring some amusement or comfort to their lives. It just makes me feel like we're all the same: all people, no matter where we live. Or when."
Just like every other 10-year old I had dreams of becoming a famous adventurer and discovering ancient treasures. My interest focused more on dinosaurs than pottery and I can still rattle off name after name of prehistoric creatures. When I first heard about Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies I knew that was a book for me. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be.
Samantha Sutton, a 12-year old aspiring archaeologist, managed to convince her parents to allow her to spend the summer with her Uncle Jay on an excavation of an ancient Peruvian village. Sam's older brother Evan was sent along much to the siblings' dismay. Evan would rather play his video games or flirt with girls than spend the entire summer brushing dust off bits of clay dishes.
This novel houses a full cast of characters and they were all wonderfully developed. That said, I would have loved to have seen more of certain characters (Stuart for instance - Samantha wasn't the only one intrigued by his Scottish accent!). Also, it's apparent right from the start that Adam is up to something and his fierce animosity toward a 12-year old girl is so bewildering.
Lately I've been finished novels in a day or two. With Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, I took nearly a week (& that surprised me; it felt MUCH longer). For a Middle Grade novel, I was shocked by how dense the writing was. Yes there's excitement and danger, but it was so slow in the making. A large part of my disappointment in the novel lies with its pace. A quicker story would have made for a far more enjoyable novel, but I suppose the life of an archaeologist isn't as glamorous as the movies make it seem.
I loved all the Spanish that was sprinkled throughout the dialogue. I was delighted to discover I've remembered quite a bit of what I learned in high school! What I didn't understand only made me relate to Samantha: she doesn't speak a word of the language and more often than not, finds herself utterly lost in conversations.
By the time the identity of El Loco was revealed, I had completely forgotten all about that character. Sadly, this was an instance where the Bad Guy was a character briefly introduced in the beginning of the story and wasn't heard from again until the Big Reveal.
For it's Middle Grade label, I was surprised by the amount of drug use and violence that made its way into the book. Despite my expectations, in the end, I was reading just to finish. Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies wasn't for me, but it seems I'm in the minority with my rating. The sequel, Samantha Sutton and the Stronghold of the Warrior Queen comes out later this year and it sounds like it'll be more up my alley. :)(less)
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! (less)
Picking up nearly immediately after River Road ended, Elysian Fields plunges readers into a post-Katrina New Orleans with the added bonus of wizards and werewolves. DJ Jaco is a wizard and newly-appointed Sentinel for the city; it's her job to keep the magical community under control. Easier said than done though, right?
As if her job wasn't hard enough, she's got a sort-of-kind-of-maybe budding relationship with a shifter, her human best friend is slowly pulling away, a neighbor who's keeping a secret, and a serial killer is on the loose. All in a day's work.
I'm not the biggest Urban Fantasy reader, but I adore these books. This series is so much fun and I couldn't wait to dive into Elysian Fields! Whereas the previous two could work as standalones, River Road is definitely required reading before starting this one! There's SO. MUCH. that went on in this book, but it definitely feels like the middle of a story while the previous installments had distinct endings.
It was a joy to see where DJ and Alex's relationship went. From the early days when she took care of a dog (not realizing that was Alex's shifter form) to their first kiss, these two have grown and matured and I was nothing but flails and squeals. The happiness comes at a price however, and Alex begins to wonder if DJ's chaotic life is really what he wants.
Romance naysayers, don't fear - the novel isn't completely lovey-dovey. There are multiple Big Bads this time around, but my favorite by far was the Axeman. Initially thought of as a copycat killer taking inspiration from the 1918 Axeman murders, it's eventually determined the original Axeman is back from the Beyond and has a serious bone to pick with DJ. More than one attempt on her life and the loss of both her car and house lets DJ know this guy isn't playing around; someone wants her dead and she's going to find out why.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say the reveal was shocking! Over the course of the novel I had suspects pegged, but I was way off and completely surprised. It'll definitely be interesting to see where things go from here. Also, things are really getting serious now that the human characters (DJ's bestie and a fellow cop) have been told about the Preternatural world.
Whether you're a seasoned fan of Urban Fantasy or a complete newbie, I highly recommend this series! The Sentinels of New Orleans series is so fun - and there's a super-charming undead pirate!(less)
Parallel Visions is short. Real short. As in barely-past-short-story. I received an e-copy and it was a mere 60 pages.
Judging from the countless glowing reviews on goodreads, I seem to be in minority with this one, guys. I wanted to like it, but I have multiple issues with the story.
Taking place over the course of three days, Parallel Visions tells the tale of Kate, a teenage girl whose asthma attacks bring on terrible psychic visions. Two startling episodes reveal a classmate's suicide and her sister's abuse and with no one else able to witness her visions, it's up to Kate to save both girls.
Parallel Visions tried to do so much in such a short amount of time. We have a budding romance, deadly asthma attacks, hospital visits, an estranged sister and her abusive husband, a rape victim, bullying, depression and suicide, sexual identity, I could go on. Even with a full-length novel this would be considered overkill.
The story opens with Kate having an attack during gym. When gorgeous Gil rushes off to grab her inhaler, Kate has a vision: a girl who resembles Gil plans to kill herself by swallowing a handful of pills. Kate focuses her concentration and realizes this vision is still three days away. As Gil walks her to the nurse, Kate asks if he knows of a depressed girl and then tells him about the vision. Upon hearing of his sister's future attempt at suicide, Gil says "Crap. That's only three days from now." No shock or mad dash out of school and to his sister.
Kate also has multiple visions of her sister Jenna and sees her suffer through beating after beating. When she tries to ask Jenna about it, Jenna simply shrugs it off and her parents don't believe Kate actually has visions.
I can see a heartfelt message if I squint a bit: there's help out there for LGBT teens and abuse victims. However, the writing and pacing are so haphazard it's hard to make sense of anything.
In the end, everyone is happy, loving life and everyone around them. Gil's sister no longer wishes to harm herself and Jenna leaves Mason. Gil and Kate are in love and it's happy ever after for everyone involved. After extremely traumatic bouts of depression/beatings/asthma, the ending was presented so nicely I had a hard time believing it.
Unfortunately, this was not the book for me.(less)
"So, Megan. The first thing you should know about me..."
"I don't want a divorce."
Megan Scott had her life figured out: she had her job, her apartment, and a potential sperm donor lined up after a horrible break-up made her swear off men for good. Unfortunately, life doesn't always go according to plan and after a particularly disastrous night in Vegas with her fellow bridesmaids, Megan finds herself waking up next to a stranger who claims to be her husband.
Harlequin recently announced their new Harlequin KISS line dedicated to fun contemporary stories. I suppose this is a year of firsts for me guys: I just recently read my first Goosebumps book and now I can say I've read a Harlequin.
It's no secret I work in a bookstore. I'm no stranger to series romances and ladies love their Harlequins. To be honest, I never gave much though to Harlequins other than to giggle at their ridiculous Mad-Libs-esque titles.
HOWEVER. There's always a however, isn't there? I've been craving a light-hearted romance, something to make me laugh and escape the dreary, oh-so-snowy Pittsburgh weather. A few bloggers have been discussing the new Harlequin KISS line, Waking Up Married was free to download, and I had a day off. Perfect combination!
Waking Up Married starts off great. There's no long, drawn-out beginning here. From the very first page you know all the details. At least, what Megan can remember (which is pretty much nothing). Instead Conner is left to provide the details and convince Megan to give this marriage a shot.
Now I can totally suspend my belief in favor of a fun story. But Connor's instant - and fierce - determination to stay married didn't sit well with me. If he was toned down a lot I wouldn't mind him, but he's VERY Christian Grey with his stalking (shows up on Megan's doorstep in Denver AHEAD OF the moving van coming from San Francisco), insistence on what/how much she eats, there's even a contract! No thank you.
Naturally Megan immediately wants to call up a lawyer and find some way out of this mess. Conner realized that after just a few hours, she was his perfect match - he even calls their marriage a 'partnership' - and insists they enter into a two-month trial. Megan will move into his giant mansion and Conner will spend the next few months trying to convince his wife they shouldn't divorce.
The secondary characters could have been cut and the story would have remained the same, that's how little of a role they played. The bride/bridesmaids are Mean and Spiteful. Conner's best friend (I can't even remember his name now! Something with a J I think) is There For Him. Of course Ex-Girlfriend shows up at a dinner party.
When all is said and done, I took Waking Up Married for what it was: a super-short contemporary romance. I knew exactly what I was getting into and for that I couldn't fault it too much. It kept me entertained - despite a few eye-rolls - and I'm genuinely interested in seeing what else Harlequin KISS has to offer.(less)
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!(less)