Friday, February 24, 2017

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: A Book Review

A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffith
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.


     Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.


     Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

 

     My Review: A Crown of Wishes is a companion novel to The Star-Touched Queen. Guari, an exiled princess, has been taken prisoner by her kingdom’s enemy, Ujijain. However, right before her execution, the prince of Ujijain rescues her and forces her to compete in the deadly tournament of wishes. In order to win a wish, the two must go through trials and make a sacrifice. To survive the tournament, the two enemies must learn to trust each other.

    I thought that Gauri was a fantastic protagonist. The reader was introduced to her in The Star-Touched Queen, and I was glad that this novel focuses on her. She can fend for herself, is very ambitious, and is a loyal friend. However, she has her flaws. She is impulsive, stubborn, vengeful, and has a tendency to treat her friends unkindly. However, what I like the best is how the author shows Gauri's emotional scars. Because of this, we can understand her actions. Throughout the novel, Guari grows into a strong, wise, and confident young woman.


    I also love Guari’s relationship with Vikram. They seem different in appearances because Vikram’s weapon is not his sword, but his mind. Emotionally, they are very similar. They each dream of being capable rulers in their own kingdoms and are also slow to trust., they learn to rely on and come to love each other. Thus, I like how their relationship evolved from enemies, to friendship, and, in time, lovers.


    Overall, this book is about friendship, trust, and love. The message of this story is that we must sacrifice our desires to find out what is really important in our lives. These characters have grown throughout the story, and I like how they changed. They become stronger and wiser. This novel is quick-paced and filled with adventure, danger, magic, and intrigue. The writing is very lyrical. The only problems I had with this story was that I didn’t like how the story switches from first person to third person. I thought there should be one point of view, either first or third, throughout the novel so it could maintain consistency. The last part of the novel seemed rushed and left me unsatisfied. Other than that, A Crown of Wishes surpasses The Star-Touched Queen, and I look forward to reading the next novel Roshani Chokshi has in store for us!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Friday, February 17, 2017

Dead White: A Della Arthur 1940s Murder Mystery by Gwen Parrott: A Book Review

Dead White: A Della Arthur 1940s Murder Mystery
Author: Gwen Parrott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Corazon Crime
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 214
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In a 1940s Welsh village a school teacher stumbles across two dead bodies, and the secrets and lies of a close-knit community.

     During the harsh winter of 1947, Della Arthur arrives at a remote Pembrokeshire village in the middle of a snowstorm to take up her new job as headteacher of the local primary school. Losing her way from the train station, she comes across a farmhouse and takes shelter there. After finding two dead bodies inside, Della struggles to discover the truth behind their deaths. She soon realises that in this close-knit community, secrets and lies lurk beneath the surface of respectability.

     Della must choose who to trust among the inhabitants of this remote village – should she reveal what she knows to the sardonic minister of the local chapel, Huw Richards, or the Italian prisoner of war, Enzo Mazzati? Della finds herself under siege on all sides, and encumbered by an unwelcome lodger, a missing colleague and a disturbed pupil. It is only when her own life is threatened that she realises how dangerous her discoveries in the farmhouse really were.

     My Review: Della Arthur has been recently hired to be a school teacher in a small Welsh village. Upon her arrival, there is a snow storm that forces her to lose her way. She finds a farmhouse and decides to take shelter there until the storm is over. After settling in, Della finds that there are two dead bodies in the house. However, the deaths are more than what they at first appear to be. What may look like a natural death ends up actually being a murder. Della decides to uncover the truth about their deaths, but she finds that there are obstacles standing in her way because some people in the community are willing to go to such lengths to hide the truth behind their deaths.

     I did not like the main protagonist. I found Della to be a very weak character. She makes many unwise decisions that put herself and others in harm’s way. I really did not like that she barged into someone’s home and made herself tea and fixed herself a meal, taking their items without permission. I thought that Della should have been punished for her actions, but she never was. She goes to many lengths to cover up her trespasses. It frustrated me that the people in the town don’t seem to care about her actions. Instead, they tell her to never mention it. Besides her appalling behavior, I found her to be very judgmental and selfish. She is also very dependent. She feels she needs a man who she can lean on and who can cover up her bad actions. As a mystery novel, Della doesn’t really do any investigating. She is very passive. The reason she investigates a little is because she wants to cover up her crimes. I found the ending to be very disappointing because she doesn’t solve the mystery, but rather the solution to the mystery was handed to her.

     Overall, I thought this to be a very poorly written mystery and a weak detective. There were a few plot holes. The supporting characters were not fully developed enough and were one-dimensional. There was also an abrupt ending to get readers interested in a sequel. While I like a good cliffhanger ending, this didn’t really appeal to me because it wasn’t written well enough to get me interested in a sequel. However, it was a short and very fast-paced read. I also thought the Welsh setting was very atmospheric for a murder mystery. I recommend this novel to those who like gothic and suspenseful stories. However, because of the unlikable characters and many flaws in this novel, it transformed into a less compelling mystery novel.


Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blog Tour: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White


HEARTSTONE
Author: Elle Katharine White
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: 352
Formats: Paperback eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads

Synopsis: A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

     They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

     Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

     Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

     It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

     Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.


About Elle:




     Elle was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, where she learned valuable life skills like how to clear a snowy driveway in under twenty minutes (a lot easier than you think) and how to cheer for the perennial underdog (a lot harder than you think).

MEET ELLE

When she's not writing she spends her time reading, drinking absurd amounts of tea, having strong feelings about fictional characters, and doing her best to live with no regrets.

Connect with her on Facebook at @ellewhite.author, or witness the hilarious spectacle that is a writer contending with the 140-character limit on Twitter at @elle_k_writes.


Website | Twitter |Tumblr | Facebook | Goodreads


Giveaway Details:


3 winners will receive a finished copy of HEARTSTONE, US Only.


Tour Schedule:


Week One:
1/9/2017- YA Book Nerd- Interview        
1/10/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland - Review
1/11/2017- Novel Novice- Guest Post    
1/12/2017- What the Cat Read- Review
1/13/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview      

Week Two:
1/16/2017- Fiction Fare - Review
1/17/2017- The Eater of Books!- Excerpt
1/18/2017- History from a Woman's Perspective           
1/19/2017- Stories & Sweeties- Excerpt
1/20/2017- The Book Nut- Review 

   

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

     I can't believe that in a few hours I will be looking at 2017! This has been a good year! Before I write my reviews for books that I will read in the new year, I am going to list my favorite books that I have read this year.



    The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe is a retelling of St. Augustine's Confessions but told from the perspective of St. Augustine's nameless concubine. This is a beautiful story of redemption and of finding one's identity and happiness.



     Platinum Doll by Anne Girard chronicles the early life of Jean Harlow. This novel shows us how Jean Harlow became a star and the sacrifices that she made along the way.  I really hope that Mrs. Girard will write a sequel that focuses on Jean Harlow's later years. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!



     Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly is about the love story between Bess and Harry Houdini. I have always been fascinated by Houdini, and I feel that this book gives us a compelling love story that transcends life and death.


    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min chronicles the early life of Empress Dowager Cixi, one of China's most powerful and controversial figures. She is China's last empress, and her rule ended the Chinese Imperial era. I thought that this book gives a good portrait of Cixi. While it is sympathetic of Cixi, I really like how the author did not try to cover her flaws. This book shows us the hard decisions and sacrifices that she made to become the Empress Dowager.


    America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was Thomas Jefferson's daughter and who undertook the role of First Lady when her father became president. She is often a forgotten woman in history. This book shows us that she is a woman who deserves to be recognized for her accomplishments.


   Sisi by Alison Pataki focuses on the later years of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. I really loved The Accidental Empress, and I was happy that this sequel surpassed it! This is a heart-breaking and tragic story about a vulnerable woman who spent her whole life searching for happiness that she was never truly able to find.


    I Am Livia is a biographical novel about Livia Drusilla, the wife of Emperor Augustus. I admired the relationship between Livia and Augustus. 



     The Moon in The Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel focuses on how Wu Zetian, China's only female emperor, becomes empress. I have always been fascinated by Wu Zetian, and The Empress of China starring Fan Bingbing, which is also about Wu Zetian, is one of my favorite tv series of all time. Because of this, I was more critical with this book than any other this year while reading this series. It is safe to say that this series did not disappoint, and I have re-read this duology three times this year, while re-watching my favorite series!



    The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard is a gothic, paranormal romance set in Victorian England and features a deaf protagonist. This was a very fun read with a beautiful love story. I look forward to reading more of the series!




     Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas is a biography of John Quincy Adams's wife. She is the only First Lady to have been born overseas. I really love this biography because she has been eclipsed by her mother-in-law, Abigail Adams. This book shows that Louisa Adams fought for women's rights. This biography reminds us that she should also deserve more recognition in history.




Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge tells the story of Hatshepsut, one of the few female Pharaohs of Egypt.


     The Last Heiress by Stephanie Liaci tells the story of Queen Ankhesenamun, King Tut's wife. This was a beautiful story. The ending was very tragic and shocking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1) by Cheryl Honigford: A Book Review

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1)
Author: Cheryl Honigford
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bright lights. Big city. Brutal murder.

     Chicago, 1938. Late one night before the ten o'clock show, the body of a prominent radio actress is found in the station's lounge. All the evidence points to murder—and one young, up-and-coming radio actress, Vivian Witchell, as the next victim. But Vivian isn't the type to leave her fate in the hands of others—she's used to stealing the show. Alongside charming private detective Charlie Haverman, Vivian is thrust into a world of clues and motives, suspects and secrets. And with so much on the line, Vivian finds her detective work doesn't end when the on-air light goes out...

     The gripping first novel in a new series from debut author Cheryl Honigford, The Darkness Knows is a thrilling mystery that evokes the drama and scandal of radio stardom in prewar Chicago.

     My Review: Vivian just landed her role as a sidekick on a mystery radio show. Everything seems to be going well for her until before her ten o'clock show where she stumbles across the body of a famous radio star at the station’s lounge. It soon becomes clear that she is the next intended target. However, Vivian doesn't want to sit still and wait to be murdered. She teams up with Charlie Haverman, a private detective, to find the killer before she gets her name crossed off the list.

     I really didn't like the two main characters. Vivian is ambitious. She dreams of becoming famous and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She makes many sacrifices to hang on to her role. While I did find her to be smart, inquisitive, determined, and observant, I didn't really think she was a strong heroine. She was very selfish, vain, and is more obsessed with men than solving the murder. Vivian didn't seem to have a heart or care about anyone. She was also judgmental and did not have anything nice to say to her co-workers. Therefore, it was really hard for me to like her as a protagonist. 

     Charlie was not much better. He seemed to be very one-dimensional. He is the same type of detective that never likes female characters to investigate murder cases because it is unladylike. Other than that cliche that has been done many times before, there wasn't much character development there. He didn't really do anything in this book except to tell the heroine over and over that she shouldn't get involved.

     Overall, this had unlikable characters in a predictable mystery. The romance felt forced. There was no reason except their looks as to why the two leads are attracted to each other. You could figure out the killer from the first page. I also did not think that there was much historical detail in this book because it seems as if it could take place in the modern day. The only thing I did like about this book is that it takes place at a radio station. As someone who for a radio station, I found the setting to be very fascinating. Even though this is the first book in the series, I'm still uncertain as to whether I should continue with the sequels since I didn't like the characters. I recommend this book to those who are looking for a light cozy mystery while snuggling up in front of the fireplace. However, I found this book had potential to be a starter in a new favorite historical mystery series. Sadly, it was just poorly executed.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1) by Alison Weir: A Book Review

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1)
Author: Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2016
Pages: 602
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII's wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon. Henry's first, devoted, and "true" queen.

     A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage - and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner. 

     Katherine's patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine's maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

     My Review: In the first of a new series about Henry VIII’s wives by Alison Weir, Alison Weir focuses on Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Katherine, a young Spanish princess, arrives in a foreign land that has a different language, customs, and scenery. She misses her homeland but is determined to make her parents proud. She marries Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s older brother. She shortly finds herself a widow and at the mercy of Henry VII, her father-in-law. For six years, she struggles with poverty and is often neglected. Eventually, Henry VIII takes the throne and decides to make Katherine his wife. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen chronicles Henry VIII’s longest marriage as well Katherine’s loves, triumphs, and her ultimate downfall.

     Ever since my early teens, I have been fascinated by the Tudor’s. I was excited when my favorite historian, Alison Weir, announced that she would write a historical novel of each of the six Tudor queens. I love Katherine of Aragon’s story because she never gave up fighting for her rights. However, this book took me forever to read, and it was not because of the length.

     Katherine of Aragon is a complex figure. However, in this novel, we never really get to see Katherine’s complexity. I didn’t think that Alison Weir fully developed Katherine of Aragon. Katherine seemed more like a cardboard cutout than an actual character. This is because Alison Weir mostly tells us what she is rather than show us. Thus, I really couldn’t get into Katherine of Aragon and it felt mostly like a rehash of her life. I could not emotionally get invested in her character. I felt as if I was mostly reading a biography about her. Therefore, I felt that Weir should have made this a biography rather than a historical fiction story.

     Overall, this was a good idea to write about the six wives of Henry VIII, however, it just was not executed well enough. The characters were not fully-developed, the writing was dry at times like a textbook, and there were some subplots that lead nowhere. The positives of this book is that Alison Weir is the most accurate historical writer that I have read about the Tudors. She makes very little changes to Katherine of Aragon’s story and mostly sticks to the facts. This will please many historical fiction fans who love their history to be mostly accurate. This is also good for those who do not really know much about Katherine of Aragon and would love to learn about Katherine’s story. Thus, while I didn’t love Alison Weir’s Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, I’m sure her writing will improve more as the series progress. I am eagerly looking forward to reading her take on Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s most notorious and fascinating queens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here is a video of Alison Weir talking about her latest novel, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blog Tour: Faithful by Michelle Hauck

Faithful
Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Pages: 384
Formats: eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads

About the Book: Following Grudging--and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall--religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints series!

     A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

     Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

     On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

     What they find instead is an old woman.

     But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

     A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.


About Michelle:



     Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

     She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

     Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

     Visit her: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr


Giveaway Details:



2 winners will receive signed paperbacks of book 1, Grudging, US Only.
Tour Schedule:

 Week One:
11/7/2016- Books, Dreams, Life- Interview
11/8/2016- Bibliobibuli YA- Review
11/9/2016- Book in the Bag- Interview
11/10/2016- History from a Woman's Perspective
11/11/2016- Marty Mayberry- Guest Post

Week Two:
11/14/2016- Book for Thought- Review
11/16/2016- Always Me- Review
11/17/2016- Dazzled by Books- Interview
11/18/2016- The Autumn Bookshelf- Review