Soulless by Gail Carriger – Parasol Protectorate #1

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the premise contained all of my favorite things: supernatural beings, the Victorian era, and a feisty heroine. That was enough to intrigue me and give this book a shot. After reading it, I am so glad I did. Here is my review:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Unfortunately, Alexia accidentally kills the vampire while protecting herself – and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. News on this vampire’s death leads to an investigation that reveals that unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing. And everyone seems to believe that Alexia is somehow involved. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy?

To define this book by one genre would be doing it an injustice because it is such a mashup! You’ve got steampunk, Victorian social etiquette, comedy, romance, and of course, supernatural/paranormal fantasy. I loved this eclectic mix of themes because it added so much variety to the story! I absolutely adored Alexia. She is funny, and inquisitive, and everything I wanted her to be! She adheres to Victorian etiquette standards only when it suits her and her independent thinking gets her into a great deal of trouble. I love that the author always keeps her in the center of the action and never makes her rely on men to fix things for her. I also loved her romance with Lord Maccon, which I had guessed would happen right from the start; it is VERY believable and not exactly pg-13 (so I would advise younger teenagers to not read this book). The story itself was intriguing, with witty humor thrown in every now and then. I liked the mystery and the action, and the different supernatural beings who were involved. If anything, I wish the organization of the different societies had been given more details, as that would have given me a better understanding of this world that Alexia lives in. I had a great reading experience with this novel because I just found it to be so funny and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars for being weird and funny and everything else in between!

Happy reading ~

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The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

I heard about this book when it first came out in March and added it to by TBR list. I really liked the idea of reading from the perspective of a female medical student from the 1890s, a very unheard of phenomenon back in the day. I also just love a good historical murder mystery. Here is my review:

Leaving behind London society after a scandal, Sarah Gilchrist has joined the University of Edinburgh’s medical school. This is the first year that the university has admitted women and Sarah is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. However, there are many barriers at the school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman. Desperate to get some training, Sarah begins to volunteer at the St. Giles’ Infirmary for Women, a charitable hospital for those who have nowhere else to go. Sarah enjoys her time volunteering there, even when the environment is grim. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers. Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

I quite enjoyed this novel, with its fierce heroine! This is a well paced novel with a great deal of suspense and mystery that kept me enthralled from start to finish. I thought the author had done a great job in researching details of life in the 1890s, especially in terms of the rights (or lack thereof) for women, the cultural norms of the times, and the medical procedures that were popular at the time. There were times, I will admit, where I grew weary of Sarah’s constant complaints about the injustices women faced. It’s not that this wasn’t relevant or important; however, there came a time when the point had been made and I just wanted the story to move along. That being said, the mystery itself was interesting. There were many different clues and avenues that the story took to get to its conclusion, and I quite liked all of these twists and turns. I thought the mystery was well planned out and executed and the conclusion was enjoyable. However, character development was another weak point in this novel: while some of the other characters showed growth throughout the story, Sarah did not. This feeling of lack of growth might have been because of her constant complaints but it just felt like Sarah remained the same throughout the novel, and I would have liked to see her change through her experiences. Overall, this was a compelling and engaging read that I really enjoyed, with a good amount of historical detail and a strong heroine. I’ve heard that there will be a sequel to this novel, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out (February 2019)! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – Winternight Trilogy #2

I’m so lucky to have gotten my hands on this book as soon as it released! I have been really bad when it comes to series; I almost always preorder the books, but when they arrive, I never read them. This is what has happened with the Queen of the Tearling series (I promise I will get to it soon!), but I was determined to not let it happen here! As soon as I received my copy, I put aside all of my other books. So now, here is my review:

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya has very few options: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both restrict her freedom and her chances of seeing the vast world. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

As usual, the author has delivered a stunning historical fantasy novel. I love how true the author stays to historical Russian events and Russian mythology throughout the story. It is so easy for the reader to imagine this vivid setting and fall into the story. There are loads of supernatural elements in the story but they are worked into this intricate political plot. I’m always surprised to see this combination work as well as it does, because it just seems so contradictory! I also love learning about Russian culture and mythology through this novel; it’s something I’ve always been fascinated by and the author really does an amazing job of making it come to life through Vasya’s adventure. This story takes place almost right where the first book left off. I found it interesting that the first perspective wasn’t Vasya’s but one of her siblings, instead. I thought that this novel had more action and adventure than the previous novel in the series. This kept my interest up, but I also wish that there had been more mystery, which is what I had loved about The Bear and the Nightingale. In all fairness, I think I preferred the first book to this one. The Bear and the Nightingale had this wonderful depth and development of character even though it lacked the fast pace of The Girl in the Tower. I almost wish that there had been a little less action and a little more focus on the character relationships (especially between Vasya and Morozko!) and the mythology. Overall, this was still a really great novel and I cannot wait for the third book in this trilogy! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The Final Book: Gods by SW Hammond

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book has been long overdue on my TBR list; I mean, it was published in June and I just got to it now. However, I was really excited to read this novel because of its connections to mythology. I love mythology and I’m always interested to see how authors will take stories and characters that we already know and incorporate them into a brand-new story. Here is my review:

In the beginning there was love. The Goddess of Life in an elated romance with a beloved mortal. Her sister killed him. Their combined actions ripping a hole in destiny and plagued mankind with an age of unprecedented corruption, vicious holy wars, and religious absolution.

Though long forgotten by the mortals they serve, Zeus and his Pantheon continue to foster and protect mankind which is tearing itself apart—but even God isn’t infallible. After failed diplomacy, the King of the Gods is left with no choice but to take the persona of a modern man—the famed genetic scientist Dr. Hork. In an effort to preserve the future by reshaping the past, Dr. Hork uses Project Genesis—the transfer of consciousness—to send subjects back in time. However, not without devastating failures. Subjects of the experiment wreak havoc upon humanity until a familiar character is reborn to correct the course.

Reincarnated and ready to fulfill his true destiny, Joshua Bach is the catalyst the Gods have been waiting for—and Dr. Hork’s final beacon of salvation. Ferociously idealistic, the free-spirited young man struggles to come-of-age in a time and society ruled by money and corruption. Under the wing of the Gods, Josh rediscovers his purpose, along with a love that can only be considered timeless.

I’m not going to give a rating for this book because I don’t think it would be fair (or accurate). This was a case where the book just did not work for me and I wasn’t able to finish the novel. The story started off interestingly enough but I couldn’t get into it and I felt like there was a lot going on for me. I think that the author actually did a really good job of taking the Greek mythological character and maintaining their personalities, even including little details. I think the reason this novel didn’t work for me was because there was just a lot going on. From cloning to theology, this book talks about everything. For me, that was a bit too much to handle. However, I want to mention here that this novel has gotten great reviews on Goodreads, reviews that will probably be more accurate. If you like Greek mythology and are looking for something deep and out of the norm, then this is the novel for you!

Happy reading `

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grandmére Ursule was one of the most powerful witches in her family. But when she dies trying to save the life of her tribe, her magic seems to have died with her. Even so, her daughters do their best to keep the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been a part of their family for generations. Then one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. The story traverses 5 generations of witches, from early 19th century Brittany to London during WWII as they fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, their futures.

I really wanted to love this novel but I didn’t. The book is broken down into multiple parts such that each witch from the next generation gets her own story. I love the idea of magic being passed down from mother to daughter but I think that is where the problem of this novel lay: for each generation, the story from the previous generation must be recounted, and the same reactions from the newest witch are described, and it just starts to become repetitive. It’s hard to break from that cycle when it is that very cycle that is being described in the novel. I think that out of all of the witches that were described, there was only one that was truly different from the rest. While I get that the same traits and powers will run in the family, the personalities of the different witches were too similar for my taste. And as I mentioned, the concept was interesting in the beginning but the story itself was too cyclic and repetitive to maintain my interest. The author did put a valiant effort in trying to tie in different historical events to change things up between generations, but the scenarios remained the same. I also wish there had been more supernatural elements; I would have loved to read about the different spells and things that they learned and the reasons why they did certain rituals. For me, there was just not enough of a unique story and so, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

This is a novel where I went in knowing nothing about the subject matter. I know absolutely nothing about tea or tea leaves; I don’t even drink tea (which is something that my family just can’t get over)! I also am completely unaware about Chinese culture, and the ethnic minorities that reside in China. This novel talks about these things but it is a whole lot more than that. Here is my review:

In a remote Yunnan village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. They are Akha people and must follow the way of their ancestors. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives, searching for a rare tea. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger. The arrival of the stranger also marks changes in Li-yan’s own life – and her beliefs on the rules that have shaped her existence thus far. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city. Over the years, Li-yan has slowly left the security and insularity of her village behind to encounter modern life while Haley, the daughter she abandoned, grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.

This book was completely out of my comfort zone, and I loved it. This is my first time reading anything by Lisa See, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The story starts off with Li-yan, when she is just a young child. The author gives the reader an idea of what life is like in this village, and what it means to be part of the Akha people. We learn about their customs and traditions, and the reasons behind their rules. It is beautifully explained, and I think Li-yan was the perfect character through whom to explore this culture. I loved reading about Li-yan growing up and developing, and the author really got me to connect with her character. I felt her emotions and understood her thought processes throughout the story. This novel also goes into a great deal of detail about the tea business and the process of finding the right tea leaves and making that perfect blend. For someone who never knew about the effort that goes into this business, it was really eye-opening. While the tea aspect is important to the story, it sometimes detracted from the actual plot. The novel is divided into multiple parts that chronicle different time points in Li-yan’s life. There are also moments where we find out what happened to Li-yan’s daughter, and this was one of the highlights of the book for me. I think I really enjoyed the beginning, where we got to see Li-yan grow up and endure various hardships. The midpoint of the story dragged a bit, but the tidbits about Li-yan’s daughter, Haley, helped tide me over. The ending was what I was really interested in; I wanted to know if the two would ever meet. The ending is a cliffhanger, and while I usually don’t like this, I thought it was very appropriate for this novel. It gave me the opportunity to imagine what I thought the encounter would be like, and I’m glad the author left it up to the reader’s imagination to decide what happens next. All in all, this was a great novel that really taught me a lot about Chinese culture and tea, while also revealing a beautiful story about identity, motherhood, and the desire to belong. I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction!

Happy reading ~

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love novels on alternative history. It’s always interesting to ask “what would the world have been like if this had happened instead of this”? It is so easy to take for granted the life we have, and to not realize that just some minor changes to historical events could have drastic consequences for the future. That was what drew me to this novel when I first saw the premise. Now, here is my review:

Nazi England, 2014. Jessika Keller is the epitome of what it means to be a good girl: champion ice skater, model student of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, and dutiful daughter of the Greater German Reich. When she first met her best friend, Clementine, she was happy to find someone different from her, someone whom she could take under her wing. But Clementine is not so submissive. Clementine is outspoken, dangerous, and radical. At first, it seemed funny. But now, the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend, her first love. But which can she live without?

I think this novel had a lot of potential. The story is really interesting and I was happy that the novel was told from the perspective of a teenage girl. The author touches on a lot of different topics like loyalty, sexuality, and freedom, and these topics were presented very well. Jessika is undoubtedly the main character, and the whole story is about how she is changed through her interactions with Clementine. The story is split into 3 parts that chronicle 3 different time points in Jessika’s life. I think that the strongest part of the book was Part One; this is where the story really developed. We only hear from Jessika’s perspective, but it is a very good perspective to read from as we see her ignorance being chipped away by the events she is seeing and the emotions she is experiencing. We see her try to reconcile between the truth and what she has always believed, and we see how hard she fights to maintain her innocence. This part made me feel the most connection to Jessika and it had me invested in the story. However, the second and third part of this story was a big let down. In the second part, the author went back and forth in time (again from Jessika’s perspective) but after the constant forward motion of the first part, this just made it confusing to read. I also thought that there were big jumps being made in the story that weren’t really addressed by the author. More detail and a more consistent flow would have made this section better. The last section of the novel was even more inconsistent; it felt like it wasn’t even part of the same book! Now, Jessika is at a different time point and age and there was no real transition to this new point. The abruptness really didn’t work for me and it left me disappointed in the ending, which didn’t have the depth of emotion that the first part had. Overall, this novel had a very interesting start but the choppiness of the second and third part of this book led to disappointment. I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

I’ve never read anything by this author, but he is definitely well known for his other works. After hearing so many positive things about Clines’ other books, I decided to give this ARC a go. Here is my review:

Eli lives in Sanders, a town where nothing ever changes, a town that seems to be stuck in the past. So why doesn’t Eli want to leave? Whether he wants to admit it or not, Eli has been waiting – waiting for a mysterious traveler he met years ago. It isn’t often that you meet someone who’s driving a hundred-year-old car, clad in Revolutionary-War era clothes, wielding an oddly modified flintlock rifle—someone who pauses just long enough to reveal strange things about you and your world before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires. So when the mysterious traveler finally reappears, Eli is determined to get some answers. But his hunt soon yields far more than he bargained for, plunging him headlong into a dizzying world full of competing factions and figures straight out of legend. To make sense of the mystery at its heart, he must embark on a breakneck chase across the country and through two centuries of history­—with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.

The premise of this novel had me really intrigued and excited to read this novel. However, my actual experience with this book was … underwhelming. The story revolves around Harry, the mysterious stranger that Eli meets, as well as a host of other characters who are all looking for a very important thing: the American dream. And to do this, they are going through different time points in American history to find it. Now, I love a good time travel story, especially since the concept of time travel is not the easiest to write about. I quite enjoyed the jumps in time and how it forced the reader to pay attention to all of the little details in the book. However, I wasn’t so impressed with the characters. They were all just so bland and they really didn’t hold any interest. With such a whimsical story idea, I expect really fantastic characters that leave an impression on the reader. Even the villains weren’t as villainous as I was hoping. The entire time I was reading this novel, it felt like everything stopped just shy of being amazing. The pace was just short of gripping and edgy, the thrills and dangers were just short of being scary, the characters were just short of being charismatic, and the ending was just short of being satisfactory. While the premise and concept was interesting, I don’t think the execution was the best. This definitely wasn’t a memorable story, but it could have been. For that reason, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Thanks to Blogging for Books, NetGalley, and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

The Good People by Hannah Kent

I’ve been seeing this book everywhere and I really liked the premise of the story. It hints at fairy lore and herbs and changelings, as well as featuring 3 women as the main characters. I was really excited to read this book. So here is my review:

Hedged in by gossip and joined by their desperation, three women in 19th-century Ireland are drawn together in the hope of rescuing a child from a superstitious community, determined to rid itself of the strange and unknowable. After the loss of her husband, Nora is the sole caretaker of her young grandson, Michael – a boy who had one time had been hale and hearty but now, can no longer speak or walk. Nora hires a servant, Mary, to help her take care of the child. But just as Mary starts working, rumors abound about Michael: that he is a changeling child, bringing ill fortune upon everyone in the valley. Determined to get rid of the evil in Michael, Nora and Mary seek the help of Nance, an elderly recluse once revered for her healing powers, but now condemned by the new priest.  As the trio’s situation grows more dire, their folkloric practices become increasingly daring, culminating in a stunning and irreversible act that will put all their lives in danger.

I’m still unsure of my feelings on this book but I’m going to try my best to figure this out. First of all, the writing is beautiful. This is a slow-paced story because the author focuses more on the details. You can tell it has been well-researched from the way the author describes 19th century Ireland, with its herb lore, and the superstitions regarding the fae or good people (the term used here in this novel). The novel is told from 3 perspectives: Mary, Nance, and Nora. These women are bonded together by Michael, Nora’s grandson who is different from other children developmentally. I think the author did a great job of depicting these women (as well as other characters in the book) and the way they changed through their experiences. While I may not have loved all of them, I understood them and could connect with them emotionally. I really liked that the author made it hard for the reader to guess what illness Michael had; it took the attention away from the illness and focused more on the plights of the women and Michael. As I mentioned earlier, the story was slow in its pacing, which meant that there were times when I felt that the story was too detailed and dragged in plot. However, this helped me understand more about the Irish culture, which I know nothing about. I don’t want to give away too much by telling you my thoughts on how the novel ended. Suffice to say that while it made me sad, it also was a good way of cementing the story back into reality and it tied everything up. I wish the story hadn’t been so dismal but some stories aren’t meant to be happy, and this was one of them. If you like stories that are steeped in Irish culture and deal with stigma and superstition, you would probably like this one. If you like more fast-paced novels, then this would definitely not work for you. Even though it was a bit too slow and sad for my liking, I think the quality of the writing and the story itself were quite good, which is why I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had previously read The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief, the first book in the series. It had been an interesting read but not my cup of tea. However, I decided to give the second book in the series a shot. Here is my review:

When a young man comes stumbling into Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane’s consulting detective address, they are surprised when he cries “Witch!” while pointing at Miss Lane … and then dropping dead. The coroner’s inspection shows that the young man, Charles Manning, died of a heart attack – despite being in perfect health. The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site thought to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I was hoping that I would maybe like this novel better than its predecessor but I still felt like this novel was just not the right fit for me. Jesperson continues to be the embodiment of Sherlock Holmes, while Lane strives to be his Watson. I wish they were more unique in their personalities instead of emulating this well-known duo, as it would have set them apart. I also found that while the story started with a bang, it quickly slowed down and it was hard for me to stay interested in the story. The actual mystery was okay but I felt a bit misled by the title; I thought there would be more witchcraft and spells involved but it didn’t really play much of a part. Since this novel didn’t work for me, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars. However, many people on Goodreads enjoyed this novel so I would still recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Victorian mystery novels.

Happy reading ~