The Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Something about this book just captured my attention right away. Maybe it was the cover, with its medieval times look. Maybe it was the fact that this story combines fantasy, historical fiction, and the Devil. Either way, it’s been on my mind for a while and now seemed like the best time to get into this story (which has a sequel, by the way!) so here is my review:

13th century Bohemia is a religious place, where anything that defies God and the Church is considered a danger to humanity. This makes it a dangerous place for Mouse, a girl born with unnatural powers and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch, others call her an angel…. but Mouse doesn’t know who – or what – she is. When young King Ottakar shows up wounded at the Abbey, Mouse breaks church law to save his life. Astounded by her medical abilities, the King insists on taking her with him back to Prague as his personal healer. When Mouse arrives at the castle, she is caught in the midst of court politics. Soon, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other, as they work together to uncover the identities of those who are against him and unravel the mystery of Mouse’s identity. But when Mouse’s unusual gifts give rise to violence and strength, she is forced to ask herself if she is prepared for the future that awaits her.

This is a book that I still haven’t been able to pin an opinion on. There were so many things that I loved about this novel and I read this book in record time. However, there were also certain elements of the novel that didn’t work for me. Let me start by talking about the things I liked:

  • Mouse having powers was the thing that really drew me to this novel. I love fantasy and a female protagonist with “gifts” during a time period when people like her would be considered witches or worse …. well, that is my weakness!
  • I really liked that the author didn’t just focus on Mouse’s powers; she took the time to explore Mouse’s life, her emotions, and all of the other factors that influenced Mouse. It made Mouse come alive, made her more than just your usual protagonist trying to figure out her identity. Mouse falling in love, suffering, and rising from that was just as important to the story as her powers.
  • I liked the historical backdrop of the story a lot. This novel takes place in a variety of different settings and the author does a really great job transitioning from one to the other.
  • While the story has its slow points in the middle, it definitely ramps up closer to the end and it kept me on my toes until the very last minute. It was worth the dull stuff to get to that last page!

So now that I’ve covered the good stuff, here are some of the things I disliked:

  • Mouse’s character was not as strong as I would have liked. For someone who has badass powers, she didn’t really do much to discover them and I wasn’t too happy with the fact that she never properly embraced them.
  • The author made Mouse very submissive … and that bothered me a lot. I understand that she may have wanted to maintain some kind of historical accuracy, as the times in which this novel took place, there was no feminism movements…. but Mouse had POWERS! She really shouldn’t have been placed in such submissive roles, she should have been way more badass and strong. This really bothered me in the story and I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I had hoped because of this aspect.
  • The dull moments were … dull. If the author had included some magical power stuff, then it would have been a bit easier to get through those parts.

Overall, this story was gripping and original. I really enjoyed the overall plot and made my way through this book quite quickly. While there were some elements that I didn’t enjoy, the book was mostly amazing and I am definitely going to be reading the sequel!

Happy reading ~

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City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett – The Divine Cities #3

At last! The final novel in this amazing trilogy! What I love about this series is that each novel takes place a few years after the previous one, and it focuses on a different character each time; this means that you can manage to read it as a standalone if you are strapped for time – though I would recommend reading the entire series in order to really understand everything. In the first book, the protagonist was Shara Komayd. In the second, it was Mulagesh. And now, we hear from Sigrud, who was always one of my favorites. Anyways, here I go with my review:

Siigrud je Harkvaldsson is very good at one thing: revenge. So when he learns that his oldest friend, Prime Minister Shara Komad, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what he is going to do. Yet as Sigrud pursues Shara’s killers, he begins to fear that this mission may be unsuccessful. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death means taking part in a secret, decades-long war, facing down an angry young god, and unraveling the mystery of Bulikov, the city of miracles.

It was definitely a good thing that I read the previous books in the series because the magnanimity of the truths revealed in this novel was just … WOW. And you really can’t understand how amazing these are unless you read the previous novels. So while I’m sure you can enjoy and understand what is happening in this novel without reading anything else in the series, I would strongly advise against that; take the time and read the first 2 books before getting into this one, so that you can truly fall in love with this serie like I have!

Sigrud…. I love him. This book did him such justice. His personality is just so …. amazing and one cannot help but appreciate him for his kindness, his loyalty, and his ruthlessness. He comes off as simple but the more you read, the more you see his complexity. The author definitely did an amazing job when creating Sigrud! I also loved all of the other characters that were a part of this story; each one was unique and had so much depth that you felt like you truly knew them!

The story and world-building in this novel are incredible but I expected nothing less from the author of this series. I wasn’t expecting all of the mysteries to be revealed in the way it did, which was a really awesome surprise. I really can’t complain at all about anything in terms of the story, characters, or world-building.

This was a stunning conclusion to an epic series and I strongly urge anyone looking for an awesome fantasy series to read this series. You will not be disappointed!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When I first heard about this book, I had my doubts. The story sounded interesting but I worried that it would fall into the trap that a lot of fantasy stories based on fairy-tales get into. I am so glad that I chose to read this book anyways, because it was absolutely fantastic!

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind – it means more time with her wonderful siblings, listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When Vasilisa’s father decides to remarry after the death of his wife, it is in the hopes that the new wife will be a good influence for Vasilisa. Fiercely devout, Vasilisa’s stepmother forbids her family from practicing any “pagan” rituals and honoring the household spirits. While the family does her bidding, Vasilisa worries about the consequences of these actions. When crops begin to fail and misfortune plagues the village, Vasilisa’s concerns prove to be true. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows even harsher in her desire to confine Vasilisa and make her conform. As danger looms ever closer, Vasilisa must defy everyone to protect her family.

This was an absolutely beautiful book. I devoured it in one sitting and it is one of my favorite books of this year. I rarely rave about a YA fiction novel but this one deserves all the praise I can give it! I remember reading some of the traditional folk tales native to Russia and I was very happy to see them incorporated so well in this story. It made these folk stories come alive and seem so vibrant! Not only is this story rich in culture, it also has great characters. Vasilisa, also known as Vasya, is such a strong female character and I absolutely adored her. She is not beautiful in terms of traditional forms of beauty, but she manages to capture everyone’s attention with her fire and energy. I love that she is independent and strong and unafraid. I like how there are characters that complement her and that function as points of comparison. The character of the stepmother and the priest were very interesting to me; I liked that the author didn’t just label them as evil but rather, built layers of complexity for them. The mythical creatures were also so interesting and wonderful and I loved reading about Vasya’s interactions with them all. Suffice to say, this novel hit every note and was amazing in every way. I was thrilled to hear that there is a sequel to this novel and I cannot wait to read it when it comes out. Regardless of if you are a fan of YA fiction or not, this is a novel I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and strong female protagonists!

Happy reading ~

Plague by C. C. Humphreys

I really like historical fiction novels but I don’t read many books in this genre. Perhaps it’s because I always find myself being recommended thrillers or fantasy novels. I was looking at what book to read next and decided that this historical fiction had an interesting enough premise to give it a shot… so here is my review:

London, 1665. It has been 5 years since Charles II was restored to the throne, and he has spent these years enjoying everything London has to offer. Cockpits, brothels, and the theatre run rampant, with both women and men performing alongside each other. But not everyone is happy with these developments. Some see this “liberation” as a new Babylon and decide that it is time to clean up London… through murder. And no one is spared from the scalpel of this cruel killer, be it a royalist member of Parliament or a whore. But they all have 2 things in common: they are found with gemstones in their mouths and it is evident that they have been … sacrificed. Amidst all of this pandemonium comes the plague, back in full force leaving no one safe… and so, murder has found a new friend.

I thought I would enjoy this novel a lot more than I did. The characters were quite interesting, and I really liked the way the author introduced each one, giving them all their own chapter and spotlight at the very beginning of the book. The language of the book was perfectly written to fit in with the surroundings; the author did a great job setting the scene. However, I felt that the plot itself was lackluster, at times dragging and at times rushed. Some parts of the plot were quite unnecessary and that just made it harder for me to get through this novel. I thought that the plague would play more of a role than it did but it just served to set the scene. Overall, this book had interesting characters and a perfect setting, but lacked in a strong and interesting plot. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an adventure story.

Happy reading ~

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

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

Although I’ve been meaning to get a lot of reading done this week, I have literally had no time. I’ve had so many deadlines for my classes and experiments to conduct in my lab that I have just been exhausted. I promise to make more time this weekend, however, and get as much reading done as possible!

Ever since her husband and soulmate passed away, Faye has been an empty shell of herself. She remarried and tried to have children, only to be trapped in a loveless marriage and have failed miscarriages. Finally, Faye decides to stop this charade and get a divorce, to which her husband agrees. With only her car and a few dollars to her name, Faye leaves to make a fresh start in Beaufort, South Carolina, where she has been commissioned to photograph historic buildings. She quickly falls in love with the town and its beautiful, haunting lighthouse. But upon a visit to the lighthouse, Faye falls into the water … and emerges in 1921 to a body that is not her own – and into the arms of a man who looks identical to Will.

I don’t typically read romance novels. But this one, with its allusions to time travel, were too interesting to pass up. This is my first time reading anything by this author, but all of her other books have received stellar reviews, which made me feel quite hopeful when beginning this one.

So, let me start by saying that the romance angle was pretty spot-on. The interactions between the main characters was believable and deep. You could feel the depth of Faye’s despair when she was battling her depression, and you could feel the rise in hope when she emerged in 1921. I wish the novel had spent more time showing how she falls in love with Will’s look-alike because I wanted to savor their chemistry more!

There was some mystery as to why Faye’s fate was connected with the lighthouse. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really answered. I wish it had been; it would have added some more complexity to this story. One thing I didn’t like was the awkwardness of Faye’s time travel; every time she travelled back to her original time, it felt abrupt and pointless. It’s not like the time she spent in her own world was spent productively; she didn’t really do any digging or research into the history or “magic” behind the lighthouse.  There are quite a few references to religion, which I don’t necessarily like but that didn’t really bother me. My general thoughts on the plot were that it was predictable and uninteresting.

The author created a story with a sweet romance and some paranormal happenings. The main focus in this story is about hope and fate, and it was well-written. However, there is no real plot or mystery to it, and if you are looking for something with more of a body, then this is not the novel for you. Overall, it was a pleasant romance to read that will put a smile on your face.

Happy reading ~

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

I love Ami McKay. Pretty much every book I have read by her has been thought-provoking, and intense. I expected no less of this novel of hers. I was especially excited by the magic angle; I’m going through a fantasy/supernatural phase right now so this was perfect timing for me!

1880 is a dangerous time for women. In Manhattan, there are many on the lookout for witches, and any intelligent woman (witch or no) who speaks her mind is in danger of being accused of witchcraft. During times like these, Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair set up their tea shop, where they cater to the elite ladies of Manhattan, in the form of tea… as well as through palmistry and potions. Their shop is heavily frequented as both Adelaide and Eleanor are known for their discretion. All is well until one bright September day when a young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at the shop looking for employment. Beatrice soon wins over Eleanor and becomes a valuable apprentice, but Beatrice’s new life is filled with strange occurrences, especially once it becomes clear that she can see and hear things that no one else can. Has she somehow gained magical skills or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to air on the side of caution but Adelaide sees this as a wonderful new business venture. However, things go awry quickly and Beatrice is put in danger. In a time when being a woman is the most dangerous thing in the world, will these three witches survive?

As usual, the story was spell-binding and filled with wonderful intricate details. I really liked how the author had newspaper articles and pamphlets inserted into the story to help build the setting up. This is a very feminist-oriented novel that sheds light on the plight of women in the 1800s, during a time when being forthright and asserting one’s rights were frowned upon. The blend of history with magic was masterfully done and quite enjoyable to read. I did find that the story moved at a slower pace than what I am used to by this author, but the tension was palpable throughout and it kept me going all the way until the end. There were certain story plots that I felt could have been explored in greater depth, but overall this story was very good, and I was pleased with my experience! Here’s to more novels by Ami McKay!

Happy reading ~

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Ever since I read Room, I have been a fan of this author’s work. I have been anxiously waiting  for this novel to be released and I was lucky enough to find a copy as I was passing by my local library! I sat down and read this novel in one sitting, and if that isn’t testament to how amazing this story is then I don’t know what is!

An English nurse is called into a small Irish village on an unusual mission: she is to observe a miracle. 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell has been fasting for the lat 4 months and has been subsisting on simply water and “manna from heaven”, as she insists. In order to verify these claims, Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is sent to live in Anna’s village. The longer Lib stays there, the more she suspects that Anna’s fast may not simply be expression of faith but rather an attempt at slow murder.

This book was a compelling read that caught me from the beginning and held me all the way until the end. I don’t know much about Ireland, and I’m not familiar with its religious fervor, so that was a very interesting view to read about. I liked that Lib, who is the protagonist in this story, allows the reader to approach the religious fervor of the people with a healthy dose of cynicism. The journey begins slowly, as we get to know more about Lib and Anna, and all of the other characters. While most of the side characters don’t change throughout the story, it works well and provides the structure to keep the story in check. I love the relationship between Lib and Anna, and how it evolves as the story progresses. The first half of the book allows the reader to become well acquainted with the time period and the Irish culture, while also building up to the pivotal question of why Anna is fasting. The second half is also not as action-packed but the tension is overwhelming and undeniable; I was biting my nails and I could hear my heart beating faster with every page I read. I needed to know what Lib was going to do about Anna and I just had to know what the motive was behind the fast. I absolutely loved the ending; it was better than anything I could have hoped for and nicely wrapped up the story. This is a fantastic historical thriller, that is sure to delight everyone!

Happy reading ~

 

 

 

The Lazarus Vector by Erica Obey

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

What intrigued me about this book was that it was a historical thriller that dealt with Catholic saints and resurrection. I attended a Catholic high school and I was always interested in learning about the stories of different saints and martyrs who were revered for their devotion and their selflessness. Getting the chance to read a story about a mysterious saint who may or may not be alive …. well, that is a book I just cannot resist.

Professor Clare Malley is a medievalist, who teaches at a Catholic university in New York City. Most of her work deals with secret orders, and saintly miracles. But nothing could have prepared her for the miracle she sees occurring right in front of her eyes. For how else can she explain why 16-year-old Jonas Crosswell did not die after getting shot by drug dealers? And who is it that saved him? As Clare begins to investigate deeper into this mystery, she finds herself getting involved with Sean, the troubled heir to a massive pharmaceutical company who has been missing for 20 years – right after he, too, was supposedly cured. What is it that connects these two random events? Is it really a miracle? Or is there something far more sinister at hand?

I don’t understand why the author gave the impression that this novel would be dealing with something mystical because there was really nothing about that at all in this story. Maybe declaring this is a spoiler, but I think it is necessary in this case, because I was sorely disappointed to find that I had been misled. This novel is about corruption, and drug abuse, and it somehow gets into biological experimentation. Oh, and there are some ghosts involved, too. Honestly, the author just threw everything that could be conceived into one story, with no clear reason why. Perhaps it was because I had the unedited copy, but I found it extremely hard to follow the events and the character voices in the story. There was just an abrupt shift where one minute I would be reading about something happening with one character, and then suddenly it would just take off with another character doing something completely unrelated. I’m still unsure how everything in this story ties in, because it was just so far-fetched, and it just didn’t make sense. My general feel for this novel was that everything was jumbled together with no clear, cohesive flow, and that made the story suffer. While I managed to finish this novel, it was definitely disappointing.

Happy reading ~

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

There was a point in time when I was a huge fan of Kate Morton. I still like her work, but I used to be obsessed with every one of her books, and I would always be on the lookout for one of her new releases. The premise of this novel reminded me of the type of story Kate Morton concocts, so I knew it would be worth giving a shot. Here is my review:

In 1935 at a remote vacation home in Minnesota, 6-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her bedroom. Her disappearance tears the family apart, and Emily’s mother, along with her two older sisters, spend the rest of their lives in that lake house, hoping that Emily will return to them. 60 years later, Lucy, the middle sister, is the only one still alive. But before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she bequeaths to her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, hearing the news of her great-aunt passing is sad. But she is relieved to have the chance to return to the lake house, and escape her manipulative boyfriend. With her two daughters, she travels to the house hoping that it will become a sanctuary for them. However, the house is no longer what it used to be. It is cold, run-down, and their only source of human contact is an old man. And the problems don’t end there. Justine’s eldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, Justine’s mother arrives with plans to get her hands on the inheritance, and her manipulative boyfriend tries to come back into her life with a dangerous plan. In a house marked by tragedy, Justine must face her worst fears to save herself and her family.

The synopsis that I have provided here does not do this novel justice, but anything more that I say would just ruin the story. This book moves in a slow yet intriguing way, switching between the voice of Lucy and that of Justine. Both of these women are so similar in their thinking and way of behaving, and yet they retain their separate identities. The story itself is tragic and unfolds beautifully, capturing one’s attention from the very beginning and holding it until the very end. While the disappearance of the child is what brought me to this book in the first place, it was the tale of growing up, learning to love, and exploring life itself that kept me here. If you are looking for a good historical fiction that explores the lives of 5 generations of women, then this would be a great place to start!

Happy reading ~

House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

I wanted to read a really good horror story. Something that would keep me up at night and would make it hard to fall asleep. I’m weird, I know, but I just had a craving for it, the way you get a craving for chocolate. My library recommended this book for me, so I just went with it. I’m all for trying new things. So here is my review:

Two couples find themselves stranded on a highway. With their tires slashed, they have no choice but to look for shelter somewhere close by. They find an inn that looks warm and inviting, and decide to go inside and spend the night. But that is when they seal their own fate. The owners of this inn are strange and refuse to let them leave. To make matters worse, they hear someone prowling outside the house, trying to get in. Then a tin can is tossed into the house with rules scrawled on it, rules that make no sense but must be followed – or else everyone dies. In order to survive, everyone in the house must play the game, and make it through until dawn… before the madman comes in and finishes them all.

I wish I had never given this novel a chance. I don’t even know how I managed to finish it. There was so much wrong with the story that I don’t even know where to start. The characters were terribly developed and played a stereotypical role. There was the hot-headed man, and the rational man, and two women who were meant to act like complete idiots, with no shred of independence. I think what bothered me the most was how the women were depicted in this novel. The authors used one character’s “psyche” and showed that underneath it all “[she] was a whore”. That enraged me to no end. Why does she have to be portrayed in that way? Is that all a woman is meant to be in a horror story? And how dare you use psychology in that way? So, every rational and logical woman who works in the field of psychiatry actually has sexual issues and is a depraved whore on the inside?! Oh, and the other woman is the one who has to take the heat for a failed marriage and a family tragedy? And on top of it, she needs to be completely useless?! To make matters worse, the story kept going around in circles, and there was the sudden introduction of another character, who I actually liked and I wish she had had more to her character. And then this story becomes all about sin and goodness and the battle between darkness and light. And now it is suddenly a Christian story. Now, I had not known that the authors write Christian fiction, and to be quite honest, I don’t necessarily care because I will read anything and everything and have no bias towards it. But seriously?! It just took an already ridiculous story to a whole new level of crazy. And not in a good way. I could go on and on about every single thing that I disliked about this novel, but I don’t want to waste any more time or energy on it. Just … don’t read it. Seriously. Don’t read it.

Happy reading ~