July 2016 Recap

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Summer's here and it is awful! I barely have the energy to read, but at least I had some good reads to get me through this month. Dani and I are both feeling rather lazy here at the end, so enjoy our combined recap:

Reviews Posted:

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell (Greatcoats #1)
Two Minute Review: I Work at A Public Library by Gina Sheridan
Book Tour: The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle (Thornleigh #6)
Book Tour: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
Review Take Two: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Madame Tussaud's Apprentice by Kathleen Benner Duble
Book Tour: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrence

Fun Stuff:
Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From
Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Book Tour Review: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrence

Title: The Sea Garden
Author: Deborah Lawrence
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: June 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas-rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere-from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern.

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden's owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian …

Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell. When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life . . . and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent. But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes. When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth. Was he the man he claimed to be?

Ingeniously interconnected, this spellbinding triptych weaves three parallel narratives into one unique tale of love, mystery, and murder. The Sea Garden is a vivid and absorbing chronicle of love and loss in the fog of war-and a penetrating and perceptive examination of the impulses and circumstances that shape our lives.

This was my first novel by popular author Deborah Lawrence and it was a mixed bag for me as a reader. There was a lot I enjoyed about the writing and the novel itself -- the atmosphere, the lush descriptions, but I wanted more plot and more characterization from each of the three stories being told. The Sea Garden, despite being the title, is only the first of three short(ish) stories contained in the book, though all are linked in some way. That said, I still couldn't stop reading this once I started and those 3 stars are fully deserved.

Of the three stories herein, the eponymous The Sea Garden was the longest and most involving read for me. I liked the settings for the other two novels more (WWII is hard to beat for sheer emotion and drama) but they lacked the length to really entrench me in the lives of the characters and the stories being told. The atmosphere for The Sea Garden is another thing to recommend it -- the atmosphere is enveloping, confusing, and more than a little creepy. I was never quite sure where the story would go, which made for several unexpected twists and turns.

I say there are three stories in the novel, and there technically are -- but they're each comprised of small pieces of a puzzle that add up to make a complete picture. The stories set before Ellie's modern-day novella are shorter but no less creative or evocative for it. The ties that bind all three into a larger microcosm work well and make a cohesive, intertwining picture, I just wish the novel had been able to spend more time with characters Marthe and Iris; that they had been able to operate on the page for as much time as their modern compatriot.

I wanted to love this going in with what I thought it would be, but in the end I liked it a great deal for what it was. I enjoyed the short read but I can't help but feel the plots were quite lacking or insubstantial, hampered as they were by the page-length, there's a tad too much detail about landscape design in Ellie's story, and there are far too few three-dimensional characters for me to rate it higher than three stars. The parallel narratives was unusual and new, but wasn't my favorite narrative device. I would certainly read a full-length novel from this author, given her evident ability to write effective scenes and capture atmosphere so very well.

TTT: Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

List by Danielle

This could be embarrassing, guys. I tend to be something of a hoarder, especially with books. The only time I ever send them away is if I end up with duplicates, which means I hold on to series I've outgrown. For the rest of eternity. I also steadfastly refuse to abandon a series in the middle unless it's really unforgivable. So all told, here are the authors I own the most books from. Please don't judge me too harshly.

1 (tie). Robert Jordan - 24 books 

Yes, they're all Wheel of Time. I have the entire series, minus TGH because my mom's scumbag ex STOLE IT MOST CRUELLY. And New Spring. And the two-part reissue of TEOTW with the new prologue. And two copies of the big white book. And the New Spring graphic novel. And the first five on audiobook. And EOTW in ebook because I couldn't find the paperback. 

It's not weird.

1 (tie). Tamora Pierce - 24 books

I've owned every single book Pierce has written in my life. Since I moved, I did have to downsize and only bring 21 of my favorites with me. (The other 3 are ebooks, which luckily don't take up room.) She is undeniably my favorite author of all time. 

3. Brandon Sanderson - 23 books

If you count the three WoT books for both Sanderson and Jordan, Sanderson does technically have more, but I'm only going with his original works for this list. (7 physical copies, 8 ebooks, and 8 audiobooks.) #SandersonArmy

4. Charlaine Harris - 14 books

You might not know it by looking at my bookshelves, because the first 9.5 are ebooks, but I have the entire Sookie series, (minus the last book). And I picked up one of her mysteries at a library sale. And one of her short story collections. I don't even like Harris anymore, but I'm compelled!

5. Patricia Wrede - 13 books

Most of my Enchanted Forest copies seem to have wandered away, but I still have the Lyra and Cecilia and Kate series on my "childhood favorites" shelf. Shame about the Frontier Magic series or I'd still be collecting her catalog.

6. George RR Martin - 11 books

First three in hilariously beat up paperbacks, Feast and Dance in hardcover, GoT in ebook, Warriors and Dangerous Woman, and three graphic novels. Not bad for a five book series.

7. Terry Goodkind - 10 books

I was young and dumb. I do still like Wizard's First Rule, but the rest? There's a reason there were 9 copies of Chainfire at our used bookstore.

8. Courtney Milan - 9 books

That reminds me, she just rereleased her first three books and I need to go pick those up. Best romance novels in the world.

9. Gail Carriger - 8 books

Another author I love and have everything by. Since I bought the first three Parasol Protectorate as an ebook bundle, I've been totally hooked.

10. Phillipa Gregory - 6 books

This is another author that I like, but don't love, that I would have kept buying forever if I hadn't HATED The White Queen. But I know, if she ever goes back to Tudor fiction, I'll be right back in line.

Bonus: Terry Pratchett - 44 books

My husband's obsession with Sir Terry is out of control. I have entire bookshelves devoted to Discworld. I ship copies in from England JUST FOR DISPLAY. He listened to the books on tape, then the books on CD, until they wore out. (Thank you Audible.) I'm pretty sure someday I'll be arrested for killing him, because he's going to end up in L-Space in my dinning room.

Jessie's Book Haul!

Monday, July 28, 2014
So it's been quite a while for me. I fell into a reading/blogging slump and then had some personal issues that kept me from being online much of the last two weeks. I thought a book haul would be a great way to ease myself back into the blogging arena.

Here are a few books I was sent for review:

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente (Fairyland #3) - It's no secret that I adored the first two novels,s o I cannot wait to read the latest installment with September and her wyvery.

Inamorata by Megan Chance -- historical fiction, exile, Venice, secrets. All things I love so I am obviously VERY excited about this book tour. 

Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas (Dangerous #2) -- the first was twisty, ctrazy fun and never got the reception it deserved. I have high hopes for this sequel, especially based on my friends' enthusastic responses.

Thank you Macmillan, Abigail Haas, and TLC Book Tours!

Here are a couple I won from a Twitter giveaway:

The City's Son and The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock  -- (The Skyscraper Throne #1 and #2) -- I've already read and loved the first but hadn't owned a copy. Plus a chance to continue this staggeringly originals series is hard to resist.

Thanks to Tom Pollock himself for the giveaway.

And now the books I bought myself/were bought for me:

Conversion by Katherine Howe - interesting reviews and the premise caught my attention.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern -- I love this book. This is my second copy because I cannot resist the gorgeousness of the paperback. I will probably buy even more versions as I find them.

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (Midnight Thief #1) -- synopsis heaven for me, really. The reviews have been mixed but I knew I had to try this one.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith -- so Gaby recommended this author to me and I inhaled The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight in under three hours. So buying this was a must.

And all these were gifts from my lovely fiance who spoils me terribly:

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (Books of Bayern #2) -- I am a sucker for these illustrated covers, especially over the more generic one I have seen for the series.


but anyway. 

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima  (Seven Realms #1) -- Ellis demanded it. Ellis recommended it. That's enough for me.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Shipbreaker #1) -- Lots of recommendations and awards. I've had my eye on it for years but I found a copy for $4.49 and could not resist.

What's Left of Me and Once We Were by Kat Zhang (The Hybrid Chronicles #1 and #2) -- I had read both these as ARCs so finding hardcovers for $9 was a great steal.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #2) -- so I found this gorgeous hardcover for $7, even though I own it and the first on my Nook. That said, I will now collect the series in hardcover.  MANCHEE.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaand this bit of perfection (with bonus Jessie-in-a-prom-dress):


aaaaaaand it was only $17.Half-Price Books is a magical place, kiddies.

So those are my new reads and I can't wait to dive in.

Review: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice by Kathleen Benner Duble

Friday, July 25, 2014
Title: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice: An Untold Story of Love in the French Revolution
Author: Kathleen Benner Duble
Genre: historical fiction
Series: none
Pages: 224
Published: Expected August 1, 2014
Source: publisher via edelweiss
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king's brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, "Madame Tussaud's Apprentice" is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history.

Reviewed by Danielle

A moderately engaging look at the French Revolution that suffers from one of the worst romances in recent memory.

Celie Rousseau is a homeless orphan, living in the back alleys of Paris with her savior, Algernon, a boy with revolutionary dreams. They steal from the rich, through a combination of housebreaking and rigged card games, and are feeling quite proud of themselves for it. Until a fellow thief botches his take and theirs, ending with Celie imprisoned, where one of the victims demands that she draw the other criminals to spare her own life.

Celie is a world class artist with an eidetic memory, which is WAY lucky for Marie "Manon" Tussaud (*cough*Grosholtz*cough*,) since she just so happens to need an apprentice to draw the backdrops to her wax figures! The other victim, the evil Comte d'Artois, wants her hanged regardless of skill, but Manon argues for Celie. They agree to a thousand livre bet that Manon can't tame Celie's wild spirit, and the girl is remanded.

Of course, Celie immediately flings herself into the mud and dirties the Comte’s carriage to show just how little she respects royal authority.

From her time spent with Manon and working with Elizabeth at Versailles, Celie starts to realize that maybe the upper class doesn’t have the freedom she suspected. I have almost no problems with this section of the book. The characterizations of Louis and Marie are pretty non-existent, I would have liked any sort of interaction between them and the main characters, but otherwise it’s a nice but unmemorable historical fiction told from an outsider point of view.

And then there’s the goddamn romance.

Algernon is an asshole. He uses Celie for her drawing skills, rejects her advances to become more than friends, then plays the jealous lover when she starts to find friends and family of her own. He constantly berates her for her disloyalty, but never shows himself to be loyal to her. He’s abusive, manipulative slime and when it comes time for the big confrontation, the book has the audacity to play the victim card and let him wiggle out of everything he’s done.

If the worst thing about this novel was the sheer convenience of a street urchin with an eidetic memory and the world’s greatest art skills, I’d probably call it good and recommend it as a short, fun historical romp. But I can’t, because I hate this book. Every quibble is magnified into full blooded hate due to Algernon’s stupid stupidness. I hate the ending and the naivete of thinking revolution can be bloodless. I hate that Marie Tussaud, (*cough*Grosholtz*cough*,) is barely in the book but she and Celie become inseparable mother and daughter any way. I hate the kiss and the final scene on the deck and last minute character changes. There have been a lot of novels written about the French Revolution. Read them.

Review Take Two: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: horror, dystopia
Series: none
Pages: 460
Published: June 6, 2014
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.
Reviewed by Danielle

Have you ever read a book and knew, knew it would change you, irrevocably, before the end of the first chapter? It’s a rare and powerful thing to behold, but by the time Melanie said she wouldn’t bite, I knew I would never be able to forget her or The Girl With All The Gifts.

I want my readers to do me a favor. I’m going to keep this review vague, but this is the kind of book where everything is a potential spoiler. So don’t read this review. Instead, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and buy the book. Read this book, regardless of your usual preferences. I don’t read horror books. I don’t read thrillers. I don’t read zombie books. This is a five star, genre-defying experience.

Go now.

If you still need convincing, the writing is stupendous. Carey’s word choices sing. I’ve never highlighted so many passages in a fiction book, because I never want to forget lines like:

If the lad had killed the junkers himself, gutted them and made balloon animals out of their colons, Parks would still have done his best to put a positive spin on it.
It’s not that he’s the first writer to describe guts as balloon animals, but I’m awed by how descriptive one little sentence is and what it says of Sergeant Parks. And then there’s our first good glimpse of the villain:

Thin grey strings like shoelaces - hundreds of them - have exploded from the rat's body cavity and filled most of the interior space of the bottle, wrapped loosely around and around the little corpse as though the rat had decided to try to be an octopus and then hadn't known how to stop.

Take me now, I’m having a metaphorgasm.

But TGWATG isn’t just great writing, it asks a lot of deep, philosophical questions in an often overlooked genre. Who’s worse, the villain who’s totally up front about their villainy, the soldier who’s just following orders, or the teacher who raises a generation to think wrongly? At what point do the ends justify the means? Is it heroic or cowardice to become a martyr? There are no answers in the book, any more than there are answers in life, and I love it. Some of the characters’ decisions haunt me, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Speaking of characters, where else are you going to get a zombie novel where the scientist is the one obsessed with brains? More cleverness that slays me. The vast majority of the book is spent with a core group of five characters, each with individual verbal tics and thought patterns. They also change and grow through the book as sickness and fatigue beat them down, or revelations build them up.

TGWATG is amazing. It’s tense and scary while defying genre conventions. (But the baby carriage? There’s not enough “no” in the world.) It’s not perfect, though, and I wish some of the revelations in London had come earlier with more time to dwell on them. The scene with the shadows on the house felt derivative of Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains, (though that could just be me.) An early plotline,the junkers chasing them was unresolved, and I wish it wasn’t. Still, I’m completely confident in giving The Girl With All the Gifts five stars and recommending it to horror, dystopian, sci-fi, or mythology fans or just people who can’t get enough of beautiful prose, like myself.

TTT: Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

List by Danielle

If I'm stuck on a deserted island, I'm going to need a lot of help. I'm probably the least outdoors-y person on this planet, not the least because I'm allergic to grass, mold, dust, pollen, and anything with fur. And I'm not much for the running or jumping or fishing or... Basically, if this was the Hunger Games, I'd find a way to die before my pod opened. So with that in mind, I've picked a top ten roster of dreamy book boys (and girls) who can support me in my time of need. My top ten characters I want with me on a deserted island?

  1. Finnick Odair: Deserted island means water. Water means Finnick. Did you SEE the man in Catching Fire? With the diving and the trident and the sugar cube? I need to cool down. 
  2. Akiva: DoGaM proved that a seraphim is an excellent thing to take on a camping trip. You never have to light a fire, they can fight and hunt, and then there's the whole magic thing. Which reminds me:
  3. Karou: Firstly, Karou and Akiva are a matched set, but more importantly, you never have to worry about death! Scuppies are pretty useless in Prague, but I bet I could find lots of uses for them in the wilderness. And there was that "house" on the beach at the end of DoGaM. <.<   >.>
    Our friend Gilly @ theartofyoungadult.tumblr.com is AMAZING
  4. Ismae: Not only is the star of Grave Mercy immune to poison, she can pass that immunity on to those around her. And she's the daughter of Death, which is something I'd really need on my side.
  5. Captain Thorne: We know the man can successfully navigate the Sahara Desert with Cress, so I have a lot of faith he could navigate a moderate sized island. He's resourceful and he'd at least have great stories. And he's like Flynn Rider mixed with a space pirate, so he can come sit next to me.
  6. Ignifex: He's a demon lord, but the real reason is my mammoth crush. Just being honest.
  7. Yukiko and Buruu: Nothing is getting into our camp with these two around, and Buruu's constant snark will keep spirits up!
  8. Veralidaine Sarrasri: A wild mage who can not only hunt and trap, but transform into animals, communicate with gods, and brings the cutest pet dragon in history? How could she get any better?
  9. Numair SalmalĂ­n: My first book boyfriend is one of the most powerful mages in the world, but completely down to earth and not above starting his own fires and sourcing his own food. AND HE AND DIANE ARE PERFECT AND I WANT TO BE WITH THEM AND BE THEIR FRIEND AND 
  10. Owen Wedgwood: Cinnamon and Gunpowder is all about Wedge making amazing gourmet food on deserted islands! Who else to round out our top ten?
Well readers, obviously food is the most important thing in my life, since it's all my list is built on. Are you smarter than me? Would you pick people who can fly you off this dratted island? People who know how to build shelter? Let us know in the comments!

Book Tour Spotlight: Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer

Thursday, July 17, 2014

She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.
Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

Does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win.

About The Author

Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.
He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

His most recent novels are Silk Road, set in the 13th century, and Stigmata, set against the backdrop of the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France in 1209. He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer's blog. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

He is also the author of numerous other novels, including:

The Jerusalem series
The Opium series
Silk Road
The Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest
The Sultan's Harem
When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra
The House of Special Purpose

You can also find him on Goodreads.

The tour schedule for Isabella:

Monday, January 6
Review at Seaside Book Corner

Tuesday, January 7
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, January 8
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, January 9
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, January 10
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, January 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, January 14
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, January 15
Spotlight at Ageless Pages Review

Thursday, January 16
Review at Dee’s Reads

Friday, January 17
Review at Just One More Chapter

Monday, January 20
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 21
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, January 22
Review at The Bookworm

Thursday, January 23
Review & Giveaway at Words & Peace

Friday, January 24
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Monday, January 27
Review at Carpe Librum
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, January 28
Review at Reading the Ages

Wednesday, January 29
Review at Book Drunkard
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, January 31
Review at Turning the Pages

Monday, February 3
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, February 4
Review at Historical Fiction Notebook

Wednesday, February 5
Review at Book of Secrets

Thursday, February 6
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, February 7
Review at Found Between the Covers

Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Genre: post-apocalyptic, dystopia, science fiction, young-adult
Series: Untitled series #1
Pages: 382 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected May 8 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.
Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.
Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

This had the potential to rock my socks off: a new twist on the dystopia trend so prevalent in today's YA market (religion versus progress), an intriguing 'hook' for the main character of Mia (tell me more of this 'lightning addict!'), and a post-apocalyptic setting of a toppled and chaotic Los Angeles ("Hell-A") - what could be more intimidating for a struggling seventeen year old? I wanted to love it, and almost almost did before Struck and main character Mia, let the ball drop. Unfortunately the execution falters in delivering the most interesting and promised aspects of the novel; Struck gets a bit too caught up in the religious overtones to the overall detriment of the far-more-original lightning addict part. Less religion, more natural disasters, please! This is a bit of an uneven read; the first-half of the novel is far stronger than the the middle and ending, and by the time it came to turn the final page, I was more than ready to put this down.

Like I said, Struck gets off to a great and original start - it's nearly impossible to not be pulled in and intrigued by Mia's introductory paragraph - and if only that level of uniqueness had continued, this would be a much different review for a much different novel. But enough with what could've been. Mia herself is plucky, determined and cutthroat for her circumstances; no wishy washy bullshit about survival here. With a younger sibling and a mentally incapacitated Mom after the earthquakes, (Katniss, is that you?) Mia's situation is hardly revelatory, nor is her position as head of the family, but she works well in that capacity. Mia will do what is necessary for her and her brother to survive and it's always easy to admire and root for a fighter/survivor. What is less easy to admire about Mia is how completely and totally brainlessly she can and does act during the book. She makes dumb, plot-advancing, obvious decisions that keep her in the dark, goes out of her way to be outside of communication with anyone else, which, consequently, lands her into trouble/danger fairly frequently. 

In this earthquake-rocked future, Mia's constantly caught between two massive cults vying for power and influence after the world ended: the religious Followers of the Prophet and the cryptic and mysterious anti-Prophet "Seekers".  With her mom going one way and her brother going the other, it's easy to understand Mia's motivations for distrusting both powerbases. For one: both groups are unnecessarily and repeatedly cryptic with what they want and two they're both presented as sinister. For the much of the bulk of the novel,  the reader has absolutely no idea why Mia is so important. It's quite frustating reading endless rigamarole, obvious traps and lies without having any idea why such manuevering is needed. While I get doign the "big reveal" closer to the end, I might've bough the machinations of both cults more if I knew the reasons. I might've tolerated the wait better if anything to do with the lightning had been shown, but no. For a book about a lightning "addict", there's very little explained about the phenomenon. I just wish there'd been much less  discussion on religion and the Prophet versus the dangerous and Spark-enhanced Seekers, and more about the natural disasters/Mia's lightning.

I felt very unsatisfied with the worldbuilding here. There are some details given initially that seemed to bode well for how this vision of Armageddon would commence but they dried up early in favor of religious fervor and drama. The infodumps used to indoctrinate the readers aren't as bad as the ones in say, The Rook, which had chapters and chapters of amusing and diverting details, but they aren't camouflaged very well either. Eavesdropping, remedial lessons, etc. serve to inject the slight history needed but it felt incomplete. Another issue not explained to my satisfaction was the relationship the "conductors" and the "bonds" used for the lightning - Bosworth kinda throws the ideas out there fairly early on in Struck, but never fully comes back around to expand on how such a thing is done. The romance angle (you knew there had to be one..) ... I'm not even going to fully go there. Let's just say I called Jeremy's big twist very very early on (it's incredibly obvious and telegraphed to the audience early) and I wasn't a huge fan of his motivation, characterization or actions. While he doesn't inspire me to the anger that many, many other YA male love interests do, he's no prince either.The repeated cyrpyic remarks he refuses to clarify, the required mysterious and painful past... I just found him to be too much of a cliche to invest overmuch in him. Mia, though not what I wanted, at least has the distinction of being a three-dimensional, original character/

To put it baldly and in the simplest terms: Struck just plain-old disappointed me, but it isn't necessarily a bad book - it's just not for me. All that potential and what I got was far from what was anticipated from the blurb and synopsis. There are kernels of a good story here in Struck and Mia is far from the worst protagonist I've come across, but in the end, I must go with my conscious and admit this left a lot to be desired upon finishing.

Book Tour Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Title: The Sweet Spot
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Genre: general fiction, romance novelish
Series: N/A
Pages: 272
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punch-line. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

I can tell you why this book didn't click for me personally  -- it was the characters. Well, mainly one important character. It's a hard kind of novel to enjoy if you aren't a fan of the people directly involved with the plot and I was less than enthused with the male half of the equation. There's a lot to celebrate with Evanovich's second novel -- the body positive focus on Amanda, the female love interest, the relatively healthy family dynamics shown, the easy way you sink into the story -- but it fell apart for me with Chase, Amanda's counterpart.

Chase just isn't the kind of man or love interest I find attractive. He's overbearing and bossy, presumptuous and incredibly arrogant. Granted, Evanovich paints him in smaller strokes than that, but even for all the layers and virtues she gives Mr. Walker, I never liked him or cared about him. And once a reader is divorced from the central romance, it can all feel a bit silly and contrived. At least, that's how I feel about The Sweet Spot. It's a mostly innocuous, bubble gum-type read; one that will entertain for a few hours with its predictable but comfortable plot.

Granted my apathy for Chase won't be the only or expected reaction and my 3/5 is certainly indicative that there's more to like about the story than just Amanda's attitude and her family. It's a broadly entertaining novel, but it just doesn't do anything original enough to become a favorite for me. The characters grow and change, but I still lacked an emotional connection to any part of the story at the end. The Sweet Spot is what it is: a fluffy summer read. 

Book Tour Review:The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle

Monday, July 7, 2014
Title: The Queen's Exiles
Author: Barbara Kyle
Genre: historical fiction, romance novelish
Series: Thornleigh #6
Pages: 352
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

1572. Europe is in turmoil. In the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise ...

Scottish-born Fenella Doorn rules like a queen over a privateer's haven on the Isle of Sark. Her success at salvaging crippled vessels affords her gold and security, and it is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron—and privateer—Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.

But Fenella’s own bold actions have put a price on her head. Now Adam and Fenella’s lives are in peril as they race across Europe in an attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember.

Though the fourth the in series and second Thornleigh novel for me, The Queen's Exiles was a much improved outing for me with this author. The characters and plots that surround Nella and Adam make for more engaged reading, and the romance that makes up the secondary plot is easy to care about and root for with those two involved. I thought the previous novel too concerned with a less-than-charismatic romance but found that far from the case here --- I cared more about the people involved and the romance was handled in a better way. Adam, Fenella, and even Frances make for an exciting and unpredictable story.

Fenella Doorn is a great character and carries whatever portion of the book she is involved with, personally, romantically, tangentially. She's a great complement for a lot of the mainly male cast (exception: Frances); she isn't a traditional female but nor is she an anachronism for the timeline of the story being told The life she has carved out as an independent woman in the 1500's is unconventional but not unbelievable. She's easy to like and respect, and her admiration for Adam is undeniable. It helps that Fenella feels like a new character, only recently introduced into the sprawling legacy and series. The other, more established characters feel weighted down by a history that you really need to read the earlier five novels to fully understand.

The strength of Adam's character is largely due on his devotion to his children, and his overall honor as a man. Everything else is second to him. And while The Queen's Exiles is often a romance as well as a drama, it never loses sight of the real plot or personal goals that motivate the individual characters. Love doesn't always conquer all, and not all endings are happy for the Thornleighs by the time the book is resolved. I loved that the author isn't afraid to be a bit cruel to her well-known and favorite characters -- shown not only by Adam and Fenella, but through the trials Isabel and Carlos face too. 

I wish that the politics angles had been more of a central plot as it was a fascinating time and place to be, or that the ending hadn't been quite so quick, but The Queen's Exiles is an engaging and often exciting historical romance. Well-rounded and well-drawn characters help to make the read personal and memorable.
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