Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki

30621341. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume #1
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga, Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; December 20, 2016 (First published April 22, 2016)

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Step once more into the imagination of Jun Mochizuki, creator of New York Times-bestselling PandoraHearts! A tale of vampires and curses set in a whimsical and dark steampunk Paris unfolds! On the streets, rumors abound of a clockwork grimoire said to sow curses among the vampires. Now, guided by the Book of Vanitas, the gears begun to turn, and the story of two men, Noe and Vanitas, takes shape...
I haven’t kept up with manga by Jun Mochizuki for a while, but I was curious about her latest series, The Case Study of Vanitas. The story so far seems fun and quirky, but there are also a number of hints and vague statements that are already strongly alluding to the tragedy that is going to take place in this series. Even so, I liked the first volume of this manga. It does a lot of heavy-lifting by introducing the main cast of characters, the alternative and steampunk version of Paris, as well as some of the history, lore, technology, and the magic system present in this world. There were several points that were particularly fascinating to me, such as some of the abilities that the vampires + others displayed throughout volume one—particularly the titular character (Vanitas) as well as the book of Vanitas (I really want to know what’s going on with that). The vampires here are interesting. It doesn’t appear that they’re affected by sunlight—although there could be a reason for that explained in later volumes, we’ll see—although they do have some of the more usual traits such as strength, quick healing, immortality, red eyes, etc.. It also seems that moons + astrology have some significance in the story, and I want to know more about it. Volume one also mostly wrapped up what appears to be the first arc of the series, and there were many hints of what’s to come. So I’m interested, and I want to see what goes on in volume 2.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review: The Princess Who Flew With Dragons by Stephanie Burgis

48138914. sy475 Title: The Princess Who Flew With Dragons
Series: Tales From the Chocolate Heart #3
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury Children's Books; November 5, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Princess Sofia of Drachenheim is sick of being used for her older sister’s political gains. At twelve years old, she’s already been a hostage to invading dragons and a promised future fiancé to a wicked fairy. Her only comfort lies in writing letters to her pen pal and best friend--Jasper, a young dragon whom she's never even met. When Sofia's older sister sends her on a diplomatic mission to far-off Villenne, she's meant to play the part of a charming, smiling princess. But when an accident leads to her exile from the city, Sofia is free to wander as she pleases for the first time in her life. And when Jasper's food-mage sister Aventurine turns him into a human boy, Sofia thinks life can't get any better. Until… the legendary ice giants of the north attack, trying to reclaim the territory that they lost centuries ago. With the dragons and royals frozen in ice, can Sofia and Jasper save their families and kingdom?

Another enchanting and strong-hearted fantasy, set in the same world as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and The Girl with the Dragon Heart.
The Princess Who Flew With Dragons was an excellent follow up to The Girl With the Dragon Heart. There was less chocolate this time around, and much of the familiar cast of characters wasn’t present. That was because the story was told from Princess Sofia’s perspective and it took place outside of Drachenheim—mainly in Villenne and also the snowy territory of the Ice Giants. However the story was just as fun and adventurous (and full of dragons) as the previous books in the series. Princess Sofia has appeared throughout the series, but she was mostly a side character in the adventures of others. So it was nice to finally get a story from her perspective. Being able to read from Sofia’s perspective was helpful with further understanding her character. The story—and Sofia’s attempts at being diplomatic during her trip to Villenne—put a spotlight on her insecurities and fears about not living up to the title of princess. I appreciated the narrative choices Burgis took with Sofia’s character arch. The lessons, as well as how the situation between Sofia and her old sister, Katrin, played out, was among one of things I liked best about The Princess Who Flew With Dragons. I also liked seeing more of Aventurine’s family—particularly Jasper—as well as all the new characters and places introduced in this book.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess Who Flew With Dragons. It was a great story, and the ending was satisfying. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, then this one is a must read.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

27366528Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky
Series: Wayward Children #3
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date:; January 9, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Note: this synopsis contains spoilers for Every Heart a Doorway. 
When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.) If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests... A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do. Warning: May contain nuts.
**Note: this review may contain minor spoilers for Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones. You have been warned.**

So far I’m really enjoying the Wayward Children series, and I’m determined to get caught up with all the current books before Come Tumbling Down comes out next year. After I read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I was more than excited to finally pick up Beneath the Sugar Sky. The synopsis had me excited for all the possibilities the story could hold, and it turned out to be everything I was looking for.

I loved this story. Not only were more of the other worlds visited in Beneath the Sugar Sky—like Confection and The Halls of the Dead—I also got see to all of my favorite characters again including Nancy, Kade, and of course Eleanor West—who had a rule about no quests, and while it finally got broken, it was for a good reason.

No matter how brief it was, it was also great to be back in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Since beneath the Sugar Sky wasn’t a prequel like Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I got more of what I wanted, which was to see what happened to the characters after the way Every Heart a Doorway ended. There were a few new characters, like Cora, who had recently left her own world. I liked her character, and she reminded me a little of Nancy in Every Heart a Doorway. Like her—like most of the students at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children—Cora had reasons to want to remain in her fantasy world, but ultimately she had to adjust to the sudden changes in her life after that door was shut. One thing that this series does well is how it addresses relevant issues by directly incorporating them rather than shying away from, or only hinting at them. So it often came up as something one or more of the characters had to deal with. Beneath the Sugar Sky also does this with Cora’s character. There was also Rini who, at times, spoke quite frankly, but she was a thoroughly entertaining character (I would take a story entirely from her perspective, I’m just saying).

Beneath the Sugar Sky was an excellent and highly entertaining sequel to Down Among the Sticks and Bones. I plan to read In an Absent Dream as soon as my library hold comes in.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

31450908Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Series: Wayward Children #2
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date:; June 13, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… 
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices...
Jacqueline and Jillian Wolcott, otherwise known as Jack and Jill, were two of my favorite characters from Every Heart a Doorway, especially Jack. The twin’s story wasn't completely unknown to me, especially since their history was explored as much as the other characters were in Every Heart a Doorway. One of the things I had wanted to see more of in the first novella was the worlds that the students of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children had gone to before their stay at the school. Down Among the Sticks and Bones pretty much satisfied that curiosity. Since the story was about Jack and Jill’s history, there was an in-depth look at The Moors, as well as everything before and up to when they opened their door and walked through it.

One of themes explored throughout Down Among the Sticks and Bones was how the choices made by parents could positively, or in this case, negatively affect their children. The Wolcott’s, Serena and Chester, were inexperienced at parenting and they never bothered to try and learn to do better. The choices they made played such a prominent role in how—and who—the twin’s eventually grew up to be. It was sad how damaging it was, but without it there wouldn’t have been a story. I also liked getting to see the characters of The Moors, who were mentioned in passing in Every Heart a Doorway, on page. They were everything they were described to be, and I would take another story featuring them.

Overall, Down Among the Sticks and Bones was an excellent follow-up to Every Heart a Doorway. It might have been a prequel story, but it doesn’t even matter. This series just keeps getting better and better, and now more than ever I’m excited to start reading Beneath the Sugar Sky.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review: Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

43069601. sy475 Title: Dead Voices
Series: Small Spaces #2
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Middle Grade
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; August 27, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces. 
Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie's watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE. With Mr. Voland's help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help--or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.
Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.
Earlier this year, I read Small Spaces, Katherine Arden’s first middle grade novel. I was overjoyed when the atmospheric writing that I liked about the Winternight Trilogy was also present in Small Spaces. So I was excited when I first learned that Small Spaces was getting a sequel, and oh man, Dead Voice did not disappoint. With a story full of twists and turns, Dead Voices was delightfully spooky and just as atmospheric as the first book in the series. But it wasn’t so scary that a younger audience wouldn’t be able to enjoy the story.

Dead Voices picks up sometime after Small Spaces. Its winter, and Ollie, her friends, father, and Coco’s mother were on their way to a lodge. After the events of Small Spaces, it was a much needed vacation. However, it wasn’t long before trouble started, and the ghosts did, well, what ghosts do at isolated lodges in the middle of a snowstorm: they haunted. It’s one of the aspects about the story that stood out the most. The ghosts and the lore surrounding Hemlock Lodge reminded me of the story-within-the-story in the first book, also called Small Spaces. It revealed some of the backstory, and how the history influenced the current situations the characters faced as well, all without slowing down the story. It was excellent.

Another thing I liked was the tone of the story. The atmospheric writing, combined with the story, antagonist, and the setting, made for a great ghost story.

It was also great getting to read another story from the perspective of these characters. I liked all of them. In fact, I liked Ollie more in Dead Voices than I initially did in Small Spaces. Her circumstances were different, and this time she had her friends. I liked the dynamics between Ollie, Coco, and Brian. I also liked the development Arden did with their friendship, as well as their personal character arcs. They each had moments to shine, where their skills took center stage.

Overall, Dead Voices was an excellent follow-up to Small Spaces. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, then this one is a must read.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARC Review: Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay

43203098Title: Word to the Wise
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #10
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; September 3, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
It's no-holds-barred murder, in the latest page-turning Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Hitting the Books. 
Lindsey Norris is finally getting married to the man of her dreams--but it's not all roses for Briar Creek's beloved library director, as gardening enthusiast and town newcomer Aaron Grady gives the term "book lover" a whole new meaning. Inappropriate looks and unwelcome late-night visits to Lindsey's house have everyone from the crafternooners to Lindsey's fiancé, Sully, on edge. When Grady's dead body is found staged outside the library and all the clues point to Sully, Lindsey knows it's up to her to dig through the hidden chapters of Grady's previous life to find the real culprit and clear Sully's name. But becoming a thorn in the killer's side is not without its consequences, and the closer Lindsey gets to the truth, the more determined the murderer is to make her just a footnote....
I’ve been looking forward to Jenn McKinlay’s follow-up to Hitting the Books since I read it last year. In Word to the Wise, some of the themes—like harassment and climate change—leaned toward the more timely side. McKinlay nailed the unusual weather patterns, enabling actions of others, the emotional toll, and the disconcerting characterization of characters like Aaron Grady. Because of that, there was an eerie—and sometimes exasperating—feel to the whole story. The mystery was anything but straight forward, and the twists were especially twisty in this one. As such, Word to the Wise was a page-turner. It also turned out to be one of my favorite installments in the Library Lover’s Mystery series.

At first, everything seemed great for Lindsey Norris. She had her job at the library. She was getting married to Sully. And I was happy about the development, because it meant that the romantic subplots of previous books were finally beginning to pay off for the characters. Plus, the stages of wedding preparation were fun, okay. However, once the mystery of who killed Aaron Grady began, some of that happiness evaporated. I liked the mystery here, because the suspects had sufficient motive to want Grady gone. He was a creep who used his reputation as an upstanding citizen as an excuse, a cover, to get away with harassment and stalker behavior. But, just like there was more to Grady, the mystery was also a complex issue. Nothing was as it seemed, and the twists kept coming.

The characters were as great as always. In particular, I liked the library staff who worked for Lindsey, as well as many of the other reoccurring characters. I liked the setting as well. Briar Creek is a small, idyllic coastal town: if you’re familiar with this series, then you know what it’s like, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

Overall, Word to the Wise was an excellent addition to the series. If you’ve read any of the previous books, then this one should be on your TBR List.

About the author...

Jenn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series and will be debuting a new women's fiction series in June 2017, starting with the title About a Dog. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

ARC Review: The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle

41953346Title: The Missing of Clairdelune
Series: The Mirror Quartet #2
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translated by: Hildegarde Serle 
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Europa Editions; May 7, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
When our heroine Ophelia is promoted to Vice-Storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight and her special gift is revealed to all. Ophelia knows how to read the secret history of objects and it could be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her home. Beneath the golden rafters of Pole's capitol, Citaceleste, she discovers that the only person she is able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic fiance. Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond....
Picking up where the first book in the series ended, The Missing of Clairdelune is an excellent follow up to A Winter’s Promise. Part whodunit type of mystery with a lot development on both the character and world building front, The Missing of Clairdelune was an exciting story with enough twists and reveals to keep me on my toes. It was a thoroughly engrossing read, and at this point, I’m truly invested in this series.

The Missing of Clairdelune wasn’t a fast-paced kind of story, but overall, it was a good one. It was detail oriented, and dealt with complex issues—many of which had no easy solution. Around every corner there seemed to be something going wrong for someone, and there was more often than not a ripple-effect that reached even the main character, Ophelia. There were secrets, and some hard truths, which sometimes offered a different perspective on certain places and people. And for every question answered—or just hinted at—about the Rupture, the arks, the ancestral spirits, and Farouk’s obsession with his book, there were always more that were yet to be solved. By the end of the book, I still had more questions than answers.

I said it about A Winter’s Promise, and I think it applies here too: some of the best aspects about The Missing of Clairdelune is the characters. The whole cast is uniquely interesting, and the further development of both romantic and platonic relationships was remarkably well-done. Ophelia is such a fun character to read about. I liked her personality and quirks. The development to her character was also something to take note of, and I was also glad to see her asserting herself more as she figured out how to handle being Vice-Storyteller. Thorn was still kind of an enigma. For the most part the scenes where he and Ophelia interacted with one another were interesting, because they were very different characters. That being said, the direction his character went in was unexpected and very intriguing. Also among my favorite characters was Berenilde, Thorn’s aunt, and Rosaline, Ophelia’s aunt.

The setting was also interesting. Pole was an exceedingly dangerous place where alliances could turn at the drop of a coin, and the environment was constantly cold no matter the time of year. So, much of the book remained indoors where illusions were used as a substitute for the poor weather, which was primarily in Citaceleste where much of the story took place. It was all very cool. That being said, I was glad when the story eventually went outside of Citaceleste, because while it’s an intriguing place, I was also interested in seeing other parts of Pole.

Overall, The Missing of Clairdelune is the best book I’ve read so far this year. Plus, given the way the story ended, I’m very interested in what’s in-store for the characters in the next book in the series….

About the author...

Christelle Dabos was born on the Côte d’Azur in 1980 and grew up in a home filled with classical music and historical games. She now lives in Belgium. The Mirror Visitor, her debut series, won the Gallimard Jeunesse-RTL-Télérama First Novel Competition....

About the translator...

Since graduating in French from Oxford University, Hildegarde Serle has worked in London as a newspaper subeditor at The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph. She has a diploma in translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She lives in London, but her heart lives on the Quai aux Fleurs in Paris...

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Europa Editions via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915 by Sharon Sadako Takeda & Kaye Durland Spilker

8542739Title: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915
Series: n/a
Author: Sharon Sadako Takeda; Kaye Durland Spilker
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; History; Fashion
Publisher/Publication Date: Prestel Publishing; September 22, 2010

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The creation of eighteenth and nineteenth century fashion moved at a much slower tempo than the lightning-speed pace of contemporary fashion, so great attention was paid to the smallest detail. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915 celebrates these and brilliantly examines the transformation of the fashionable silhouette over this span of more than two centuries. Lavish photographs and illustrative text provide historical context, showing how technical inventions, political events, and global trade often profoundly affected style. It is little wonder that many of today's top haute couture designers often look to fashion of the past to find inspiration in the present. The intriguing and stunning examples of historic dress in this opulent volume are as captivating today as they were centuries ago. Fashioning Fashion showcases nearly two hundred highlights from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new European collection of rare pieces of historic fashion and accessories for men, women, and children. LACMA recently acquired this singular collection, which numbers more than 1,000 objects and represents a total of fifty years of acquisitions by prominent historic dress dealers and collectors Martin Kamer of England and Wolfgang Ruf of Switzerland. The pieces were chosen for their roles in the story of fashion's aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. This in-depth look at the details of these luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings is the first presentation of this remarkable collection...
After I read the medieval history book—The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, my thoughts about it can be found HERE—it got me thinking about the clothes of the time period, specifically how international trade, diplomatic ties, conflicts, and the like would affect historical clothing trends. Unfortunately, it was a topic The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World didn’t cover. So, of course, once I was thinking about it, I wanted to know a bit more about historical fashion. A quick search of my library's catalogue brought me to this book: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915. It was a quick but fascinating read with plenty of photo examples that highlighted a collection from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I thought it was interesting how trends changed but eventually old ideas were recycled and updated into something new, which was a prominent theme throughout the book. It was especially highlighted in sections that talked about the treatment of garments. I was surprised to learn about the difference in the quality for the stitching, particularly between expensive formal wear and undergarments. The latter of which had better, meticulous seams, because they were frequently washed. While a lot of other garments were described as being incapable of receiving the same treatment. One passage perfectly captures what I mean:

“Plain but functional items such as linen shirts, which had to endure frequent washing, were more carefully stitched than silk gowns, which eventually would be unpicked to be altered or “turned” (resewn with the reverse side of the textile facing outward, to prolong the life of the unwashable garment). Because Fabric was so valuable, it was customarily recycled, and clothes were not constructed to last as long as their textiles.”(p.73)

I found the relationship between technology and fashion interesting. I also liked the sections that talked about the “blending and manipulation” of the four principle fibers—silk, cotton, linen, and wool—to get other textiles. This book also touched on the working conditions of factory workers, as well as other issues relevant to this topic. There’s so much more I could say about this book, but then this post would turn into a summary of the book. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

Overall, Fashioning Fashion was fantastic. There’s still so much I don’t know about this topic, and I would be interested in finding more books like this one....

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ARC Review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

30518319Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Series: Veronica Speedwell #4
Author: Deanna Raybourn 
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Historical Fiction; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; March 12, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind. As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...

I guess you could say A Dangerous Collaboration was a story about secrets—some old, some new; some about strong emotions or actions; and some about the past and others about the present. So many secrets packed into one story! But given how isolated the setting was made out to be and in the context of the mystery surrounding the reason why Veronica and the others were called to the Romilly residence, it made sense. And no, it wasn’t only about the butterflies.

A Dangerous Collaboration was an all-around interesting story. It was a relatively quick read that wasn’t too action-packed but when there was danger involved, the stakes were typically high. There was an almost foreboding atmosphere which only deepened when more details came to light. So, I liked the mystery as well as the historical time period the book took place in.

As I mentioned above, the setting was fairly isolated: centered on an island owned by the Romilly family, accessible only by boat. It was a challenging place with many secret passageways, and it remained at the mercy of the weather—often storms—as well as the water because of the shifts in the tide and currents. Raybourn made good use of the location, which served as a perfect backdrop to the mystery at hand.

One of the things I most enjoy about this book is the main character Veronica Speedwell. She’s witty and smart and her passion about butterflies lends to some simple yet well written moments of quiet tranquility between her and other characters. I personally found the bits about the butterflies incredibly interesting in how well they were described—even the made up Romilly Glasswing butterfly (Oleria romillia), whose real life inspiration/counterparts are just as fascinating as their fictional version. I also enjoyed the banter between Veronica and Stocker and—once again—how well they worked together as a team to try and solve the mystery behind Rosamund’s disappearance.

With a cast of characters that had motivations as equally differing as their personalities, A Dangerous Collaboration was a fantastic installment to the Veronica Speedwell series....
About the author...
A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history and an emphasis on Shakespearean studies. She taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna makes her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughter...
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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos

39724529Title: A Winter's Promis
Series: The Mirror Visitor
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translated by: Hildegarde Serle
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Europa Editions; September 25, 2018 (First published June 6, 2013)

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Volume 1 of The Mirror Visitor Quartet; Winner of the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.... 
Where once there was unity, vastly different worlds now exist. Over each, the spirit of an omnipotent and immortal ancestor abides. Long ago, following a cataclysm called the Rupture, the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands, known now as arks. Ophelia lives on Anima, where inhabitants can read the pasts of objects. What’s more, she is also a “mirror-traveler,” possessing an ability that has been passed down to her through generations. Her idyllic existence on Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, an influential member of a distant clan. Still only a girl, Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold and icy ark called Pole. But there, her future husband seems indifferent to her and she slowly realizes that her presence on Pole is part of a much bigger plot and has far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world. 
An unforgettable heroine, an insightful study of relationships, a rich and bountiful universe, intrigue and suspense, A Winter’s Promise is perfect for readers of Margaret Rogerson, Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Albert, and N.K. Jemisin....
A Winter’s Promise is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. True to its synopsis, this book reminded me a little of N.K Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, but also of Howl’s Moving Castle. There was an element of domesticity present throughout the novel rather than a focus on weapon and or magic heavy battles. And you know what? That worked out perfectly fine. A Winter’s Promise is a story that suited the characters as much as the characters suited the world they inhabited—which was all around a fascinating setting. And while the end of the book yielded more questions than answers, A Winter’s Promise was an excellent beginning to The Mirror Visitor series.

One of the elements that initially drew me to A Winter’s Promise was the event known as the Rupture. There was a lot of mystery surrounding it, which persisted throughout the novel. However, there are sequels to A Winter’s Promise. I hope some of those answers will be provided as the series goes on, because the history of the setting was fascinating.

The overall premise is pretty simple: Ophelia ends up in an arranged marriage she can’t escape from, and she’s not exactly the biggest fan of her new fiancé. Yet, the plot was anything but simple, and it was something that became apparent as more of the details surrounding the engagement were revealed. The situation also afforded a direct look into the individual societies on the two arks prominently featured in the story. Anima, Ophelia’s home ark—while strict about their ways and the expectation placed on her about her engagement—was still almost idyllic in comparison to that of Thorn’s. Pole was like Anima’s polar opposite. On Anima, the weather was fair and everyone was like family. On Pole, it’s always cold and snowy, and there was a clear hierarchy with distinct classes of people. A point of interest for me was seeing how Ophelia would adapt, if at all, to the new environment.

The characters were also something to make note of. I won’t go into specifics since I don’t want to spoil anything, but I enjoyed reading from Ophelia’s perspective. The synopsis says “an insightful study of relationships,” and that’s what I got from the story. It was a character driven story, and a lot of time was devoted to exploring relationships as well as everyday happenings. I did like how seemingly innocuous abilities could have unintended consequences. One such effect was Ophelia’s clumsiness. Initially, it came off as a bit off-putting at times, but I did catch the details about the cause of it. Thorn was a mystery and mostly remained as one, and what information there was about him revealed hints of an interesting character. I hope to see more of him in the next book.

So, there are a number of questions I still have. Thus, I’m looking forward to The Missing of Clairdelune. Luckily, the wait won’t be too long…

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

14800993Title: Dracula
Series: n/a
Author: Bram Stoker
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Horror
Publisher/Publication Date: First published 1897

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Written in the form of letters, diary entries, and news bits, Dracula chronicles the vampire's journey from his Transylvanian castle to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood he needs to stay alive - the blood of strong men and beautiful women - while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power. The now-famous cast of characters includes the English solicitor Jonathan Harker; his fiancee, the enchanting Mina Murray; and Van Helsing, the mysterious Dutch doctor and expert vampire killer...
So, Dracula is one classic book I’ve been meaning to read for a very-very long time. I was already familiar with the various adaptations of it, but I’d yet to read the original work. I didn’t get to it before 2018 was over, but in January 2019, I finally read it. I have no idea why I waited so long to read it. However, now I can say I understand why Dracula has remained so well-known and recommended since its initial publication. And while some of the language used is very outdated—as well as some eyebrow-raising and inaccurate medical procedures—the overall story was a solid piece of horror fiction.

Dracula was a long and somewhat complicated book. It was everything I was expecting it to be. Partially run-down and sort of (highly likely) abandoned castle? Check. Forests? Check. Vampires? Triple check.

There were also various odd and inexplicable incidents that happened to Jonathan Harker, and by extension the people he and his fiancée, Mina Murray, knew. As such, the story was well-suited to the mixed media format of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings. Because without the various—and sometimes brief—perspectives, much of the story outside of the experiences of Jonathan, Mina, Lucy, Van Helsing, and others would have been missed entirely. The various incidents only served to build up a, I guess you could call it, psychological aspect to the novel. Dracula—the character—was a suitably creepy antagonist, and there was a constant sense of suspense building over the duration of the book. Those, when combined with the horror elements, made Dracula a page-turner.

Have you read Dracula or seen any of the movies? What do you think about it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

28186364Title: The Masked City
Series: The Invisible Library #2
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Paperback
More Details: Historical; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Ace Books; September 6, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.
Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.
But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear....

Since I recently read and loved The Mortal Word, book #5 of the Invisible Library series, I’d decided to make it a goal to read the other three books I’d missed. So the obvious place to start was The Masked City.

I loved this book. It combined elements of historical fiction with those of fantasy with an added touch of futuristic technology in certain aspects of the setting. The Masked City was also fast paced and packed with enough danger, action, and mystery to make the story an exciting follow-up to The Invisible Library (book #1). All of my favorite characters—Irene, Vale, Kai, and Silver—were present as new and familiar worlds were further explored. Although, this time around, Irene’s usual duties as a Librarian were mostly put on hold in favor of rescuing her apprentice.

There were some parts of the mystery that got solved relatively early on, but it wasn’t bad considering the answers brought more questions rather than a firm resolution. The Masked City also delved into more of the politics between dragons and the Fae with the focus on the latter since the story mainly took place in a world heavily influenced by chaos. These details are somewhat beneficial to know when trying to understad the Fae of Cogman’s series. It not only provided context for their nature it showed it as well through Irene’s interactions with Silver and others—something that was especially highlighted given the setting being in an extremely high chaos zone, which was a stark contrast to the other worlds Irene had been to. To say the least, it was interesting how stories/personal narratives came into play. There were also some new enemies, as well others who were very familiar, working behind the scenes toward their own goals.

So, overall, the story was good, and I plan to read The Burning Page sometime soon. I’ve already read the synopsis for it, and I’m interested in seeing how the Alberich situation gets resolved....

Monday, November 26, 2018

ARC Review: The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

39169409Title: The Mortal Word
Series: The Invisible Library #5
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Historical
Publisher/Publication Date: Ace; November 27, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman's historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos . . . and the Library. When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Vienna, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, but that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris. Once they arrive, it seems that the murder victim had uncovered evidence suggesting that he may have found proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are already hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder—but was it dragon, Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?
The Invisible Library is one of those series that keeps getting better and better. And while I’m guilty of not keeping up with this series as much as I should have—and I really need to—I had no problem reading The Mortal Word. This book was fantastic. The mystery kept me guessing and the action and danger made the story that much more exciting. There was a hefty dose of political intrigue and maneuvering as the Dragons, Fae, and Library all came together for a peace conference.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Right from the start, it opens with Irene doing what she does best: retrieving books. But as it quickly became apparent, there was so much more going on this time around. There was a multitude of characters in a situation best described as volatile and high stakes. There were a lot of different sides to keep up with such as the Fae and their nature, some of the inner workings of the Dragon society, and how past animosity came into play while trying to make negotiations. So, there was never a boring moment. I also liked all the details about how the idea for the conference came about + all of the danger that came with it. As such, it was interesting to see how the opposing forces affected the setting—an alternative version of Paris—where the story took place.

The overall plot was fantastic, because, I’m going to be honest, there were a lot of characters with dubious motivations who did a number of questionable actions. It’s one of the things that made the mystery at the core of The Mortal Word as interesting as it was, which was why the buildup to the twists were all that more rewarding by the time the book was over. The ending was a satisfying conclusion to The Mortal Word while also leaving room for the story to continue.

The characters from this series have always been interesting, and there were a lot of familiar faces that appeared in The Mortal Word. Irene is, of course, my favorite character. I like her personality. Her job is pretty cool at times. And I also liked how she handled herself during some of the tensest moments of The Mortal Word. There was also Kai, and while he was present, his role was a little more in the background this time. Although, I enjoyed the moments where Kai and Irene got to interact.

All in all, The Mortal Word is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It’s effectively renewed my interest in The Invisible Library series. And after that ending, I hope there’s going to be another book after this one. If you’re a fan of this series, then The Mortal Word should be on your TBR list....

About the author...

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author, who has written for several role-playing game companies. Her work includes GURPS Vorkosigan and contributions to the In Nomine role-playing game line for Steve Jackson Games: contributions to Exalted 2nd Edition and other contributions to the Exalted and Orpheuslines for White Wolf Publishing: Hearts, Swords and Flowers: The Art of Shoujo for Magnum Opus: and contributions to the Dresden Files RPG for Evil Hat Productions. She currently works for the NHS in England in the HSCIC as a clinical classifications specialist. She has had eight books of her series about the multidimensional Library accepted by Tor Books; the first three books, The Invisible Library, The Masked City, The Burning Page, and The Lost Plot are now available: the fifth, The Mortal Word, will be available in November 2018...

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Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: Putting the Science in Fiction edited by Dan Koboldt

Title: Putting the Science in Fiction
Series: n/a
Edited by: Dan Koboldt
Source/Format: Bookish First & Writer's Digest Books; Paperback
More Details: Nonfiction; Writing; Science
Publisher/Publication Date: Writer's Digest Books; October 16, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Science and technology have starring roles in a wide range of genres--science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and more. Unfortunately, many depictions of technical subjects in literature, film, and television are pure fiction. A basic understanding of biology, physics, engineering, and medicine will help you create more realistic stories that satisfy discerning readers. This book brings together scientists, physicians, engineers, and other experts to help you: Understand the basic principles of science, technology, and medicine that are frequently featured in fiction. Avoid common pitfalls and misconceptions to ensure technical accuracy. Write realistic and compelling scientific elements that will captivate readers. Brainstorm and develop new science- and technology-based story ideas. Whether writing about mutant monsters, rogue viruses, giant spaceships, or even murders and espionage, Putting the Science in Fiction will have something to help every writer craft better fiction.Putting the Science in Fiction collects articles from "Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy," Dan Koboldt's popular blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction ( Each article discusses an element of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in that field. Scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and others share their insights in order to debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right....

Since I first read the synopsis for Putting the Science in Fiction, I knew I needed to read it. I already like science based nonfiction like one of my recent reads, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, so this one was right up my alley. This book is comprised of a collection of advice written by experts in their given field. And I just have to say that it’s awesome to have so much information that can be a great help with developing technology and environments for science fiction, fantasy, or any type of story, all in one place.

Putting the Science in Fiction was a great book. Arranged in short chapters and separated into relevant sections—like Gnome Engineering: It Never Ends Well, and Things To Know For When Skynet Takes Over—it tackled a wide range of the common misconceptions about science across a number of subjects. There was everything from labs, genetics, medicine, biology, and even telescopes just to name a few. There was mention of zombies, Star Trek, and Star Wars among others. It also pointed out who got what right—or who got something as accurate as possible—with the information available at the time the book or movie was written or produced. Such as chapter 12—The Science of Jurassic Park by Mike Hays—where Hays discusses the “good science” of Jurassic Park as well as the creative liberties that Crichton took, i.e. “less hard science.” But it doesn’t stop there. There were so many useful facts to be found in Putting the Science in Fiction.

Overall all, I’m more than happy that I have a copy of this book to keep on my shelf. As such, I recommend it to just about everyone—writers, readers—anyone looking to have some of their questions about habitable atmospheres, nanotechnology, and space flight answered...

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Bookish First and Writer's Digest Books for this review, thank you!

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