Monday, July 27, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a page-turner of a romantic fantasy for young adults/new adults. A fairy-tale reworking of Beauty and the Beast, the protagonist is the nineteen-year-old human Feyre, who has been forced by poverty and the uselessness of her father and older sisters to become the provider for the family. For this reason she has taught herself to hunt. One day, in desperation, she kills a wolf that is clearly more than a wolf—it’s a fairy. And one of its kind comes to claim retribution.

Feyre is hauled off beyond the wall that separates the fairy world from that of the humans, a tenuous boundary meant for mutual safety. Although the fairy has promised not to kill her, she expects to be enslaved. She doesn’t expect the beautiful castle she finds there or the civilized treatment she receives. The fairy who has captured her is not a beast after all, but a handsome member of the High Fae named Tamlin. At first, she wants nothing more than to go home. It’s the one thing he denies her. But as time passes, and she learns more about the world of the fairies, she discovers that the land is under a curse. Tamlin is doing everything in his power to protect his world and to protect her. It isn’t enough. Feyre steps up her game.

There’s a lot going on in this story: fairy legends, rivalries between courts, ancient rituals, and a growing passion between Tamlin and Feyre. There is also a cynical yet delightful sidekick, Lucien. And there is a handsome, sexy nemesis to challenge Tamlin, one who works for the evil queen who put the land under the curse in the first place. Feyre, human as she is, has to find a way to deal with all these different fairies. Clever, spunky, and determined, she refuses to give up. The odds seem overwhelmingly against her, so it’s a fast-paced, enjoyable read watching her fight.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Love's Alchemy. A John Donne Mystery by Bryan Crockett

I reviewed Love's Alchemy. A John Donne Mystery by Bryan Crockett for the latest issue of The Historical Novels Review and a link can be found here, along with reviews of other new releases in historical fiction. I loved this book and wanted to mention it again here:

It’s fashionable now to take popular writers from the past and turn them into sleuths. I was intrigued by this debut novel that centers on John Donne, the famous English metaphysical poet. Donne? What kind of mystery would he be called upon to solve?

As it turns out, this is no mere whodunnit. Set in 1604, Donne is already married to Anne More and suffering the poverty and fall from grace that marrying for love was bound to cause. His political career is in ruins, so to survive, he needs to find patronage for his poetry. Unfortunately, the patroness he attracts is a beautiful and manipulative woman who tempts him to stray. He has another option, one he literally can’t refuse—to turn spy for King James’ chief counselor, Robert Cecil. Cecil is rabidly anti-Catholic and has heard rumors of a Catholic plot against the government. Donne, although currently divorced from the Church, has Catholic connections going way back. If he can convince his family he wants to return to the fold, he should be able to uncover the plot—so believes Cecil.

The mystery is this: is there a plot? Who is behind it? This provides for a tension-filled mission for Donne. But the deeper mystery driving the book is: who is John Donne? As he embarks on the journey, he wrestles with his qualms about betraying those who trust him, his separation from the Church, his love for his wife and his lust for his new patroness. This is a remarkably intense and emotional portrayal of the poet that makes him believably brilliant and flawed. It is a wonderful blending of history and fictionalized biography. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist is a sweet romance set at the end of the nineteenth century in the lead-up to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Flossie Jane has aspirations of becoming an artist. Her parents have supported her painting endeavors until her father’s gambling drains the family income beyond their ability to keep up with her art lessons. It now seems more important to them that she help her mother with the in-home sewing business that provides the bulk of the family’s support. Flossie rebels, thinking it unfair that her mother’s hard work goes to pay for her father’s gambling. This is a time of change for women– a time for "the New Woman." Young women have been taking chances, taking jobs on their own, supporting themselves. Flossie yearns for a chance to do just that.

Fortunately, Mr. Tiffany (of the famous Tiffany glassworks) has need of talented, artistic young women. He has commissioned a stained-glass chapel for the World’s Fair to showcase the work of his corporation. He is in a terrible bind because of a glass-workers’ strike. One of his managers, a woman, has convinced him to give female workers a try. Women are not allowed to join unions so. . .

Flossie is one of the women chosen for the job. She moves into a boarding house, expressly against her parents’ wishes. There she meets a varied cast of characters who enliven her life. More so, however, she brightens theirs. Her true talent lies in her ability to bring people together. One of these people is the aloof reporter, Reeve, who has an abhorrence for "New Women" in general and whose initial impression of Flossie is that she is a chatterbox and a busybody, but a very beautiful one.

The story provides an interesting look into Tiffany’s stained glass making process and the excitement of the World Fair. It brings up some of the issues that these women in transition had to face (not all of which are resolved, such as harassment on public transportation). The love story progresses at a realistic pace. It’s a long book and Howard Books is the Christian publishing imprint of Simon & Schuster so adjust romance expectations appropriately. The goal for this New Woman, for all her initial insistence on independence and her desire to pursue her painting, is always first and foremost marriage and family. And Gist steers the storyline into a position where love is the happy-ever-after Flossie is looking for all along. I found myself drawn along with Flossie’s journey even if I didn’t find her the most inspiring of heroines. (I think I would have been more interested in the story of her manager! But that would not likely have been a romance.)

So, Tiffany Girl is recommended for its peek into the historical events, particularly if you like sweet, clean romance.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

Wanting to read something purely escapist, I turned once again to Georgette Heyer. A recent review of Regency Buck put that one on my list and my library had it on the shelf, so I was able to settle in and enjoy.

Judith Taverner and her brother, Peregrine have recently lost their father and come into large inheritances. They are now wards of the fifth earl of Worth, a man they have never met—a man who has no desire to meet them and who has instructed them to stay in their small town and not come to London. Judith and Perry disobey.

To their shock, Lord Worth is not an old grump, but a handsome, arrogant young man. Worth has no wish to be a guardian, but he is, nevertheless, a very good one. He sets them up in a London house, arranges for a chaperone for Judith, and makes sure they meet all the right people. Before long, Judith, who is worth a fortune and beautiful to boot, is receiving marriage proposals galore, all of which Worth refuses for her.

Judith is dismayed by her guardian’s high-handedness. Not that she is interested in any of her suitors, but she is used to her independence and finds Worth’s interference in her affairs insupportable. She much prefers the assistance of her cousin, Bernard, whom she has also just recently met. He treats her with the utmost civility. And tenderness.

Worth is also too dismissive of Perry. Judith worries about her younger brother, who is letting the attractions of London—gambling, drinking, and spending his inheritance as fast as Worth will allow—spoil him completely. And there is something even more worrisome. If Perry were to die, she will be his heir. And Perry seems to be increasingly prone to scrapes that are dangerous, even life-threatening. She’s starting to think they are not accidental. She’s starting to wonder why it is that Worth is turning away all of her suitors. And then. . . Perry disappears.

Regency Buck is another pleasant romance to transport you to Regency England for an amusing romp. Judith is, for the most part, a strong, practical heroine who is easy to root for. She gets carried away at times, but is willing to recognize her mistakes and back down from them. Worth is about as alpha as they come. He can be unpleasant, but he has his reasons. Bernard stands as a reasonable rival. The plot twists enough to make you wonder–even though a Romance reader will surely know how it will have to turn out. Another winner from Georgette Heyer!

Monday, July 6, 2015

AN IMMORTAL DESCENT - RELEASE DAY BLITZ

02_An Immortal DescentPublication Date: July 6, 2015 Publisher: Carina Press eBook; ASIN: B00XCYM8XS Series: Goddess Born, Book Three Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Romance Add to GR Button     As a goddess-born healer, Selah Kilbrid wants nothing to do with the goddess of death and disease, nor any of her human progeny. But when the two people she loves most disappear—her dearest friend Nora Goodwin and her betrothed Lord Henry Fitzalan—Selah has no choice but to leave London in pursuit of Death’s most powerful daughter. Accompanied by a ragtag group of travelers, Selah follows a treacherous path across the Irish Sea to the long-forgotten prison of a witch who once nearly destroyed Ireland. Selah would face any danger to protect those she loves, but what if it means unleashing a greater evil on the human world? Could she risk the lives of many to save a few, or are some sacrifices too great?

An Immortal Descent Available at

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About the Author03_Kari Edgren

Kari Edgren is the author of the Goddess Born series. In 2010 and 2011 she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Break Through Novel Award. In 2013, she was a RWA Golden Heart finalist. Ms. Edgren enjoys writing both historical and contemporary fiction, so long as there’s a paranormal twist. She resides on a mountain top in the Pacific Northwest where she spends a great deal of time dreaming about the sun and torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts. For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Sign up for Kari Edgren’s Newsletter. 04_An Immortal Descent_Release Day Banner_FINAL

Saturday, July 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

I spent last weekend at the Historical Novel Society’s North American Conference in Denver. I think there were over 400 people there! For anyone who loves historical fiction, I can’t recommend this society or this conference highly enough.

I didn’t come away with the enormous book haul that I usually do because I’m so far behind in my TBR pile. Still, I couldn’t resist adding a couple new ones to the pile.

One new addition that I started on the plane ride home was The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner. After enjoying Mademoiselle Chanel so much, I knew I’d have to delve into his earlier novels that deal with characters from medieval/Renaissance time periods. This novel did not disappoint.

Catherine is the last of the famous/infamous of the Medici line. Brought up to redeem their fallen fortunes, she is wed to the son of the king of France–the second son, but the first son is sickly and so...

Catherine does become dauphine. However, she has obstacles to overcome. Her husband is enamored of his longstanding mistress, Diane de Poitiers. And he is a surrounded by a cadre of friends/advisors who look upon her as an Italian of no account.

Through patience, persistence, and with the help of second sight and her own advisor, Nostradamus, she is able to slowly win over her husband’s acceptance and build a life as his wife and consort. The necessary children follow and become the center of her world.

Catherine is determined to build a strong legacy in France for her sons. Unfortunately, France is in the midst of a religious upheaval with Catholics and Huguenots at each other’s throats. Moreover, all of Europe is engulfed in the same conflict, hampering Catherine’s attempts to build political alliances with Spain and England. And, if she might have a chance to find love herself, religion and politics interfere.

The novel provides a wonderful blend of history and exploration into the psyche of a complex, fascinating woman. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Now I seem to be bouncing back and forth between historical fiction and fantasy. I’ve gotten a bit hooked on fantasy’s adventure and escapism. Looking for what to try next, I decided on some YA fantasy. Kendare Blake’s The Goddess War series sounded particularly intriguing with its link to Greek mythology.

Book One is Antigoddess. The immortal Greek gods are dying. They have lived for thousands of years among mortals, losing contact with the other gods, letting their various powers atrophy from disuse. Although the cause for the current change in their situation is unclear, each of them is dying a slow, painful death unique to their particular character. Athena is being drowned in feathers growing in her lungs which work their way painfully to the surface. Her half-brother, Hermes, is wasting away. Athena and Hermes have some sympathy for one another, so they set off together to discover the cause. While they don’t learn what is behind their illness, they do discover that there is a war going on, rival gods banding against one another. This is not so surprising–the gods have always skirmished, wreaking havoc on the mortals along the way. Except, previously, the gods themselves did not suffer. This time, the gods are dying. One side must kill the other in order to survive. And Athena and Hermes have not been picked to join the gods who seem to be on the stronger side.

There is more to the puzzle. The gods are looking for Cassandra, once the prophetess of Troy, now a teenage girl living in small town New York, impressing the other teenagers with an uncanny ability to guess things before they happen. Athena doesn’t know why she needs to find Cassandra, only that she has to find her before Hera and Poseidon do. For Cassandra, things are going to get real ugly, real fast.

The premise of this novel really appealed to me and I think Blake did a great job of modernizing a Trojan War plot. She pulled together a number of characters from the old myths and assigned them new roles with a twist.

For the old Greek gods and the mortals mixed up with them the war isn’t over yet–and I’m going to have to read on to see what happens next.