Finished Books: Heartstone

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 352

Link to Goodreads summary

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Advertised as Pride and Prejudice with dragons, I felt I needed to read this book.  I am not a purist, nor have I read all of Jane Austen’s works, but as a late-comer to her stories (I only read Pride and Prejudice a few years ago), I feel being older really helped me understand and enjoy P&P with the wisdom that comes with a little bit of age.

With a playful nod to Jane Austen, White interweaves unmistakeable elements from the original into a fantasy world on the brink of war with giant monsters.  Many fundamental details remain intact, so fans of the original will follow along merrily, knowing approximately what is going to happen.  Yet there are enough differences that set the world apart (dragons, anyone?), that readers who have never read the original will feel drawn into the realm that White creates.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Finished Books: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • Published: 2012 (Large Print published 2015)
  • Pages: 477 (Large Print version)

Link to Goodreads summary

22779179This enthralling novel had me from the first page.  An old curmudgeon, Ove, was berating the employees while trying to purchase a computer.  It wasn’t the scene that absorbed me, though.  It was the language the author used.  Fredrik Backman has a knack for picking out a character’s idiosyncrasies and turning a phrase around it which consistently strikes my funny bone.  From Ove to Parvaneh & Patrick to Anita & Rune and all the others, Backman created quirky characters whose lives will warm your heart.  This introduction to the Swedish author makes me want to read everything else he has written.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Finished Books: Let Me Die in His Footsteps

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: 327

Link to Goodreads summary

23398925I will admit to not having read enough mystery novels that were not part of a series.  I’m familiar with police procedurals, cozy mysteries, amateur detectives, and many of the typical tropes associated with the mystery genre in general.  Those books were all part of my comfort reads until recently.  So when I read Let Me Die in His Footsteps, the winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2016, I was perplexed.  Primarily by my own ignorance.  Why haven’t I read more stand-alone mystery novels?

The plot unfolded gradually, much like a slow summer afternoon in Kentucky, the setting of our story.  Roy’s descriptions of the atmosphere evoked images of dusty roads and hazy skies.  Switching back and forth a generation in time, the story emerges from Sarah’s and Annie’s narrations.  The reader finds out the intricacies of the relationships between characters through the eyes of those two girls: their sisters, their families, their friends, their neighbors, and the townsfolk.

While I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, gripped with terror or filled with suspense as the story climaxed, curiosity about the accuracy of my hunches kept me reading, wanting to find out how it ended.  Readers who like a deliberately paced story, and don’t mind shifting time frames, will enjoy discovering the family and neighbor dynamics of this sleepy Kentucky town.  Not solely for mystery fans, but perfect for fans of general fiction as well.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Finished Books: Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 362 (e-ARC)

33664768Link to Goodreads summary

Ginny Moon is an unconventional main character, to say the least.  She is a girl with autism who has recently been adopted into her Forever Home, but she cannot stop trying to get back to her Baby Doll to make sure she is okay.  She schemes to find ways to contact and reconnect with her abusive birth mother, Gloria, by lying to and deceiving those who care about her.  Her actions frighten her Forever parents, causing tension in her home environment and making her feel like she doesn’t belong anywhere.

Ginny’s exceptional way of narrating her own story will keep readers captivated.  She tells things like it is, or how it is to her, which is probably not how it is to the majority of us.  She draws the reader deep into her mind with her, explaining her reasoning (she keeps her mouth shut so that she doesn’t tell any lies; she can’t answer someone if they ask more than one question at a time).  Readers will cheer when she stands up for herself and cringe when she unintentionally sabotages her plans.  She is curious and caring, cautious and clever.  A unique story told through the eyes of a young girl trying to navigate life with a new family while being drawn back to her old family.

Rating: 4 stars

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*

 

Finished Books: A Murder of Magpies

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

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  • Published: February 2015
  • Pages: 277

Summary from Goodreads

A whip-smart, impeccably crafted debut mystery, A Murder of Magpies takes readers on a whirlwind tour of London and Paris with an unforgettably original new heroine

It’s just another day at the office for London book editor Samantha “Sam” Clair. Checking jacket copy for howlers, wondering how to break it to her star novelist that her latest effort is utterly unpublishable, lunch scheduled with gossipy author Kit Lowell, whose new book will dish the juicy dirt on a recent fashion industry scandal. Little does she know the trouble Kit’s book will cause-before it even goes to print. When police Inspector Field turns up at the venerable offices of Timmins & Ross, asking questions about a package addressed to Sam, she knows something is wrong. Now Sam’s nine-to-five life is turned upside down as she finds herself propelled into a criminal investigation. Someone doesn’t want Kit’s manuscript published and unless Sam can put the pieces together in time, they’ll do anything to stop it.

With this deliciously funny debut novel, acclaimed author Judith Flanders introduces readers to an enormously enjoyable, too-clever-for-her-own-good new amateur sleuth, as well Sam’s Goth assistant, her effortlessly glamorous mother, and the handsome Inspector Field. A tremendously entertaining read, this page-turning novel from a bright new crime fiction talent is impossible to put down.”

This humorous book was easy to pick up at the end of the day to cleanse my palate after work.  From the first page, Sam’s sarcasm drew me in.  Plus, she would rather stay at home reading a book than go to a party filled with people with whom she didn’t want to interact.  Clearly she is a woman after my own heart.  She struggles with work issues and neighbors and mothers just like the rest of us.  And, unfortunately, she has to deal with them in much the same way the rest of us do: just put up with it and keep going.

In addition to finding her friend, Kit, perhaps it is a bit of ennui that sparks Sam’s interest in pursuing an investigation that Inspector Jake Field explicitly discourages her from exploring, primarily because it puts her in danger.  Her tenacity and curiosity demonstrates a rebellious (or stubborn) side that may not have had much opportunity to emerge thus far in her life.

Readers who enjoy amateur detective stories with smart, sarcastic female characters will enjoy this book.  It is not violently graphic, nor is there much cursing (although a few swear words are thrown in occasionally).  There is a budding romance that is not addressed much and whose intimate details are left primarily to the imagination of the reader.  I’ll be interested to see where this series goes.

Rating: 3 stars

Finished Books: Say Yes to the Marquess

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

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  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 374

Summary from Goodreads

“Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?

After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She’s inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride’s cold feet?

  • He starts with flowers. A wedding can’t have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.
  • He lets her know she’ll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.
  • He doesn’t kiss her.
  • If he kisses her, he definitely doesn’t kiss her again.
  • When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.
  • And no matter what—he doesn’t fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.”

Clio Whitmore had made up her mind that she wanted to break off her engagement of eight years and open a brewery in the castle she inherited.  So why was everyone trying to stop her from fulfilling her dreams?  

Readers will relate to Clio’s well-meaning but meddlesome family members.  The middle sister who is constantly undermining her opinion; the eccentric youngest sister who doesn’t catch the social cues; the obnoxious brother-in-law who thinks he’s clever but is really just trite.

These characters play quite a minor role in the book, though.  The majority of the scenes involve Clio and Rafe as Rafe tries to convince himself he’s not in love with Clio and that she should marry his brother.  All while Clio tries to convince everyone that she is making the correct decision about breaking off her engagement.  The witty banter between Clio and Rafe is built on their friendship from playing together as children.  This makes their flirting seem more believable, particularly since they are both made out to be fairly intelligent people.  

As far as steaminess, this book is not one where the sex happens behind closed doors and the reader just knows it happens.  Readers who prefer a more PG level might not enjoy this book.  If they can skip past the sex scenes, however, they would find a delightful romance with entertaining characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Finished Books: Queen of the Tearling

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 343

Summary from Goodreads:

“An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.”

  • Rape & pedophilia
  • Library!  Books!
  • Magic jewels
  • Dishonest surrounding individuals
  • Could die any time

These were the notes I wrote to remind myself of some of the important plot aspects.  They are all informative snippets about what this story holds.  But there is much more to this book as it unfolds.

Erika Johansen created a future world that has lost most forms of technology, has returned to medieval ways, and has magic.  We don’t find out the depths of the magic in this book, but I’m sure the author will delve into that in the later segments of this trilogy.  Lush descriptions of the environment and events bring the story to life.

The reader meets Kelsea as she is spending her last moments in the area where she grew up before the Queen’s Guards take her away.  At nineteen, she is now queen and might be murdered before she gets to the Keep.  She has been educated and raised by a couple (not her parents) that volunteered to keep her safe as long as they could in an isolated home.  As a young, inexperienced queen, she must make decisions on how to rule the entire country based on the knowledge bestowed to her from two individuals.  And those two individuals refused to tell her everything.  So does her current Queen’s Guard.

Kelsea grows as a queen, rationalizing decisions and questioning her judgment at times.  She must figure out who is trustworthy and fast.  Her life depends on it.  From the moment she was born, she created enemies, and now that she is queen, they want her dead.  From a kidnapping on the way to the Keep and a murder attempt at her coronation, Kelsea must constantly keep her wits about her.  

The story is compelling, although there are holes in the world-building that will hopefully be filled in later.  I’m interested to see where this story goes next.  I’ve heard good things, so I’ll likely give the next book chance and go from there.

Rating: 3 stars