Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

nevermoorFrom the publisher:  Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.  

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.  

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate. 

The witty banter, fast pace, and intriguing characters make this one of the most fun books I have read this year.  Morrigan rolls her eyes at her being blamed for every citizen’s problems and finds it rather curious that her family isn’t overly saddened that she is slated to die quite soon.  Hooray for Jupiter whisking her away.  Morrigan’s worry that she has no special talent is relatable.  I was perturbed with Jupiter for keeping vital information from her but maybe that was part of her personal challenge.  Good thing she found a fantastic best friend to support her.  Fun, charming, clever and deserving of all the accolades, this book is a winner!   I look forward to reading more from this author. Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                             Publication date 10.31.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized

The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli

last namsaraFrom the publisher:  In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Asha has been told by her father, the king, that she is the Iskari and must atone for her past actions by killing all dragons. She is fierce and highly skilled at killing but she allows cruel Jarek, the commandant, to threaten her and her cousin, Safire.  Why didn’t she kill him in self-defense?  This is a weakness in her character that makes her relatable and not the perfect, all-knowing heroine.  The reader discovers many truths alongside Asha.  Torwin appears incredibly knowledgeable for a slave.  He knows more about dragons and dragon riding than Asha.  Perhaps the sequel will include his back story.  The writing is polished and infused with past folklore.  The plot moves quickly with plenty of action but not too overlong  and clearly drawn characters, each with a back story begging to be told.  I look forward to reading more from this debut author.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                              Publication date 10.3.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

The Stone in the Skull – Elizabeth Bear

ThestoneintheskullThe rainy season is beginning, and the omens the rajnis of Sarathai-tia and Ansh-Sahal have received are ominous. Mrithuri’s Wizard has suggested that a marriage could solve her problems. It is a suggestion quickly dismissed. Sayeh is told she should evacuate her kingdom, move her people west. She, too, dismisses the suggestion. Far away in the mountains called the Steles of the Sky, a caravan inches its way along. It is guarded by Gage and the Dead Man who carry an urgent message for Mrithuri from the world’s most powerful Wizard.

Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite fantasy authors. The characters in this book are wonderful:  The Gage, a bronze man, huge, heavy and gentle; The Dead Man with a mysterious past;  Nizhuashti, a Godmade priest and Mrithuti and Sayeh, female cousins who are trying to maintain their shaky holds on thrones usually occupied by men. The descriptions of cities, countryside, the feel of the air, the heat and cold, are enveloping. It is easy to be drawn into this world. That said, this disappointed me. I know that this is the first book in a trilogy, but it just came to an abrupt end. Everything left up in the air, nothing resolved. The whole book seemed to be just an introduction of the characters and the establishing of several plot lines, much like the first act of a play. I feel that even in a series of books, each should be able to stand alone as a novel. So be aware that it might be advisable to wait and acquire all three books before reading.

eGalley review                                        Publication date 10.10.17

Posted in adult, fantasy, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home – Denise Kiernan

The Last CastleIn 1888, George Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in the world, took his mother to Asheville, North Carolina, to breathe the mountain air and heal. He settled her in then went to see the magnificent views. The sight of Mt. Pisgah captivated him and that June he bought 661 parcels of land on her slopes. Very soon, he was adding to his real estate. It was not just a house he wanted, it was a different way of life, a retreat from the city, a life among trees, fields, streams, mountains. He would employ the best minds of his time to help him realize his vision – landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Richard Morris Hunt.

Who would have thought that a book about a house could be so captivating. Well, for one thing it was not just a house. Biltmore Estate was a house of 175,000 square feet, on acreage three times the size of Washington D.C. Filled with art and antiques, it had its own little village outside the gates. This is the story of the people who lived there, the people who visited, the magnificent parties, the good times and the bad. It’s a little look into the lives of the ultra rich in the early Twentieth Century. And it is the story of how, eventually, the family struggled to maintain the very, very expensive castle.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 9.26.17

Posted in adult, history, nonfiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales – Emily Jenkins

Brave Red, Smart FrogFrom the publisher:

There once was a frozen forest so cold, you could feel it through the soles of your boots. It was a strange place where some kisses broke enchantments and others began them. Many said witches lived there — some with cold hearts, others with hot ovens and ugly appetites — and also dwarves in tiny houses made of stones. In this icy wood, a stepmother might eat a girl’s heart to restore her own beauty, while a woodcutter might become stupid with grief at the death of his donkey. Here a princess with too many dresses grows spiteful out of loneliness, while a mistreated girl who is kind to a crone finds pearls dropping from her mouth whenever she speaks. With empathy and an ear for emotion, Emily Jenkins retells seven fairy tales in contemporary language that reveals both the pathos and humor of some of our most beloved stories. Charming illustrations by Rohan Daniel Eason add whimsical details that enhance every new reading.

Succinct.  My best word to describe this collection of fairy tales.  There are so many fairy tale retellings, and elaborations, some quite loosely based on a fairy tale that the brevity here took me by surprise.  But I liked it.  Just the facts, ma’am, but written so clearly with wit and brilliance that the characters are incredibly well drawn with the fewest of pages.  Great for those that have passing knowledge of fairy tales and excellent for those that want to get back to the true tale.

eGalley review                                          Publication date 9.5.17

Posted in folklore, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Slider – Pete Hautman

sliderFrom the publisher:

David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally put $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan. Master talent Pete Hautman has whipped up a rich narrative shot through with equal parts humor and tenderness, and the result is a middle-grade novel too delicious to put down. 

This quick read is chockfull of relatable characters including tight friendships and a caring family.  While David’s story appears to center around competitive eating and a glimpse of what that entails, it really brings out the caring relationship that David has with his autistic brother.  In many ways, he deals better with his brother than his parents.  David has a big heart, a responsible ethic combined with a great sense of humor that makes this read so very enjoyable.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                       Publication date 9.12.17

Posted in gentle reader, highly recommend, realistic fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

A Column of Fire – Ken Follett

A Column of FireTo say that Margery was upset would have been an understatement. She was livid and angrily refused to marry Bart Shiring. Sure, he was the son of the Earl, but he was also was a stupid bore. She loved Ned Willard and he had returned to Kingsbridge after tending to his family’s business abroad for a year. She and Ned would run away and marry if necessary. But when the Bishop of Kingsbridge insists that it was God’s will for Margery to obey her parents, she consents and marries Bart. Devastated by the loss of his love and the loss of his family’ business, Ned leaves Kingsbridge and seeks employment in the service of the young Princess Elizabeth.

This is a broad, sweeping novel, Book III in the Pillars of the Earth series. But it is not a novel of Kingsbridge, and is very different from the first two, taking the reader from England to Spain to France, Holland, and the Caribbean. There are many well defined characters, all swirling around Ned Willard, who became part of Queen Elizabeth’s secret service. The focus is the religious conflict in many countries, struggles between Protestants and Catholics, between tolerance and repression. It’s a huge book with many story lines, but I found it a relatively quick read, since I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t like it as much as the Pillars of the Earth, but I liked it a lot. It’s a must read for Follett fans, and readers new to Follett will also enjoy this excellent historical novel.

eGalley review                                       Publication date 9.12.17

Posted in adult, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,