Friday, April 18, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate Book Three: Blameless

Blameless is the third book in the adult, steampunk, comedic supernatural series The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger.

Have you read Soulless and Changeless? If not – LOOK AWAY! Close this window, seriously! I do not want to be the cause of your spoilers.

Or read those reviews, instead.

Only continue reading my review of Blameless if you’ve read up to this point in the series. GOT IT?

Last warning…

Alexia, Lady Maccon, has returned home to her dreadful family. Everyone is astir, and then when the gossip comes out – as to why she is no longer living at Woolsey with her husband and his werewolf pack… well, it’s the scandal of the London season.

Having little experience defending herself when she is actually innocent, Alexia finds herself both numbed by her husband’s rejection and also terribly angry.

How dare he?!?

Of course, it may indeed be a fact that there is no known werewolf-sired pregnancy – as werewolves are technically dead – in all of their genealogy. Certainly that may lead others to believe Alexia was untrue to her husband in causing this infant-inconvenience…

But for Lord Maccon to believe such a thing himself?!?

Then the word spreads quickly enough for Queen Victoria to dismiss Alexia from her role in the Shadow Council, Lord Akeldama is missing after offering her a far better residence than her irritating blood relatives, and she is assaulted by murderous mechanized ladybugs.

Altogether, life is not good for Alexia currently.

Apparently, Lady Maccon’s delicate condition is of concern to the vampires. She flees to Italy to learn more about her own preternatural history and an explanation for what everyone believes is an impossible pregnancy.

Yet in Italy there are Templars… and despite their rather hilarious decision to wear nightgowns over their clothing, they seem quite dangerous...

Golly do I love these characters.

Was I happy with Lord Maccon at the beginning of Blameless? Quite not!! I was still smarting over the terrible surprise ending of Changeless. And so is Alexia, poor witty thing.

But danger is afoot almost immediately – and only in such a way as Gail Carriger can imagine it!

Without giving away too much, I will say that this third installment of The Parasol Protectorate is just too delightful, whimsical and amusement inducing! Despite missing the interaction between Conall and Alexia dearly, the happenings in Italy are both hysterical and intriguing.

There are most definitely some major bombshells and developments in Blameless!

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that only during Blameless did I make the link to Genevieve in The Parasol Protectorate to Genevieve in The Finishing School books! Wow, was I slow on the uptake there?! But what an awesome link!

Blameless
is a fun, joyful, entertaining third book. As it was a bit more frustrating (that darn stubborn werewolf Lord Maccon!!), on Goodreads you may notice I gave this one 4 stars instead of 5. But, really, I am no less a fan – and no less eager for the last two books!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tandem

Tandem is a YA contemporary sci-fi novel featuring the concept of parallel worlds by Anna Jarzab.

Sixteen year old Sasha has long gotten over her diehard crush on popular yet nice senior Grant. Yet when he out-of-the-blue strikes up a conversation with her – at the library no less – her heart can’t help but go-a-thumping.

When he states interest in taking her to the prom, Sasha can hardly believe it – but Grant is believable and seems to really like her – despite how invisible she’s felt for so long.

Of course it was all too good to be true.

Stories of parallel worlds where an alternate Sasha is living an alternate life were fairy-tales to Sasha’s as she grew up with her theoretical physicist grandfather after her parents’ death when she was young.

Now? All too real.

Sasha is thrust into an alternate universe in which the other version of herself is a princess that has vanished less than two weeks before her arranged marriage to a rival country’s prince.

And now Sasha is expected to pretend to be her until they can find the real princess.

The problem is the princess version of Sasha is in serious danger, which means that Sasha is now a target…

Tandem is the first in what is called the Many-Worlds Trilogy.

When we first meet Sasha, my first impression was, “Yay! She’s a book lover!”

Unfortunately that delight didn’t last all that long…

The whole beginning, to me, didn’t make any sense when I looked back on it later. Without giving away too much, I feel that the way Sasha was brought into the alternate world was sort of pointless and unnecessarily complicated. Maybe I missed something, but that just seemed weird to me.

Now, Sasha’s fight for survival and return to her own world was refreshing in the sense that she didn’t just give up or believe every word she was fed – yet the self-pitying, negative first-person narrative got old pretty fast for me.

Ordinarily I am ALL FOR ALTERNATE UNIVERSES. I am a huge fan of TV shows like Fringe, and find the whole concept fascinating as a storytelling device. However, I found the way Tandem went about introducing and explaining it odd and strangely stale.

Then, on top of all that, the romantic elements felt both forced and rushed. I eventually just had to start skimming it, and found that by the end I was only vaguely interested in what would happen in the next book.

Keep in mind, Tandem has many positive reviews and I may be in the minority in my opinion. So, as always, read it for yourself!

For my part, I found the court intrigue, romance and swapped identities far more believable, interesting and suspenseful in The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate Book Two: Changeless

Changeless is the second book in Gail Carriger’s alternate-Victorian, steampunk, comedic adult paranormal series The Parasol Protectorate.

If you haven’t read book one, Soulless, I recommend reading my review from last Friday and getting on that stat!!!

There will be inadvertent, unavoidable spoilers of the first book if you continue reading – so please stop now unless you have read the delightful first book. Got it?

Final warning… SERIOUSLY.

Now as Lady Woolsey, Alexia Maccon finds herself the Alpha female of a werewolf pack. She has resigned herself to the fact that this is met with many tribulations, such as an inordinate amount of nudity due to werewolves changing to human form, etc.

An English lady of delicate sensibilities should not have to surrounded by such improper supernatural realities.

Yet Alexia always was made of sturdier stuff.

Her new life also means occasionally being awakened by her brash werewolf husband. Such as this morning when he is angrily yelling at a ghost who is, to be honest, just the messenger.

And then he leaves without a word.

Alexia finds herself left with questions, a regiment of paranormal soldiers encamped on her lawn and the news that something has somehow caused a large area of London’s supernatural creatures to simply stop being supernatural.

Alarming, to say the least.

Determined to get to the bottom of this, Alexia arms herself with a trusty parasol, her sharp etiquette and far more ladies than preferable on a dirigible trip to uncivilized Scotland.

Maybe she’ll even find her husband.

Changeless was immediately off to a great, fun, makes-me-grin start.

“Lady Maccon”!! Werewolf pack! Sauciness! Oh my!!!

Not only do I adore the main characters, but I am also very, very fond of the secondary characters – such as Professor Lyall, Ivy, and Lord Akeldama.

Changeless also provided some connections to The Finishing School books as we see peeks at Sidheag and Niall – I will not provide more details because they could potentially be spoilers. But I will say I love the allusions to Sidheag’s finishing school days, and the fact that some of my suspicions appear to be true.

Changeless is unsurprisingly lots and lots of fun with humor, mystery, romance, and just enough scandalizing scenes to keep you on the flirty, feisty edge!

But… what an end!!! Ack!!!!!

Thank goodness I have the whole series!!!!!!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Inhuman

Inhuman is a YA futuristic sci-fi dystopian novel by Kat Falls, and the first in the Fetch series.

After a biological disaster has left all of the United States east of the Mississippi River blocked off by a huge, sprawling wall life is completely different.

Time has passed and Lane McEvoy does not know anything different. But there is that stomach churning fear and curiosity over what lies on the other side of the wall. A place now called the Feral Zone, where the millions of people infected with a virus have been mutated into bloodthirsty savages.

Curiosity can truly kill you though – punishment for violating the border is execution.

But when Lane is faced with the knowledge that someone she loves has passed the wall – and she’s tasked with bringing them back she sees just how unprepared she is to travel through the Feral Zone.

Will her humanity prove to be her strength… or her downfall?

My synopsis may not do the plot of Inhuman justice, but I definitely didn’t want to give too much away.

Inhuman is an action-packed, fascinating adventure story about Lane, whom I liked very much. She’s smart and compassionate.

This is a new sort of post-apocalyptic story. I appreciated that everyone isn’t crazy, which to me is more realistic. There’s a level of civilization amidst the disaster, but also those moments of horror and fear.

As a journey across an unknown land it’s incredibly suspenseful and interesting.

The secondary characters, also romantic interests, were well written. One of them, Rafe, was a bit course and at times truly unlikable. Yet he did grow on me. Another was Everson who I liked from the start and enjoyed in scenes very much.

Regarding the more romantic elements of Inhuman, the least mature moments of the book were when, through Lane’s first person narration, we learn of the boys’ “washboard abs”. Usually it’s done with a tad of humor, thank goodness, but still one of my least liked parts of the writing. However, for my part, Kat Falls did manage to provide two male romantic interests that I had a hard time choosing between!

I truly enjoyed the slow, nerve-wracking introduction into the Feral Zone and the United States made wild. It became surprisingly romantic, increasingly creative, and later on horrifyingly sad. In other words, very affective. Oh, golly.

I definitely want more. There’s so much I’m not telling you – you need to read it ASAP!!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate Book One: Soulless

Soulless is the first in Gail Carriger’s alt-Victorian England steampunk humorous paranormal adult series The Parasol Protectorate.

I was recommended this book by a friend before I even had gotten a chance to read Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage (first book in the YA series The Finishing School that takes place in the same universe as The Parasol Protectorate). Once I’d read that and the second book in that series, Curtsies & Conspiracies, I knew I definitely wanted to read this series.

So, I took a leap, and bought the box set of all five books in this series at a good price.

A case of the Amazon.com bibliophile trigger finger, if you know what I mean.

Twenty-five year old Alexia Tarabotti has been ruled a spinster. She has many marks against her in English society. Her father is both Italian and dead – and she’s inherited his darker coloring and more exotic looks.

She also has no soul.

Not that that is any one’s business, of course. Only the paranormal society of werewolves and vampires and Queen Victoria herself know this, and prefer to keep it quiet.

Because this particular ailment is very, very rare and cancels out supernatural abilities when she touches them. The general public has accepted werewolves and vampires, but would they accept someone having no soul at all? They’d just rather keep it hush-hush.

While at a private ball, and quite bored, Alexia steps into another room for a snack – as fare was promised but not delivered and that, in Miss Tarabotti’s opinion, is disgraceful to someone with her appreciation for food.

Within moments a vampire completely lacking in normal vampiric niceties and decorum attempts to attack her, and, well…

She accidentally kills him.

Lord Maccon, the large, undeniably attractive, booming and uncouth werewolf investigator, is sent to investigate. Before she knows it, Alexia finds herself wrapped up in a mystery in which unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing.

Finally she has something interesting to do…

Soulless started quick, fun and instantly felt fresh and inventive.

With the quick swooping in of gorgeous Lord Maccon, there’s definitely sexual tension that sizzles cheerfully early on. And the jovial absurdity that I found in The Finishing School series thus far is most definitely evident.

I find the supernatural politics and protocol (such as vampires living in a “hive” with a “queen” and “drones”) quite fascinating. And Alexia’s ability is unusual in its negating of the paranormal beings is different.

Soulless is addictive, fun, spicy and oh-so-quotable. It’s spirited, sexy in a light, amusing way, witty, clever and ENTERTAINING. With bright, interesting characters and an unusual plot (plus hot supernatural romance and steampunk, thankyouverymuch), I loved it from start to finish!!!

This is the type of book you just have FUN reading. Even though the more, ahem, indelicate scenes do pepper the novel a tad, the comedy in them and lack of excessive detail made them bearable to me beyond just feeling, well, distasteful as most of those less proper scenes usually do.

I was immediately ready for book two and happy I had it at the ready!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Burn

Burn is the third and final novel in the YA post-apocalyptic Pure trilogy by Julianna Baggott.

Being that this is an ambitious, complex, rewarding trilogy – if you haven’t read Pure and Fuse already, you definitely need to! This review will hold inadvertent spoilers of those first two books, so you’ll want to avoid this review and click on the above titles to learn more about the prior novels first.

Got it?!

But if you have already read Pure and Fuse, then you can obviously continue!

Partridge has inherited leadership over the Dome – an enclosed refuge among the ruins of what once was our world – after the death of his father.

The inhabitants, soaking in their denial that has become ingrained over the years, wish to mourn him.

But Partridge wants to expose his secrets, instead. He wants to unite the Dome and its “Pure” inhabitants with the disfigured, fused “Wretches” on the outside.

The ones that had been left to die all those years ago.

His new position of power, however, is not as powerful as he thought. And his resolve is dangerous…

Outside of the Dome, Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan and his fused brother Helmud face a journey that is treacherous and conflicting.

On the one hand, they may hold the solution to healing the Wretches with the help of the technology and knowledge inside the Dome.

On the other hand, they may have an option to bring down the Dome and force the Pure to breathe the same air of toxins and dirt that the Wretches have had to live through – and hold the citizens accountable for their crimes.

One way or another – everything is going to change…

Since I read Pure, I’ve been a fan. Julianna Baggott truly has created one of the most transfixing, sprawling post-apocalyptic worlds I’ve ever read. It’s done on such an epic, vast scale – and very well done at that.

The plot moves at a fast yet purposeful pace in Burn. Inside the Dome, as Partridge takes his first steps towards making the Dome face the truth, the rise in suicides is disquieting.

Burn is suspenseful with ever creepy post-apocalyptic creatures and difficult moral decisions. There’s a level of humanity, both flaws and hopes, which brings a relativity and down to earth vibe to the horrors.

As it continued, I could not imagine how everything could be wrapped up in such a short span of pages! It’s crazy nerve-wracking, with twists and turns left and right!

With big revelations, sometimes on an intimate, quiet level, Burn fulfills its promise to be a stunning conclusion.

When I closed Burn, I wanted more. More details, more surety.

Yet with the ambiguity comes a beauty.

I look forward to reading the trilogy again in the future and re-savoring the “WOW” that it is.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Lost Kingdom

The Lost Kingdom is a middle grade historical adventure by Matthew J. Kirby.

In colonial times, Billy Bartram has received the invitation he has waited for years to hear – an invitation to join his father on one of his expeditions into the immense American wilderness, utilizing his excellent sketching skills to find and log their botany discoveries.

However, Billy quickly learns this is not just a botany excursion, but that his father is a member of the American Philosophical Society backed by none other than Benjamin Franklin. Billy will be joining his father on a voyage to locate the lost kingdom of the Welsh prince Madoc alongside a secret organization of academics and scientists.

As their purpose is to seek aid in the coming war with the French, their journey is fraught with danger as they set off via flying aeroship.

And there may be a traitor in their midst…

I very much enjoyed Matthew J. Kirby’s previous works The Clockwork Three and Icefall, so I was looking forward to this.

The Lost Kingdom does not have as much of a steampunk vibe as I expected, but it was never boring. It just felt rather, I’m sad to say, ho-hum for me… It began to pick up momentum as the expedition began, but the plot itself fell sort of flat.

There are great themes of bravery and overcoming prejudice in The Lost Kingdom, but in my personal opinion that needed sense of adventure and excitement just wasn’t there.

As a main character, Billy was likable and he comes into his own opinions and beliefs as he takes this expedition, which was admirable.

In the Author’s Note at the end of The Lost Kingdom, I was interested in how Billy and his father were based on real-life people. The historical aspects of the book are pretty cool, and are given a slight fantasy fiction.

Unfortunately, I was just okay with The Lost Kingdom. It was in no way a bad or poorly written book, it just did not do much for me either way…

Maybe you’ll disagree!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Goddess

Today's post is in remembrance of Rusty - our nearly 16 year old cat that died in my arms yesterday at 4:38pm. His loss is felt deeply with a hollowness in our heart. As a little guy, he used to love me reading him Harry Potter out loud and for years he was fascinated watching me rearrange my books. His sweetness was of cheerfulness and love and he is missed terribly. We love you, Rusty.

Goddess is a YA modern-day Greek mythology supernatural novel and the final book in Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy.

As a major fan of both the first two books, Starcrossed and Dreamless, I was very excited to read Goddess. Bet you can guess what I’m going to say…

Do NOT read this review until you have read both of the above mentioned books!!! Click on their titles to read those reviews, but avoid this one to avoid spoilers! Got it? Promise?!? Okay.

Fans/readers of the first two books may now proceed –

After a bloody, torturous, horrifying confrontation with a minor god, Helen is now facing many unsettling facts.

One is that she inadvertently caused the separate Scion houses to unite – meaning war and devastation as the gods can now return to wreak havoc on humanity.

Second is that after that terrifying moment with Orion and Lucas in the cave, they became blood brothers – and she now has more powers than ever before.

This revelation is creating a divide between her and her friends, especially as the Oracle warns that the Tyrant lurks in their midst and all fingers appear to be pointing to Orion – whom Helen refuses to believe would ever turn against them.

As the war that has been building over centuries finally comes to a boiling point, Helen knows that just as the original Face played a vital role – so she does here as well.

Before reading Goddess I re-read Starcrossed and Dreamless, and just as the first times I read them, I loved them. And my, is the end of Dreamless intense!!!

Goddess was riveting and engrossing from start to finish. I missed some of the lighter moments, the humble personality of Helen suffered a bit from all she’s undergone and we got a lot less of Helen’s kick-butt best friend Claire and her sweet, awesome dad.

However, this is an epic conclusion to a trilogy about Greek mythology – so I had to trade my love of the more fun interpersonal relationships for the more dramatic, life/world-changing finale stuff.

There were some shocks that were quite impressive, some rather depressing turns of events, and flat-out romantic moments. I can’t say I felt the Goddess met all my expectations – sometimes I felt it could’ve used more time to introduce and blend some newer characters in a less rushed way and that Helen could’ve used a bit more development involving the changes she went through – but I can’t say it wasn’t an entertaining, great end.

Perhaps a re-read in the future would lead me to love it even more.

What I will say, though, is that the final epilogue? LOVED it.

Really, overall, I thought Goddess was pretty fantastic and completed an amazing trilogy!!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Princess in the Opal Mask

The Princess in the Opal Mask is a YA historical fantasy by Jenny Lundquist.

Just as with Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy, this novel has a sense of a fairy-tale, of a fantasy, but does not actually feature any magic or enchantments. Somehow we all put it in the fantasy genre anyway; I suppose because it just has that vibe and time period sense.

Anywho, I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Let me tell you a little about it, hmm?

Princess Wilhamina, since she was introduced to the kingdom of Galandria as an infant, has always worn a mask. Over the years this has caused rumors to rampage from speculating that she must be horrendously ugly, that a look upon her face blesses others, or the one that speaks to Wilha’s deepest personal fears – that those who look upon Wilha’s face die.

Wilha herself does not know why she must always wear a mask, but she has learned to stop asking…

Elara, orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, has spent her life becoming numb. Living with the cruel Ogden family, Elara has endured things that have left her broken off mentally from others – and no longer able to connect to the one friend she did have.

Elara desperately wants to know the truth of her identity and escape from her surroundings, and she’ll use her dagger if she has to.

As talk of war or peace between Galandria and long-time nemesis of the kingdom Kyrenica increases, Wilha and Elara unknowingly are led to meet. And when they do, everything changes.

There is a chance for both to possibly improve their futures – but there are risks.

There are choices…

When I went into The Princess in the Opal Mask, I admit it – I didn’t expect that much. That sounds terrible, but sometimes as a bibliophile you can get a little jaded.

It only took a handful pages to turn that thinking around.

Initially I was unsure of the writing quality, but then the utter hostility of Galandria’s people and the sad mystery of the princess constantly wearing a mask intrigued me and added to an edgy grit that The Princess in the Opal Mask quickly proved to have.

Then I was caught.

There is a LOT of questions and secrecy, and I have to say – it worked for me.

I liked the romantic element of both characters, and with time came to appreciate both Wilha and Elara – despite Elara’s acidity and hardness due to the life she’s endured. There was some heavy character development here, which I really, really valued.

The Princess in the Opal Mask has a ton of danger, conspiracies and intrigue going on. Mix that in with convincing bitterness, resentment and cruelty done very well and we have a plot that is sharp and stinging both on a personal and epic level.

I came to care for both Wilha and Elara and be in deep suspense as we followed their switching narrative voices. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m being purposefully vague – but please believe me when I say it was awesome.

The Princess in the Opal Mask is engrossing, addictive, gripping and surprising. I LOVED IT!!!

Happily, there is a sequel mentioned to be released Fall 2014.

I want it ASAP!!! Hopefully you’ll feel the same.

I think you will.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Heart's Rebellion

A Heart’s Rebellion is a Regency-era Christina romance by Ruth Axtell.

Jessamine Barry has spent years of her life loving a man that was almost hers – only to have her hopes dashed when he fell in love with another woman.

Well, she’s done with that.

The patient, dutiful personality that caused her to waste time on a man that clearly didn’t have enough love for her to stop him from falling passionately for another is no longer wanted in her opinion.

Instead, Jessamine would like to be the kind of woman that is the recipient of that ardent desire, that allure that some women seem to have.

That’s why when Lancelot Marfleet, second son of an aristocrat, appears to take an interest in her during the London season, she doesn’t consider him a suitor. He’s too much of a respectable cross between her former beloved and her father.

She wants zeal and intrigue, and to be the sort of woman to inspire it…

But will that sort of life truly give Jessamine what she wants?

Anymore I tend to be leery when I go into historical romances. So often they are drowned in descriptions of the leads’ feelings for each other, or their dislike of each other colored by unwanted attraction.

It can get old… And it makes me sad, because I so very much want a good historical Christian romance.

Well, I am happy to say that A Heart’s Rebellion was great!!!

I wanted more than a cookie-cutter romance, and Ruth Axtell provided. First off, I was heartened by accounts of beauty and appearances kept to a minimum. Also, Lancelot’s unassuming personality and Jessamine’s hidden bitterness brought a grounded, different, relatedness to the two characters.

Instead of being instantly enamored with each other, they were just polite. There was a true lack of pretentiousness and forcefulness that I very, very much appreciated for this genre. Here we get character growth and individuality– instead of just the “love story”.

Finally it didn’t seem so cliché!!!

A Heart’s Rebellion has a much more paced, thoughtful romance – thank goodness! There are truly touching, moving moments involving life events and faith in God. It was really quite good – very, very good actually.

I couldn’t help thinking what a lovely movie/miniseries A Heart’s Rebellion would make if only done faithfully.

I am now far more willing to read more books by Ruth Axtell!

Now, if only Christian historical romances would quite having such corny sounding titles!!!

*I received a copy of A Heart’s Rebellion from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.