Friday, June 28, 2013

A Curse Dark as Gold


A Curse Dark as Gold is a YA historical fairy-tale retelling of Rumpelstiltskin by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

I know, I know. This book has been out there for a while. Well, if you’re like me and you haven’t had the chance to read it yet – here’s a great opportunity to learn more about it! And this blog has NEVER been about reviewing only new books – and this blog is getting back to its roots, remember?

Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie grieve their father’s death deeply – but Charlotte knows it is her duty, her place, to step up and take the reins of their family’s long-established woolen mill. Many employees depend on their wages at the mill, families in their small village have histories there – she would not give that up for anything.

Despite her young age and gender.

When more dire circumstances for the mill are introduced, however, Charlotte finds that she must get them out of debt. A deep debt that comes as a surprise, as their father took a loan they never told them about.

Her sister Rosie, pulling on the long held superstitions and belief in the strange of the town, arranges a meeting with a mysterious man who calls himself Jack Spinner. His bargain could possibly lift their mill out of possible ruin and provide a livelihood for her townspeople and security against their refined, regulatory uncle.

But at what cost?

Charlotte finds that just as things seem to be improving – she’s found love, some prosperity – those age-old whispers of curses at the mill are returning…

And turning straw into gold demands payment.

I loved A Curse Dark as Gold. Like really, really loved it!!!

Elizabeth C. Bunce has penned a sweeping, authentic, sensitive tale about two sisters determined to keep their family’s legacy alive – with character development and a true atmosphere of the time, which is roughly the late 1700s.

A soft romance that takes the novel into a cross-genre place and a dark, enigmatic, magical fairy-tale aspect that provides depth, suspense, and stakes to a classically eerie story of Rumpelstiltskin.

A Curse Dark as Gold is excellently historical, magnetic, and emotive – providing a sense of family, pride, and small towns in a vibrant, vivid manner. This novel really puts flesh and blood on a bare bones story.

Somehow each portion of the story feels like it has sufficient time to develop – no rushing, but no dull moments either. Just… loveliness. And the building plot reached a peak that did not disappoint – in fact it exceeded my expectations!

It’s creepy, spooky, and deeper than I expected it to be. Intense, emotional – I mean, WOW!!!

A Curse Dark as Gold is very, very cool. It was all I hoped for and more! A book that can easily be read by any age and enjoyed – and wonderfully, wonderfully written!

So – read it!!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tales of the U'tanse


Tales of the U’tanse is a YA sci-fi novel, and follow-up to Star Time, by Henry Melton.

Now, to get the full impact of this book it’s best to read Star Time first – then Melton takes off on two separate branches: Earth and otherwise. This is the latter, but you can find the next story for the former in Kingdom of the Hill Country.

So, best to look away if you haven’t read Star Time yet!

When the Cerik attempted to raid the supernova-damaged Earth, they were unsuccessful. Yet before departing back to their home planet, the leader snatched two humans – hoping to breed a new race of slaves to replace those they’d killed off in a fit of rage.

Those two were Abe and Shannon, both gifted in their own way. But they had no intention of creating children that would be enslaved.

So, Shannon, using her psychic gifts, helps to make sure that the generations of new humanity have powers that will be absolutely necessary to their survival… against masters that are unpredictably violent.

In Tale of the U’tanse we primarily follow three people – James, Karl, and Debbie – who are essentially three generations and who are faced with decisions regarding the continuation, health, and success of their race.

The initial book, Star Time, was fantastically original and imaginative. This continuing story on the human race growing on another planet is interesting, thought-out and smart – but not always as engrossing as I wanted it to be. Not as riveting as Star Time for me.

Henry Melton has truly brilliant concepts and ideas that he presents here, and he makes sci-fi almost seem plausible! But for some reason I just occasionally felt a bit disconnected to some of these characters – I didn’t feel the investment that I felt for Abe and Shannon with these new people.

Yet, read as a whole – and with more coming – I see The Project Saga series as an epic tale unfolding – and I appreciate that. It’s quite something, and any sci-fi fan should read it for him/herself!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters


Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters is a historical horror YA novel by Suzanne Weyn.

In 1815 twin sisters Ingrid and Giselle are notified of their father Victor Frankenstein’s death. They have never known him, as he disappeared shortly after their birth and mother’s death, but he has left them a large inheritance and a castle on a remote isle.

Though close, the seventeen-year-old twins are very different. Giselle has thoughts of glamorous parties to bring life to the dark, sprawling castle, whereas Ingrid’s more intellectually interested mind becomes fascinated with the journals penned by their father and his fascinating experiments.

In fact, upon meeting a cantankerous, lonely, wounded naval officer next door, Ingrid begins to wonder if she could perfect some of her father’s brilliant ideas to help her neighbor… whom she is becoming more and more fond of.

Rumors of Victor Frankenstein’s madness, of his obsession with an idea that a thing was hunting him to his dying day, haunts the sisters as they try to make a happy life with their new monetary independence. Yet a silent and sinister force seems to inhabit the area as the daughters of Frankenstein make a home of the castle…

I’ll admit that I was initially worried when I went to read Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters. Why? Because I’m never quite sure what I’ll get from Suzanne Weyn. I felt that Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic was quite good, but really did not care for Invisible World: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials much at all.

Happily, Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters may be my favorite of hers yet!

I’ve never read Frankenstein, but of course I have a good, general idea of the story.

Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters is a creepy, twisted, atmospheric tale that takes a spin on the classic in what, to me, feels like a naturally gothic horror way. It has that eerie, ominous vibe that makes the early 1800s time period less witty and fun (which is what I usually like and enjoy – hello Jane Austen!) but instead very, very hair-raising.

Here we get romance, suspense, murder and mayhem! There’s definitely a strong macabre, perverse story here that is ghoulishly engaging and entertaining to read, while also being truly startling! Without giving anything away, I’ll say that I was shocked by an unforeseen revelation that, to me, brought Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters to a higher level!

I have to say – this was unexpectedly awesome!!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Dead and Buried


The Dead and Buried is a YA supernatural/horror mystery by Kim Harrington.

Jade knew that moving into the large, beautiful house seemed outside of her family’s ordinary budget, but she was distracted with happy thoughts of going to a high school with more than just a few classmates to think too much about it.

But when her first day gets interrupted by whispers and awkward silences, especially one involving a guy with killer blue eyes that was shyly friendly until clamming up at the knowledge of her new address, Jade knows something is going on.

Then Jade’s little brother starts telling her about a girl he sees in his room.

It doesn’t take long for the truth the come out.

The house was affordable because a teenage girl died in it last year.

A popular, gorgeous girl who ruled the school and was dating the guy with killer blue eyes the time of her untimely death.

And now the house is haunted.

Jade soon finds out that this dead girl wasn’t very nice in life… and definitely isn’t in death…

I absolutely adored Kim Harrington’s Clarity books: Clarity and Perception. I still can’t help but hope there will be more featuring that awesome character that reminded me of a psychically gifted Veronica Mars. But in the meantime, I’ll take what I can get from the author!

The Dead and Buried was a diverting read for sure.

Jade is a nice, confident, self-assured lead with interests that are unique (always admirable to have characters that have hobbies outside of boy-craziness) and a tension with her stepmother that is believable. It gave a good depth to her.

I didn’t feel like The Dead and Buried was AS dynamic, funny and engrossing as the Clarity books, but there was a creepiness, romance, and intrigue all its own here. It’s an entertaining, spooky ghost story done well.

Maybe I just wanted a bit more, or maybe I just really wanted Clarity. But The Dead and Buried was still very, very good and I am still looking forward for more from Kim Harrington!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Without a Summer


Without a Summer is the third novel in the adult Regency-era magical/historical series The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Oh yeah - It’s also TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!

Because it is so awesome, you definitely don’t want to read them out of order. Here’s the order and the links to the reviews so you don’t spoil yourself here, if you haven’t read books one and two yet:

Shades of Milk and Honey
Glamour in Glass

And – truly – each one gets better and better!!!

Now, LOOK AWAY if you haven’t read BOTH of the previous novels. Immediately!!!

Okay then, for those who are all caught up with the books, here’s a vague synopsis:

Married glamourists Jane and Vincent have been taking a break from their international travels and visiting with Jane’s family when they receive a commission to work for a prominent London family. This gives Jane a great opportunity to pull her younger sister, melancholy-of-late Melody, out of quiet Long Parkmeade to give her a chance to meet far more eligible bachelors and get a bit more entertainment.

Yet, of course, things aren’t so simple once they reach London.

Abuzz with concern over the utter lack of regular summer weather, unemployment of coldmongers (glamourists that specialize only in keeping things cool), the suspicion that they have caused the frosty weather, and riots in nearby villages stemming from Luddites being concerned that their way of life is being taken away, Jane and Vincent realize the city is very tense at the moment.

So, besides trying to get Melody happily settled, Jane and Vincent also find themselves being pulled into an intrigue that may be of national proportions…

Oh. My. Goodness.

I love, love, LOVE this series!!! Without a Summer continues the trend of getting better and better with each outing!!!

A gorgeously rendered world made all the more delightful when filled with smart, witty characters like our hero and heroine, married couple Jane and Vincent! Like a magical Austen novel that continues beyond the wedding, I’m dazzled, engaged, and bewitched by Without a Summer and our sexy, intimate, loving leads!!!

A relationship made real by difficulties but made special by a solid foundation on friendship and respect, I’m in love with their love.

Without a Summer, like the previous two fantastic books in the series, has a delicately woven, intelligent plot that combines politics, light/naturalistic fantasy, family, and romance! It’s FANTASTIC!!!

We get to dive a bit more into Vincent’s dark past – and the revelations from that, among other things, causes a range of emotions in the reader (i. e. me). I was up and down, happy and sad, and most of the time just elated!

Why? Because Without a Summer is an excellent, fast-paced, suspenseful, surprising, makes-me-smile kind of read!!! And I am SO glad that there will definitely be a fourth book – though I am hopeful there will be many more after that!!!

Misunderstandings, mistakes, and TWISTS! Oh. My. Goodness.

LOVED. IT.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doublesight


Doublesight is a YA fantasy novel by Terry Persun.

In a world where people who can turn into animals are called doublesight, and humans without the ability fear them, murder seems to be the way to rid the land of the magic they cannot understand.

Zimp and Zora, twins, are of a tribe that turn into crows. After a brutal, sudden attack leaves her twin sister dead, Zimp finds that she has the responsibility to take her grandmother’s position in the tribe.

Never a leader, and haunted by grief, Zimp fights her destiny as rumors of doublesight slaughters throughout the land reach their ears.

A council assembles to assess the situation and five doublesight are sent to investigate, Zimp leading.

With the fate of her people resting on her reluctant shoulders, will Zimp be worthy of the task?

Doublesight had a bloody, distantly disturbing beginning with vivid images of crows morphing into humans as they fell, dying, from the trees.

The concept is original and grabbing, but the third person narration was difficult for me to connect with. Sadly, that was making it a sleepy read for me more often than not.

I based my decision on reading Doublesight on an endorsement quote from Janet Lee Carey. Her books have a lyrical, engrossing vibe to them – so I had hoped that her enjoyment of Doublesight would carry over to me. As I have learned, however, that is not always the case.

You know I’ve discussed it many times – we all have different tastes, different books stand out to different people. That’s why I NEVER want to encourage someone to not read a book. Here is a great example.

Doublesight, for me, would kind of fade in and out in interesting me. One second I would be sure I was ready to start skimming, that I was completely not invested. Then it would start to pick up for a chapter, events would absorb me a bit, only to fade back into the previous feel. Because of this, I did end up skimming a large portion of the novel.

In this instance, I felt that a really good book was in here somewhere. I almost wonder if another chance in the future would reveal something fantastic.

Because of this, I want to kind of reserve an opinion here. It was a bit gruesome in parts, that I know, but I feel like it could, possibly, be better than I gave it credit for.

So, do try it. I just struggled, for some reason, with finishing it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Not Exactly a Love Story


Not Exactly a Love Story is a 70s era YA coming-of-age novel by Audrey Couloumbis.

It’s 1977 and fifteen-year old Vinnie Gold is not loving the twists his life has been taking this year.

His acne is so bad that the dermatologist seemed frightened, his gal left for California without even a goodbye, his parent’s got divorced, so now he’s been moved to Long Island to a new home where his mom is now married to his – ack! – gym teacher!

Plus, he’s failing gym.

Yep, it’s been not so awesome.

Yet his silver lining is his gorgeous next-door-neighbor classmate Patsy.

Happenchance leads him to her phone number, and one night, late, he gathers the courage to call. But, of course, his nerves lead him to say the worst thing possible.

Somehow, though, it becomes a routine. Every night Vinnie calls Patsy, as his anonymous self, and he finds himself start to develop a tentative rapport with her. He’s more confident, he’s mysterious. He’s Vincenzo.

But the way he interacts (or actually does NOT interact) with Patsy in real life is a stark contrast. He wonders if he can ever confess who is and talk to her face-to-face…

Not Exactly a Love Story is fun, fast-paced and interesting – though I did feel that it lacked a BIG moment of coming-of-age poignancy or any kind of real momentous air. Yet, I can’t deny that I really liked Vinnie as a character.

He’s a nice guy, but not without flaws. What he’s dealing with at home is done with humor, but also just enough emotion to know that the changes hurt him. But he’s such a good guy, that he isn’t flipping out over it all. Too much.

Now, Patsy took me a lot longer to warm up to. Except for her looks, I couldn’t see the allure. Of course, that makes sense for an initial infatuation, and Vinnie isn’t shallow enough not to notice. With time, though, we get to slowly pull back more layers of Patsy as well.

So, really it had a good weight to it – even if I do think it could have been more.

Golly, have I been saying that a lot lately?

Anyway, late in the book there is a school dance that happily names some excellent 70s bands and music! However, I really did not feel the 70s vibe as strongly as I would have liked. Except for the absence of computers and cell phones, it wasn’t all that evident. That was kinda sad.

Not Exactly a Love Story is a sweet, funny, likable novel that may not necessarily blow your socks off, but will entertain you for a good few hours for sure! Check it out!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fire Chronicle


The Fire Chronicle is the second novel in the middle grade fantasy trilogy The Books of Beginning by John Stephens.

Of course, if you haven’t yet read The Emerald Atlas you may want to read last Friday’s review and avoid this one for the sake of possible spoilers. Agree?

All of you who have read The Emerald Atlas: Let’s talk about The Fire Chronicle, eh?

After an eventful time last winter, the wizard Stanislaus Pym decided to send the children back to the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans as a measure of protection.

Now that Kate is Keeper of the Emerald Atlas, and the three children have been identified as the children of a prophecy involving the Books of Beginning, they are in danger from some influential, powerful and dangerous people/creatures.

However, it appears their living among the ordinary didn’t quite do the trick of keeping their location secret.

When their enemies discover them, Kate utilizes the Atlas to do her part in saving her brother and sister and ends up stranded over one hundred years in the past – without a means of returning. It’s a tumultuous, important time for the magical community – and Kate finds herself getting involuntarily wrapped up in it.

Meanwhile, Emma and Michael find themselves on a quest to find the second of the Books of Beginning. Following clues, solving puzzles, and trying to stay one step ahead of those who would do anything to obtain it, the two must set aside their concern for Kate to try to prevent a disaster…

The Fire Chronicle was an excellent follow-up to The Emerald Atlas. Though I still didn’t feel like it was perfect, this second novel gave me some of what I was missing in the first book.

A broader sense of adventure was featured here with the foreign locales, clues, and chasing the promise of this second Book of Beginning. It was entertaining. Plus, Kate’s time in the past ends up having some significant meaning and impact on the future, which I found very compelling.

Now, like the first book, there are some moments that certain things feel familiar. Whether it’s Harry Potter or other novels, it would just have these phrases, plot turns or characters that seemed similar. That I didn’t like so much, even though I know it can be inevitable with the volume of books out there.

Yet, even so, I did find The Fire Chronicle to be an improvement on The Emerald Atlas. I now believe that as a complete whole, assuming that the third book (once it comes out) will continue this upward trend, this trilogy might be a truly quality, enjoyable fantasy story.

I liked it quite a bit!

Important News on the Bibliophile Support Group

Happy Monday, Fellow Bibliophiles!

June has come – and hopefully some warmer days and bluer skies with it, right?

I have an important update about the Bibliophile Support Group to share with you.

Before I give you the update, here’s some background that brought me to this decision:

After a rather tumultuous year, I now have a new job – full-time, of course – and it is a place I am happy to be, to grow, and to hopefully build a career in. Unlike some of my previous jobs, I will not have as much of an opportunity to read during my work day. Not that my lunch and relaxation breaks won’t be stuffed full of it, they will, but during my working hours I will be, well, working.

Over the last couple years, I have noticed more and more that I feel rushed when I’m reading. Before I started blogging more heavily, I never felt this way. Now, in the back of my mind I’m figuring out how behind I’ll be if I don’t finish this book by this time, etc. I haven’t reread a book in a long time, even when I really, really want to. Sometimes it really makes me sad.

At the same time, I love blogging – sharing my thoughts on books I’m reading is fun and gives me a foothold in a community that will always be my primary passion. So, stopping blogging would not only be irresponsible (I still have a gazillion books to review), but I would miss it dearly.

I just need to scale back. I hope you can understand this.

I do not want reading to feel like a chore, like a job. This is an absolute horror of a thought to me, as I’m sure you can appreciate.

So, my first step is to cut down on the amount of reviews I post. Instead of there being a new review every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – with sometimes two on Friday – it will a new review every Monday and Friday only – with an occasional Wednesday review.

From 3 to 4 reviews a week to 2 to 3.

Not a huge difference, but I’m hoping it’ll make positive changes in my reading life. If this still continues to be too much, I may cut down to only 1 to 2 a week, but we’ll not worry about that right now. I want to take it one step at a time. If that happens, I’ll let you know.

This does mean that my humungous, overwhelming piles (yes, that is plural) of To Be Reviewed books will take a little longer to get to, but I’m hopeful that every publisher, publicist and author who has been kind enough to send them can understand that I need to reduce the pressure and give myself time to truly enjoy and absorb these books – not to mention maybe watch a movie sometimes! Ha ha.

In the end, I don't want to pull my hair out because I get home from work and I'm so tired I can only read fifty pages. That's no fun, and I don't want it to be that way.

These changes go into effect immediately. I hope all of you wonderful followers and readers continue to read and enjoy my reviews and follow me into what I hope will be a much more relaxing year of reading for PLEASURE not obligation.

Thanks all!