Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Pelican Bride

The Pelican Bride is a Christian historical fiction novel by Beth White and the first in the Gulf Coast Chronicles.

In the 1704 Louisiana colony, the French stronghold on the land is wavering in the face of continual difficulties with the British and the Natives.

To help settle and civilize the large population of men in the colony, a frigate named the Pelican has come in from France with lovely, mannered young women as potential brides. On the Pelican are Genevieve and her sister Aimee.

Unlike the other girls who are primarily from a convent, Genevieve and Aimee are hiding their persecution from their outlawed beliefs and a tragic, haunting loss in France they hope to escape in the colonies.

Yet, as Genevieve finds herself drawn to Tristan – an exile mapmaker turned farmer – she comes to realize that even in this land of freedom, peace is not guaranteed. Nor can she practice her reformed beliefs without fear of suspicion.

Both inside and outside the fort, danger is looming – Genevieve and Aimee aren’t the only ones with a secret…

The Pelican Bride has multiple viewpoints, keeping it from a traditional romance – which I liked quite a bit. We get story and perspective from Genevieve, Tristan, Aimee and many other people that populate the colony or the wilds surrounding it. This made it feel fresher, and allowed for more plot.

There’s an edge to the story as some rather grisly backgrounds are revealed and/or hinted at. Along with the happily-not-forced romance, there’s suspense that creates a well-done political, historical thriller in The Pelican Bride. It has excellent historical detail, as well.

Beth White creates characters that have complicated personalities, pasts and motives. We see a darkness punctuating the novel, setting it apart from much of Christian fiction but grounding it more in less than pleasant reality – yet still making for an enjoyable read.

I really liked The Pelican Bride and am interested to continue the series as the next book comes out!

*I received a copy of The Pelican Bride from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Geography of You and Me

The Geography of You and Me is a YA contemporary novel by Jennifer E. Smith.

When a citywide blackout traps Lucy and Owen in their New York City apartment building elevator, the two previous strangers find they have nothing to pass the time but to talk.

And even after they’re rescued, neither of them having anyone waiting for them in their respective apartments, they find they’re drawn to each other’s company and spend the rest of the sweltering night wandering the dark streets and standing in awe of the stars in the sky – visible for once.

When the lights come back on, though, the dreamlike feeling of a comfortable conversation and magical chemistry fades to reality.

Lucy knows she needs to let her traveling parents know she’s okay, now that she has the ability to make that phone call. Owen needs to find his father and make sure he’s gotten home all right.

Before they know it, their lives are pulled apart just as swiftly as they were brought together for that memorable evening.

Lucy is summoned to join her parents abroad and Owen and his dad head out west.

Yet they can’t forget each other.

Despite the continuing travels of both, Owen sends Lucy postcards and Lucy sends Owen emails – both sporadic and punctured by “real-life” events, but momentous to both in a private way.

Is it possible they will ever reunite?

I’ve found Jennifer E. Smith to be a YA contemporary writer that I very much like. I’ve enjoyed The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like, and yet again she creates a movie-like story here with The Geography of You and Me.

In that one peaceful, memorable night our two main characters experience a connection that is simple yet powerful to both – both of whom are lonely in many ways. Their connection lingers past reason and distance.

I loved that both Lucy and Owen are wonderfully normal – lacking drama. They both have quiet, unassuming pains that they have to face – causing maturity and character growth.

There’s a nice romantic tension to The Geography of You and Me that doesn’t feel forced but has a nice cinematic “meant to be” vibe.

Definitely a worthy romantic contemporary YA novel, and keeps me interested in Jennifer E. Smith.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate, Book Four: Heartless

Heartless is the fourth novel in the hilarious, supernatural, alternate Victorian England steampunk adult series The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger.

All month long I’ve been posting reviews of this awesome series – and yet again I strongly recommend that you read the books IN ORDER and WITHOUT SPOILERS, which means if you haven’t read books 1 – 3, you really should not read my review of Heartless.

It’s all too much fun to ruin surprises! OKAY?!

When a ghost, barely holding on to her sanity, expresses that the Queen’s life may be being threatened amidst much illogical prattle, Alexia, soulless preternatural, is on the case.

She, along with her hulking werewolf husband Lord Maccon, attempt to follow the trail to disrupt the designs against the Queen – and Alexia finds that it leads to some revelations of her beloved’s shadowy past.

Meanwhile, Alexia finds herself dealing with a sister that suddenly has an interest in the suffragette movement, Madame Lefoux’s increasing enigmatic attitude and tired eyes, and zombie porcupines that deliver the latest assassination attempt on Alexia.

Oh, and she’s eight months pregnant.

Determined to forget about that last pickle as she toddles around quite irritated with her condition, Alexia is resolute in her investigation – waddling or not.

The Parasol Protectorate series is always fun, effervescent and the sit-back-and-enjoy type of books. Heartless continues that tradition – being humorous, gleeful, witty and wonderfully wordy.

Plus, the mystery is involving, supernatural AWESOMENESS. I mean, did you HEAR the part about the zombie porcupines?!?!? Too much fun!!!

There are enjoyable, surprising revelations – none of which I will tell you.

Now, would I prefer there to be maybe not so many different romantic inclinations? Yes. But the level of light-heartedness and warmth makes it more than bearable.

And the shocks are most excellent, on top of all the delightfully giggle-causing social niceties! The Finishing School books are going to be better than ever now – so much overlap in unexpected ways!

Not to mention the end of Heartless??

Awesome and fascinating!

Bring me book five!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Beauty So Rare

A Beauty So Rare is an adult Christian historical fiction by Tamera Alexander, and the second in the Belmont Mansion novels.

As is usually the case with Christian historical fiction trilogies or series – this book has a stand-alone story featuring its own characters, but there are overlap characters and tidbits of info from the first book that are more greatly appreciated when read in the correct order.

So, I still recommend reading A Lasting Impression first – which you can read my review of here.

This review will give nothing away of A Lasting Impression, however. So, you’re safe from spoilers!!

Eleanor Braddock – nearly thirty years old – had to come up with a plan.

Her father, once a prominent, intelligent, admired attorney, is ailing. Their money has been nearly completely depleted. Her mother has long since passed and her beloved brother died in the War Between the States.

Plain, tall and practical Eleanor has long accepted that she will never marry. She’s come up with a plan to save herself and her father’s livelihood – but it all depends on one thing.

Arriving at her aunt Adelicia’s sprawling, mesmerizing Belmont Mansion Eleanor knows she would be lost without her aunt’s generosity. Living with Adelicia, however, means living with the richest and possibly most demanding woman in America – let alone, Nashville.

Which will make her request all that much harder to pursue…

Marcus has been living life as a “normal” man in Nashville for a while now – following his passion for architecture and horticulture. He longs to combine the two by finally being able to build a structure of his own design – rather than the less expensive renovations that people are wanting in this time of economic struggle.

No one in Nashville knows the truth – that Marcus is actually Archduke Marcus Gottfried – royalty in Austria. He’s happily left behind that life – but only for a short time, as he knows loyalty and responsibility will call him to return to Austria by next summer.

Yet, when he meets Eleanor he finds in her an opportunity to pursue his dream.

And, for the first time, a building friendship that he savors. Never could he have imagined the feelings he is finding for a woman so unlike all of those he used to pursue during his shameful days in Austria.

Yet now, he can hardly see the plainness in her features that he first noticed…

I don’t want to give away more than that.

Tamera Alexander has long been one of my favorite Christina historical fiction authors – and she has kept that spot of regard after reading A Beauty So Rare.

Mmm, this was a good one!!!

First off, I loved that our heroine is plain and our hero very handsome. Happens so rarely in literature, movies, etc. Refreshing!

The difficulties facing Eleanor make her human and sympathetic. As those difficulties are delved into more and more – oh golly are they heartbreaking. Painfully so, in such a genuine, raw manner that offers no happily-ever-after answer.

As usual, Alexander pens refreshingly real characters with flaws, hopes, and a standing belief in God – that still needs strengthening, as is true of all of us.

A Beauty So Rare has dialogue that is smart, meaningful, lifelike and fun. Eleanor is quite humorous at times, and definitely an awesome, likable character. No simpering female here – she is opinionated, reasonable and kindhearted.

We get a plot that evolves and grows – mirroring the tender romance in A Beauty So Rare. There is definitely much more going on in the novel than JUST romance, which is always important to me, but the romance is done very, very well.

A Beauty So Rare is a highly satisfying, beautiful novel!

I’m looking forward to more from Tamera Alexander… hopefully soon!

*I received a copy of A Beauty So Rare from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Wolf Princess

The Wolf Princess is a middle grade contemporary fairy tale of sorts by Cathryn Constable.

Sophie, orphaned without a family and only a distant friend of her late father’s as a guardian, lives at a boarding school in London most of the time.

Yet she dreams of snow, of silver forests… of Russia.

Her friends, fashionable Delphine and academic Marianne, are the only things that make life at school pleasurable.

Yet Sophie’s mind still wanders to winter and log cabins warmed by a roaring fireplace…

When, as if by magic, Sophie and her friends are offered a trip to Russia she cannot believe it.

And then when a blizzard leaves the three abandoned and fearing for their lives, they are rescued by a lovely, regal, mysterious princess named Anna Volkonskaya who takes them to a magnificent, dream-like winter palace that is now in disrepair.

Among the wild white wolves and snowy surroundings, Sophie feels her dreams have come true.

But underneath she cannot help but wonder - why is she here? Has the princess truly rescued them… or placed them in more danger?

For some reason, before I read it, I had thought that The Wolf Princess took place in a different historical period and was actually more of a traditional, but new, fairy-tale.

Personally, I feel the cover supports that belief – but girls in contemporary times can wear dresses too, I suppose! Ha!

Anywho, as you bibliophiles know – when you’re expecting one thing and get another, it can be a little disconcerting. It can either be for the best… or not.

Sadly, I had a very tough time becoming involved in The Wolf Princess.

Just like in Tandem, I felt there was a level of self-pity to the main character – dare I say whininess? – that left me rather cold. I’m not saying being an orphan doesn’t mean you’ve had a tough time of it, but it just didn’t work in making me sympathetic.

Also, the plot was unbelievable without being entertaining to me. The characters didn’t feel fresh or captivating in any way. Sort of cookie cutter, floating blobs of cliché descriptive adjectives.

Just as with Tandem, The Wolf Princess has fans – and you should read it for yourself! Possibly younger girls may enjoy the twist of the story and find Sophie a likable protagonist.

On my end, I did end up having to skim it (I know!! But so many books, so little time!!!) and except for the glittering sense of winter and wolves, nothing felt truly distinct to me.

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!