In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.
It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.
And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.
But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
Let’s start off with a disclaimer: Tara’s agent is one of my very good friends and she was nice enough to lend me an ARC for review, but that in no way affected the honesty of my review or my enjoyment of the book. In some ways, it added a lot of pressure!! Luckily, I needn’t have worried- I loved everything about this book and was pulled in from the very first page.
The writing is superb and I love the alternate London with its steampunk elements. It wasn’t too different, just different enough. I loved the historical details. And I love the mythology behind the clocks and clock spirits! The short interludes with mythology were wonderful and it showed another layer of Sims’ writing and imagination.
Most of all, I loved the characters, especially Danny. They felt so alive and richly drawn. Poor Danny, with the weight of the world crushing his shoulders. His home life is a bit of a shambles, but he loves his apprenticeship, even if most people dislike how fast he’s climbed the ranks- he can’t help that he’s so talented and unique. The fact that he could repair time was such a great addition. He’s stubborn and determined, and has a bit of a Potter streak to him when it comes to solving mysteries and sticking his nose where it might not belong. But he’s endearing and I love his friendship with Cassie. And Colton is quite the cinnamon roll! He’s such a bittersweet character, this spirit pulsing with energy and warmth who loves his clock tower but who wants to experience life (and love) outside his tower.
And the rooooomance!! Ahh! Colton and Danny’s relationship was so great, very Casper in some ways, and very sweet despite the myriad of obstacles (with lots of kissing!). In fact, Danny kisses and flirts more than I expected in this book, and it is excellent. There aren’t any triangles but sometimes you kiss the wrong person before you get to kiss the right one, especially when said person is a spirit. I liked that Danny’s sexuality was part of his story but not the crux of his story.
The action really ramps up in the second half and it’s all very exciting and tragic. I couldn’t imagine how the book was so long and part of a series, but now I already want more! The pacing was excellent and it felt magical and charming. There’s so much to this world and these characters. I’ve only read The Archived but I can see fans of Victoria Schwab loving this, along with fans of historical fiction mixed with a bit of fantasy, adventure, friendship, and swoony lovely ships :D
A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.
March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.
June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.
Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail,Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.
Letters From Skye was unbearably lovely from the very first page. I loved that it was written all in letters, and that it still managed to be a dual timeline novel. That seems tricky! It made the book focused while still remaining detailed within the letters themselves. The voices were so distinct and I loved the unraveling of the mystery and the blossoming of the romance. It’s a wonderful, quick read that is emotional and thought provoking (I almost cried a couple times), while the early letters contain quite a bit of humor. The story is very charming, full of family relationships & friendships, as well as romance. I highly recommend for historical fiction fans.
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.
Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.
For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…
I was beyond grateful and excited when I recived this series in the mail from Berkley publishers. I’d heard so many people just losing their minds over it. So I was ready to join in the fun. :)
Captive Prince started out really strong for me. I was instantly intrigued by this Prince (Damen) who was being carted away as a slave and being delivered into the hands of another Prince (Laurent). These guys aren’t friends, btw. Damen killed Laurent’s brother, so he’s always been out for his head, but when they finally come face to face with Damen as a slave, Laurent doesn’t know that he’s looking at his brother’s killer. Or does he?! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
I was warned that this series would be “pretty dark with some serious sexual slavery portrayals” and it was! And I think a lot of the reason why this book is my lowest rated in the series is because I felt too much time was focused on showing us how bad it was for slaves in Laurent’s kingdom when what I really wanted was just a lot of Damen and Laurent period. But I get that why it was set up this way.
Also, expect nothing to happen between these two. Settle in for the long haul. They have a lot of crap between them before anything romantic or physical can happen between the two of them.
I was worried that since I didn’t love this book I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the series, so I continued on with tamped down enthusiasm….
With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.
Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…
Prince’s Gambit takes us out of the castle and into the lands and already I liked it so much better! For one, the Damen and Laurent pagetime increased, so YAY! Secondly, with their countries about to go to war, there’s so much scheming and stratergizing that goes on and I really loved that. It made it exciting again.
Something more was building between Damen and Laurent and tension started to get delicious. Will they, won’t they, WHEN, DAMMIT!! All I’ll say is, settle in for the long haul with these two, because the payoff will be worth it.
There’s also the question of will Damen reveal his identity to Laurent. It feels he’s on the cusp of it throughout the book and you won’t get an answer to that until the end either.
There’s this EPIC battle scene near the end that left me saying “whoa” and after it’s over EVERYTHING IS REVEALED! That was a scene I was so looking forward to and it left me so surprised. Definitly not what I was expecting, but in a good way.
Overall the second book made me excited to continue reading. It took away my worries that I wouldn’t enjoy the series after all.
His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.
On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor's forces are massing. In the north, the Regent's armies are mobilising for war. Damen's only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.
Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen's identity - can it stand against the Regent's final, deadly play for the throne?
I was a little nervous going in because I didn’t know how Damen and Laurent’s dynamic would be affected by everything being out in the open and oooooh, was it ever affected. But the best part is that even though they were at odds, they still had to work SO CLOSELY together in this one to get their countries in order and out of the hands of usurpers.
I loved that we got to see Laurent in situations where his true self could finally shine. Before this book he’d kept himself really private but I knew there was so much more to him and we finally got to see it. Damen on the other hand was always pretty much an open book throughout the series, aside from the hiding his identity thing. He never wavered, while Laurent wasn’t a sure thing. I always felt he was very cunning and would somehow betray Damen in the end. But I worried for nothing. These guys are loyal!
The ending was really gratifying and when I closed the book I was happy I’d read it and stuck with it. It’s been a very long while since I’ve binged a series like that.
Some general thoughts on the series as a whole that I wanted to mention:
So much of the story is Damen and Laurent and their quest to take back their kingdoms… I didn’t feel like we got a good sense of what the people of thier land are like. I often wondered why it was that being love slaves was such a high regarded position, or why slavery exsisted at all. It was never really explained. And why mostly men? And why young men? There’s hardly any women in this series, and the ones we do meet aren’t that great.
Obviously none of these things affacted my overall feelings but they are thoughts I had that I wanted to share with you all.
Have you guys read this series? Is it one you’ll be reading soon? Let me know in the comments!
And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
And I Darken was incredible. I thought this was amazing alternate history because it felt SO real. Kiersten White took details of real countries, people, religions, and politics and twisted them just so. And the characters! Oh my god. From the opening pages, you are painted a very stark picture of brutal Lada and her scared little brother Radu. They ensnared me immediately. But as with any good story there are layers and twists in every relationship. It’s all so complicated in the best way, sometimes loving and sometimes toxic.
The story is definitely slower paced but not boring; this is a long haul kind of story and we’re setting the scene. The political machinations, the attention paid to religion, and the moral grayness of characters, the sometimes Machiavellian attitudes, really do bring A Game of Thrones to mind. Every action has a reaction. I also loved the diversity in every aspect, from culture (Turkish/Wallachian/Ottoman/etc) to religion (I learned a lot about Islam!) to sexuality (an unexpected but very welcome surprise). Everything was woven into the story seamlessly. I can’t say enough about the writing, I thought it was wonderful. White really knows how to weave a complicated web.
There are also some excellent kisses, a few ships, and some complicated romances, though not in the ways you might expect (no spoilers here!). It was also interesting to watch how Lada and Radu’s characters shifted over time, learning to soften and strengthen in turn.
The book faltered slightly in the middle just because it is a looong book and it can’t keep up the pacing the whole time. And it some ways I expected plots that happened later in Lada/Vlad’s life. But where the story leaves you is perfect and I can’t wait to follow Lada, Radu, and Mehmed to see how their lives intertwine; loyalty (to family, to yourself, to your country) are big themes throughout. If you love historical fiction, and a lot of political cleverness mixed with action, violence, and romance in a non-Western setting, you should read And I Darken.
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.
When I first opened the ARC of The Girls and read the editorial note from Random House (it basically says the book is amazing and the editor couldn’t put it down) I thought “yeah, that’s what they all say”. Then I flipped the page and began reading, before I knew it I was half way through the book, completely entranced. On the back of the book there is a blurb that says something about “Clines first novel…” I kept thinking there was no way this is a debut author, NO WAY! I love the way Cline writes, she is such an amazing story teller. I don’t consider myself a picky reader by any means, but if a book doesn’t move quickly, if something doesn’t grab my attention in the first 50-60 pages, I’m out. I don’t want to sit and read about nothing, I want to be intrigued, mystified, scared SOMETHING or I will simply put the book down and never think of it again. The Girls is not a fast paced book, but Cline gives you just enough from chapter to chapter to make you want more. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about cults and susceptibility of impressionable young girls, myself at that age, the shit I got myself into, what I did to feel like I belonged. I even spent a few hours down a Charles Manson rabbit hole, then a few hours down a Emma Cline rabbit hole as well. I was VERY excited to discover this will not be a stand alone novel, it has been bought (for a very handsome sum) to be a three book deal including a second novel and a short-story collection.
As it turns out, the Random House editor (Kate Medina) was right (are you surprised? Me either.) This book is unputdownable. It’s weird too because this novel isn’t that surprising really, we all know what happens in cults, we know how crazy it was in 60’s, yet there is something about the way Cline develops the story of these women, their bond, the friendships, it’s simply amazing. I drank the Kool-Aid and I think you should too!
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
The Song of Achilles is an absolutely striking novel. The writing is exquisite and lovely; it’s sparse but uses the most wonderful descriptions and turns of phrase. I’ve read and watched my fair share of Troy adaptations but this is the best. It felt fresh and original, accessible, and brought to life these magnificent doomed characters. Ohhhh how you feel for them. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is everything you could wish for in a tragic romance. Whether you know the story or not (I did), you can see the twists of fate that bring them closer and closer to impending doom and ugh, it’s horrible not being able to do anything about it!!!
Madeline Miller humanizes Achilles and makes him a compelling hero worth following, while she raises Patroclus to new heights. There are traces of the gods but it doesn’t feel hokey or intrusive, any more than it is supposed to. Odysseus, Thetis, and Briseis also shine as characters. I felt transported back in time to this incredible story. The emotions are overwhelming and burrowed into my soul. The language is evocative and the action is fierce, the romance tender. Historical fiction fans must read this; I’m so glad I did. I hope we don’t have to wait much longer for Miller’s next novel!
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
Like that could go wrong.
This book was so unexpectedly delightful!!! My Lady Jane KNOWS that it’s twisting history and winks at that, which allowed me to get swept up in the story and the characters without constantly comparing it to actual historical events. Comical, fantastical, romantical really is the best way to describe it, like the blurb says. It was refreshing to know that you had no idea how the story would end and that a happily ever after of some sort might be possible.
I loved the three POV characters, and Jane’s obsession with books in particular! She’s a true book nerd like the rest of us. Edward, Gifford, and Jane were easy to tell apart while reading (I still don’t know which author wrote which POV though!!!), but the chapters are nicely labeled for you just in case.
Their stories twist and dovetail in ways I didn’t expect, and even though it’s a meaty book, the pacing is great. You really feel for Edward, and Jane and Gifford have the BEST bantery romance. It feels very Austen-y.
All three have strong character traits and personalities, and I also liked getting glimpses of other historical figures such as Edward’s half sisters Elizabeth and Mary.
I also loved how the fantasy element was woven into the story! Instead of religious factions, you have magic: shape shifters (Edians) vs non-shifters. Some people can shift into an animal form, while others can’t; furthermore, some can control their shifting, while it only happens to others in moments of emotional distress. It lent an air of absurdity and humor to a serious topic (prejudice), while still staying in the framework of the religious wars that swept across 16th century England.
My Lady Jane is very funny, very charming, and has some really excellent romances and action scenes, along with narrator asides (I loved the dry humor). It’s silly in a clever way. I had so much fun reading it! There were also quite a few wink wink pop culture references, including my favorite: “Frying pans, who knew?” :D It really is a book in the spirit of The Princess Bride. And it’s a Tudor book without being a Tudor book. I highly recommend it for fans of history and comedy and smiling while you read :)
Acclaimed film producer/director Adam Shankman and coauthor Laura Sullivan pen a sparkling, witty, romantic mystery inspired by Nick and Nora Charles and Hollywood glamour.
Not too long ago, Lucille O’Malley was living in a tenement in New York. Now she’s Lulu Kelly, Hollywood’s newest It Girl. She may be a star, but she worries that her past will catch up with her. Back in New York she witnessed a Mafia murder, and this glamorous new life in Tinseltown is payment for her silence.
Dashing Freddie van der Waals, the only son of a New York tycoon, was a playboy with the world at his feet. But when he discovered how his corrupt father really made the family fortune, Freddie abandoned his billions and became a vagabond. He travels the country in search of redemption and a new identity, but his father will stop at nothing to bring him home.
When fate brings Lulu and Freddie together, sparks fly—and gunshots follow. Suddenly Lulu finds herself framed for attempted murder. Together, she and Freddie set out to clear her name. But can they escape their pasts and finally find the Hollywood ending they long for?
Friends… I’m trying not to freak out too much at the fact that Adam Shankman has written a guest post for my blog. I mean, it’s for his book, but it’s on MY blog. Eeeeeep!!
I’m a HUGE fan of Adam Shankman’s work on movies and tv, and I love anytime he guest judges on So You Think You Can Dance, so OF COURSE I jumped at the chance to participate on the blog tour for his co-authored YA debut!
Both Adam and Laura were kind enough to write up a little something for us today. Thank you both so much! These picks have me very excited about your story.
Songs that represent the book, a scene, and/or character(s)
I Won’t Dance– This is one of those brilliant Fred Astaire classics remixed. We used it in Step Up 2, and it’s one of the best sequences we ever shot, and perfectly illustrates the delightful cat and mouse that Lulu and Freddie play with each other. They act like they don’t like each other, but its clear from the start; they’re going to end up dancing the night away in each other’s arms.
Diamonds by Rihanna – Here’s a Lulu and Freddie song that I love that’s all about how beautiful they both are, separately and together! Also, I can’t help feeling like the Hollywood fame ideal is for Lulu to be shiny and glamorous and tough…like Diamonds!
Lose Yourself by Eminem – For Ruby. This is my favorite song about blind ambition. That’s all Ruby is about: Blind ambition.
It’s All About the Benjamins by Puff Daddy and The Notorious B.I.G. – I’m not sure a better song has ever been written that so audaciously and casually celebrates obscene wealth. The whole experience of this song is about being hypnotized, seduced, and enslaved by material things. Welcome to the world of Jacob Van der Waals, Freddie’s father.
Someday by Rob Thomas – This song just so beautifully captures the spirit of hope and optimism that Lulu and Freddie bring out in each other. This is a modern “Over the Rainbow” for a breezy summer day.
Puttin’ On the Ritz Club Remix –Freddie and his fiancée Violet’s life in the beginning of the book is all New York society and parties. This song says it all and the remix is fantastic.
Big Time by Peter Gabriel is a brilliant song about how shallow fame can be. It’s the monster Hollywood crucible.
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield – This song is so friggin me it’s embarrassing and it perfectly lays out Lulu and Freddie’s optimism about their future and their belief that they have the ability to write their own story of their future…although, that would leave me without a job.
I listened to a lot of period music while I was working on Girl About Town. The era produced so many wonderful songs, from passionate love songs to completely silly numbers. These are some of my favorites from the setting of Girl About Town.
Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is Freddie’s song during his billionaire days. Later when he’s a train-hopping bum, he’s more of a “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” or “Big Rock Candy Mountain” kind of guy.
When I think of Lulu, the song “Baby Face” always plays in my head. It is kind of a simple song on the surface, and the core message is about falling in love with a pretty face, but it resonates because of course Freddie (and the reader) knows that Lulu is so much more. It also makes me think of the Barbara Stanwyck film Baby Face, which is my favorite Pre-Code movie. It’s subtle, but the things that happen in that movie are still pretty scandalous.
In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.
Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Stone Field is a passionate and atmospheric story of how violence and vengeance pervert the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.
I’m so conflicted. On one hand this was everything I wanted the book to be, as far as a Wuthering Heights retelling set in the Civil War South. On the other hand, it was stranger than I imagined, and upsetting, and only about half of Wuthering Heights’ story.
I rarely review books less than 4 stars on the blog but I have a lot to say about Stone Field, and I do think it will be worth reading for a lot of people. It was for me. Though I will say point blank, if you did not like Wuthering Heights, or don’t think you’d like Wuthering Heights, you will NOT enjoy Stone Field. It follows the trajectory of WH in its makeup and tone, including some very passionate insta-love. I suppose in the original it was akin to insta-obsession since they were children when they first meet, and they are older teens here. It works for the characters and for the wildness of the story, but I know it will bother some readers.
I really enjoyed most of the book. I could see what the author wanted to do and reading her Author’s Note made me appreciate all the details of southern Missouri life that she included. I loved her use of language and the power of words. The tone was dark, fiery, and emotional. And she did a wonderful job of painting these very passionate, opinionated characters. I think Effie was my favorite character and I love her ambition to become a doctor.
Because of the nature of the time period, there are a lot of upsetting race related issues, as well as issues related to women. The way they are treated verbally and sometimes physically, the emotional trauma that they are put through. But the issues are presented in a historically appropriate fashion, which in some ways made it so much harder to read. To imagine real people using such hurtful words and moreover having these hateful attitudes while truly believing they were right. It hurt my heart. And it’s not like these attitudes have disappeared today, either. The longer the book went on, the more difficult it got to read; I also didn’t care for the last quarter of the book, although the very end redeemed it a bit. It took an upsetting turn that I didn’t anticipate.
Cat is a witchy, strange, different sort of girl, which means she is misunderstood by just about everyone except her father and Stone Field. She’s dark and passionate, and loyal to herself. She had a unique view of the world but was very selfish and unlikeable at times, much like her inspiration Catherine Earnshaw. The book also dealt a lot with religion and trying to tame her wild ways through Christian kindness. I loved the juxtaposition of Cat’s wild work, her vibrant response to nature vs the town’s increasing preoccupation with propriety and Christian evangelism.
Stone Field, the name that Cat gives the man she finds in their field, was an enigma for much of the book. We come to learn that he is a mix of Creek Indian and possibly African American; he slowly regains his memory and it’s just heartbreaking to learn the prejudices of every kind he’s endured. Even the “kind ones”; I don’t want to spoil because I think his journey is important to the story. I understood his need to find himself. His quest to uncover his past really brought out the selfishness of Cat’s character; she wanted him to forget it all and stay with her and embrace their love. That bothered me a lot, that she couldn’t see it from his perspective at all. That being said, I didn’t like how his story unfolded and wish it had gone differently. But I liked the glimpses of his sense of humor and his personality when he and Cat talk about Shakespeare and the constellations.
It was a beautifully written but flawed book with harsh characters and soul-consuming love vs duty. I’m glad I read it but I’m not sure I would read it again. I would recommend it to readers who love Wuthering Heights and readers who are intrigued by life during the Civil War.
About Christy Lenzi
Christy Lenzi grew up in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks and now lives in California’s sunny Central Valley. When she’s not working, writing, or reading, she is fond of stuffing messages into bottles and throwing them into the river, making art, and zooming around on her motor scooter, Roxanne.
Since the death of her brother, William, Elizabeth I has ruled England. She’s made the necessary alliances, married Philip of Spain, and produced a successor: her only daughter, Anne Isabella, Princess of Wales. Elizabeth knows that her beloved Anabel will be a political pawn across Europe unless she can convince Philip to grant her a divorce, freeing him to remarry and give Spain its own heir. But the enemies of England have even greater plans for the princess, a plot that will put Anabel’s very life and the security of the nation in peril. Only those closest to Elizabeth—her longtime confidante Minuette, her advisor and friend Dominic, and the couple’s grown children—can be trusted to carry forth a most delicate and dangerous mission. Yet, all of the queen’s maneuverings may ultimately prove her undoing.
I won a finished copy of this book from the author’s website, though I would have purchased it in any case. This did not affect my review in any way.
The Virgin’s Daughter made me giddy for a multitude of reasons (in no particular order):
-It’s a sequel trilogy to the Boleyn King trilogy, so there are many favorite recurring characters that were such fun to catch up with. Definitely older, sometimes sneakier, sometimes wiser ;) For this reason (and despite the spoilers in the synopsis), I really recommend reading The Boleyn King– it’s EXCELLENT and you’ll get so much more out of Laura Andersen’s Tudor England.
-It’s alternate history that feels like real history. I was enmeshed in the Tudor court, the English countryside, the French manor homes. It feels familiar as a history buff for those reasons but because it’s an alternate timeline, you don’t know how events will actually transpire or turn out! Elizabeth never had a daughter in real life, so how am I to know if Anabel will become Queen one day or who she will marry? I don’t! It adds a delicious layer of tension and excitement to the story. Plus there are really good ships! ;)
-The spies and mystery: the rotating POVs gave the impression of an unreliable narrator, which was great- loyalty, betrayal, treachery,and murder abound. You don’t know who to trust or who is telling the truth. In the end the reader got to know the truth before the characters, or some of the truth anyway, and it made me so nervous and tense!!! I wanted everyone to uncover the secrets already!
-THE CHARACTERS! Both real (Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots) and imagined (Julien LeClerc, Princess Anabel). They are vivid, they are passionate, and they are vibrant. I absolutely loved Lucette Courtenay and her puzzle solving mind. I swooned over Julien, and I loved seeing how much of Anabel’s personality reflected her fiery mother, who in turn is as fully fleshed out as you could wish. Elizabeth is fierce, demanding, and powerful, but has softer moments as well. It humanizes her.
If you’re a history fan with Tudor fatigue, I highly recommend this book! Laura Andersen’s writing feels both familiar to fans of historical fiction and original in its subject matter and characterization. It’s a great twist on English history. The Virgin’s Daughter is compulsively readable, action-packed, descriptive, twisty, and romantic. I can’t wait for the next book.
And in case you love audiobooks, check out this clip from THE VIRGIN’S DAUGHTER:
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…
One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.
A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.
This was one of my MOST anticipated books of the year! My Morton ladies and I couldn’t stop flailing about it on twitter and via text, and The Lake House more than lived up to the wait.
Kate Morton is an auto-buy author for me. Her style is so consistently excellent that it’s more a matter of ranking her books from most favorite to still excellent, rather than least favorite. I love that you know what you’re getting when you read a Kate Morton book on one hand (a suspenseful dual timeline mystery, intricate plotting, lush historical setting, lots of secrets and twists, tragic relationships) but that they feel unique and surprising at the same time. She has an exquisite way with words, of capturing feelings and emotions and of doling out the right helping of intrigue at the right time, and her books stay with you long after you’ve read them.
The Lake House was not my favorite Morton book- for whatever reason I didn’t connect as much with Sadie and her story, which is why it’s not a perfect 5 for me. Sadie felt distant and reserved. But I adored the past storyline, both on its own and how it tied in with the present. And Alice was really interesting; all her authorial writing advice felt very meta! There were actually a few narrators, which was also different from other Morton books. I thought I had the characters pegged and then they would go and surprise me. I particularly fell in love with Eleanor and the many facets of her personality. I also enjoyed the lushness of the English countryside life between the wars. I felt like I was there in the manicured gardens and the charming Lake House, overhearing adult conversations in the stifling boathouse with my heart racing the entire time! It was just as easy to imagine the layers of dust and time in the crumbling house once Sadie stumbled upon it.
The mystery of the 1930’s storyline, both how it tied in to the parallel story and how it actually unfolded was heartbreaking and fabulous. Very compelling and hard to pin down. Just when you think the twist is going one way, she U turns and heads the other direction!
It never feels trite or manipulative either; the intricacies of her plotting and reveals are second to none. The end did feel a bit more saccharine than some of her other books but it was satisfying in its own way. You’ll definitely want to get swept away by The Lake House this fall!
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Throne of Glass had so many elements I love in stories like these. It had intrigue, and romance, and a girl who can kick lots of butt! I felt this story was a combination of other great books with strong heroines. Poison Study, Graceling, The Hunger Games…Throne of Glass can join those ranks. The world-building was also very interesting, but I am looking forward to learning more about the magic side of things, hopefully in the next book.
I thought Celaena was an interesting character. She was charming and at times a little childish, but I never got annoyed with her, which was good. I found her very endearing and felt like I would indulge her, like a little sister. She was very smart and skilled at being kick-ass in general. I think I am definitely going to be reading the prequel novellas though, to get more familiarized with her backstory as this books jumps in when she’s already spent a year in “prison.”
This book’s love interests (yes, plural!) were a bit confusing to me for a while. I couldn’t really tell where things were going with either of them. But by the end I was totally on board with one certain one. Team Chaol, where you at?! :D On the one hand, Celaena is really physically attracted to Prince Dorian, but he’s kind of like the forbidden fruit, with her being an assassin and possible the King’s Champion next. While she’s really infatuated with him, Dorian believes himself completely in love with her. And then we have Chaol, the Captain of the Guard. There isn’t really anything romantic between them for a while, but I think this pairing has the substance to last if it does happen. There is respect there, and friendship, and definitely some longing. I look forward to see how their relationship blossoms (hopefully) in the next book.
Throne of Glass was an exciting story with mystery, magic, and romance. It’s also the beginning to what I imagine is going to be an even more intense sequel, and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.
(This review was originally posted in 2013 but is now lost somewhere in interspace… sad panda. UPDATE: I found it!! You can see that post HERE.)
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.
Thank you so much to Virginia Boecker and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the ARC! Receiving it/knowing the author in no way influenced my opinions or review.
You guys, I LOVED this book! The Witch Hunter was lots of fun to read. It’s fantastic historical fantasy for fans of both genres with a surprising amount of humor mixed in with the darkness and magic, and of course a bit of romance! The book was exciting and a little predictable, but not necessarily in a bad way. More in that “”I love books like this”” kind of way. It’s a fast paced, atmospheric story with awesome characters that I was easily sucked into. There isn’t a ton of romance but it looks like there will be more in book 2 (it’s a duology).
A lot of the dialogue was much more sassy and humorous that I expected, but it never took away from the fantastic tension or spooky setting. I loved the curses and magic, as well as watching Elizabeth realize that her absolute views on wizards and witch hunting might not be so absolute after all. The characters all have this fascinating dynamic; I particularly loved John, George, and Elizabeth herself. I also loved the mysterious tomb! I need to know more!!!!
It also has a great historical feel to it, with names and concepts familiar to fans of English and European history twisted to fit this alternate version of 16th century England. For example, a magical reformation instead of the Protestant Reformation, Anglia and Gaul instead of England and France. And there are hidden history jokes too! Whenever I spotted one I giggled to myself like the history nerd that I am.
The Witch Hunter is not an epic fantasy so the Game of Thrones comparison seems like yet another marketing ploy. BUT it is a fantastic historical fantasy for fans of both genres, and for reluctant fantasy readers as well. It has just the right amount of magic and fantasy mixed with the alternate historical setting. I could see the Graceling and Throne of Glass comparions, as well as comparisons to Chantress. It might be for fans of Grave Mercy too but I haven’t read that yet (I know, I know!). I read The Witch Hunter way back in January and I’m anxiously awaiting my pre-ordered finished copy so I can read it again!
Bottom line: with strong world building and an exciting set-up, fans of historical fantasy will be clamoring for more of Elizabeth’s adventures in this darkly magical alternate England.
The eagerly-awaited conclusion to the Scarlet trilogy delivers another action-packed and romance-filled adventure.
Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.
Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?
First off, this is such a hard review to write without spoilers because I want to talk about EVERYTHING!!! *Ahem*
Lion Heart was everything the last book in a trilogy should be. It was epic in scope and emotion, it was fast paced but let you savor the special moments, and it brought a sense of closure. I love these characters fiercely and they go through hell AND high water to get to where they are but it makes their journey that much more amazing to read. Plus I loved the addition of new secondary characters, especially the banter between Allan and David.
I really love that this trilogy is a historical fiction retelling of a very popular legend. I love English history and Robin Hood is always fascinating. I love how AC Gaughen twisted it to make Scarlet such a powerful, important female figure in the myth. I’ll admit to have trouble not picturing Prince John as a lion though. Too many viewings of the Disney movie I guess!
I don’t want to spoil anything but if you haven’t read this series, you need to. The language takes some getting used to but it adds such an authentic flavor to the story. And the characters are simply amazing. Scarlet is one of a kind.
(Totally Scarlet, except she needs more knives.)
There is a lot of heartbreak but there’s also healing, hope, strength, dresses with space for hidden knives, and KISSING. Lots of kissing!
(If you only knew how badly I wanted that firefly ring when I was younger…)
I do wish that there was one more chapter or epilogue to tie up a few threads but I was satisfied for the most part with where Scarlet’s story is left. If you enjoy lots of deep emotion and shippy goodness, vile antagonists, and historical fiction, you must read the Scarlet trilogy. Lion Heart might be my favorite of them all.
Beatrice Knowles is a Maid of Honor, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s secret protectors. Known for her uncanny ability to manipulate men’s hearts, Beatrice has proven herself to be a valuable asset in the Queen’s court—or so she thinks. It has been three weeks since the Maids thwarted a plot to overthrow the Queen, and Beatrice is preparing to wed her betrothed, Lord Cavanaugh. However, her plans come to a crashing halt as rumors of a brewing Scottish rebellion spread among the court.
Beatrice’s new assignment is to infiltrate the visiting Scottish delegation using her subtle arts in persuasion. The mission seems simple enough, until the Queen pairs Beatrice with the worst of the lot—Alasdair MacLeod. Beatrice cannot help but think that the Queen is purposefully setting her up for failure. But Alasdair could be the key to unlocking the truth about the rebellion….and her own heart. Caught in a web of ever-more-twisting lies, Beatrice must rise up among the Maids of Honor and prove what she’s known all along: In a court filled with deception and danger, love may be the deadliest weapon of all.
First off, if you love Tudor England, spies, strong female characters, romance, and/or action (or all of the above!) you have to start the Maids of Honor series. I absolutely loved MAID OF SECRETS when I read it last year and MAID OF DECEPTION is equally fantastic! Jennifer McGowan’s twitter bio reads “Young Adult Romance with swash and buckle” and I couldn’t agree more!
There are going to be five books total- one focusing on each girl in Queen Elizabeth’s Maids of Honor spy circle. Maid of Secrets focused on the newest member of the group, Meg Fellowes, and Maid of Deception focuses on Beatrice Knowles, a practiced member of the court trading in secrets and flirty smiles.
Beatrice was my least favorite girl in the first book and it is a mark of Jennifer McGowan’s writing how much I came to like and care for Beatrice in this installment! She is more than just a bratty, spoiled courtier and you begin to realize how much intelligence it takes to survive in the Queen’s court, and how much heart Beatrice has hiding underneath her layer of ice. The relationships with her fellow spies are much improved, and some of my favorite scenes were seeing her interactions with her father and with Alasdair at Marion Hall, her ancestral home. I also found Beatrice’s relationship with Elizabeth fascinating, full as it is with jealousy, contempt, and grudging respect.
My other favorite parts of the book: the political intrigue, the scenes at Marion Hall, including Beatrice’s father and the children, the depiction of Queen Elizabeth who is a great deal meaner and more vindictive than any other version I’ve seen (and thoroughly believable), and THE ROMANCE! Ohhh the romance!
Let’s just say I have a thing for literary Scots. Alasdair MacLeod is a hell of a lot of fun. He was introduced briefly in Maid of Secrets and takes front and center here. I love how he needles Beatrice because banter and “I hate you, no wait, I love you… but I still hate you a little” is kind of my favorite. They have great chemistry and he is a pretty fantastic character all on his own. Lots of depth and layers and pretty speeches. Let’s just say I swooned a time or two :)
The reason I knocked off half a star is because I felt the beginning of the book was a little slow and I had trouble remembering the characters’ personalities and what had happened in the first book. While each book focuses on a new girl, they are still sequels. The overarching storylines stretch across the books, so you definitely need to read in order even though each girl’s standalone story is primarily wrapped up. I think it’s one of those series that would benefit from back to back readings!
Once I got into the heart of the story and the interplay between the maids of honor themselves (which is great; I love the chemistry between the girls) it was an exciting read! And the ending is one of my favorites. Plus I can never resist anything set during Tudor-era England, especially with a fun twist. Can’t wait for MAID OF WONDER next summer; its leading lady is none other than the ethereal Sophia Dee!
Jennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, grew up in Montana, and studied in Paris. She fell in love with the Elizabethan era as a college student and is now an unrepentant scholar of the period, happily splitting her time between the past and present. An RWA Golden Heart Award winner and multiple finalist, Jenn is the author of Maid of Deception, Maid of Secrets, and A Thief Before Christmas (a Maids of Honor short story). She lives in Ohio.