historical fiction, paranormal, romance, steampunk

Novella Review: Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

PoisonOrProtect_promo

Title: Poison or Protect (A Delightfully Deadly Novella)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Self Published
Length: 150 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Historical, Paranormal
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Warning: This novella contains explicit scenes not for people under 18.

Note: I received an Ebook Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb:
Lady Preshea Villentia, the Mourning Star, has four dead husbands and a nasty reputation. Fortunately, she looks fabulous in black. What society doesn’t know is that all her husbands were marked for death by Preshea’s employer. And Preshea has one final assignment. It was supposed to be easy, a house party with minimal bloodshed. Preshea hadn’t anticipated Captain Gavin Ruthven – massive, Scottish, quietly irresistible, and… working for the enemy. In a battle of wits, Preshea may risk her own heart – a terrifying prospect, as she never knew she had one.

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Review:
For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I read Carriger’s first three Parasol Protectorate novels last Summer. I loved Soulless and enjoyed Changeless and Blameless and because I reviewed previous novels, Carriger reached out to me to read and review her newest novella set in the same world.

I really enjoy Carriger’s world building. Even without reading previous works, the world is really rich. It’s full of steampunk and supernatural elements that made Soulless so endearing in the first place. A favorite character of mine even made a (brief) reappearance.

Preashea is my kind of woman; fierce and stubbornly independent. Her character made it all the more satisfying to watch the romance unfold. I liked being able to see the various depths of her character which is difficult to do in the short amount of time a novella provides.

Carriger seems to share my weakness for muscley Scottish men as well. First Lord Maccon and now Captain Gavin. Both of them are very swoon worthy but I think I actually like Captain Gavin more. He was sweet and understanding. I enjoyed that he was able to intuitively figure out what Preshea needed from him.

The romance was such a satisfying and slow build and the perfect read to pull me out of the reading slump I’ve been slowly falling into (again, I know!). I actually read the entirety in about 3 hours because I just couldn’t put it down. I now feel the urgent need to continue reading the Parasol Protectorate series. I forgot how much I enjoy Carriger’s writing, especially when it comes to the romance aspect.

I’m sure I would have read this novella eventually since I plan on working my way through all her books, but I’m so glad I got to read it now. It’s probably going to end up being one of my favorite books that I read this year and I’m excited to see future novellas from Carriger.

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Fantasy, historical fiction, romance

Series Review: The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Title(s): A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Penguin books
Length: 592, 592, 576 all Kindle Edition
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical fiction
Rating: 5, 4.5, 4 folded pages respectively

Book 1 (A Discovery of Witches) Blurb:
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Review:
Originally I read books 1 and 2 of this about 4 or 5 years ago and I loved the first one but didn’t really like the second. In my defense I was still young, barely out of high school, and didn’t really like how sophisticated the novels felt. Now that probably what I love most about the series.

I absolutely loved marathoning this series. I was going to try and put space between each novel but after I reread the first one there was no way I was going to let myself hang on that cliff. Instead I read all three books in about a week which is no small feat let me assure you.

Deborah creates a very lively world with vampires, witches, and daemons and it’s entirely unique. I loved how she revealed the world to us through Diana who wasn’t really familiar with it even if she grew up in it.

The romance aspect of the book was a little eh if I’m to be honest. Matthew could be overbearing and over the top with cheesy things but for the most part I enjoyed it. And I definitely enjoyed watching them decide to be together. However, it was Diana and her character development that made me stay (along with the incredible world)

I definitely think the first book was the best of the three and the third book got really slow at some points. Still I loved the series and hope Deborah Harkness has something new in the works for us.

Fantasy, historical fiction, romance

Book Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Winter Sea
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Length: 544, Kindle Book
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
History has all but forgotten…
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Review:
This was a reread for me and what a wonderful reread this was. I think I originally read this two years ago or so to take my mind off of finals and because of that I couldn’t really enjoy it to the fullest. I definitely loved it more than when I first read it.

Carrie is such an endearing character. I can’t tell if it’s because I also (attempt) to write novels or her love of history or how swept up she becomes in Cruden Bay but either way I loved her almost instantly. She’s consistent and thoughtful and questions what’s happening to her while still being able to deal with it.

I loved how Kearsley told the story of Slains as if Carrie was really writing it. Even leaving out scenes that Carrie saw but wouldn’t work well in a novel. It was enchanting and although I did feel sometimes feel impatient with both stories (wanting to be reading Carrie’s POV rather than the novel or vice versa) it wasn’t often enough that it made reading tedious.

I also liked how Carrie’s life somewhat reflected Sophia’s although not exactly and only from time to time. I think it made a bigger connection between Carrie and Sophia. This is actually the novel that made me want to read more historical fiction and I wish I had more time with Carrie and her unique ability. Kearsley kind of set up the ending to allow for another novel but I think her second novel in that world is built on a different character. Either way I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait to read more from Kearsley.

graphic novel, historical fiction, young adult

Graphic Novel Review: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

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Title: Boxers & Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
Length: 512 pages (between both books), Paperback
Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 2 Folded Pages

Blurb:wpid-20150717_194631.jpg
In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.
But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Review:
I didn’t much care for these to be honest. I really liked the premise. Especially since it tells two different sides of the same event, but for the most part it really fell flat. It was boring and at times overly wordy for a graphic novel.

I definitely understand the importance of these books. They show Chinese culture and allow readers a look into Chinese characters and I love this fact but I couldn’t get into them. The only reason I finished them is because graphic novels don’t take very long to read.

Little Bao annoyed me most times. His character didn’t seem to have any cohesiveness and he tended to do things I thought varied greatly with his established personality. I enjoyed Four-Girl and if I had choose I definitely liked Saints better than Boxers.

Four-Girl’s reasoning behind what she does and how she does it are more sound and believable. She was young and her family treated her awfully. Of course she found solace in a religion that forgave her “sins” even if they weren’t really hers.

Also her age made Four-Girl’s actions much more believable. Though I think Bao’s age was supposed to about the same as hers. I can’t honestly say if that’s true or not because I have no sense of the timeline in Boxers. Saints was a lot easier to follow in that aspect as well.

Honestly, these books are just not for me. I’m going to try to read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese to see if I just don’t like these or if maybe I just won’t happen to be a fan of his. I want to try more because I think it might have just been the plot and how it was executed that I didn’t like.

graphic novel, historical fiction

Graphic Novel Review: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Title: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Author: Tony Cliff
Publisher: First Second
Length: 176 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical fiction
Rating: 4 folded pages

Blurb:
Lovable ne’er-do-well Delilah Dirk is an Indiana Jones for the 19th century. She has traveled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she’s picked up on the way, Delilah’s adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan’s guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.
A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine…and globetrotting adventures.

Review:Inside art the graphic novel
I picked up this graphic novel solely because I LOVED the artwork on the cover and let me tell you the rest of the art in the book did not disappoint. There were so many scenes that were absolutely striking. Cliff’s attention to detail and color in this graphic novel is stunning. I felt I could pretty much ignore everything else because his artwork was pretty but I didn’t really have to. I took a picture of one of my favorite scenes to show you because I didn’t think the book cover did Tony Cliff’s art style enough justice.

The story, although nothing extremely complex or fancy, was cute and heart-warming. Selim learns about himself and what he wants through his friendship with Delilah. It was a quick read (I think it took me maybe an hour) and it was super adorable. I loved watching their odd friendship blossom on page and in the artwork.

I can’t wait to pick up the other novels in this series. I want to see more of Delilah and Selim and their friendship. Cliff builds their characters so perfectly with only the use of dialogue and pictures and yet I still feel like I got to know both of them quite well. I’m definitely going to be on the look out for more works from Tony Cliff and I’m super excited to continue this reading about Delilah Dirk.

Fantasy, historical fiction, young adult

Audiobook Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A great and terrible beauty audiobook cover

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Unabridged)
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: Josephine Bailey
Publisher: Random House, Inc. & Listen Library
Length: 11 hours 13 minutes
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Rating: 4 folded pages

Blurb:

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

Review:

The last time I read a great and terrible beauty by libba bray I was 13. I remember having to look up nearly every other word or suffer through not knowing half of what was being said but I loved it none-the-less.  I decided to give audiobooks a try recently and started with something I’ve been meaning to re-read for a while considering it’s been almost 9 years.

I still love the plot as much as I remember which makes me really happy. I was slightly afraid I’d read (or rather listen to) it and I wouldn’t like it. I do think the book has a slow start. I kept wondering when they would get to the magic bit. The writing is still phenomenal though. I think that combined with listening to it rather than physically reading it is why I didn’t get impatient like I normally would.

The narrator, Josephine Bailey, did an amazing job. Every voice felt distinct and her British Victorian accent for Gemma felt very real. I enjoyed the way she pronounced and enunciated words and her voice wasn’t grating at all.

I thoroughly love Gemma but I did feel like some of the side characters like Pipper, Ann and Felicity could have been fleshed out a little more. Especially Pipper, I feel like most of the book we just get an annoying, jealous girl who’s afraid of losing Felicity to Gemma. I would have liked to see more go on between Gemma and Pipper to warrant some of what happens in the end. Another reason I couldn’t give this book a full 5 folded pages.

I enjoyed every minute of listening to this audiobook. I think I’m going make audiobooks a part of my reading. I had never really thought about it before, but I enjoyed listening to it while doing chores and taking walks.