Tag Archive | book reviews

The Queen’s Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

The Queen’s Pleasure by Brandy Purdy, published by Kensington Books.

 

I just got this book, and I fell in love with it. (Disclaimer: It was an Advanced Readers Copy.). This book is a book meant for people who loves words, told by someone who has a mastery of the language. I fell into this book, loving every minute.

A few words about it, though. Although the title is “The Queen’s Pleasure,” and is billed on the cover as a novel of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley… It is mostly Amy Robsart Dudley’s story. The inconvenient wife of a man convinced he was the only one Elizabeth would marry.

Since it is historical fiction, technically we already know how everything ends. The novel takes this even further, starting with a prologue that pretty much lays everything bare.

But oh! The language! How can you not fall in love with a passage such as:

 

Outside my windows the sky is as dark as black velvet, with not a star in sight to
provide a prinprick of diamond white light, and the silver coin of the moon has been
spent.

The Queens Pleasure, Page 21

The theme of feminine power, femininity and such keeps circling around this book, too. The recurring images (I can’t really call it foreshadowing when the book opens the way it does) haunt this book, enriching it and wrapping themselves around your soul.

In college, I loved Shakespeare. I adored the poem with “trailing clouds of glory” by  Wordsworth. And of course, there was Faulkner. There are people in this world who can take the language and twist it into an art form that I really wish I could emulate.

Instead, I’ll just devour their works. Oh, and highlight all the passages I love.

Do yourself a favor. Go buy “The Queen’s Pleasure.”

 

 

Books about Books

Books about Books

 

We’ve all read them—books about books. More specifically, books where the hero/heroine either pop through the worlds created by other authors or, in the case of Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines (Daw, 2012), is able to bring things out of books through magic.

Libriomancer does it deftly, and is great fun. The magic system is consistent AND has consequences, which is always a good thing. The narrator reminds me of Jim Butcher or Glen Cook—the hardboiled detective goes fantasy.  Libriomancer is apparently the first book in a series, but I have to admit: I’ll probably wait for the paperback of book 2.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book—I ripped right through it. But I’ve had to start defending my hardback choices:  it should be a book that I’m going to re-read again (which is a possibility) and it has to have some meat on it. For me, meat on it means that I’m going to take longer than 24 hours to read the darned thing. Otherwise, 24.95 just isn’t worth it. But it was a new author, so I’m not too disgusted with myself. Over all a really good read, fast paced and fun.

I know there’s a term for this kind of writing, but I can’t remember it. It’s not fan fiction, because it doesn’t take the entire world. I do remember suffering through several different versions of this type of writing during my workshop years (college & internet). Most of those were not done with any finesse. I am so glad that this one met and beat down all expectations (or lack thereof).

 

In more personal writing news, I have stalled out in Nanowrimo. I got stuck in the novel and just can’t push through. I am however working on another short story. I’ve decided that I just might be a sprinter right now, and not a long distance runner. Perhaps I need to get my writing stride again before I can compete in the marathon (novel) level. But I am still writing, and having mostly given up on Nano, I’m reading again as well. I like the short story format, it suits the way I’m writing right now: short bursts clearly focused through to the end.

Till next time, when I have 3, count em THREE reviews to do.

Libraries

Who remembers their first library? Not the first visit to a library, but the first library that you claimed as yours. Where you realized that it contained a whole bunch of  books that could and would transport you to other worlds.

My first library was a little neighborhood one. About the size of a smallish 7-11, situated in a strip mall, it was where my love for books blossomed. I didn’t know it at the time, but as my ever ranging interests started casting a wider and wider net, the librarian called my mom.

I was in fourth grade, and checking out adult books.

But oh! Those books! Some were romances (the Harlequin romances of the 70’s were A LOT sweeter than they are now). Some were sci-fi or fantasy. Some were plain old fiction.  I had already devoured A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, all the Little House Books. My brain was wide open, and at this point… my mom could have done something different.

But she opted to let me read what I wanted. It was a different time, back then. There wasn’t quite as much chance of anyone getting an inappropriate book in a public library. And I am sooo thankful.

Books are magical things. They open up windows into new worlds– sometimes doorways into a new life. But there has to be that one place where your imagination catches on fire.

For me, it was in what would become a bakery, sitting on bean bag chairs, reading adult fiction. They closed that particular library a few years later. They made a huge library, a modern one, and closed down all the little neighborhood libraries.

It was never as much fun.

Yes, they had all those books. But I could no longer go at least once a week. I had to be driven over there, I couldn’t walk. And the nice librarian was no where to be found in there… Just a lot of strangers.

I miss the neighborhood libraries. But I have to admit, I do love the large stacks of books in the main library.

How about you? Where did you fall in love with books?

 

PS– found a great fantasy novel about a librarian who pulls magic out of books, which inspired this post. I’ll review it later in the week. If no one else gets the stomach flu (please please please).

Eloisa James: Pleasure for Pleasure

I finally caved in and went out and bought the book, Pleasure for Pleasure, by Eloisa James. I asked at the local Barnes and Nobles, and not only did they not have it— they didn’t carry it. So I ordered it the correct way (if you want a local store to carry more of the books you love, you need to order it from the brick and mortar store, NOT the website).

And it was sooo lovely. I love the sisters in this series, as well as the Shakespearean references. While the romance parts are funny, lovely etc etc, what is really addictive in this series is the relationship between sisters. When Imogen was so upset with Tess and wouldn’t talk to her? I was heartbroken! It wasn’t Tess’ fault! And Annabel, luscious fabulous Annabel! You just know that when Josie came on the market, fun and hijinks were sure to follow.

It was a surprise to find her miserable during her first season.

Not surprising was the body issues Josie carried through all the books. Written well, and handled delicately, it added so much to the character. The scene where Lord Mayne wears a dress to show Josie how she should walk was so funny and tender that I wanted it to last forever.

And that, my dear friends, is the sign of an expert writer. If you want to stay in the world they’ve created, then the writer has done their job. Ms. James does it exceedingly well.

 

Yeh, and I know I promised the Jane Austen review but I still have tomorrow! I’ll probably do a bunch of them so I can post throughout the week. Off to do my own  writing now. When I’m reading an Eloisa James book, I have to race through to the finish line, no matter what I’m trying to work on.

The Chocolate Thief

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand, published by Kensington. Release date: July 31, 2012

 

Let me just say that I fell in love not only with this book, but also with Paris and Parisian chocolatiers. All Cade wants is to make gourmet, indulgent chocolates such as those made by Sylvain. He detests the Corey family’s chocolate line (think Hershey and Mars) as cheap and worthless.

Take these two headstrong people and shake well in the city of love.

I love the fact that Cade can’t just buy her way through Paris. Not only does it make the book more interesting, it also gives an interesting spin on the whole Arrogant Parisians vs. Ugly Americans. Neither side is as bad as they seem in the stereotype, but then again there is just a grain of truth in there. At least from the other side’s point of view.

This is a light, frothy movie of a book. If I had put Paris on my bucket list before, this book made me actually start Googling family trip packages (which are still out of reach— but might be attainable in a few years).

The pacing is right on, the characters wonderful. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the food blogger and the complications he brings. And the actual thieving of the chocolate? Priceless.

 

5 out of 5 frothy yummy chocolate bits.

Alchemist

The Alchemist of Souls, Anne Lyle. Published by Angry Robot. (Yes, the publisher name is real—ain’t it great?)

 

Buying a new author is always interesting. The last time I went to the store, I picked up two that were not only new to me, but new to publishing. Oddly enough, the publishers were new to me as well. I thought I knew most of the Fantasy publishers but apparently not. One was a total waste of time & money, and due to the rules I will not devote any more time to it here. Unless I inadvertently pick it up again and go on a rant about how new authors should NEVER be paired up with inexperienced editors.

Thankfully, I had a lot more luck with The Alchemist of Souls. Oh lord almighty, did I have more luck with this one. Set in the latter years of Queen Elizabeth the first’s reign, it is an alternate history/reality that pulls you in gradually. It didn’t pull me in by the neck from the get go, but it started out solid and only got better.

Better.

YAY!

Mal has a lot of problems. He has a twin in Bedlam, whom he can’t protect. A best friend he can’t trust. A job he doesn’t want, until he does. And way more going on over his head than he can get a handle on quickly. Set among theatres, the infamous Tower, and court, this novel takes you places. The details in the theatre and mannerisms among the troupe were riveting. As a girl with a Master’s Degree in English and more than a few semesters spent with Shakespeare, I hate it when people take on this particular era then get it wrong.

But when they get it right, as does Lyle, it is so lovely. Those details were so good, in fact, that the fantasy element (Skraylings, magic), were completely believable within the story. That takes true talent.

Now on to the publisher! Yes, I know, it is rarely advisable to take on a publisher based on one book. However! I finished Alchemist while in a doctor’s waiting room and read the back jacket copy (don’t ask why I didn’t do it to begin with, it’ll make your head hurt). Love the little sign up on top of it. Then, while flipping through the book, came across a surprise quote on the back inside cover of the book. Oh! And the ad for the other books? I love their tag line “wake eat read sleep repeat.”

They get it.

Now I just got to figure out how to get my hands on more of the same from them!

Sweet reading, my lovelies!

Ties that Bind

Ties that Bind, Marie Bostwick. Published by Kensington Books May 2012.

 

Note: The copy reviewed is an Advanced Readers Copy

 

Ties that bind center around two women in a small community, Margot, who is so nice and pleasant and afraid to stand up for herself and Phillipa, the new interim pastor of their little church. This book is one in a series, and yet it is a stand-alone novel. I’m sure that if you had read the previous ones, you’d love the glimpses into the character’s lives as they are now— but that foreknowledge is not required.

This is a comfy book, in the best sense of the word. About women supporting each other and learning to stand on their own two feet. It’s also about faith, not only in God but also in yourself. Because at the heart of Margot’s problem is that one simple thing.

I like it as much as I do the Blossom Street stories by Debbie Macomber. Those ones have never disappointed me, they are exactly what you think they are. This one is a little more heavily into the faith than the Macomber series, but really. What do you expect when a character is the pastor of a congregation?

This is the book that I picked up after having been witness to a drive by shooting on Friday. It did exactly what I needed it to do: be a comfy book. Too many people think there’s no place for comfy fiction, or for romance, or whatever it is that they don’t read and value. However, in my life, there are definite reasons for the different genres that I cling to.

How about you? Do you read different genres for different reasons? Or do you cleave only unto one?

SCORE!

Last week, I spoke a bit about my problems with Barnes and Nobles. One of the books that I’ve been looking for was Infinity Gate by Sara Douglass (published by Harper Voyager). Two. Years. It but I finally got the final book in the series and I have to tell you I was sooo happy!

And even happier that the writer is good enough that A. I did not have to go back and re-read the other two books (Serpent Bride and Twisted Citadel) and also that I didn’t get/need B. great big info dumps. You know the ones, where one character tells another “Well, you know…” Some of the information was included in different parts of the book. But it was seamlessly added~ maybe a sentence here and there. Too many authors do not take the time to do this. Or, they’ll give a huge long “Our story so far” as a prolog. If done well, there is no need. Remember? Two years since I read the first two.

Of course, having memorable characters helped a lot.

As much as Ishbel and Maxmillian are the “heros” of the trilogy, this novel is about Axis. Brought back from beyond death to fight the good fight. He has his ups and downs as a heroic character. Axis is, well, human. Except not. But it is his struggles that power most of the story, even if we get peeks into other characters. Axis is the one who is transformed by the end, and it is satisfying.

This book was so worth looking for. Do I wish that I had rushed out and bought it online? Yes, and no. Yes, because that would have taken care of my need for speed. I’ve only done that with one book (the last of the Alera novels by Jim Butcher— I tore through those so fast. Well.) No because I relished the reading of this. Because I finally won one.

Also on their shelves on Monday? Breathe and Bone by Carol Berg, as well as the other book in that duology. Powerful reading, that. If I could find my copies, I’d re-read and post up here. Might do that next time I run out of books.

 

For now, it’s a wrap!

 

 

Teen Fiction

I have a love hate relationship with “teen” fiction.

First of all, let’s be honest. Most books under the label “Teen Fiction” in the bookstore should be relabeled as “Teen Girl Fiction.” Which isn’t especially politically correct, but is definitely a better descriptive for what it is.

My problem with the genre, however, is not with the terminology. It’s with… the stories. Some of them start out so well… and then the author goes and does something stupid. Or just doesn’t develop things the way that they would if it were, well, for grown ups. Now I understand that there are really good authors of teen fiction. And that teenage girls probably don’t read the same way I do.

But good fiction, no matter the age group, should transcend any ascending age barrier. I still read A little Princess and the Secret Garden (Frances Hogsen Burnette). I’ve read   all of the Harry Potter Novels. (JK Rowling).

And now there’s A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont. It’s actually a familiar concept, but done in a way that makes sense within the story and is extremely well done, Emma is dropped into the world of Jane Eyre. That it is done in a way that doesn’t feel forced, that makes sense within the story and it’s actually…. GASP…. A GOOD STORY!

It kept my interest, was well paced. If the characters were a little too young, well… They actually are young! They were absoluteky acting appropriate to their age. Which reinforces my idea that labelling something “Teen Fiction” is a misnomer. Good writing is good writing, no matter the intended audience and this particular subset gets a lot of flack (from me, too!)

Now the big question is…

If teen boys read… what do they read? I’m assuming it’s not Twilight.

Rakes & Protectors

The Rake by Mary Jo Putney (Zebra Historical Romance)

Disclaimer- I was provided an ARC of this novel.

The Rake is actually a reprint of the title The Rake and the Reformer. A lot of times this angers me, because I rebuy it on the basis of the cover art and didn’t pay attention. I hate buying the same book 2,3 times (and I have, with Kristen Brittain). However, this was a lucky chance because although I’d heard of the author, I’d never read her novels before.

Alys and Reggie are perfect for each other, even if they don’t know it. Each has a fatal flaw that they must overcome (and it has to be them to do it, not the other person), which makes it extremely real. The other person doesn’t “fix” the bits, they just enable the other to fix the bits themselves.

At turns heart wrenching and heart-warming, I would definitely recommend this book. It appears it was originally released in 1989, which labels it as a definite classic. Because quite frankly, readers’ tastes have changed so much over the past couple of decades that for one to still be relevant this long… Well. Bravo!

Lady Protector, L.E. Modesitt Jr. Tor Fantasy.

If this one is part of a series, I did not enjoy it any less for not having read the previous novels. It sucked me in and kept me there for the length of the novel. I was upset by only having my normally scheduled breaks because I wanted to keep reading it.

Mykella becomes the Lady Protector moments before the book opens. She has to deal not only with an imminent war but also the nefarious leeching of the country’s coffers. Who can she trust? How does she oversee everything and get to the battle in time? How will her powers help her, and can they harm her?

L.E. Modesitt does something in this novel that I’ve never seen in a novel before. It is written in a tight third person point of view… But I don’t think it ever goes to another point of view than Mykella’s. It is so tight as to be almost first person.

That gave me pause. Why third, even so tight, instead of first person? First person wouldn’t have the effect, it’s a little more casual than third. It is beautiful, though. If you ever want an example of a third person point of view that tightly held together… Use it.

I’ve gotta try that. It has to be so hard. The temptation to pull back and add scenery or pop into someone else’s point of view must be so great. Kudos, Modesitt!

So, over all 2 great books in very different genres. Hope to have some chick lit and an actual regular fiction book for next time!