My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Posts tagged ‘book review’

HFC 2011: The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

Summary from Goodreads:
In a city-state known for magnificence, where love affairs and conspiracies play out amidst brilliant painters, poets and musicians, the powerful and ambitious Alfonso d’Este, duke of Ferrara, takes a new bride. Half of Europe is certain he murdered his first wife, Lucrezia, the luminous child of the Medici. But no one dares accuse him, and no one has proof-least of all his second duchess, the far less beautiful but delightfully clever Barbara of Austria.

At first determined to ignore the rumors about her new husband, Barbara embraces the pleasures of the Ferrarese court. Yet wherever she turns she hears whispers of the first duchess’s wayward life and mysterious death. Barbara asks questions-a dangerous mistake for a duchess of Ferrara. Suddenly, to save her own life, Barbara has no choice but to risk the duke’s terrifying displeasure and discover the truth of Lucrezia’s death-or she will share her fate.

Review:

The story is based off real people–Barbara of Austria and Alfonso II d’Este as well as the famous poem  by Robert Browning called “My Last Duchess.”

The beginning started off a little slow, but picked up once Barbara, the main character, started having questions about her new husband and his involvement with the death of the previous duchess, Lucrezia Medici. The characters were very three-dimensional; I especially loved how Loupas gave Barbara a little nervous habit–it made her seem more real.

Alfonso’s character–well, let’s just say he was typical for someone with a lot of power and control. At first I couldn’t stand him at all, but as the book progressed, I really started to see that he wasn’t ALL bad–just egocentric and a typical European prince 😛 I grew to like him as Barbara did.

Even Lucrezia, the last duchess, plays an important role as a character–even though she’s dead. I won’t go into much more about her–you’ll have to read it to see–but she definitely was a princess used to doing what she wanted regardless of the consequences.

This book is ultimately a historical mystery as Barbara tries to piece together how exactly the last duchess died (since she was only 17 when she did). There were lots of twists and turns that I certainly didn’t see coming. Loupas definitely kept me wondering.

The only main issue I had was the amount of detail. Don’t get me wrong–I love the detail because it makes it more real–but sometimes with all of the Italian terms, I got a little lost. There wasn’t a glossary so some of the words that were used threw me out of the story temporarily as I tried to figure out what they meant in the context of the sentence. That was my only problem though and it was mostly in the beginning where things were just getting set up. By the end I didn’t notice it as much.

Also, there are a few steamy scenes, but nothing too over-the-top, just as a warning. 🙂

Overall, 4/5.

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HFC 2011: Maid to Match, by Deeanne Gist

Summary from Goodreads:

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled—by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack’s rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie’s efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt’s lady’s maid.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs…and their hearts.

Review:

I’ve read most of Deeanne Gist’s other books in the past and loved them and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think this one ranks up there as my favorite of hers that she’s written.

I loved how quickly and efficiently she introduced Tillie, the main character, and her love interest Mack. Their truly three dimensional and I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading about fictional people.

Though this is classified as Christian fiction/romance, Gist does a great job in making the characters’ faith not come across as sermonizing. I know I’ve read some Christian fiction where it seems like there’s a sermon on every page. The story takes precedence here, thankfully, while the characters’ faith is interwoven with their personalities.

For those who are uncomfortable with graphic love scenes, no worries here. Gist makes sure to tease us just a little, and swoon at the secret kisses and caresses, but keeps the “act” behind closed doors.

Only a few problems I had with this book:  first, the “bad guy” seemed like a bit of an afterthought. The story with him and how it affected Tille and Mack’s relationship didn’t really pick up until the second half of the book. But it wasn’t something that I thought took away from the story too much; there was enough tension and conflict between Tille and Mack earlier on to keep the pace going and the reader interested.

Second, though it’s a typical romance ending, it seemed a little too neatly tied up. Everything seemed perfect at the end, and I sort of wish there was just a little bit of something hanging…but that’s just me and my personal preference.

Overall, highly recommended, especially if you like turn-of-the-century romance.

4.5/5 stars

 

2010 Debut Author Challenge: The Iron King

Loved. This. Book.

The fairies in The Iron King are definitely not the “innocence and pixie dust” kind. Not even close. The Fey in this book are definitely darker and much more menacing. The Fey of mythology–the kind that people back in the old days would make charms for to prevent irking them or being a target.

In all the mythology I’ve read surrounding the Fey, the Summer and Winter courts and the sidhe in general, this is exactly the type of world that I would really be inclined to believe existed–a world of dark and terrifying creatures, ancient power and fey that thrive on making binding promises (like the kind for your first born or a memory or something equally as precious).

I could definitely relate to Meghan’s journey in this book. She was a perfect balance of strong and “hesitant” heroine–not too feisty but not a damsel in distress either. True she did rely on Puck and Ash and Grimalkin to get her out of many a scrape, but I’d suspect if most of us were plopped into a situation like hers at sixteen–or at any age–we’d probably react the same, if not more hesitant. There were plenty of instances that Meghan had to face where I probably would’ve wet myself, yet she kept her fear hidden well enough. But it was also nice to see her grow gradually as the book progressed and face each challenge with increasing confidence and bravery.

Loved the characters too. Puck had to be my absolute favorite. I think I’d choose him over Ash any day 🙂 The cat Grimalkin is a close second. If cats could speak, I’m certain Grimalkin echoes many a cat’s true thoughts, especially with their wily nature and unpredictability.

Definitely a highly recommended book, especially if you’re looking for the world of fey that’s not all magic and golden pixie dust.

2010 Debut Author Challenge: Magic Under Glass

So let me say that it’s been awhile since I’ve had a hard time putting a book down. Magic Under Glass was certainly one of those books; I stayed up until 1 AM last night finishing it.

Anyway, the book was as amazing as I’d hoped it’d be. Dolamore creates such a vibrant world and her descriptions paint such a picture that it seems like Lorinar was as real to me as any place on earth. The story hardly had a slow moment; each chapter ended at such a point that I couldn’t wait to read the next one…and the next and the next and so forth.

The main character, Nimira, has to be one of my favorite female heroines that I’ve read in awhile. She’s strong and brave, yet graceful and determined. I love how she’s not the standard “spitfire” heroine; her strength comes from within and she’s not the type to quickly speak whatever comes to mind; she carefully considers what to say–and who to say it to–instead of making the same mistakes as so many heroines her age by letting her emotions get out of control. I have to say I’m not sure I’d have been able to act as she did, with such bravery and calmness–especially when people would make less than kind comments about her ethnicity. Yet she wisely kept quiet, even if her emotions were raging within.

I loved how Dolamore portrayed all the characters in this book–from the mysterious and conflicted Hollin Parry, to the automaton Erris (whom I love almost as strongly as Nim), to the quiet and meek Linza and the dark and sinister Smollings. Each character was so three dimensional, it was like reading about events and people that actually existed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy and romance. It’s a quick read once you get started, trust me 🙂 And I’m really hoping that there will be a sequal to this fantastic world.

Definitely 5/5 stars.

Silver Phoenix Review

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Simply breathtaking. I had a hard time putting it down! I finished it in a little less than two days (about four hours to finish reading the entire book).

The story was evocative; I know I ended up actually crying at one point. I fell in love with the characters quickly–each had their own unique personality and the author definitely made them shine through. I did have a hard time with the names initially, but I was quickly able to identify each character with the name because of their unique traits.

I hope to see a sequel soon; the open ending made me long for more of the story.

I’m definitely glad I went searching all over town for this book. The only disappointment is that I’m done reading it. 🙂

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