Category: Guest Post

Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

Posted November 8, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Just a quick note today to let you know that Sophia Rose will be on the blog today with her lovely new review <33

Review:  Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa MeyerFairest by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3.5
Published by Scholastic on January 27th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Sometimes the villains are more fascinating than the heroes. Queen Levana has been the boogie-woman in the dark with nearly ultimate power since the beginning of The Lunar Chronicles series and she has not been afraid to wield the power to get what she wants. I was all on board for this book that takes a dip into her dark and shadowy past to see what came before and get a glimpse inside the mind of such a calculating woman.

Fairest falls between Cress and Winter in the series. I think it was a good place for the series to stop and pull over for this chronological prequel that makes sense to read it after learning the circumstances in the current situation and getting who all the players are before going back to see how it was all set in motion and then going on to get the last chapter in the story. I do not recommend reading it at the opening of the series because there is a feeling that though further back in time, that the reader has a good grasp on the world building. Plus, it’s a series spoiler in ways if read first.

So, Fairest, Queen Levana’s story and a loose retelling of the Wicked Queen and stepmother of the Snow White tale. It begins when Levana is fifteen, her parents have just died, and her sister is taking the throne. It stays with Levana as the narrator through the whole story.

I felt a certain sympathy for her. She never really stood a chance between a lack of nurture and her own nature. The story focuses on her quest to have something she can’t understand or truly grasp- love, being loved, having a feeling of belonging and family, but she snatches for it anyway. She both breaks the beauty of what she had and discovers that it was an illusion all along because she wants two very different things constantly and those things are at cross purposes and can’t exist at the same time the way she wants them.

It’s a sad story, but the author did a fine job painting Levana as she is under her glamour. I had the joy of seeing how things in the series were set in motion and the significance of the players and their roles. This is a great lead in to the final book, Winter, especially now that I know better the heroine Winter’s backstory from this book.

This won’t be for everyone and it is cleverly written so a reader can choose to read it or skip it. Worth reading it though.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Posted October 28, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Morning everyone! Sophia Rose is back on the blog today with a guest review and she has an interesting one for you. A historical mystery set in England of 1919. That sound fun already. Read on to see what Sophia Rose thought of the book.

Guest Review: This Side of Murder by Anna Lee HuberThis Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber
Series: Verity Kent #1
Published by Kensington Publishing on September 26th 2017
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Great War is over, but in this captivating new series from award-winning author Anna Lee Huber, one young widow discovers the real intrigue has only just begun . . .
An Unpardonable Sin?

England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew.
Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception . . .

I first noticed this author’s regency era mysteries and they seemed good. Then I noticed that she was starting a whole new series of historical mysteries and they were to be set post WWI with a clever former Secret Service heroine. Immediately, I chose to go with the shiny new series though after reading, This Side of Murder, I do very much need to go back for the older, Lady Darby series, too.

The book was an engaging blend of history and mystery with a whiff of romance. The heroine, Verity Kent, is a war widow who is living on the edge as a way to push back the shadows of grief. This island house party hosted by a friend of her dead husband is not one she would have attended save for the cryptic letter accusing Sidney of treason. Nothing feels right about the party from the atmosphere to the other guests to the hosts themselves and then someone dies…

I was bowled over by this author’s gift for time, setting, and atmosphere. I had no trouble believing this story was from the ’20s or that the characters had all been touched by the horror of war in their own ways. Verity was a character gem and I enjoyed exploring her world and watching her backstory and personality develop as things progressed. She wants to move on with her life after Sidney and the war, but she can’t seem to let go. And now there is Max who seems to awaken feelings in her even while he is also a suspect in the current situation and so cannot be trusted entirely.

The mystery was complex. It was a current murder mystery that was strongly connected to a secret past incident that ties all the house party guests together and makes them suspects. Just when I thought I had a grip on the answer there was this huge twist at the end that showed me I only had a partial answer.

All in all, I was thrilled with my first encounter with the author and her new lady sleuth. I will definitely be exploring further mysteries with Verity and also want to go back for the Lady Darby ones as well. Historical mystery fans should definitely give this a try.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Audio Review: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich Lorelei King (narrator)

Posted September 12, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 20 Comments

Good morning/afternoon! Hope you guys are having a good day. Can you believe its Sept 12 already? Wow. Tomorrow is my nieces birthday and I am super excited because we get to see her for her birthday on Sunday. As we live 4-5 hours away, we only get to spend a little precious time together. Today I have Sophia Rose on the blog and she delivers us an audio book review of Janet Evanovich interesting new series. Like Sophia, I’ve been meaning to try her books for a really long time as well. I think I am just good at collecting books over reading them. Regardless, enjoy her lovely review!

Audio Review:  Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich Lorelei King (narrator)Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich, Lorelei King
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on June 20th 2017
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 6 hours 44 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:two-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The irrepressibly charming duo of Emerson Knight and Riley Moon returns in another gripping mystery by #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.
Buddhist monk Wayan Bagus lost his island of solitude and wants to get it back. The island was about two hundred miles northeast of Samoa. It had a mountain, beaches, a rain forest, and a volcano. And now it’s gone. Poof! Vanished without a trace.
Brilliant and boyishly charming Emerson Knight likes nothing better than solving an unsolvable, improbable mystery. And finding a missing island is better than Christmas morning in the Knight household. When clues lead to a dark and sinister secret that is being guarded by the National Park Service, Emerson will need to assemble a crack team for help. Since a crack team isn’t available, he enlists Riley Moon and his cousin Vernon. Riley Moon has a Harvard business degree and can shoot the eyes out of a grasshopper at fifty feet, but she can’t figure out how to escape the vortex of Emerson Knight’s odd life. Vernon has been Emerson’s loyal and enthusiastic partner in crime since childhood. He now lives in an RV behind Emerson’s house.
Together, this ragtag, mismatched trio will embark on a worldwide investigation that will expose a conspiracy one hundred years in the making.

For years, I’ve been meaning to try a Janet Evanovich book. I thought it would be her acclaimed Stephanie Plum series, but then this one which was only two books in, caught my eye and, yes, I confess, it was because I adore Lorelei King as a narrator.

I was a little concerned that I was picking up the second book in a series, but shrugged it off. Dangerous Minds ended up doing just fine out of order and would work as a standalone.

The book opens with a startling arrival to wealthy Emerson Knight’s estate. His former mentor, a soft-voiced Buddhist monk states that his island home disappeared. Of course, it was funny, but also set the ball in motion for eccentric Emerson, redoubtable Riley, along with Emerson’s hilarious horn-dog cousin Vernon, and the monk, Wayan, to head out on their latest adventure.

Throughout the book, I found myself bursting out with laughs, mostly at Vernon’s juvenile humor, but nearly as often at Emerson. Evanovich knows how to write brilliant, quirky and engaging characters.

The setting for this latest case is America’s Nat’l Parks that contain volcanic action. I loved this, particularly, since I just spent a bit this past summer camping at a Nat’l Park and exploring its volcanic region and I’ve been to Yellowstone, twice, where lots of the story took place.

This is a lighter suspense story with the bad guys evident from the beginning, but the mystery of what they are hiding in the national parks being the unknown element. There are a few ‘ew’ moments when things get gritty, but for the most part, the intrepid gang of heroes manage to keep life and limb intact while cheesing it up.

There is a very slow-build romance element between Emerson and Riley, but the situation they are in causes this to stop and start its way along. They are a fun pair of opposites.

Lorelei King told a saucy adventure well and I loved that though there are many more male voices than female, she nailed it. Great match for the tone and pace of the book.

So, my first outing with a Janet Evanovich book was a rousing good success and I will definitely want more Knight & Moon adventures. I think the cozy mystery and light romantic suspense lovers would be a good fit for this book/series.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Devil’s Cut by JR Ward

Posted August 25, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Hi guys!! Is summer going fast or what? I missed this place but I’ve got good news, I am not gone, I am coming back and despite the fact that I have not had time to blog – I have been reading. Oh and to start off this with a bang I have Sophia back from her summer vacation with another lovely review. Make sure to leave this girl some love <3

Guest Review: Devil’s Cut by JR WardDevil's Cut by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #3
Published by Ballantine Books on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward s thrilling finale of the Bourbon Kings series, the Bradford family dynasty teeters on the edge of collapse after the murder of their patriarch and a shocking arrest. At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing. Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing. As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.

And now, we come down to it. The final pages of this addicting family saga romance about the wealthy and tumultuous, fast living Baldwines of Western Kentucky where horseracing and bourbon is king. Each book has drawn me into the world, the characters, and of course the tension-laden plot. Devil’s Cut delivered on all the early promise of The Bourbon Kings’ series.

Devil’s Cut is the third and final leg in the trilogy and follows the ongoing storyline began earlier in the series so it is not standalone or good out of order.

As I noted in the opening, this ongoing story follows the Baldwine-Bradford family and those close to them. There are multiple narrators and a few different plot paths that keep the readers on their toes without being utterly confusing. The pace of the story has picked up because of the plot points.

There are so many curious and captivating moving parts to the plot, but with a veteran move, the author controls the reins and ties each thread up neatly by the end. Relationships, character growth, and a few secrets along with the big murder mystery all resolve in what I thought was a satisfying way.

All in all, I loved my time with this series and all, but devoured this last book in a day. I enjoyed all the emotions I felt including being surprised over some twists and sad over a loss. I can highly recommend this book/trilogy for those who enjoy a blend of contemporary romance, family saga and suspense.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

Posted July 17, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 20 Comments

Good Morning guys! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying your July. I myself cannot believe how fast this summer is flying. Before you know it, we are going to be in the fall and than the year will come to a close. I miss you guys. It’s been super busy around here but I have managed to keep on reading, so I have a bunch of books to review for you and hopefully be back in full swing soon. Until than, the lovely Sophia has another review for you. Enjoy her take on how she felt about book twelve in the Pink Carnation series. I’ve been eyeing this series what feels like forever, it sounds like a great read with interesting characters.

Guest Review: The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren WilligThe Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
Series: Pink Carnation #12
Published by NAL on August 4th 2015
Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:two-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.  Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.   All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.   It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.
READERS GUIDE INCLUDED

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for espionage stories particularly from the past so the Pink Carnation series has been right up my alley. The Lure of the Moonflower is the twelfth and final book of the series and brings things full circle with a mission for the Pink Carnation herself.

For those not in the know, this series is told split story- present story framing a past story. In the present, Eloise and Collin have their adventures as Eloise lives at the old Selwick country estate to do research for her grad dissertation on the enigmatic shadowy lady spy of the past during the wars with France, The Pink Carnation. And in the past, the stories follow the missions of the members in the Pink Carnation’s league of spies. There is suspense and romance to be had- heavier on the romance much of the time.

The missions can get quite twisty so that sometimes it comes down to the end before secrets are revealed. These are exciting stories, but don’t slip into gritty thriller territory. I confess that the split stories don’t hold my attention equally. I enjoy Eloise, Collin and their families, but I get more engaged with the stories in the past. That said, with this last one, I found both stories engaging and I loved how this last story ended up. And I really hope a few of those possible future threads get addressed.

What I enjoyed about this one was not the actual spy mission itself- Jane, the Pink Carnation, recruiting a dubious Jack to help remove the queen of Portugal from French hands. No, I enjoyed the interplay between stiff, prejudiced, and know it all Jane against a man of equal intellect who is not what she thought he was. The Pink Carnation never errs and never is taken by surprise, but from the outset, she thinks she knows all about him and lets these preconceived notions guide her into making mistakes.

I was so afraid that there would be an imbalance and that the hero would never live up to who was needed to pair with Jane because she is such a strong and highly skilled agent and woman, but that was not the case. Jack was a brilliant complex character- strong enough to stand beside Jane and let her do her thing, but also have her respect because he was strong in his own right. Their chemistry was smoldering at first as they battled wits and figured out how best to get along, but then it was sizzling. Loved how their relationship was brought along.

Incidentally, my paper copy came with some extras at the back- historical notes, author q&a, extended and deleted scenes, and reader discussions.

So this was a great end to the series, but I do hope there are a few more to come someday. These will be for those who can appreciate a split story, gentle suspense that is more focused on romance and character parts of the plot.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Posted June 11, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 27 Comments

Hi Guys, hope everyone is having a great weekend. I don’t have much time today but I do have Sophia Rose on the blog with a YA Dystopia Romance review. Gosh.. I miss Dystopia books. Going to have to look into some I have not read yet myself. Anyway. I hope you enjoy your weekend and weather and leave this girl some love <3

Review: Rook by Sharon CameronRook by Sharon Cameron
Series: standalone
Published by Scholastic Press on May 31st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. The mysterious Red Rook is a savior of the innocent, and a criminal in the eyes of the government.
Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy's arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.
As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow ever higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.
Daring intrigue, delicious romance, and spine-tingling suspense fill the pages of this extraordinary tale from award-winning author Sharon Cameron.

I discovered Rook had a connection to the old classic, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and it became a must-read for me. I love the old tale of a hero in disguise saving people from death during the time of the bloody French Revolution and I was keen to see how the basic elements of that story would play out in a dystopian YA context. Rook is a separate and independent story so a reader doesn’t have to have read the old classic to appreciate this one.

Rook opens on an intense and exciting first scene where the reader gets a first glimpse of the Scarlet Rook saving innocents from the prison just before they are meant to be executed and then leaving her disguise behind to play an entirely different role back home. It’s a story full of intrigue, plots, spies, and no one seems to be whom they pretend to be and most have a private agenda.

This was one that I had to pay close attention to what was going on, always. There are narrative shifts, swiftly changing scenes even from paragraph to paragraph (this was a niggle), and it’s a large cast of characters though Sophia (ha, love that) Bellamy is the main character. There are main plot threads and smaller ones. Things get confusing near the end and then a series of twists and reveals take place that left me both nodding my head because I saw some of it coming while others were shockers for me.

The dystopian world came about through the shift of the magnetic poles bringing our current world to a crashing halt and centuries later the world of Rook is the result. I found the big natural disaster followed by the domino effect it wrought on humanity was well-done and the social situation of Rook made sense within that context. The theme of this whole book could be that history has a way of repeating itself.

I liked the characters and how there is some depth to them. Sophia was a strong female lead with both brilliant and impetuous moments. Like many YA characters, she has youthful confidence that slips into arrogance at times. She started her double-life because of the excitement and danger before she settled into needing to help the desperate. It worked in this story because she also was given vulnerability and felt fear and uncertainty. She knew she and her friends were the only ones willing to step into the gap and do something for the poor folks getting slaughtered on the guillotine so a few corrupt officials could steal their holdings and keep the mob in a blood frenzy.

There is romance in this one, but it’s complicated by the fact that both individuals are living double-lives and aren’t sure where they actually stand. There is a sad unrequited love also. I do like that the ‘love’ word isn’t tossed around early or lightly especially with all the other things going on in this story.

All in all, this was a great tribute to the classic, but also an engaging story in its own right. A little slow and could get confusing at times, but also exciting and twisting. This is YA dystopian, but the setting is more like French Revolutions era so I think it would also have some appeal for those who enjoy YA Historical Romantic Suspense.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Outlandish Companion Volume Two by Diana Gabaldon

Posted May 23, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 19 Comments

Hope everyone is doing well! The weather here is looking like it’s finally starting to turn nice. It’s been so hectic in real life, so not enough time to catch up on blogging. Luckily dear Sophia had a review for me.  I was just thinking I should really start this series myself.

Review: The Outlandish Companion Volume Two by Diana GabaldonThe Outlandish Companion, Volume Two: The Companion to The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Series: standalone
Published by Delacorte Press on October 27th 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 656
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

More than a decade ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon delighted her legions of fans with The Outlandish Companion, an indispensable guide to all the Outlander books at the time. But that edition was just a taste of things to come. Since that publication, there have been four more Outlander novels, a side series, assorted novellas, and one smash-hit Starz original television series. Now Gabaldon serves up The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two, an all-new guide to the latest books in the series.
Written with Gabaldon’s signature wit and intelligence, this compendium is bursting with generous commentary and juicy insider details, including
• a complete chronology of the series thus far• full synopses of A Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood• recaps of the Lord John Grey novels: Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner• a who’s who of the cast of Outlander characters,

For over a year, I’ve been meandering my way through this one that I got a couple Christmases ago (thanks to Simply Angela’s Outlander challenge I buckled down and finished, LOL). Sometimes treating it like a coffee table flip-through book and sometimes getting riveted to different parts. It really does its job of what I wanted it for by reminding me of what I was starting to get hazy on with some of the older books and also providing some great enrichment materials to better appreciate the books in the Outlander World.

I was one that devoured and used the Outlandish Companion v. 1 so I was tickled to see that a v. 2 happened. The Outlander World of stories is such a huge saga of history, characters, and story threads that I need something like this to help keep me straight. And then let’s add in the TV adaption storylines. Gah! I needed this.

This one does broaden the scope of what it covers now that Outlander is a sensation on the screen and in audio as well as in the written world. I thought this book did a good job of being an all things for all people so that from whichever path the Outlander lover followed to the Companion they received something for it. For instance, I have not followed the show much, but I have read and listened to the books. However, I saw a lot of references that those watching the show could read and appreciate.

It was fun to browse through this, reading summaries of the books large and small, getting the Lord John and stories away from Jamie and Claire, too. I also enjoyed the lovely maps, charts, indexes (yay for that character one). The structure of this Companion was somewhat more relaxed and less of the scholarly reference tool feel you get when there are citations, cross-references and a ton of indexing. I like it either way.

So, this is a great one for the extras and worked well the way I took my time with it. I know I’ll pull it down off the shelf often to continue referencing it from time to time when re-reading and hey, if I need to pursue a historical point non-Outlander related as well.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

Posted May 15, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

I hope everyone had a great mother’s day weekend. This afternoon I have Sophia Rose back with another review to start this lovely week. Hope you enjoy it and leave her some love.

Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy JonesMy Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones
Series: standalone
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on April 1st 2011
Genres: Womens Fiction
Pages: 324
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:three-flames

A down on her luck woman goes on an Austen-inspired journey of self-discovery in Jones's middling debut. After Lily Berry loses her mother, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and is fired, she finds in her passion for all things Jane Austen (Jane, indeed, is Lily's imaginary friend) an escape route: she travels to England to participate in a Jane Austen re-enacting festival. Full of enthusiasm—but not acting talent—Lily is not embraced by many of the Janeites, but this doesn't prevent her from meeting a charismatic actor, contending with an impossible roommate, and struggling with dark family secrets, all while trying to find the courage to be the protagonist of her own story. While Jones does a credible job of creating a heroine in transition, Lily's process of self-realization isn't nearly as involving as the subplots, which is quite unfortunate, considering how much time is devoted to sussing out her issues.

This book has been setting on my shelf for some time. I originally picked it up because I loved the idea of reading about a woman traveling overseas to work a summer gig as an actress and all around Girl Friday at a Jane Austen festival held on an English country estate. A fun ‘travel themed’ group read with my GoodReads group gave me the motivation to get going with this book.

I dove in with a little excitement and soon sat back on my heels. This was not going to be a light and fun summer read like I expected. The heroine, Lily, goes well beyond quirky. She has some very real issues that she is refusing to acknowledge by hiding between the covers of her favorite Jane Austen novels- her mother’s death, her father’s rapid replacement of his wife with a younger model, losing her job, losing her boyfriend whom she stalks thinking he’ll change his mind though he has moved on, and finally her determination that she can live out a life like/as a Jane Austen heroine got into some heavy issues and set the tone and pace of this slow moving gentle story.

There is a strong connection to Mansfield Park which I thought was handled well in a modern story. It’s not a one to one correspondence like a retelling which I thought was a smart move. It’s there and noticeable especially when Lily herself starts to not just realize, but purposes to follow the formula in the original novel seeing herself as Fanny Price fending of a rich man’s tempting assurances, pining over a man who has committed to someone else, dealing with disappointment and jealousy over a rival, and being tempted to be the woman who was seduced then discovered she was temporary goods.

While I appreciated some of this story, I stayed disconnected from it and the heroine throughout. I was glad to see her growing and finding herself, but my practical side kept screaming at me that she needed to seek some counseling to deal with the losses and grief and her unhealthy retreat into her imaginary world. She was very deep into that world and stayed there which I think plays a huge role in why I couldn’t get into her- I couldn’t find the real Lily very well. And that ending. Open. I know some people not only tolerate, but love them. I fall at the other end of the spectrum.

I think when all’s said and done, I would have appreciated this more if I would have anticipated this book differently. I didn’t pay attention to the way it was classified and labeled. I went in seeing a light, even comedic, read when it was more a serious women’s fiction about a heroine finding herself and putting distance with her past issues and fails.

So, it was a little satisfying and I’m glad I read it, but it is a story that left me still wanting.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Posted April 26, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 31 Comments

Morning guys! I got Sophia on the blog today reviewing Historical Fiction. Gah, how I miss Historical Fiction. Honestly, after reading her review I’m really considering this one. Set in Egypt, it sounds fantastic!

Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie ThorntonDaughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Thornton
Series: Standalone
Published by NAL on May 6th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 442
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.
Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.
Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall....
Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.

Before I get into my review, I have to tattle on myself a little. Usually, I’m a blurb reader and that leads me to actually take up a book. But I was distracted, glanced at the cover- saw female ancient Egyptian and assumed. Yeah… I was prepared for Cleopatra and got a little surprise. Not Cleo, but Hatty. And this book suddenly became sooo much more interesting for me. Hatshepsut is one of my favorite historical figures. I was thrilled to death to read this one.

Alright, so this was Hatshepsut’s story from her early years as pharaoh’s daughter, to a pharaoh’s wife (yeah, they do that brothers marrying sisters thing to keep it all in the family), and then a regent before finally, she goes for the crown and becomes pharaoh. Exciting life to be sure.

I loved how the author went about this story. She doesn’t try to paint a romance or a tale of a woman’s story based on her male relationships. The author focused on Hatshepsut, her fiery temper, and her drive towards more. Yet, there are more facets in play here. There are a blend of public and domestic scenes, of points in this woman’s life where heartbreak touched her. She finds fulfillment in her achievements, but also as a mother and lover, and friend. There were so many wonderful layers to the story. Hatshepsut and the land of Egypt during the New Kingdom era came alive.

And even though this is a real life story, the author takes the facts and manages to slip in some extra intrigue at the court with a few very believable additions that could have really happened even if there are no records to show for it.

For those who follow Egyptian history closely, you’ll know that there is great speculation about Hatshepsut’s relationship with the boy she set aside until after she was gone and his later decision to remove her existence from Egyptian history. I actually take the author’s point of view so I was well pleased with how she wrote this part of the story.

All in all, this was a great colorful and engaging piece- historical fiction at its best, I thought. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction bios.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Ship’s Crew by Michelle Franklin

Posted April 16, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 12 Comments

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it today! I hope your weather is wonderful and you can enjoy some outside time. I’ll be helping my little one hunt for eggs, so it should be exciting!

Review: The Ship’s Crew by Michelle FranklinThe Ship's Crew: A Marridon Novella by Michelle Franklin
Series: Marridon #3
Published by The Frewyn Herald on December 30th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 90
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The crew of the HMS Myrellenos are about to receive a new addition. After having made contact with the Baracan, the secret underground in league with Prince Lamir of Lucentia, Captain Danaco is eagerly awaiting information that will bring him home as leader of the prince's rebellion, but after a mishap on the ship and a chance meeting at a local tea house, the captain will have to chose whether to harbour a wayward agent until the next missive from the prince arrives. The third in the Marridon novellas.

The Ship’s Crew is the third Marridon Novella and picks up right from the end of The Barrican. Captain Danaco is awaiting word back from Lucentia and in the meantime, the crew of the Myrellenos amuse themselves.

This is a whimsical, meandering piece for much of the story developing the characters of the crew and Danaco’s masterful handling of their eccentric and colorful personalities. Librarian- and yes, scientist- Bartleby keeps them all dancing with his verbal gymnastics and exacting demands whether it is fixing a hole in the deck, the precise way to read a manuscript, or the etiquette for serving tea. The man must have things ‘just-so’ and it is amusing to watch them all tweak his tail.

There is an advancement for Danaco with a message from Prince Lamir and a startling new person on the scene. Rannig and Bartleby are there with Danaco to help save the day. I am eager to see these revolutionaries especially Captain Danaco work to put Lamir on the Lucentian throne.

For those just encountering the series, this is not a good place to start. The Leaf Flute introduces this particular story arc though it also assumes the reader is somewhat familiar with the Haanta universe. I personally started with The Commander and the Den AsaanRaatu, which is where I always recommend newbies start, and read my way through the Tales of Frewyn series, Khantara, and then the on-line short stories on the author’s blog.

I enjoy any chance I get to slip into this fantasy world including this latest series of Marridon Novellas that tell of a Captain and his crew that help depose a tyrant from his throne and put the rightful heir in his place. These have an old-style fantasy feel, classical tones, entertaining characters, and witty dialogue (aka fun challenge learning obscure synonyms and lingual gymnastics).

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