Tag Archives: 3.5 Stars

The Inventor’s Secret – Andrea Cremer

The Inventors Secret

I read this a while ago but obviously am really behind on posting. I think the sequel is coming out this month, so I figured it was a good time to post this review! Continue reading

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Blood Red

Blood Red

I think I’m just going to have to resign myself to super inconsistent posts, since I haven’t had too much time or energy for reading fiction.

I did get quite excited when I realized that Mercedes Lackey had a new Elemental Master’s novel, Blood Red.  I really love this series.

As you might surmise from the cover, this is a twist on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale.  It deviates from the other Elemental Masters novels a little I think, but I really enjoyed it.  For one, it’s set in Europe – Germany and Transylvania instead of England. It also introduced supernatural creatures – werewolves and vampires, that have been distinctly missing from other books I’ve read.  I had a little more trouble buying in to those depictions to be honest, although it does tie in to the elemental world by explaining at least one of the kinds of werewolf.

Rosamund (the “Little Red Riding Hood” character) is an Earth Master.   She was rescued by her adoptive father, a Hunt Master and Earth Magician of the Schwarzwald Foresters, when her original teacher (the “grandmother”) was murdered by a werewolf.   Rosamund has now grown up to be a Hunt Master herself, as her Earth powers tend more toward protection than healing.

While visiting with a friend of her adoptive father, Rosa meets a pair of Elemental Magicians from Hungry who have come seeking help.  She must set aside her prejudice – as one of these magicians is also a hereditary werewolf. Her mentor insists that the hereditary werewolves are not to be feared – for they are on the path of the protectors, but Rosa is not so sure.  As she travels into dangerous territory, can she trust those who are guarding her back?

A few thoughts:

  • I liked the different setting.  Most of the other books are set in England, with a few elsewhere.  This felt like an entirely different flavour, taking place mostly in Europe and Transylvania.
  • The book was more violent than others in the series – which I guess is to be expected when it’s about a evil-fighting Hunt Master who is tracking down werewolves.  There were lots of fighting, and the werewolves in Transylvania are particularly unsavory characters!
  • It’s pretty predictable and clichéd, but since I love that kind of structure I appreciated that part of things.
  • Rosamund is pretty kick-ass.  It’s nice that she has to address some of her deep-seated prejudices, but I feel she’s just a little bit too… goo to be realistic.  Good not in the nice/pious sense, but more in the “I can of course take on any monster that comes my way and with a lot of self-confidence because I’m simply awesome” kind of way.  She has a few moments of self-doubt but they didn’t feel congruent with the way she acts for most of the book.  Maybe I was less sold on Rosamund because you meet her as a young girl, but then AFTER she’s done all her training and has become this crazy, skilled Hunter.  She goes from a young girl to a fearsome predator of evil things, and it’s a harsh transition.
  • There is a LOT of description and despite what you’d expect, relatively little action.

I did enjoy it overall, and would probably say a 4/5 (although if you’re a huge fan of other Mercedes Lackey Elemental Masters books, this might be a disappointment).

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The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess  by Julie Klassen is admittedly another re-read for me.  I own a copy, and it’s been sitting collecting dust on my shelf for a while.  I decided I felt like another go, so here we are!

Olivia Keene, forced to flee her home unexpectedly, ends up in a predicament she could never have imagined.  Having inadvertently overheard a very important secret, Lord Bradley is determined to keep an eye on her.  Since the revelation of his secret would cause him to lose everything, Lord Bradley bullies Olivia into taking a post at his home.

With little choice, Miss Keene takes on her role in the Nursery at Brightwell Court, and she soon discovers that her young charges are delightful and that life there is not so bad after all – even if she is temporarily mute.

This is an agreeable historical fiction.  It is by no means dramatic and the plot is not overly complicated and mostly relies on revealing everyone’s secrets oh so slowly.  Of course things are more and less simple than they seem.

Olivia is playing the price for her over-active curiosity.  She is stubborn, a bit independent, and has a temper – but none of these measures in the extreme. She is also kind and not immune to the charms of the children in the nursery.

Lord Bradley is conflicted, broody and suspicious, but not without moments of happiness (mostly when interacting with his young cousins).

The story is sprinkled liberally with religion, and as much as I’m not normally one to enjoy Christian fiction, it does fit with the era I suppose.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, not overly complicated book that fits my desire for a relatively light historical fiction (19th-century) with a bit of romance.  (There is only a BIT of romance – I wouldn’t say it is the main focus, even though it’s sort of trying to be).

3.5/5

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Lady Thief (Scarlet #2)

Lady Theif

After finishing Scarlet  by A. C. Gaughen, of course I picked up Lady Thief. I do love a sequel!

Now that Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, her future seems even less certain.  Lord Gisbourne is back, only to blackmail her into staying by his side and acting the dutiful wife while the royal court comes to Nottinghamshire for the appointment of a new Sheriff.  Prince John, angered over Scarlet’s defiant past and the secret of her lineage that even she doesn’t know, has plans for both Scarlet and Nottinghamshire.

If Scarlet can play her part, she might have a future with the man she loves.  If not, she might lose the chance of any future at all.

Warning: if you haven’t read Scarlet and want to avoid spoilers for THAT book, don’t read ahead.

….

….

Okay, you’ve been warned.

So this book obviously takes up where the last one left off, and Rob is dealing with the trauma of his recent torture while Scarlet seems to be trying to figure out what the heck will happen to her and with them.  Particularly since Rob is struggling with violent nightmares that have the unintended consequence of him beating on her when he’s still sleeping / not himself.  Romantic, eh?

Scarlet seems to lose a lot of her tough outer shell in this book. It’s almost like as she puts on a dress she loses her strong-girl persona.  Sure she’s making a huge and dangerous personal sacrifice, but now she needs to find time to cry in the arms of her true love when the going gets a little tough.  It doesn’t suit her.  She’s like a fly caught in a spider’s web, or a puppet with someone else controlling the strings.

The story is now focused on the nobility swarming around, and Scarlet’s past and present, and much less on helping the people of Nottinghamshire. It was a whole book of “women have no power, men have all the power and evil men have the most power and are probably gonna screw you all over”.

I think I’ll give it a 3.5/5.  I will read the last one, but I don’t know how excited I am about it!  (Plus it’s not out yet, so there will be a wait).

 

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UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale #1)

Unenchanted

Unenchanted  by Chandra Hahn was the latest book on my reading list.

Mina Grime is a quiet, clumsy, unpopular, and extraordinarily unlucky teenage girl drifting through high school trying not to get noticed.  With her family barely squeaking by, Mina doesn’t have a cell phone and her means of transportation is a rusty old bicycle.

When she goes on a class field-trip to a nearby bakery, everything changes. When Mina saves the most popular (handsome, rich, nice) boy from a freak-accident, she is thrust into the limelight.  Her new fame, and her mother’s reaction to it, reveals that Mina is the victim of an old family curse.  The Grimm brothers – for Mina is a Grimm not a Grime – made a deal with the fae that trapped them, and all their descendants, into a race to complete the Story.  Mina must finish ALL the tales, before she becomes the Story’s next victim.

What a unique idea!  Mina is forced to live through all the 200+ Grimm tales before she can free herself (and the rest of her family) from the Grimm curse.  This is a very TALL order, given the sheer volume of tales.  Plus the fact that many of them have decidedly unhappy endings. (No one in her family has managed to complete the tales yet).

I had a really hard time deciding whether I actually liked Mina or not.  She is somewhat of a stereotypical teenage girl – filled with unrequited teenage lust (a crush on the most popular boy) as well as over-blown teenage angst/drama.  I always hope for a strong female character, and for most of the book Mina was very disappointing in that regard.  Yes, she saved Brody (the popular guy) but her numerous overreactions and copious tears really didn’t sell me on her personality or her gumption.  She’s all like “Yeah! I’ll defeat the story!” but then when faced with anything she turns into a crying “Oh, someone save me!” pathetic and passive doll.  I was very concerned.  She redeems herself a teensy bit by figuring out that maybe SHE should DO something to save HERSELF by the end, but it was a passing and very short moment followed quickly by tears.  (Admittedly I sort of sympathized with those tears, but seriously she was a fountain for most of the book so they annoyed me more than they stirred sympathy in me).

So I guess the answer is: I didn’t really like her most of the time.

I did like the idea of mashing up and modernizing a bunch of fairy tales, and I still think that holds merit as a plot line.  Given the fact that she (spoiler) finished only THREE tales, I’m not so sure that she’s going to get through the Story. There are sequels, and I’ll be willing to give them a try to see if Mina turns from being a quivering lump of no-action jelly into a strong character who can actually get stuff done.

3.5/5 on this one. (Which is too bad, since I really enjoyed other Chandra Hahn books I’ve read, like The Iron Butterfly).

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Princess of the Midnight Ball Series

I have been waiting and waiting to read this series by Jessica Day George and finally the books became available through the library.  The series consists of three books, and I will review all three in this post.  A caveat – I actually read the second and third book before I got to the first, since those were the order my holds came through, but since the first book (Princess of the Midnight Ball) is based on the Story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, it really wasn’t a mystery what had happened.

To the reviews!

First, Princess of the Midnight Ball.  This I read last but it goes first in the series so I will start with it.

Princess of the Midnight ball

This is the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, doomed to dance by the King Under Stone.  The twelve princesses are each named after flowers, and Rose is the oldest.  She must take on the mantle of responsibility, for their mother is long dead and the Princesses are cursed.  Every third night, the Princesses must descend through a magic door into the realm of King Under Stone and dance.  They dance through illness, exhaustion, and pain, for the deal their mother made with King Under Stone is binding and there are years of debt to repay. It soon becomes clear, however, that King Under Stone has plans for the girls, and hopes to trap them there forever.

Galen is a young soldier returning from the long and expensive war that killed his parents and his only sister.  He returns to the only family he has – an aunt and uncle in the city.  His uncle, who is the head gardener for the king, takes him on.  Working in the royal garden, Galen has a chance to meet the infamous princesses.  Despite his rough past, he has a kind heart and gentle soul and it pains him to see the girls (and Rose in particular) suffering.

After the king decrees a contest to see who can solve the mystery, Galen waits as princes come and go, unable to solve the curse.  He decides to break the curse, once and for all.  With the help of some common herbs, a mysterious invisibility cloak, and some wool, Galen may finally be able to free the princesses.

I have to say, this was my favourite of the three.  I had great respect for Galen, a soldier who did not let war coarsen his manners or his heart.  He was kind to strangers, listened to his elders, and felt no shame in knitting. I really enjoyed the manly knitting, actually, and thought it was a clever addition to the story.  He obviously liked Rose from the start, but his attempts to woo were subtle and sweet.

I loved Rose for her sense of duty.  She was in a tough spot, torn between responsibility, trying to protect her sisters, and a secret affection for a mere gardener.

It was a very traditional retelling of the tale, with only a few tweaks.  I really enjoyed the added background and context, including the difficulties with the church (who believed witchcraft was afoot) and politics (including the relations between neighboring countries, which became increasingly delicate as time passed).

I appreciate a tale that applauds characters who are clever and polite!

Princess of the Midnight Ball  = 4/5

On to number two: Princess of Glass

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Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2)

Hollow City

Book number Two!  Hollow City by Ransom Riggs follows after Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  I usually try to re-read the first in a series before seeking out the sequel just to refresh the story in my mind, but I didn’t want to commit myself to purchasing either (since I didn’t LOVE the first) and both of course had long wait-lists at the library.  Luckily, it was pretty easy to pick up and remember what had happened in the first book – or at least get the important bits early on.

So Jacob Portman, who traveled to Wales in the first book in order to solve a family mystery, finds himself now in a race against time.  He and his peculiar friends must make it to London in order to save their beloved Miss Peregrine before it’s too late.  There are many obstacles and perils along the way, and the children must rely on their peculiar strengths along with a lot of luck in order to stay alive and fulfill their quest.  It’s still 1940’s Britain, and there is as much to fear from air-raids and bombs as there is from wights and hollowgast.

One of my complaints about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Childrenwas the lack of character development overall.  Hollow Citydoes a better job of bringing out Jacob and Emma and rounding them out more, but most of the other characters don’t show much growth or background.  Instead they seem to solidify in their archetypes.  Bronwyn is ever the strong girl, who protects the small and weak. Millard is the scholar, who provides a teaching voice and a source for background knowledge. Horace is the cowardly fortune-teller who is obsessed with his clothes. Olive is a light-headed little girl. Enoch is the sarcastic and seldom helpful boy who can re-animate the dead. Emma is the hot-tempered, assertive love interest.  As an aside, Emma is too fiery for me (excuse the pun) and her alarmingly quick temper isn’t endearing but annoying (in my opinion).  You meet a host of other characters, and the action sweeps the story up so quickly that there really isn’t much time for character development.

On the plus side, I think I liked Jacob more than I had previously – he is a great character and did change and grow and realize things about himself.  I also appreciated that he doesn’t see the world as black or white.  On the minus side, the romance plot line was pretty thin and not super believable.  I definitely got the sense that Jacob’s feeling’s for Emma’s were not reciprocated evenly.

I felt that there was much better integration of the random vintage photographs into the story, and they weaved more into the plot line.

The story is fast-paced and carries along with a lot of improbable coincidences, but it’s interesting overall.  If you’re looking for dimensional characters and personal growth, look elsewhere.  If you want lots of running and being chased, this would be a good book for you.  Overall, it was better than the first, and earns a 3.5/5 in my opinion.  Still not worth purchasing, but I don’t regret the read.

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Keeping the Castle

Keeping the Castle

Althea Crawley is seventeen and determined to marry well.  She must, as she is the sole supporter of her entire family (i.e. her mother and brother; she has two step-sisters but they have their own fortunes which they will not share).  Althea, her family, and her step-sisters reside in a worn-down castle (built by their impulsive Grandfather) that is plagued by rickety furniture, rust, a leaking roof, and a host of other repairs. Perched on the edge of a cliff, it looks as if the whole thing could come tumbling down at any moment. Unfortunately, as Althea lives in out-of-the-way north England, there are few wealthy suitors to be found.  Nevertheless, she has her beauty as an advantage and her frank tongue as a deterrent.

Young, attractive, and to all appearances very rich Lord Boring arrives and opens up the playing field. Althea sets him in her sights – in fierce competition with her step-sisters, Charity and Prudence. Lord Boring brings with him a host of characters, including his cousin and friend Mr. Frederick, both their mothers, and a Marquis (who is a family friend as well).  The party is later joined by the Vincy family, where Miss Vincy is added to the playing field.

It’s a story of determined plans, match-making, and determination.

I did enjoy this book.  It nods to Pride and Prejudice in lively Althea and the whole marriage-hunting business (which is pretty much the whole plot).  It’s a shiny surface kind of book – one without layers or great feeling. Althea is clever in some ways, but extremely blind in others. If it wasn’t short, I think I would find the intrigues a little dull, or perhaps worn.

A tiny bit of spoilers:

okay ready?

It found it pretty predictable that Lord Boring was in fact pretty destitute and in need of a wealthy bride himself. Of course Mr. Frederick, who came over very disagreeable to start, would turn out to be not only extremely wealthy but also possessing of a fine character.  That plot thread was a parody of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and unfortunately it was not as well executed.  You could believe that Althea and Mr. Frederick were falling for each other – mostly – but it was a scratchy kind of romance.

The only surprise was Miss Vincy, to be honest.

I’m painting a poor picture of the book, because even despite it’s faults I did enjoy it and would probably even read it again in the future. Which is why I’ll give it a 3.5/5 (which is bordering on a 4/5 when you consider rounding anyway).

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The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3)

The girl with the iron touch

I finally got around to book three of The Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch. (You can find my thoughts on book one here and book two here). I feel like the Goodreads Summary, which I read before the book, doesn’t really do it justice AT ALL.  Or at least focuses on weird things which aren’t as big a deal in the book.

Finley, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Jasper are all back in England.  When Emily is kidnapped by automatons, it seems that their old foe, The Machinist, is somehow behind things once again.

Emily has been summoned to transplant The Machinist’s consciousness into one of his automatons.

Griffin, in the meantime, appears to be suffering but won’t tell why.  What is tormenting him? Or who?

Finley is good at getting mad, and must confront her feelings for Griffin … and for Jack Dandy.

Sam is determined to get his Emily back, and finish an unfinished conversation between them.

Jasper, distant and withdrawn, is still mourning the events in New York.

My thoughts:

  • Better.  Better than the second book (The Girl with the Clockwork Collar) at least.  Maybe I just like Emily better than I like Finley.
  • I still can’t put my finger on what bothers me about these books. Maybe it is that it takes place in a historical setting but doesn’t have a historical FEEL to it.
  • I like Sam a LOT better
  • I feel like the description on the back hypes stuff up too much (i.e. Love triangle) but the story focuses on other things, including a new character.
  • FINALLY Griffin and Finley get to actually confronting their feelings.
  • Happily, there are no new love triangles and the old ones are mostly resolved! Woot!
  • An amusing side note: apparently my mental voice cannot do an Irish accent that is NOT the voice of an old man haha.  It made reading Emily really funny.  I’m going to have to watch clips of a young Irish girl talking to get the old man voice out of my head!!!

3.5/5

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Deep Secret

Deep Secret

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones was entirely unexpected.  I admittedly did not even read the synopsis before delving in, which in retrospect was probably why I found the book so surprising.  I was excepting something along the lines of her other books (e.g. the Chrestomanci books or Howl’s Moving Castle) but Deep Secret struck me as something similar to / reminiscent of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Not in storyline so much as in style.

I don’t really know how to sum up the story but here is my lame attempt:

The Universe is really the Multiverse – with lots of layers and worlds, some being Naywards and some Aftwards.  It’s the Magid’s job to oversee what goes on – sort of like a guide.  Rupert is a junior Magid whose territory includes both Earth and the Empire of Korfyros.  When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement Magid.  Unfortunately for Rupert, things start to go sour in the Empire of Korfyros when the Emperor dies.  Rupert must find a replacement Magid and find the hidden heir to the Empire.  Rupert’s search for the new Magid leads him to Maree and Nick Mallory – two cousins who might be more trouble than Rupert knows.

I did not really think this book was a children’s book or a young adult book.  It’s definitely fantasy, and weaves the story around Earth and the other worlds pretty deftly.

I liked most of the main characters (Rupert, Stan, Maree, Nick), although I never really identified with or really felt deeply for any of them.  I found the story a bit confusing as I tried to piece together what exactly a Magid was or did, and why he would be so involved with the Empire – and what was going on with the whole infinity loop / lots of worlds thing. In the end I gave up trying to understand and just went with the flow.

I wasn’t deeply attached to or emotionally invested in the story or any of the characters, though I was happy enough when good things happened (eventually).  I felt like the story had too many threads perhaps.  I didn’t really understand what was happening in some of the action bits, which was frustrating, though Rupert did explain most things afterward.

All in all, a decent read but not overwhelmingly so.  I’d rate it 3.5 out of 5.

Cheers!

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