Monthly Recap: March 2016

 

16299And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie — 5 out of 5 stars.
No wonder they call this book a masterpiece.

Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloé Kardashian — 2 out of 5 stars
I love Khloé, but I don’t know why I read this. I’d be more interested in the story of her life rather than the self-help/motivational book I just finished.

The Siren by Kiera Cass — 3 out of 5 stars

Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare — 1 out of 5 stars
Liked the premise, did not care for the result. Why did he leave? Really, he really noticed her all that time? I did not believe in this scenario at all.
The return of characters from past Spindle Cove books was also distracting. You don’t need this.

The Healer by Virginia Boecker — 4 out of 5 stars
There is something about John’s narrative voice that is soothing and enticing, all at the same time. Once the end was reached I wanted more; I could have very happily gone through The Witch Hunter storyline through his eyes.
If you have not begun the series, this novella is a good way to start due to character introduction, glimpses into the magic of the world and how it figures into the sense of time and place, and the stirrings of the plot.

25817386My American Duchess by Eloisa James — 4 out of 5 stars
It was not just the extremely likable hero and heroine of this story that created the rating. It is the way it extends beyond the courtship angle, and enters a marriage between two people who are extremely attracted to one another yet do not know each other very well. This is one of my favorite Eloisa James stories to date.

Banished by Kimberley Griffiths Little — 2 out of 5 stars

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young — 2.5 out of 5 stars
Remember that Disney Channel original movie, Tower of Terror? Well, Hotel Ruby kind of reminded me of that, in the sense that it is haunted by ghosts stuck after a tragedy. Learning about that tragedy was the only reason I had to keep reading. A bonus also occurred when all of Audrey’s observations came together to illuminate the truth.
Otherwise, I found this story to be rather meh. The characters were not memorable and the romance did nothing for me. I can respect Audrey’s love for her family though.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I might come back and upgrade this to a five because I really did love the time I spent with this book. Retellings have become one of my favorite categories within the fantasy genre, and Khoury did a fantastic job telling the story of Aladdin through the eyes of a young jiForbiddenWish_BOM.inddnni girl. I think what impressed me most about this book is the way it so easily conveyed and integrated the mythology of the jinn within the story being told. Some authors take a trilogy to do what was done here in one book.
I can’t recommend The Forbidden Wish enough. Aladdin has always been bae (forgive me for saying it, you guys, but it’s so true!!) and I fell for him in this tale as well.

Monthly Recap: January 2016

January sure did seem to fly by, did it not? I hope you all had a great month. Here comes the list of the books I read; if there is a link that means I wrote a full-length review that you will be directed to.

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman — 5 out of 5 stars

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatrice Williams — 3 out of 5 stars

7069272I Kissed An Earl by Julie Anne Long — 4 out of 5 stars.
A perfect mixture of adventure and romance. When Violet Redmond uses her powers of deduction, there is only one thing apparent: that her brother is the sought-after pirate Le Chat, and that she must do whatever it takes to bring him home and escape the noose. Thus, she wheedles her way onto the ship of the earl tasked by the king to capture Le Chat, and embarks on an adventure. This story really did have it all in terms of pirates, life upon a ship, and action. I am always in search of historical romances that do more than linger around a house party or a ballroom, and this one delivered.
The romance between Violet and Captain Flint was also good. Both engaged in a sensual game of chess with the other, pulling the tension to delicious heights. All in all, this was a good story about the lengths a person will travel for the love of another, and the ability of that love to bring out the hidden qualities within.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin — 4 out of 5 stars

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato — 4 out of 5 stars

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling — 2 out of 5 stars

25365683Demelza by Winston Graham — 4 out of 5 stars
What is it about this series that is so compelling? The characters, with all of their flaws trying to exist within the same community. Even further, the in-depth look into a mining community filled with hardships as befitting the time interest me. This is great historical fiction, and while I did like Ross Poldark a little bit more there are plenty of good things about Demelza. (I listened to the audiobook)

Review: Why Not Me?

22716447Title: Why Not Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Review: Why not me, indeed. Or more like why am I the only one I know not connecting to this book?

I decided to read this on a lark, not knowing anything about Mindy besides who she is (as a celebrity), but being interested in one day watching her show. But maybe a memoir works better if you have some familiarity with the author?

As it stands, this book just was. The essays went from one to another. I wondered where the continuity was, along with questioning if this book had a concrete theme. Some moments are definitely funny. The essay I enjoyed the most was her telling of a failed love affair with one of Obama’s secret service agents; that is a fantasy I did not even know I had until I read it. Everything else in this book seemed to ramble on and I’m unsure I’ll remember any of her anecdotes a month from now.

Review: Beatrice and Benedick

23848558Title: Beatrice and Benedick

Author: Marina Fiorato

Rating:  ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: When nineteen-year-old Beatrice is brought to live at her uncle’s court in Sicily to be a companion to his daughter, she first meets Benedick, a young soldier who is there with a Spanish lord on a month-long sojourn. As they begin to wage their war of wit, their words mask their deep love for one another. But the pair are cruelly parted by misunderstanding and slander. Heartbroken, Benedick sails to England on the ill-fated Spanish Armada. Beatrice returns to her home in the North and an unwanted betrothal. While Benedick must fight for his life on board ship, Beatrice fights for her freedom from an arranged marriage.

From the point of view of Beatrice and Benedick we hear the lovers tell their own story, taking us from the sunlit southern courts of Sicily, to the crippled Armada on the frozen northern seas, to the gorgeous Renaissance cities of the north.

Review: With no disrespect meant to Claudio and Hero, when most people think of the play Much Ado About Nothing they think about the lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Through their quips to one another it can easily be read that there is a history to these two, and Marina Fiorato uses her imagination to describe just what that story might be. Do not think of this as only a retelling, however, for this incredibly well written book also features significant moments in 16th Century history while simultaneously weaving in the story of the bard, Shakespeare.

Beatrice and Benedick meet for the first time at the Sicilian home of her cousin, Hero, for a month’s celebration of the Ascension. Drawn together and torn apart by each other’s tongues, the two go on to engage in a game ever searching for the truth of feelings while also struggling over who is to be the victor. I had not read the play in a long time, but I was able to easily imagine this as how things could have been between these characters, particularly because I think Fiorato was able to get the characterizations correct. I felt for both of them; and when a misunderstanding forced them apart, I was convinced my interest in the book would wane. After all, I wanted to read about these two — together.

But Fiorato goes on to do an interesting thing: she shifts Benedick to Spain, where he becomes swept up in the Spanish Armada. I have not read much about the Armada, and found myself riveted with the details of the preparations, the hubris, and the destruction. Beatrice, meanwhile, must return home to Verona, where she continues to grow as a woman who sees herself in her own right. Here, another play of Shakespeare comes into play as well, which really goes on to make the reader think of how all of these stories could be connected if the theory used by the author is correct. Like I said before, do not only think of this as a retelling because there is some rich history and theory presented here.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this story, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction, or an admirer of the bard’s plays. I had not read Much Ado in some time, and that did not negatively affect my experience with this if that is a concern to you. The references to the play are, of course, present, though this book works just as well as a story of love.

Review: Along the Infinite Sea

24875387Title: Along the Infinite Sea

Author: Beatriz Williams

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler’s problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she’s finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician.

But the car’s new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle’s life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

Review: After successive novels by Beatriz Williams that did not appeal to my tastes, I was wary and hopeful at the same time. The former because I did not want to be disappointed and not finish another of her stories; hopeful because I find Pepper to be the least nauseating of the Schuyler sisters and because the cover was gorgeous. The synopsis also appealed to my interest in historical fiction, as Pepper becomes acquainted with a woman who buys Pepper’s car due to the role it played in her escape from Germany in the year 1938.

Along the Infinite Sea follows the life of Annabelle, beginning as she meets a man named Stefan along the coast of France and falls in love with him. Circumstances of their own making and of outside forces go on to bring them together and pull them apart during this three-year time span, and the answers revealed at the end of Annabelle’s story color the action of the narration being told from Pepper’s perspective in 1966.

Unlike the model she used in the books I did not like, Williams focused this story nearly entirely on the love affair of the past. And that is why I enjoyed this book — the lives of those from the past have always been the most interesting for me to read about in Williams’ novels. Rather than drownAlong the Infinite Sea with too much drama in Pepper’s life, or a rapidly moving insta-love trope, she delved more into the historical fiction to share a story that held my interest. If you, like me, have had issues with this author’s books in the past because of the issues mentioned, then I can see this one holding more appeal with you.

Review: Ross Poldark

25365667Title: Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1)

Author: Winston Graham

Rating: ★★★★★

Provided Synopsis: In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

Review: What can I say? After watching the most-recent BBC adaptation of this series, I knew I needed to read the books as well. Due to time restraints, I actually listened to the audiobook, which was absolutely amazing in case you wanted to know; the narrator was fantastic!

I think the appeal of this series is that it is a generational saga that sucks the reader to the coast of Cornwall. All of the characters, primary and secondary alike, are given their own voices, personalities, flaws, and further complexities to carry them through their lives. I felt as if these were real people: there is depth to the interactions and relationships with one another. Because the writing of the characters is so strong it becomes compulsory to want to be amongst them more and more, hence I understand the lasting appeal of the Poldark saga.

Beyond the strong characterization is also the firm sense of time and place. This is superb historical fiction, taking place after Ross returns from the Revolutionary War to find his places at home in Cornwall. The towns, homes,the coast, and the way of life are all depicted give the reader proper footing to understand these people and why they feel the need to make certain choices.

Excellent read/listen. I can’t recommend this enough.

Review: The Adventuress

23848104Title: The Adventuress (Lady Emily #10)

Author: Tasha Alexander

Rating: ★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Emily and husband Colin have come to the French Riviera for what should be a joyous occasion – the engagement party of her lifelong friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, and Amity Wells, an American heiress. But the merrymaking is cut short with the shocking death of one of the party in an apparent suicide. Not convinced by the coroner’s verdict, Emily must employ all of her investigative skills to discover the truth and avert another tragedy.

Review: Once upon a time, there was nothing I wanted to read more than a Lady Emily mystery. Here we are, though, on the tenth book in the series, and the latest in a row of disappointing reads, which leads me to wonder if it is time for this series to wrap up.

The best part of the story was the beginning. The suddenness of that first line, as well as the emotional reaction torn from Emily were well done, for all factors created an atmosphere I was riveted to. But too soon, the veneer of reader engagement began to wear off. This is another story in the series in which the murderer and the motivation behind the act is easy to determine within a few pages. I want to read a mystery book and feel a level of suspense. I want to read a mystery book and find myself collecting clues to reach a conclusion along with the main character; for the past few Emily books I have been able to solve the crime before the heroine. (The only plus to this plot is that it felt like it was more worthy of a full length novel; this is significant since I have lamented in the past that the later stories in the series have felt more suited to a novella.)

If a series is to reach a tenth book, then it is always my hope that new dimensions are being revealed within the characters and that circumstances have begun to shift. But has Emily continued to grow? I do not think so. For me, I often find the characters in this series to now be caricatures of themselves rather than the brilliance they once were. So I ask: how do you know when to let a series go? Should I continue to hope for more, for better; or should I call it quits?