Category Archives: fantasy

Review: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

12th November 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

A woman wakes in a French battlefield hospital with no recollection of who she is, where she is, or how she may have gotten there. But she does remember how to assist the doctors and how to drive an ambulance, a difficult skill. From all accounts, she’s American, though it’s only 1916, and American hasn’t yet entered the war. On leave, she attempts to make her way to the Admiralty in London. She isn’t sure why she needs to go there, but the place holds significance for her, and she’s hopeful someone can identify her there.

But on the way, she takes ill, and Dr. August Bridge and his wife take her in. Dr. Bridge is a cranial surgeon, unfit for war because of scoliosis and bad eyesight, and he begins working with Stella in an attempt to regain her memory, as there are moments of clarity for Stella in which she only feels emotion. She sketches disturbing images she sees but cannot determine whether they are true or a figment of her imagination. But the story turns in an instant when Stella remembers her old life.

***

So, you should know that when I was in college, I devoured Anita Shreve books. In my estimation, they are similar to what the Jodi Picoult books are now. Pretty covers. Intriguing stories, but with a depth I usually enjoy more than some other women’s fiction.

Stella Bain was initially enthralling. Watching as she struggles to place herself and recall her reason for being in France is fascinating. I felt as though much of the book would be spent with her and Dr. Bridge working to restore her memory. However, when her amnesia disappears – rather quickly in the scope of the novel – the story becomes something different altogether. Stella begins to tell what brought her from America to the battlefields of France, another different but intriguing narrative. Yet after the reader understands what has brought her to war and what caused her amnesia, the novel begins to wane.

Still a good read, Stella Bain suffers from what many novels in the past several years have – a promising introduction but a less-than-stellar fulfillment of its early potential.

Recommended for fans of Anita Shreve and those interested in World War I.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

“When I have a little money, I buy books…”

15th April 2013

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
― Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

I only realized last week as I was scrolling through Bloglovin, that as much as I skip through posts of people showing the ARCs they get in the mail each week, I absolutely love seeing what they’ve picked up at library sales and various other used book scenarios. In fact, Heather at Between the Covers pushed me over the edge with her post about books she acquired during her library sale, and I realized I had never posted my lovelies that I picked up last month.

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One Saturday morning right before Spring Break, my best friend called about a book sale. She had gone to a local event last year and been astounded at the prices – a local used bookstore hosts the book sale for scholarship funds. Hardbacks were 50 cents!!! Paperbacks were 3/$1.00. I got all of the books above for $7.00!

  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
  • The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
  • The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie
  • They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie
  • Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
  • Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen
  • Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Cane River by Lalita Tademy
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (bought because my dad kept asking for the sequels, and I had borrowed from a friend)
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niefenegger
  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
  • Daphne by Justine Picardie

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This bunch I actually picked up at Half Price Books. There isn’t one near me, but I visited my other best friend in Dallas the week of Spring Break, and I made her promise we’d stop by. We spent a lovely two hours (thanks to her sweet husband for keeping the girls) browsing books. This is actually when I realized, too, that I needed to split up my Goodreads “to-read” shelf into fiction and non-fiction. There was entirely too much running back and forth in an attempt to locate as many of the books on my TBR as possible.

I also have to confess that this shot isn’t accurate. I actually got a couple more books and a movie, Office Space, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember which other books when I snapped this photo. The Chekhov and Cheever were just great little paperbacks. The Chekhov in particular is a lovely old paperback copy. The others, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Murder at Mansfield Park, the Betsy Tacy stories, The Girls of Murder City, The Master and Margarita, and The Moonstone are all recommendations that have come from other bloggers.

Since I also recently bought the Passing Bells trilogy by Phillip Rock and a couple of hardbacks and have received an inordinate number of ARCs because of my involvement with Bloggers Recommend (a monthly newsletter with bloggers recommending the best upcoming new releases), I am halting book buying for the next few months. But what a lovely little jaunt it’s been…

Review: The Dark Glamour by Gabriella Pierce

19th November 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Canvas in exchange for an honest review.

From the back cover:

Jane Boyle thought she’d met the man of her dreams. But it’s hard to live happily ever after when your new mother-in-law is literally a witch, determined to steal the magical powers you didn’t even know you had. When Jane discovers that the man she fell in love with is merely a pawn in her mother-in-law’s evil plan, she flees. Now Jane is alone and on the run, but she can’t hide forever.

One magical Park Avenue makeover later and Jane is ready to settle the score. But she is distracted by a mysterious man, the devilishly handsome Andre. The magical attraction between the two is electrifying, but is he all he seems? And will Jane make it into the witches’ den to overthrow her nemesis before it’s too late?

The Dark Glamour is the sequel to 666 Park Avenue, which, let’s face it, is just pure fun. Witches jet setting about New York and Paris in Chanel and Prada, determined to out-witch (or out-bitch) one another? Yes, please. So I was excited about the sequel, even though there were aspects of the first book that irritated me.

Enter The Dark Glamour. After the bang-up ending of 666 Park Avenue, Jane is in constant danger, but she stayed in New York, thinking the familiar would be the last place Lynne Doran would look. But just in case, she needs a makeover…a magic one. No dye job will work on her witch of a mother in law. So after an intense spell, Jane is transformed into Ella:

Her new, model-esque height came with pointed shoulders, small ripples of breasts, a long, flat stomach, and stretched-teardrop hips.

If you’re anything like me, your first response is, Ugh. What a youknowwhat. But my second was, What the heck are stretched-teardrop hips? Seriously, I don’t know what these are and can’t picture them. Why oh why do authors rely on new, weird descriptions for pretty simple things?

And Jane is very aware of her body, mentioning her half-moon cuticles again and again:

She tapped at the dead cell phone with one unpolished fingernail, the half-moon at its base glowing against her tawny skin.

And ok, maybe I’m going on a bit much, but the other thing was Jane is a dolt in this book. She (I promise, no spoilers) decides there’s only one way out for her and discovers something even Lynne Doran is clueless about. In her single-minded way, Jane/Ella plans her escape without really thinking it through, even as it becomes more and more apparent that her plan of action isn’t the most intelligent.

And it’s just…boring. Here’s the lowdown: I like reading fluff every now and again, but it darn sure better keep my attention.

For those who read 666 Park Avenue, you’ll likely want to pick this up just to see what happens. I think, though, this installment will be the end of the line for me.

Check out other reviews or add this to your Goodreads shelf.

666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

12th March 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Canvas in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Boyle is in a bit of a whirlwind. Her wealthy New York boyfriend Malcolm Doran has proposed, and Jane decides to leave her architecture job in Paris to take up her place as his wife in Manhattan. But before they make the trip overseas, they go to visit Jane’s grandmother, and Jane finds out she is a witch and that there are those out there who want her power. Trying to digest this information as well as meet Malcolm’s daunting family is unnerving. Add planning a wedding with her future mother-in-law to the mix, and Jane is overwhelmed. Mrs. Doran is…controlling and obsessive, but is she also evil?

666 Park Avenue begins with Jane trying on couture dresses to meet Malcolm for a fancy dinner. Midway through dinner, he proposes, and she says:

The room spun fast….Marrying Malcolm would mean leaving France behind: her job at Atelier Antoine, her adorable apartment in the fifth arrondissement with its charming view of Notre Dame from the fire escape, her friends, her entire life…

The choice was easy.

“Of course. Of course I will.”

Thus began my irritation with this book. Really? It’s an easy choice for her to give up all that?

But Jane also seems to make fun of herself at times, like when she goes to the library to research witches:

It had seemed so straightforward: she had imagined a montage of herself rummaging through the stacks, the Dewey decimal system her new best friend. She was even wearing tortoiseshell glasses, although all she had in reality were sunglasses. Out of nowhere, her witchy blood would draw her, like a moth to a flame, to the one passage that would make sense of it all.

Plus, in a Devil Wears Prada kind of way, Lynne Doran is fun to watch be evil. Her family is powerful, but Lynne wants even more and is ultimately her own worst enemy. This is also a trilogy, so it leaves with a bit of a cliffhanger.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a light, fun read, pick this up. Or maybe you just need a taste of New York glitz and glamour. This would work for that too. Buy your copy from Indiebound.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Review and Giveaway!

5th January 2012

*This book was sent to my by Lindsay at Viking/Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

The first novel in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is Diana Bishop’s story. Linked to witches before her, all the way to Salem, Diana shuns magic…except for every once in a while when her washing machine overflows. She’s stringent, always on guard against it, though her academic studies bely her interests. Diana studies alchemy, those intersections between magic and science. Much to her aunt’s dismay, once Diana’s parents died in Nigeria under mysterious circumstances, Diana has wanted nothing to do with her heritage. However, a strange book she calls for in the Bodleian Library at Oxford will change all that. The book, Ashmole 782, apparently interests all the magical world as its secrets pertain to them, and Diana’s research will lead her much deeper into the world of witches, vampires (and one particular vampire), and daemons than she ever wanted to go.

I have this bad habit. It’s kind of a secret, but when everyone and their mom is reading a particular book or talking about it, I am instantly turned off. Can’t help it. My sister thinks I’m a book snob, but I swear I’m not. You guys see what I read. It’s varied. I don’t only read highbrow books. Anyway, somebody stop this incessant rambling!

So. Discovery of Witches was one of those books. My mom and sis both read it. Every blogger I could imagine read and loved it. It was too much. But the fuss died down, and Lindsay at Viking sent me the paperback. Oh. My. Gosh. I can only liken my response to my total annihilation of Hostess cupcakes, should they ever be near me. It looks a little something like this…

and please, oh please do not Google "animal eating quickly" - it's disturbing

But yeah – that’s about right. I know those Hostess cupcakes aren’t really the best thing for me, but they taste. so. damn. good. Similarly, A Discovery of Witches is not the best thing for me. Why? Because seriously, Diana’s love interest, the vampire Matthew Clairmont, reminds me of one of my eternal loves – Jamie from Outlander, who turns my insides to mush. (Side note: if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you.) I felt like I was making moony eyes every time he walked in the room – Matthew, that is.

Diana meets Matthew when she thinks she’s unobserved in the library and uses just a little magic to pull a book from a high shelf. Instantly, she senses Matthew’s presence. In Harkness’s world, vampires, witches, and daemons don’t associate with one another. However, after Diana has put back Ashmole 782, suddenly the Bodleian library is full of creatures, and Matthew is oddly protective of her. Think Twilight for adults but better written.

That said, I will say there were moments when my gagging from Twilight was brought forth. Similarly to Bella, Diana is often swept into Matthew’s arms somewhat needlessly. Diana is a strong woman, a well-respected academic who has lived on her own and fended for herself. Her personality changes, though, as she and Matthew become involved. Granted, she is overwhelmed at her sudden re-entrance into the magical world and its secrets, but it grated. The story sucked me in nonetheless.

The other thing that bothered me were the sometimes blatant means of exposition. Diana uses the word chimera, but her witch aunt asks what it is, leading to the author’s definition of the creature. First, I already knew what a chimera is, and I was pretty darn sure a witch would as well. To me, this type of explanation is a bit lazy.

BUT. If you’re looking for a can’tputitdownnotgoingtosleepuntilIfinishthisbook, read this one and get ready for the second in the series this July. I assure you I will be.

[P.S. I didn’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve read this, do you see the Outlander parallel? Or is it just me?]

[P.P.S. Don’t miss Steph (from Steph & Tony Investigate) interviewing Deborah Harkness at BookPage. I knew there had to be an Outlander connection.]

Oh wait! I promised a giveaway, didn’t I? Thanks to the people at Viking/Penguin, I am giving away a paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment, including your email address, telling me your biggest literary crush. So go on, do it!