Saturday, January 21, 2017

Blackout & All Clear - Review

Title:  Blackout & All Clear
Author:  Connie Willis
Series:  All Clear #1 & #2

Synopsis:  Blackout: “Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past.  Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor.  Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day.  Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz.  But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules.  And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse.  For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas – to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control.  Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.”
All Clear: “Traveling back in time, from Oxford circa 2060 into the thick of World War II, was a routine excursion for three British historians eager to study firsthand the heroism and horrors of the Dunkirk evacuation and the London Blitz.  But getting marooned in war-torn 1940 England has turned Michael Davies, Merope Ward, and Polly Churchill from temporal tourists into besieged citizens struggling to survive Hitler’s devastating onslaught.  And not there’s more to worry about than just getting back home: The impossibility of altering past events has always been a core belief of time-travel theory – but it may be tragically wrong.  When discrepancies in the historical record begin cropping up, it suggests that one or all of the future visitors have somehow changed the past – and ultimately, the outcome of the war.  Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the stranded historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, frantically confronts the seemingly impossible task of rescuing his students – three missing needles in the haystack of history.  The thrilling time-tripping adventure that began with Blackout now hurtles to its stunning resolution in All Clear.

Review:  I’m reviewing two books at once in this review because, in my opinion, they are actually just one book and should be treated as such.  I love Connie Willis.  The first of her novels that I read was Doomsday Book (read my review here) another time travel novel set in the same world, and I loved it.  After reading Doomsday Book I immediately snatched up all of her books that I could find.  I’m so behind in my TBR pile that it has taken me this long to get to them.  I was not disappointed; Blackout and All Clear are the best books I’ve read all year.  Blackout sets up the story, introducing you to the world and the characters.  All Clear shifts you to the edge of your seat; making you read faster and faster, as you bite your nails, wondering how in the world this is going to end. 
     Blackout and All Clear are well researched; the history sucked me in and made me want to read more about World War II.  The descriptions are vivid and fascinating; several times I really felt that I was in the shelter with the characters listening to the bombs and the guns above me.  The characters are extremely well developed; when I had to stop reading, for things like work and sleep, I found myself thinking about the characters and their experiences.  I stayed up way past my bedtime after I reached the climax because I absolutely had to finish reading and find out what was going to happen. 
     I have been recommending these novels to anyone who will listen.  You like time travel? Read Blackout and All Clear.  You like history?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  You like reading?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  You think you don’t like reading?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  Everyone should read these novels.  Just make sure you have an appropriate amount of time, because once you start you won’t be able to stop. 

Publisher:  Ballantine Books (Spectra)

If you like this book you may want to read:

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (See BookGirlR’s review here)

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

Monday, January 9, 2017

Venom & Vanilla - Review

Title:  Venom & Vanilla
Author:  Shannon Mayer
Series:  Venom Trilogy #1

Synopsis:  “Successful Seattle baker Alena Budrene doesn’t want to die.  But when she’s infected with a lethal virus spread by supernatural beings, her only chance for recovery is to make a deal with the devil – or in this case, a warlock.
     “Though he saves her life, if looks nothing like the life she once knew – and neither does she.  Alena is a new breed of “Supe” no one has ever seen before.  Even the supernatural police don’t know what she is.  Now exiled to the northern side of the Wall, which marks the divide between humans and Supes, Alena is thrust into a dark and magical new world.
     “But just as she begins to adjust to all things supernatural, she realizes that her transformation is the least of her worries – and it was no accident.  She was chosen… to be killed by a Greek hero trying to make a name for himself once more.
     “Alena was brought up to be subservient, preferring creating to fighting, and vanilla and honey to blood.  But that was then.  Now, to survive, she must stand up for herself – and this time she’s got fangs.  But will she be ready to use them?”

Review:  Venom & Vanilla is a fun book that I enjoyed reading.  I read it in one sitting that took about two hours.  I just could not put it down.  While poking playful fun at Greek Mythology, Mayer also provides and entertaining read.
      I loved the character development with Alena, throughout the story she goes from being a dowdy, subservient person to being a confident, ass kicking woman.  The other main characters are also well thought out and developed well.  Just lately I’ve been having trouble finding books that can hold my attention for very long, Venom & Vanilla was a fabulous find and thankfully the sequel comes out tomorrow!  I can guarantee you that I’ll be reading Fangs & Fennel this weekend, if not sooner.

Publisher:  47North

If you like this book you may want to read:

Fangs & Fennel (Venom Trilogy #2) by Shannon Mayer

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Readalong - Novels of the Change 3.1

Cover art by: Jonathan Barkat; Photoshop credit: Stephen Fischer
We are now halfway through the final novel in the Nantucket series, which is the third novel in our Novels of the Change reread/ readalong.  In this post we will be discussing chapters 1-14 of On the Oceans of Eternity.  If you missed it here’s a the post with the description of the readalong project.

 So far On the Oceans of Eternity has been less fighting and more about the exploration and rebuilding that I enjoy.  Alice Hong and her evil Dark Sisterhood are now experimenting with germ warfare, which I find fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.  Swindapa and Marian are still the best couple with the most adorable family.  I found the descriptions of historically famous cities mesmerizing.  I still find myself wishing we could know more about how things are developing on the island of Nantucket.  But there are so many story lines and different characters that we can’t see everything.  I still find myself getting occasionally confused trying to follow the different storylines, but I find them interesting enough that I don’t mind.

Discussion Question: (If you are reading along and want to join the discussion feel free to answer these questions, or pose your own questions, in the comments.)

Now that we are almost done with the Nantucket series how are you hoping things are going to end? 

** Join us  next week for a discussion of chapters 14-end of On the Oceans of Eternity, and remember to find out when the next discussion will be posted and for more regular updates on BookGirlR’s reading progress follow us on twitter @bookgirlr **

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nightshades - Review

Author:  Melissa F. Olson
Synopsis:Alex McKenna is the new Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations—the division tasked with investigating crimes involving shades.
“Or vampires, as they’re more widely known.
“Children have been going missing, and agents are routinely being slaughtered. It’s up to McKenna, and some unlikely allies, to get to the bottom of the problem, and find the kids before it’s too late.”

Review:  A fantastic beginning to what I hope is a new series.  Nightshades introduces us to a world in which vampires exist among humans, a fact which has only fairly recently been revealed to the wary humans.  The Bureau of Paranormal Investigations has been created to deal with vampire (or shade as they are called) crime.  The story follows new agent Alex McKenna as he investigates a series of disappearances and murder.  While rather short, it’s really a novella not a novel, Nightshades introduces readers to what has the possibility to be a deep and well thought out new world.  My hope is that future novels in this series will be longer and give the characters more depth. 

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher: Tor

If you like this book you may want to read:

Generation V by M.L. Brennan (Check out  BookGirlR’s review here)

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Monday, July 18, 2016

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet - Review

Title:  Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet  
Author:  Charlie N. Holmberg
Synopsis:  “Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.
“When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.
“During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.”

Review:  When I started reading Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet I wasn’t sure what to expect.  All I knew of the novel was that the main character could infuse what she bakes with feelings.  I sort of thought it was going to be magical realism similar to Sarah Addison Allen, and I thought a novel about a woman who owns a bakery and makes magical baked goods would be awesome (if anyone knows of a book like that please let me know).  This is not that novel.
     Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is a fantasy novel.  It’s set in a fantasy world where magic and gods are real.  It starts out with Maire in her bakery, but swiftly turns darker.  Most of the town is slaughtered by bandits and Maire is sold into slavery.  There are some brutal violent bits, I started to get afraid there was going to be rape (I don’t handle those scenes well and I would have quit right there) but there is not. 
     Even though it is not the story I thought I was going to be reading, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet has the excellent writing that I have come to expect from Holmberg, strong well developed characters and careful world building.  I definitely recommend fans of fantasy read this novel.

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher:  47 North
If you like this book you may want to read:

The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Series #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Readalong - Novels of the Change 2.1

Cover art by: Johnathan Barkat Photoshop Credit: Stephen Fischer

     After a bit of a break we have finally finished Against the Tide of Years.  In this post we will be discussing the entire book, as opposed to half like we did with Island in the Sea of Time which means we are now 2/15 of the way through our Novels of the Change reread/ readalong (although there is a new novel coming out in September 2016 which will change our goal to 16; here’s the link to the new book on Amazon) If you missed the previous discussions you can find them here (1.1) and here (1.2); and the description of the project here.   
    I did not enjoy Against the Tide of Years as much as I loved Island in the Sea of Time.  Part of what I loved about Island in the Sea of Time was the description of how the Islanders adapted to being in the past.  Against the Tide of Years starts 8 years later and by now the Islanders have pretty much figured out how to survive and are exploring their world.  I did feel that this second novel in the series spreads itself way too thin.  There are multiple story lines going on.  Many groups of people are doing different things.  It did get a bit confusing at times.  I also feel that this novel was all about war, war and more war.  We did not get to see into the characters lives nearly as much as we did in Island in the Sea of Time.  It’s still interesting, seeing the characters developing their fledgling nation.

Marian and Swindapa’s family is adorable.  They are by far my favorite characters.  Alice Hong is the most evil character in the entire novel.  Seriously, she frightens me.  I’m still greatly enjoying the historical aspect of these novels.  Reading about historical events and wondering what changes will occur because of the Islanders, and Walkers, influence is fascinating.

Discussion Questions: (If you are reading along and want to join the discussion feel free to answer these questions, or pose your own questions, in the comments.)

BookGirlR revealed her favorite (and the scariest) characters .  Who are your favorite characters from this novel and why?

What was your favorite part of Against the Tide of Years?  Why?

As we move ahead into the final novel of the Nantucket series what are you hoping to see happen? 

** Join us Saturday  7/23 for a discussion of chapters 1-14 of On the Oceans of Eternity, and remember for more regular updates on BookGirlR’s reading progress follow us on twitter @bookgirlr **

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Besieged- Review

Title:  Besieged
Author: Rowena Cory Daniells
Series: The Outcast Chronicles #1

Synopsis:  “Sorne, the estranged son of a King on the verge of madness, is being raised as a weapon to wield against the mystical Wyrds.  Half a continent away, his father is planning to lay siege to the Celestial City, the home of the T’En, whose wyrd blood the mundane population have come to despise.  Within the City, Imoshen, the only mystic to be raised by men, is desperately trying to hold her people together.  A generation long feud between the men of the Brotherhoods and the women of the sacred Sisterhoods is about to come to a head.”

Review:  I’m going to be upfront about something right away; please don’t judge me.  I bought this book because I fell in love with the cover.  Look at it.  It’s beautiful.  Can you blame me?  It was when I started reading Besieged that I realized this novel is beautiful inside and out.  I became emotionally invested in the lives of the characters.  If I hadn't been able to finish reading this in one day I would have worried about the characters while not reading.  The fantastic world building and political intrigue in this epic fantasy novel will keep you reading for hours that feel like seconds.  I read Besieged in one day and immediately ordered the second and third in the series.  I highly recommend reading Besieged.

Publisher:  Solaris Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

Exile (The Outcast Chronicles #2) by Rowena Cory Daniells

The Sentinel Mage (The Cursed Kingdoms Trilogy #1) by Emily Gee (Read BookGirlR’s review here)

The Warded Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett (Read BookGirlR’s review here)