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Search tags: 2018-women-authors-a-to-z-challenge
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review 2018-04-05 20:11
Now I Rise / Kiersten White
Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Trilogy) - Kiersten White

She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

 

4 dark, twisted, stabby stars for Now I Rise.

I think it was a genius choice to feminize the Dracula historical character! I love Lada Dracul and her hard, violent little heart! It gives an interesting torque to the facts and makes a fascinating tale even more engaging.

This is the second installment in a trilogy, and I’ve really enjoyed them both. The first book (And I Darken) is the April book for my real-life book club and I’ve chosen to read the second book rather than re-read the first. I’m so glad that I’ve continued on!

For those of you who are really interested in the time period and have the fortitude to withstand a lot of torture and impalings, I would also recommend Vlad: The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys. It is an exceptional rendition of the historical Dracula story.

Both versions highly recommended.

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review 2018-03-28 18:46
Still Life / Louise Penny
Still Life - Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

 

Well, Chief Inspect Armand Gamache, I am pleased to make your acquaintance! For some reason, he reminded me somewhat of Brother Cadfael in Ellis Peters’ Chronicles. That same sensible, calm approach to the world. As I get older, I’m less drawn to the gruesome, gory mysteries and I’m starting to see the appeal of these gentler stories, containing characters that I’d actually enjoy spending time with. They have interests and relationships beyond the detective biz and are well-rounded people.

I also found it interesting to read a tale set in my own country. Although I have never visited Quebec, it’s definitely on my list, just a little later in life. Exotic international travel while I still can, then Europe & the US, finally ending with Canadian travel when health & health insurance are of greater importance!

I will be returning to Three Pines to see what occupies its denizens as soon as I can. (I’m currently no. 39 in line at the library, with 15 copies available—it will be a little while).

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review 2018-03-05 17:02
Alias Grace / Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

 

I read this novel to fill the A in my Women Authors A to Z reading challenge and a “Book about a villain or anti-hero” for my 2018 PopSugar challenge.

For me, Margaret Atwood rarely disappoints and Alias Grace was no exception. Despite the fact that I’m recovering from a nasty cold and need all the sleep that I can get, I found myself up after bedtime, obsessively following the life of Grace Marks. Atwood has taken a historical figure and told her story—sticking to the facts, but embroidering around them in a beguiling fashion.
The themes are timeless—who is telling the truth? Whose truth? Who are we to believe? Does the justice system really offer us justice? Who gets to decide?

Though much of the novel is seen through Grace’s eyes, I still didn’t feel like I knew her well enough to judge—did she assist with the murders or was she merely an accessory after the fact? All of the might-have-beens weighed heavily on me. If only she had chosen this path or that one, things might have been so different.

A truly engrossing story.

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review 2018-02-27 17:13
An Enchantment of Ravens / Margaret Rogerson
An Enchantment of Ravens - Margaret Rogerson

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

 

Actual rating: 4.25 stars. Better than your average Fae tale, but not quite up to the same bar as Cold Hillside by Nancy Baker, which for me sets the standard. I’ve been addicted to the Fae ever since I ran across them in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and I am fortunate that so many authors continue to indulge my fascination!

This is the Fae the way I like them—dark, powerful, tricksy, slippery, unreliable and unaccountably interested in humans. As a portrait artist, Isobel must always be careful in her requests for payment, as a Fae spell can work for you for a while, but twist into something damaging later. She is always aware that she is only seeing the glamour of her portrait-sitters, not their true appearance—and they seem fascinated to discover exactly what Isobel sees. Does she see too much? As a seventeen year old, is she too innocent for her own good?

I am almost sad that this is a stand-alone volume and I will definitely be picking up anything that Ms. Rogerson publishes in the future.

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review 2018-02-27 16:37
Tell the Wolves I'm Home / Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell The Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt

1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life - someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn's funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

 

My real-life book club is indulging in a year of reading young adult literature, and this is our March selection. I am also using it to fulfill the “book about grief” selection for my 2018 PopSugar Challenge and the entry for B in my Female Authors A to Z challenge.

The main character, June, spends the course of the book figuring out the nature of love and grief in life. She realizes that we say “love” but that it can represent a variety of different emotions—between parents and children, between siblings, for good friends, even for favourite foods, as well as romantic connection. She learns about her mother’s estrangement from her brother, June’s beloved Uncle Finn. She navigates the yawning distance developing between her sister Greta and herself. She processes the loss of Finn and finds a new connection with his partner Toby.

What a great portrayal of life in all its messiness! If you’ve lived through some family rifts or somehow found yourself further away from a sibling that you ever believed possible, you will find something to hang onto in this novel. The relationships were realistic, not melodramatic or overdone. Although the grief was palpable in places, it didn’t send me rushing to a tissue box, like Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls.

I am constantly amazed at how much really good writing there is out there in the Young Adult genre—if you enjoy YA, add this one to your reading pile.

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