Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: The House of Four Winds


The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.


This book could have conceivably been a series of short stories tied together by the fact they're stories of Clarice.  There's several different "arcs" throughout the book that have a beginning, middle and end making this feel more serialized at times in fact.  There's Clarice's decision to leave home and seek adventure as far she could travel (culminating with her finding passage on the Asesino), the precursor to the mutiny, after the mutiny and lastly outwitting a demon spawn witch.

In all fairness time is so weirdly mentioned or figured that while the above sounds like quite a bit, I couldn't tell you exactly how long it was (except that it wasn't a full year as the book began on Clarice's birthday and we didn't pass her next one).

Clarice is a likeable, if rather a Mary Sue, main character.  She's pragmatic almost to her detriment and has a thirst for knowledge that is kept sharp by her perceptiveness.  For all that she is still a tad young (18) and comes off as naively lucky.  She mentions at one point she was happy that she thought to disguise herself as a boy, since no one gives her and her sword two looks that way so she's had a relatively safe journey from home.  That strained my credulity a little bit to be honest.  Even a young boy (Clarice guessed she looked about 15 or 16) traveling alone, with relatively high quality though not flashy apparel and sword would attract attention.  

Aboard the ship as Clarence, our dear princess splits her idle time between fraternizing with Dominick (the ship's required but mostly ignored navigator, who's only a couple years older then her, charming, tragic backstory and vow of resilience (Beyonce was his spirit animal singing "I will survive" constantly) or hanging out with the crabby, but tender-hearted ship's doctor.  She spends a good deal of her time avoiding the Captain, his first mate and the preacher on board as well however. 

World building is...sketchy at best I'd say.  Its sort of, kind of set in an alternate history Earth somewhere in the late 1700's/early 1800's.  Common enough fantasy adventuring details are included and the only really interesting things to me were Clarice's oddly liberal and forward thinking ancestors/family and the Pirate island hangout place.  The Pirate island fared better in the detailing, though even that is stifled in lieu of Plot Convenient Evil Other Woman appearing.

Overall there's nothing particularly wrong with the book, but it won't stand out to long time fantasy fans.  If you're looking for an interesting pirate fantasy book I'd point you at CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA by A.M. Dellamonica and better sketched out world building Lackey books exist in the "Elemental Masters" series she writes solo.  


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hot Deal: Kate Daniels Book 1-6 on Sale TODAY ONLY


My love of the writing duo Ilona Andrews is boundless - seriously, its up there with Brandon Sanderson that's how much I love their writing - and while I own all these books in paperback format how can I say no to also owning them on the Kindle at $1.99 a piece?  The books are also on sale for the NOOK and at iTunes as well.

Sale ends TODAY however - its a flash sale! Just imagine its like the magic that sweeps across Atlanta on occasion - so make a decision quickly.  Book 7 - Magic Breaks comes out July 29th, so hurry and catch up!

(image source)
(from Ilona Andrews' website):
An Urban Fantasy with a post-apocalyptic flavor, this series features Kate Daniels, a merc with a sharp tongue and even sharper sword.
Click here to visit the Series Page
Click here to learn more about the world and characters of the series.
Click here for Release Schedule.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

eBook Review: Five Glass Slippers

Five Glass Slippers

What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball? Or when the slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl? What happens when Cinderella is determined to oust an imposter prince from her rightful throne? Or when she is a cendrillon miner working from a space station orbiting a cthonian planet? What happens when Cinderella, a humble housemaid, is sent with a message for a prisoner trapped in a frightening fairy circus?



Here is Cinderella as you have never met her before, wearing glass slippers and off on unforgettable adventures!


Since this is an anthology I'm going to review each story separately, then the volume as a whole.

WHAT EYES CAN SEE: Elisabeth Brown
Painfully shy Arella begs her stepmother to let her stay home from the prince’s ball. But kindly Duchess Germaine is determined that her beautiful stepdaughter should be presented at court along with her own two daughters. So, dressed in a gorgeous gown and a pair of heirloom slippers, Arella catches the eye of the crown prince . . . and finds her life suddenly far more complicated than she ever desired.
I found I enjoyed this story more after reading it, letting it sink in a bit, then while reading it.  Arella was written a little inconsistently for my tastes.  At least she seemed so--her older stepsister Drusilla painted her alternately as a helpless, timid and naive young girl or as an ungrateful, spoiled child.  She was really somewhere in between, but I never found myself liking her over much.  And while I applauded the fact that the "Prince" finally came around to the sensible way of thinking, I didn't like him at all nor could see what Drusilla saw in him.

BROKEN GLASS: Emma Clifton
The slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl! Rosalind never once danced with Prince Marius at the ball, for she is in love with his brother Henry. If only Rosalind and Marius would stop bickering long enough to invent a scheme, perhaps the three of them can find the real mystery lady. But they must work quickly, for dark deeds are afoot, and the kingdom is poised on the brink of disaster.
I loved this story, it was my second favorite in fact (after A CINDER'S TALE).  I loved that Rosalind was determined to have the life she wanted and that Marius was determined to be happy in whatever marriage he ended up in.  And while Henry irritated me at first, it became quickly obvious he was really the only one with a brain.  Plus hey wasn't that ending for the "villain" just perfect for a sequel...?

THE WINDY SIDE OF CARE: Rachel Heffington
Alisandra is determined to have her rights. She knows that she is the king’s secretly dispossessed daughter, the true heir to the throne. Prince Auguste is an imposter, and if she plays her cards right, Alis will prove it to the world! That is, if charming Auguste doesn’t succeed in winning her heart before she gets her chance . . .
I disliked this story.  I had so much trouble following it that I almost considered skipping it altogether.  Something about it felt so disjointed and slap dash.  I kind of saw where the author was going, but the transitions between scenes and the narrative flow was all over the place.

A CINDER’S TALE: Stephanie Ricker
It’s a dangerous life, yet Elsa wouldn’t trade this opportunity to work at Tremaine Station, mining cendrillon from the seething surface of planet Aschen. Nevertheless, when a famous deep space explorer and his handsome son dock their starcraft at the space station, Elsa finds herself dreaming of far galaxies beyond Aschen's blistering heat. There is no time for dreaming, however, when danger threatens the space station, and Elsa and her fellow miners are tested to the limits of their courage.
First - let me tell you how happy I am that there will be MORE of this universe in the winter!  THE CENDRILLION CYCLE explores more of Elsa and the Cinders universe and I can't wait.  Second - while this was the farthest out in terms of being tied to the original tale, I thought it presented the best "spirit" for the fairy tale.  The other stories, by in large, stuck with the basics, but Ricker twisted everything around and gave us something truly intriguing and enthralling (IMHO). 

THE MOON MASTER’S BALL: Clara Diane Thompson
After her terrifying experience there several years ago, the one place young housemaid Tilly longs to avoid is Bromley’s Circus. But when kindly Lord Hollingberry begs her to deliver a message to the mysterious Moon Master hidden away among the circus dwellers, Tilly can’t refuse . . . and finds herself ensnared in a web of enchantment cast by the loathsome Mrs. Carlisle and her beautiful goddaughter.
I was a little lost in this story, and expected something far more sinister to occur then what ended up being the case, but I liked the spin on this.  The fact that Tilly has to learn to not only fight for herself but also to look beyond the outside was well received.

So in all I enjoyed this collection and I look forward to Rooglewood Press's next collection (based around Beauty and the Beast...in fact you can enter for a chance to be part of the collection! Check out the page here for more details).



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

David James Cover Reveal: Between the Stars and Sky


In the small, lakeside town of Huntington, the Firelight Festival marks the end of summer. A time to laugh, to live, to love. And for Jackson Grant, it is a chance to begin again.

But there is a darker side to the Firelight Festival, a deadly tradition known as the Firelight Fall. A secret game. A legendary lie. A test of bravery. Those who fall risk everything, and Jackson is on the edge. Until he meets a girl who pushes him over.

For Jackson, falling for Sarah Blake might be as dangerous as jumping in the Firelight Fall. As summer burns away, Jackson and Sarah ignite an unstoppable love game. For her, his heart is on fire. And soon, Sarah shows him life, saves him from loss, and opens his heart to an infinite and wild love found between the stars and sky.

I really like the colors on this book - they're pretty much the colors I like in all things really.  I've only read James' DREAMER duology (and we all know my take on contemporary anything I think), but I'm rather intrigued by what this "Firelight Fall" is.  I grew up in a small(ish) town that had its own traditions at the end of summer after all.

Between the Stars and Sky comes out in September 2014...but here's a little teaser that the author put out:



David James writes books about stars and kisses and curses. He is the author of the YA novel, LIGHT OF THE MOON, the first book in the Legend of the Dreamer duet, as well as the companion novellas, THE WITCH'S CURSE and THE WARRIOR’S CODE. A Legend of the Dreamer anthology, SHADES OF THE STARS, was released July 2013, and includes the exclusive novella, THE ENCHANTER'S FIRE. The final book in the duet, SHADOW OF THE SUN, will be released in 2015. Living in Michigan, he is addicted to coffee, gummy things, and sarcastic comments. David enjoys bad movies, goofy moments, and shivery nights.

Author Linkage:  Blog // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Sparrow Hill Road


Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead


So you've heard the story about Rose Marshall right?  How she died on the way to her prom and became a ghost?  Some say she leads men to their deaths when they offer her a ride, others claim she's only trying to save the ones who aren't too far gone.  Whatever you've heard this is her story; the story of how a small town 16 year old girl who just wanted more from life could turn into an urban legend everybody knew.

Unlike a lot of folk going into this book cold I knew that the "Rose Marshall" stories were episodic and at one time spread across the internet as far as possible.  I went into the book knowing this and thus wasn't surprised or irritated by the repetition from time to time.  Rose spends half of her time educating the reader (or newly dead) on what it means to live in the Twilight.  What you lose, what you gain, what the rules are that govern those who travel the Ghost Roads. 

Rose is a "Hitcher" or a "Hitchhiker", she's drawn to those who live their life on the road or will die because of it.  That young girl you see on the side of some lonely back road or hanging at a diner off the beaten track?  Probably Rose.  She'll hitch a ride to get to where she needs to go and maybe, if you're very lucky and your time hasn't come, she can even prevent you from dying on the road.

As she explains the stories aren't told in a very linear fashion, not til closer to the end when they begin to bleed into one and other and you can't have one without the other.  By in large a good half of the book can be read in whatever order you want.  I'm not sure  if MacGuire (or her editor or Publisher) decided to mix them up even more.  What I can say is that some details you'll read about in one chapter, you won't find out the truth of the tale until a later chapter.  And some truths are harder to handle then others.

Woven throughout is Rose's crusade to stop "Bobby Cross" (the man who killed her to become an immortal legend) and her resolve to prevent him from doing to others what he did to her.  Sometimes she's successful, other times she's not, but through it all she has a grim determination and resolve.  Its more then revenge, though several characters ask her if that's what it is to her.  She found a purpose in her aimless wandering after life and she was bound and determined to make it through.

I really liked Rose--she's much more practical and pragmatic then many of the characters running around in fiction, especially of those who are "teenagers", but not really (looking at you every single teen vampire/immortal out there).  She didn't stay "stuck" in time, she moved on, she grew and expanded and learned how to work the system.  She's not without her flaws of course, and we see as she makes mistakes that she later reflects on and realize it was really dumb to not notice the issues, but she felt so very real.

Insofar as other recurring characters go there are a few--Emma, the bean sidhe who Rose befriends, Tommy who she once asked for a ride from, Bobby Cross who we don't meet in the "flesh" until later in the book but who's shadow is long and dark.  Emma is likeable and given more depth then either Tommy or Bobby in my opinion.  Bobby is...he's portrayed as a certain kind of guy who many of us know or know of. 

There's some loose-ish ends that don't get as much tying up, comments from Rose that drift away as her confrontation with Bobby looms, snippets of conversations that she doesn't focus on in her pursuit. And this book can get downright creepy and spooky, though I found myself feeling sorry for many of the people Rose comes across.  Some of them just don't know any better, which is sad and pitiful no matter if you are alive or dead.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: Kiss of Deception


In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assasin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.


There was a cleverness of illusion here that is difficult to spot at first. Consider this--a princess flees, so an assassin and prince follow. Who do you trust? The princess who puts her wishes above the peace of her kingdom? A prince who followed out of curiosity at first? An assassin who took the "easy job" so he could then go on vacation? Do you trust the man with an easy smile, charming charisma? Or the man who pushes you constantly? When does the lies you told to find your way become a trap that makes you easy prey?

Like The Fox Chronicles Pearson plays with perception, expectations and phrasing to leave the reader guessing about Kaden and Rafe as well as what was really going in with Lia.  Neither Rafe nor Kaden are easy to pinpoint motivations for as they themselves are uncertain about what matters more.  Lia, despite being so certain about what she doesn't want, begins to feel conflicted as her past unravels.  In many ways Lia's escape and hopes were doomed from the beginning because so much was hidden from her.


Until the end its hard to say who is really feeling what.  Despite her reluctance to marry her jilted Prince, Lia does want to keep her people safe (its just unfortunate that her parents want to perpetuate  a horrendous falsehood and possibly sacrifice her in the process).  Kaden is easy-going and charming, but that doesn't always mesh well with his inner dialogue or what he says to Lia.  Then there's Rafe.  The first impression Lia has of him is of uneasiness and calculation.  He studies her, constantly, and uses his words to confuse her as much as interest her.  He does the gentleman thing when it suits him, but he's far more interested in finding out what makes Lia Lia.  

I'll admit that the love triangle wore on me to a great degree.  No one is who they claim they are (or even who they claim TWICE who they are...plots within plots as they say in Dune) and no one is playing a simple game.  It made buying into the romance(s) difficult for me.  I don't mind love triangles when there's a real sense of decision to be made, but in this case no one knew what they wanted from themselves so the development for the romance felt stunted and under-formed by the end.

This was very much set up as part of a larger trilogy and it suffers at times for that.  Even as emotions are involved you don't get a sense of urgency really.  There's heart-wrenching moments and happy moments.  Moments of 'omg why would you do that?' and moments of 'it will work out in the end'.  Unlike with THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX and its sequels, this book doesn't end cleanly.  I wish this was more contained, but I'm looking forward to the sequel so I'll attempt patience. (ha!)


Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer of Christie: And Then There Were None Discussion


And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians, though this wasn't even the first title. The original was far more racist) is possibly my favorite Agatha Christie novel under the sun.  I read it back in 11th grade for our summer reading, a day later I was ordering my dad to find me every other version at the local Blockbuster (yeah it was that long ago). We came up with 3 versions--the first theatrical release (in which they began the trend to follow the play's ending), the Fabian version that I adore and the Frankie Stallone version that every one wishes didn't exist.

My English teacher at the time, Mr. Bunce (who remains one of my favorite teachers to this day), had us do the normal summer reading stuff.  Write essays,  give presentations and of course a test.  However there was only one question on the test: How did the book end?

He knew, like any good teacher knows, that most of the kids probably went out and watched the movie version (whichever version) and left it at that.  At the time SparkNotes (surprisingly) didn't have a guide for it and remember this is before things like Wikipedia existed.  The best we had was the Ask Jeeves search engine.

Having now seen 6 versions of the movie (including the Russian, which by far is the closest to the book in terms of characters and their endings) plus a couple of stage plays, it hasn't changed how I feel about this book at all.  It is one of the best and well thought out mysteries I've read.  And possibly one of the only ones where everyone gets what they deserve.

I'll warn any who have not seen the movie or read the book that there are spoilers in my answer below.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1-      When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?
I know that I was predisposed to feeling more sympathy for the General, then I was for anyone else in the group.  Even to a certain extent Blore really.  The General's crime, which was similar in execution and reasoning to Vera's, was a crime of passion and you don't get the sense he did it because he disliked the man or felt malicious will towards him.  He was upset and felt betrayed and reacted as such.

Vera on the other hand, hers was was...cold.  Almost mercenary.  She let a child to die. I always felt her regret  was because he didn't marry her in the end, not because she regretted letting a child die.  
Insofar as feeling like their victims of the situation...you are what you make of yourself.  Certainly the Rogers weren't there just to work, they thought themselves "safe".  And the Judge was never a victim.
2-      Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?
I definitely think that for the Doctor he relied too much on each person's stature and position.  He trusted the Judge with very little reservation and distrusted Marston immediately.  Miss Brent honestly didn't believe she had done anything morally or legally wrong to that poor girl so didn't feel she belonged there.  As the number of people dwindled I think it came down less to where in life you were and more "did you do something suspicious? Say something? go off alone?" as the paranoia set in.
3-      One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?
Honestly speaking I think the General was possibly the most regretful.  Marston and Lombard both kind just shrugged it off--Marston because he's just that kind of banal, absorbed person and Lombard because for him it was him or them (the tribesmen he stole the food from) and he chose himself.  Miss Brent took the moral high road in all things, the Rogers seemed to be of two minds in regards to what happened.  The Judge...he didn't regret his actions either, whether he vocally said as much or not.  Blore did what he in the line of service and the Doctor was obviously shaken by what happened, but sought to blame everything BUT himself for it. 
4-      What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?
I think it made for a tightening of suspense.  Once, maybe twice even could have been a coincidence. A grim, dark coincidence.  But as they each died and a figure disappeared, the cutesy child's song took on a much more sinister feel.  Sure there was no "bees" to sting anyone to death or a bear to "hug" anyone to death, but what twisted take would the killer use to make it fit the rhyme?  

A comic I read, Grimms Fairy Tales from Zenoscope Comics, had a holiday story that featured the song "On the First Day of Christmas".  The story was a macbre, gruesome reflections of each verse - how disturbing could it get in your mind?  The possibilities of how to twist a verse is terrifying and could be so much worse when paranoia and guilt come into play.
5-      If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?
A) I would have hid.  I mean it.  Soon as the second person turned up dead I would have barricaded myself away and refused to open the door until help came.  B) It was stupid of them to keep separating.  If they had all stayed together until help came it would have been that much harder for them to do anything.  Or for anyone to "sneak off" and kill one of them.  In reality I would have been a bit too much like Vera though.
6-      From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?
Vera and Emily came from similar stations in life, or at least Vera was familiar with Miss Brent's station and she is a paid companion (governess, secretary, etc), so she would have felt safe with the older woman.  Or as safe as one could feel.  Blore, Armstrong and Lombard were all men who wanted answers and thus were drawn together from that. I think Wargrave targeted Armstrong later, using the man's conceit to manipulate him as he needed.  Vera...well Vera would have been drawn to Lombard's charisma and spirit.  I think if things had gone differently Vera may have relied on the General instead, but well that was obviously not possible.
7-      Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?
I honestly can't remember if I ever believed anyone other then who turned out to be Unknown was a suspect.  It was just kind of something I knew growing up because Agatha Christie and her works were such a big part of my time hanging with my grandmother.  If I was going into it I think I would suspect Lombard of any of them - he has some suspiciously good (or bad?) timing, seems intent on being in the thick of things and is the only one who seems to have a "Its me or you and quite frankly I think it should only be me" attitude.
8-      It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?
I think it makes it better that way.  I read romance--where the ending is all but assured.  I read YA--where quite frankly the ending is pretty much assured. I always appreciate when authors are like 'Frak that! This is my ending dammit' and do what they want, not what is the "norm".  
9-      As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?
I don't, by in large, read mysteries honestly.  The closest I get are the detectives in my urban fantasy novels and that's hardly a fair thing since magic is real in most of them so you can magic away stuff.  I think the closest that comes to it is--and don't laugh--the latest Final Destination movie (the fifth one).  Not so much because of the mystery of who is killing them or such, but they pulled a clever trick about the context of the movie that I didn't suspect because the writers played upon the mundane things of every day life one doesn't notice any more. 
So?  Come on sound off - did you see any of movies?  Did you hear about the possible mini-series for next year?  How'd you like the book?

Join us at Book Club Girl for more discussion fun!  And on July 29th we'll be reading and discussing Dead Man's Folly!