Tag Archives: Recommended

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh B’Ardugo

Croo22299763ked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is the sequel to Six of Crows. It takes place in the same universe as her Grisha Series. If you keep reading, expect spoliers for both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right were Six of Crows left off. Inej is kidnapped by Van Eck and Kaz is plotting on how to get her and the money back.

The first thing that has to be talked about is the fearless gang leader, Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker. Kaz has got to the best example of a sympathetic dark antihero. He isn’t this kind hearted soul wearing a thinly veiled tough exterior. Nor is he this obvious villain that has good looks and a little bit of mystery to compel some heroine to swoon occasionally.  Kaz is this complex, brilliant leader that calculates every move as if his whole life is a chess game that is infinite and could end at any moment. Kaz’s plans are even more brilliant than Six of Crows, and I think that is because he has home field advantage. I thought for sure it would be revealed that Nina healed his crippled leg before the effect of her drug high wore off. But that didn’t come to pass. Which also leads to more development of his skin to skin weakness which was so raw and this idea that his crippled leg is his advantage. People don’t look for other weakness, they are obvious. Kaz makes my favorite observation of the book. He’s recalling an old crime wizard that compares a lock to a woman but Kaz is annoyed by it. “Sure a lock was like a woman. It was also like a man and anyone or anything else–if you wanted to understand it, you had to take it apart and see how it worked. If you wanted to master it, you had to learn it so well you could put it back together.” Kaz also reaches and grasps his dreams. He starts he own gang which was no easy feat, it required breaking up with his boss in a public and dangerous display.

This might sound horrible, but I was really hoping that Inej wouldn’t escape by herself. It would have destroyed their crew. Instead, the tension and poison Bardugo created with Inej’s raw fear of having her legs broken thus tossed away by Kaz was so powerful and gut wrenching because the audience can completely get behind that fear. “”He’ll never trade if you break me.” You believe that line in your stomach and so does Inej. So she clings harder to escaping Kitterdam and Kaz with lofty visions of being a pirate of pirates. It’s so real. Inej is reunited with her crew in this elegant disaster and escape. She ends up fighting this insane assassin she calls her shadow. For this first time, I see Inej as a dark soul that has a lot to be sorry for, she isn’t just a victim of slavery and prostitution. She has done her own dark deeds.

Which leads us to this relationship between Inej and Kaz. They spurn their feelings for each other. It’s way too complicated and messy for either of them. Inej’s dark fear that Kaz would abandoned her if she was no longer an asset builds this tension that has be addressed. It’s at this point, pretty early in the book, things really change between them. Inej tells Kaz about Van Eck wanting to break her legs and how she convinced him that she’d be a useless pawn for him if he did. Kaz grapples with it too. Finally he says, “”I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together–knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”” This has to be the romantic line of either book. It’s not accompanied with any dramatic or physical gestures, but it’s this turning point. That doesn’t mean it’s roses for them afterwards. Kaz forgets her fear of being touched because he’s blinded by his own. Their is suspicion. But really from this point on, there is only reinforcement of their strong relationship. Inej displays unwavering loyalty. Kaz changes her bandages without his gloves. In the end, he spells out exactly how much he loves her, not with stolen kisses or well crafted words. He gives her freedom, her family, and her dreams on silver platter.

Bardugo doesn’t suffer from giving the audience too much information, especially with her characters. She lets them speak, rather than just telling us about them. The only dip in this if I find is with Nina. Nina is this almost trained Grisha solider. She is well educated and speaks a few languages. We are told that she is a fierce warrior, but I forget that sometimes and think of her as the softest one of the bunch. But then I have to take it back because boom, in the midst of street battle for her life she breaks her softness and destroys her would be assailant. Nina is also going through a sort of identity crisis. She is struggling with this new strange and dark power she has, and mourning the power she no longer has.

Matthias was under developed compared to the others and I think that is why he died. Bardugo didn’t bother to give him a future, a purpose beyond the moment. You can see it in the super sugary moments Nina and Matthias share like this: “”You’re better than waffles, Matthias Helvar.” A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips. “Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.””  I feel like his death was pointless. Not in the random way that sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it, but in the let’s kill one of the main characters off kind of way. It was so anticlimactic and it lacked impact. I also thought it might be a sort of symbolic killing. Matthias was this traditional solider type with a streak of naivety and formality about love. His sort of ideas are dead, and so is he. I just sort of boxed him up and put it on the shelf.

Then there is Wylan and Jesper. I really feel like this was their book. These characters are two peas in a pod which strikingly similar obstacles they must over come. Both have pasts that are catching up them and problems with their fathers. They both try to hide their weaknesses, and both are struggling with acceptance. Wylan is rejected by his father, the odd man out in the crew with his upbringing, and even rejected (accidentally) by Jesper at one point. Jesper is also struggling with rejection from Kaz, fear of his father rejecting him, and rejecting himself, by rejecting his Grisha gift. This common thread is really the binding agent.

At one point, Jesper and Inej discuss forgiveness and she says “This action will have no echo.” I wish this was thing in our culture. It has so much more meaning than apologizing. Jesper really takes it to heart and it shows.

Wylan gets all the complexity he lacked in Six of the Crows. He is having a purpose crisis and rightfully so. He doesn’t really belong with Kaz and his group and he’s been completely rejected by his father. You see his toxic relationship with his father both in snippets like “I will treat you no more harshly then the world will. That was his father’s refrain.”  and the larger flashbacks like his father attempting his murder. Then the crux of Wylan’s purpose crisis resolving when it’s revealed his mother is alive. Wylan’s vigor is completely changed after that. He’s got this grit about him after that is respectable instead of just feeling pity for him.

I loved this book, it’s obvious from the time I took thinking about it. I want badly to give it 5 out 5 but, I just can’t because there are some glaring things I can’t over look. Leigh Bardugo wove an amazing tale worthy of praise. I wish our journey with Kaz, Inej, and Nina weren’t over. I feel like they especially have so much more to do.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Go ahead, dive and have a good time that will leave you whirling.

 

 

 

The Secret Place by Tana French

Image from GoodReads

Let me start by fan girling over here…and over there and every where. I love Tana French. I first picked up Into the Woods in high school and it intrigued me but I had no money to buy it. My dear sweet Rob G bought it for me and it was all over from there. Tana French gripped me and never let go. French was the first author that I was ever mad at but still in awe. All over her books have engrossed me and spit me out feeling feelings unknown to me in complicated way.

This book has a little bit of everything-murder, boarding school, best friends forever, ghosts, Frank Mackey, pop music, boy problems, secret places, and edgy motives for the characters. I liked it, a lot but it wasn’t love.

The beginning of The Secret Place was very underwhelming. The characters are beautiful complex as normal but the plot is just a thin, ragged sheet holding the book together. However, I think it was that way by design. Moran has a lot of hope riding on a wisp of maybe evidence and it makes the audience in tune with him-like it could fall apart any second and we could be back to our old lives. My favorite thing in the beginning is when Detective Moran interviews these girls at a boarding school. He is so adept at reading them that it makes me wonder if he is too good.

After that scene with Moran and the girls the plot thickens and comes together. It becomes real and then suddenly I’m invested. This middle section has a lot of flashbacks and not a whole lot of detecting which is fun but I was hoping for more of a balance. The investigation is what is, for me, driving the plot. Conway and Moran are getting along too well but I don’t expect that to continue.

The meat of the book contains fantastic character development and a slow unveiling of the events led up to the murder. I am not disappointed in the least with the quality of the mystery. I don’t know who did it just because there are so many possibilities on how it could play out. In true French fashion, nothing is cut and dry.

When Frank Mackey arrives on the scene I am blown away. You get this feeling that everything in his career has led up to this moment, and while he might feel guilty for causing it, he is prepared to handle the situation. I seriously have a crush on this guy even though he’s old and not real. Frank is a welcome explosion in this case. So much is tightly wound and he is blaring. The contrast really increases the divide between the girls and the adults. It becomes harder and harder to identify with these boarding school girls the more you learn about how twisted they are. Frank is this crashing force that pushes everything apart.

As the book concludes, the identity of the murder slaps me and I feel stupid. I don’t like it, in a good way. I don’t like how they use the ghost either, in a bad way, but everything is ending much cheerier than other French books. I am still left feeling overwhelmed about what happened despite the almost lovely ending. I have come to really appreciate the whole back story. It’s delightful.

Audiobook: The girl narrator annoyed me and distracted me from the story in the beginning but I either got over it or the story got so good it didn’t matter because 2/3 through I found myself not minding at all.. The guy narrator’s voice of Julia was horrid. Redo?

Overall I give this book 4.5 hoes out of 5.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

In Honor of TBT: Here is the first review I wrote! When I started, I wrote with spoilers, so beware.

This book is about a princess trusted with special destiny in a fantasy world. Sounds boring already. The characters could have been so stale. The gender role bashing could have been eye roll worthy. The culture blending could have been so fake and over done. But it wasn’t.

From the first page Carson ignored pretenses practically required for writing this kind of story. Young princess in an arranged marriage that isn’t prattling about how unfair life is and how she wants true love? My hopes soared. A princess that isn’t a size zero and has trouble with over eating?  Normal sibling rivalry? I got scared in the next chapter I would be let down because everything good was in chapter one.

No. Nothing let me down, well…nothing serious.

Spoilers may exist from this point on-Read at your own risk.

The first showing casing of Elisa’s intelligence comes when she takes her sister’s advice. The sister she doesn’t like. The sister that is better at politics than Elisa. More than two thirds of young adult heroines would never do that. They have to be free and learn from their mistakes and yada yada yada.

The attitude that Elisa has toward her arranged married and Alejandro is jaw dropping-ly appropriate. She doesn’t balk at it, she doesn’t have false expectations about insta love, and she is clear about her desires. She tells her husband/acquaintance  right off the bat-“I don’t want to be intimate tonight.”

What a novel idea, communicate with words your feelings/preferences/control instead of acting crazy. Since Alejandro isn’t a scum bag, he completely respects that.

There is no insta love with anyone. Love isn’t even central to the story-plenty happens without it, like war council, kidnapping, battles, losing important people.

Oh and a mystical god gave her a belly jewel that makes her special and appropriately, she is pious, yet struggles with her faith. Some people think that makes this Christian Lit. I’m going go with no, while they might have a lot of common elements I am sensing Carson is just accurately portraying someone that had something supernatural happen to her in which her society has an explanation that works. The religion portrayed in this book has common themes with Christianity but I would not say parallels it.

I also love how Elisa isn’t an island. I mentioned this before, but Elisa doesn’t ignore everyone’s advice and just do in heart what she feels is best without reasons to back it up. She listens to the people that she respects and she learns without having to make disastrous mistakes. Yet, you never feel that Elisa is a puppet because she makes her own choices after mulling things over plus she has character growth over the course of the novel. She starts out self centered and then starts caring about the people around her more. She learns about her own abilities and their limits. She makes mistakes because she isn’t experienced and some have disastrous results. This makes her worthy of role model status.

Now the other characters are not as well developed.  Rosario, her nurse, Cosme, Humberto…they are multi-faceted but I don’t think they get the depth they deserve. Hopefully in future novels this will change. Alejandro did get a fair amount of depth but without true exploration. This is actually a good choice on Carson’s part  because there wasn’t time in Elisa’s life to truly get to know him. Elisa, and the audience, learned that he was complex but that was it.

I think Humberto’s death was appropriate. Too often love interests are saved by the author just because they are love interest. The world is cruel, war is brutal, and killing your enemies’ treasured ones is effective. Not killing them removes the horribleness of war.

Now, Elisa started off the novel overweight but then she goes through a tough physical trial and slims down. A lot people also had a problem with that because she changed herself. That is ridiculous. Elisa grew as a human being to have more self control and endurance and people are mad about that? Elisa is stronger for this change, not weaker. I applaud Carson for this realistic choice.

Some of the bad things-a few haired brained schemes worked when they shouldn’t have but this fantasy so I’ll let it go. The antagonist were not super developed and there should have been more time spent developing them, especially individual leaders.  And finally, after being made Queen Regent over the land Elisa carves off a part for a new country and makes a new Queen. Woah. No way is the Quorum going to be peaceful about that or the public.

 NO SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

I will be reading more of this series, I will be reading more from Carson, and hopefully if just gets better. I will give this book 4.5/5 roses for good writing and refreshing characters.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Here is another review I’m moving over here from Blogger!

I loved this book in a way that is pure enjoyment. It was like going to an amusement park, yes there were some cliches but there was also the unexpected and the entertainment was refreshing. I purchased this in actual, page turning book form which I haven’t done in ages but am so glad that I did. It is a quick read, I read it in two nights but could have done it in one if my personal life wasn’t demanding attention.

The plot had a lot of the basics, bad guy that does bad things for power; confused, inexperienced protagonist that turns out to be something special, parental units that hide what is really going on, and a beautiful, strong willed love interest. That being said, the execution was fantastic and I’ve never read about a necromancer before. The plot moved along quickly but without feeling rushed. There was a good balance of world building and action. One that initially bothered me but later did not was the change in POV. This book, while dark at times, actually had a fun feel. I appreciate the optimism and humor found throughout this book. I didn’t have a problem accepting anything but the ending. Actually one specific part of the ending—SPOILER ALERT— the part with detective investigating Brooke showed up and they told him everything. It was obviously a set up for something that comes later and it could have been done better.

The character’s in this were great, they felt like people instead of just roles with names performing. That is really my biggest thing while reading, I want my characters to be human like and not feel fake. This cast of characters was bigger than most, and I loved that too. I hate it when the main character is just an entity without participation in society. Sam was such a great embodiment of this: he lived in his own apartment, had a relationship with his mom that was relevant, had multiple friends that he actually cared about, and wasn’t a stranger to love (I am specifically referring to an emotional capacity.) Ramon, Brooke, and Frank all got varying levels of development depending on their relation to Sam which was totally appropriate but the best part was the relationships changed and grew. They didn’t stay stagnate.

Overall I would recommend this book to 16+ year olds and I give it 4 out of 5 zombies.

From SSpike’s Photobucket

Death of A Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

From GoodReads

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is another ARC review. This is a historical mystery with a lot of Downton Abbey vibes. I love that this book was told from multiple perspectives in both narration and class. Clementine Montfort, the lady, and Edith Jackson, the head housekeeper, have such distinct voices it was easy to bounce between them. Arlen’s style of writing was dense but not overly flowery. The tone that she set really helped solidify the setting and her massive vocabulary was refreshing. She used the word vixen to talk about an actual fox, it was marvelous.

The mystery here settles around Lady Montfort’s murdered nephew, Teddy Mallory. By all accounts, Teddy was a scoundrel so naturally there are plenty of suspects. Thankfully the author included two other mysteries to go along with the main plot-a maid and a young lady, apparently unconnected went missing. With the cunning of Mrs. Jackson, and the determination of Lady Montfort, the mystery plays out in a very entertaining way. I did enjoy the resolution of this mystery much more than Dubiosity.

The historical timeline entwined with this book was very informative and relative. I enjoyed the history lesson and the multiple opinions that were explored. I also loved the dedication of the character to morality and manners. There was just something very noble about characters that actually cared about honor, loyalty, and respect.

Lady Montfort was handled well. The slow unraveling of her character’s developed help hold interest when the narrative became too dense. I enjoyed her wit, not over whelming but present, and her tenacious demeanor. The way she interacted with her husband and son really highlighted her intelligence. Her confrontations with Mr. Barclay and Gertrude were fantastic.

My favorite character was Mrs. Jackson. She was proper and intelligent. She did the legwork of this investigation which turned up many interesting tid bits. I can just picture her put in some sort of put in some sort of life or death circumstances and still managing to keep her principles while making it out in one piece. One of my favorite pieces of her depth was her fascination with the talented gardener she kept at a distance and lack of mention to Mr. Jackson. This mystery about her really balanced out her sometimes severe personality.

Arlen was able to add depth to the story with the other character’s backstories, though not all were developed and I admit to having a small problem keeping all the young bachelors straight at times. While some supporting character’s were developed well like Gertrude, others were not. Lord Haversham, while explored moderately, was not nearly as developed as I hoped.

There were some issues I want to address. The narrative was too rich for my tastes, it made the plot drag a bit even if it was skillfully done. The author showed wonderful bouts of dialogue that were beautiful and pieced together well but that did not permeate the entire book. The side story with Barclay and Mallory was not quite believable, nor did it seem to serve a purpose to the story other than making it politically correct. The chapters told from Lord Montfort’s perspective lacked the distinct voice that the chapters from Lady Montfort’s perspective and Mrs. Jackson’s perspective had.

Overall this was a good read and I would recommend it for fans of Downton Abbey, there were many similarities to this book and that show. A very strong four out of five footmen.

From Google Search

Dubiosity by Christy Barritt

Image from GoodReads

Dubiosity is my first ARC review and boy, it was a good one! This book centers around Savannah Harris and unraveling her town’s mysterious disappearances and how they link to other crimes. It was very easy to slide into because of the author’s charming writing style.

The author takes her time with the Savannah’s character development and despite early signs the MC might develop into a Mary Sue, does a good job connecting with the audience. At first, I thought Savannah’s grief fell a little flat but I changed my mind. Savannah is a rare female lead that can distance herself from her emotions to a certain extent. Savannah is balanced in the sense that she makes important decisions based on both logic and emotions. Savannah was also very candid about her short-comings and lack of moral fiber. This was so refreshing than the normal justification process that so many main characters go through. Savannah goes through a lot of changes in this book, from guilty to free, reclusive to curious, and cold to welcoming. As good as Savannah was developed, there were inconsistencies. I did find it strange that she didn’t freak out more about a strangers being in her house and that a creative journalist would name her cat “Tiger” for such obvious reasons.

Clive, is not handled as skillfully as Savannah. He comes off as an obvious good guy very early in the book. The first obvious clue-he drives a Jeep! It is a well known fact villains are not capable of driving such a fun vehicle. Plus having the bad guy living on the property just would have made it too easy to be bad and not romantic. Clive is suddenly revealed to be a fake name about 80% (or more) of the way through the book and suddenly his name changed to Jack. It was jarring and strange. I don’t think the author should have changed the narration like that so close to the end of the book.

That brings us to the mystery. The mystery element was more complex than usual but I loved it. I really enjoyed the chasing the answers down to each piece. Barritt engaged me and kept me guessing for most of the book. I did not loose interest in plot and the romance/subplots did not over power the main mystery. While I won’t ruin the ending of the mystery, I will say that the conclusion wasn’t dazzling.

The spiritual turning point for Savannah felt sudden and rushed at the end. It sort of hit me out of left field, especially the intensity. There was a little bit of gradual change but it was like walking into the surf and you get about 6 inches in, then suddenly with one step you are blindsided by a drop off and in over your head. Everything else spirituality-wise was wonderful and I could appreciate Savannah’s and Clive’s struggles. The spiritual element balance in this book was also done extremely well. I was very worried at the beginning that either the spirituality in this book would be “cafeteria Christian” style or every single thing would be “over spiritualized” but everything was well balanced. (There was one cheesy moment, but I’ll let it slide.) This was my best experience with Christian literature so far.

I give Dubiosity, four apples of five and would recommend this book those that enjoy tasteful mysteries.