The Prince of Fools

The Prince of FoolsPrince of Fools (The Red Queen's War, #1) by Mark Lawrence
Published by Ace on June 3rd 2014
Pages: 355
Goodreads

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

I don’t even know how to review Prince Of Fools properly. I had a hard time following the plot, but I think that has more to do with my attention span and memory rather than the story. I have a hard time reading detailed fantasy novels for this exact reason. And yet, I still enjoyed Prince Of Fools.

How do you explain Prince Jalan to someone? If you have a good way, let me know in the comments. I loved him from the first moment he entered the pages. His sense of humour was on point, and his personality just radiated. I find it hilarious that he’s such a coward, but he fully admits he’s a coward, so it gets him into some interesting scenarios. He’s that friend that you keep around because you KNOW he’s going to make everyone have a good time.

Snorri I had a hard time getting to know, although he had a good personality. I’m hoping that the more he opens up to Jal, the more inside his head we can get because by the end of the book I still wasn’t sure what was going on with him. He’s a man of few words which doesn’t really help. I just know he’s a good person and he’s looking for his family. And he’s a viking. A very big viking.

What I could follow of the plot was alright. Snorri is heading North to save his family, Prince Jalan does not want to head North at all but is forced to because of the curse the Silent Sister placed on him. I’m still not 100% sure who the bad guy from the North is (obviously since I can’t even remember his name). And the army he has is also confusing to me, but it might be because I wasn’t following the story as much as I should have been.

Because of my comprehension skills, I might not continue this series. I don’t know if it’ll be worth trying to get through the next one if I already don’t remember a good chunk of Prince Of Fools. Maybe I should start keeping notes as I go.

-M

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Partials

PartialsPartials (Partials Sequence) by Dan Wells
on February 26th 2013
Goodreads

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war's origin that she never knew to ask.

I’ve never been a fan of the dystopian genre. And by that I mean I read one, once, a couple of years ago and then never bothered to pick another one up. But this, this! I devoured.

I liked the characters, they were diverse and each had their own personality. I liked that there was a bit of romance, but it wasn’t the focal point. But what I liked the most was the plot.

Dan has given us a future that could actually happen. Army of super soldiers? We probably already have that. Virus that can wipe out 99% of the population? We probably already have that too. Whenever I’ve thought about how the world would end (that happens very little, just so we are all aware), those two things are always the first to come to mind. Both are a form of control; one causes fear and the other helps promote a sense of safety. It’s a very smart way to get humans to do what you want.

It was fun to read the story from Kira’s point of view. She isn’t just some giddy teenager caught up in a bunch of drama. She’s smart, funny and doesn’t always put her heart before her brain (but she’s also human, so sometimes the heart wins out). When Kira takes on the mission to help save what’s left of the human race, she does it for personal reasons too, which adds some depth to the very scientific research she partakes in.

Partials also explores some social themes, like a woman’s right to control her body. Because their numbers are so few, the Senate passes The Hope Act. This states that any woman over the age of 18 must become pregnant yearly (or as much as they can, I can’t quite remember). It’s their duty to the human race. I’ve always been pro-choice when it comes to your own body, but Dan writes in a way that almost had me going “okay, yeah I agree. Women of child bearing age, make babies. That makes sense.” And just as I was leaning one way, a character would voice their opinion and I’d be swayed back the other way. It made for some very interesting personal debates.

Even though I say it’s predictable, it didn’t take away from the fun of this novel at all. I loved it from start to finish, and I was very upset when I had to put it down. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Glory Over Everything

Glory Over EverythingGlory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5th 2016
Pages: 365
Goodreads

Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.

I picked up The Kitchen House a couple of years ago on a whim from the used bookstore. I love me a good historical fiction, and it DEFINITELY falls into that category. Fast forward to this year and when Simon & Schuster reached out asking if I’d like to read Kathleen Grissom’s newest novel, Glory Over Everything, I said heck yes!

I looked up a couple of reviews of The Kitchen House to re-familiarize myself with the story, but it turns out I didn’t need to. All I had to do was look at the cover and I could remember the plot, characters and feelings I had reading it. Since I read so much, this rarely happens. It’s a testament to Grissom’s writing.

I received Glory Over Everything during the week, and made sure to clear my schedule so I could start it on the weekend. All it took me was one afternoon. ONE AFTERNOON!!! I don’t remember the last time I flew through a book like that.

Although you don’t have to read The Kitchen House to understand Glory Over Everything, I suggest you do. It helps set a backstory for Jamie, and it helps immerse you in the story so much more. I was able to feel what Jamie was feeling easier, and understand why he did certain things. At times when he was thinking back to his plantation days, I felt like we were two friends reminiscing, because I had followed him on that journey as well.

The story is told mostly from two points of view: Pan and Jamie’s. Even though I’m not normally a fan of multi-viewpoints, it worked well. They were each distinctive viewpoints, and I like that Jamie’s started a little farther back than Pan’s, so it wasn’t really overlapping. They intertwined nicely.

Pan I liked, although I found him a little annoying. Mind you he is a child, and a pretty sheltered one at that, so I can understand. But I gave him a lot of side eye throughout the novel. Other than that, I found him cute and I got really super nervous anytime I thought something bad might happen to him.

Jamie I didn’t mind at all. His growth in character was a little sudden and didn’t feel 100% genuine for me, but overall it didn’t detract from my liking of him. It was interesting to have him as a little boy in The Kitchen House, and then see him as a man in Glory Over Everything. You can definitely see how the past has shaped who he is today.

Overall, I loved Glory Over Everything, just like I loved The Kitchen House. Actually, I might have liked it more. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, pick this one up.

 

Three Souls

Three SoulsThree Souls by Janie Chang
Published by HarperCollins Canada on August 20th 2013
Pages: 439
Goodreads

An absorbing novel of romance and revolution, loyalty and family, sacrifice and undying love

We have three souls, or so I'd been told. But only in death could I confirm this ...

So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

I quite enjoyed this novel. It wasn’t your typical ghost story, but it wasn’t your typical historical fiction either. It was a very good mix of both.

The characters were all intriguing and the little bits of background given about the side characters made you that much more involved in the story.

The locations were richly described without bogging down the story and I genuinely felt for Leiyin even when her actions were a bit stubborn.

Definitely pick this novel up!

-M

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Postmistress

The PostmistressThe Postmistress by Sarah Blake
on February 9th 2010
Pages: 371
Goodreads

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can't touch them. But both Iris and Frankie know better...

The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds-one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve-and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history's tide, it examines how stories are told, and how the fact of war is borne even through everyday life.

This book was amazing. It exceeded all of my expectations by about a mile.

To start off, I am a huge history fan, especially regarding World Ward Two. I love the idea of focusing more on the people surrounding the war than directly involved in the war. It paints a picture that is more easily relatable to most people I believe.

It might be a bit of a slow start (especially getting used to all the characters and remembering who is who) but once it gets into the story, it really starts going. There were a couple of parts that had me almost in tears.

My favourite part has to be the way it was written though. You know what is coming but you continue reading hoping against hope that you are wrong. That is what makes an excellent book.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Taker

The TakerThe Taker (The Taker, #1) by Alma Katsu
Published by Simon & Schuster on September 6th 2011
Pages: 438
Goodreads

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening--until a mysterious woman, Lanore McIlvrae, arrives in his ER, escorted by police. Lanore is a murder suspect, and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of St. Andrew’s founder, and she will do anything to be with him forever, but the price she pays is steep--an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was absolutely stunning and surpassed any and all of my expectations.

My favourite part about this entire novel is the narrative voice. I think Alma Katsu could write 300 pages about watching paint dry and it would still mesmerize me. The story line alone was fantastic, but when told the way it was, it easily took The Taker to the top of my recommendation list.

Narrative aside, I did love the plot as well. The cover copy gives you an inclination of what the story could be about, but I was still absolutely surprised ever time I turned the page. I finished the book satisfied, but I still want more at the same time! I want to see where the story goes and how the characters develop.

I would highly recommend The Taker to anyone. But I would suggest having a solid chunk of time set aside to read it, as it’s very unlikely you will be able to put it down.

-M

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Y

YY by Marjorie Celona
Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada ( A H C ) on August 1st 2012
Pages: 350
Goodreads

"Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? . . . My life begins at the Y."

So opens Marjorie Celona's highly acclaimed and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. Swaddled in a dirty gray sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife tucked between her feet, little Shannon is discovered by a man who catches only a glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. That morning, all three lives are forever changed. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures abuse and neglect until she finally finds stability with Miranda, a kind but no-nonsense single mother with a free-spirited daughter of her own. Yet Shannon defines life on her own terms, refusing to settle down, and never stops longing to uncover her roots — especially the stubborn question of why her mother would abandon her on the day she was born.

Brilliantly and hauntingly interwoven with Shannon's story is the tale of her mother, Yula, a girl herself who is facing a desperate fate in the hours and days leading up to Shannon's birth. As past and present converge, Y tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Celona's ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family, and it marks the debut of a magnificent new voice in contemporary fiction.

I don’t think I have ever been so sad to see a book end. It caught me by surprise and I must have stared at the last page for 5 minutes before I finally closed the book. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you don’t want to lose. I grew so attached to the main character that I almost cried.

One of my favourite things about this book is the way it was written. The narrative is beautiful and 150% suits how you imagine Shannon would think if she was an actual human being. She doesn’t always describe what’s going on in full sentences, but when you think about it, when does anyone in real life think to themselves in full sentences when something is going on? I sure don’t. In my opinion the narrative is pretty much what made this book exceptional.

I loved how not one character in this book was perfect. Their flaws don’t get pointed out blatantly, but you know that they have them and you know what they are for the most part. It’s like you’ve been talking to this character for a bit and you notice they have a tick or something. Their flaws are slipped in just like that. And it makes them so much more vivid and life like.

Last but not least, the plot. I only have one word for this: phenomenal. I seriously can’t explain it any other way. If I had the time and I thought someone would actually read it, I’d write two pages on just the plot alone. It flowed so smoothly and weaved together so wonderfully that I didn’t even feel like I was reading a book. No questions were left unanswered, and yet there was still a hint of mystery at the end. But I was left satisfied instead of upset with that.

I would, and have already, recommend this book to everyone I meet. Strangers walking down the street might even be told to read this book. I loved it that much.

Asha

AshaAsha by Kevis Hendrickson
Published by Smashwords on September 8th 2011
Goodreads

Asha is a 15-year old girl with the soul of a demon. She plans to wage war against heaven and hell using humanity as her main weapon. Asha begins the epic tale of the revenge of the dark goddess of demons.

Asha is a young adult urban fantasy short story featuring demons, witches, magic, and high school mayhem!

I’m not generally a fan of short fiction, but I quite liked Asha.

I almost wish the book was longer so I could see more of our world through Asha’s eyes. In some spots her character came fully to life, especially during the scenes where she flexes her power. In other parts she tends to fall flat. I understand that on one hand she probably isn’t supposed to have emotions, or show emotions like a normal person would, but I feel with some tweeking that would come across a lot better.

It would be interesting to see Asha when she’s older, to see if her point of view changes at all. As much as she doesn’t care about our world, she cares for her earth-mother (for some reason I love that she called her this). It would be interesting to see if as she got older more people would have this kind of an impact on people. If she’d fall in love or not.

All in all, this was a great short read. I certainly would recommend it to anyone who has a couple of minutes to spare and who enjoys a cold plate of revenge every now and then (you know who you are).

-M

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Last Romanov

The Last RomanovThe Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen
on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 333
Goodreads

She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majesty. Yet, decades later, her time spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything?

If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past - maybe she can hold on to the love she found.

Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, The Last Romanov is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood.

I picked this book up simply because it had the name ‘Romanov’ in it. I’m not even kidding. I didn’t even read the back of the book to figure out what it was about, I just bought it. I love reading about history and different spins on history, and what happened to the Romanov family is well known.

The book was a tad bit disappointing. The writing was a little slow, and not much of the mystery that happens in the book is explained. I was expecting the book to revolve what happened to the Romanov family, or the events surrounding their deaths, but it didn’t really.

The book took me a long time to get through because it never really grabbed my attention. Unfortunate because I really wanted to love this book.

-M

One Star