Sunday, September 29, 2013

September Reading Wrap-Up

I find it hard to believe that September is just about at an end and that the fall season is now upon us.   As fall is my favourite season, I'm looking forward to the changing leaves, cooler temperatures, Thanksgiving (which for those of us here in Canada is only two weeks away), and Halloween! 

Blogging-wise, September didn't go quite as I'd planned.  Life got in the way of my good intentions and I didn't post or comment nearly as often as I would have liked.  I did manage to get a lot of reading done, though.  Here's a list of my September reads:

  • Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
  • Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen 
  • Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson
  • Longbourn by Jo Allen (review to come)
  • Colossus: Stone and Steel by David Blixt
  • The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan
  • Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey (review to come)

Of these novels, The Rose and the Thorn was far and away my favourite.  I simply love Sullivan's books and recommend them to everyone. 

Did any of you read any great books in September?

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Historical Fiction Giveaway Hop September 27 to October 11

Shannon over at The Most Happy Reader is currently hosting a Historical Fiction Giveaway Hop.  The Hop runs from September 27th to October 11th, with each participant hosting a historical fiction-related giveaway.   Click here to visit the Hop's kick-off post on Shannon's site.

New participants are welcome at any point, so if you're interested in participating just link up on Shannon's kick-off Hop post. 

As part of this Hop, I'm offering one lucky entrant a historical fiction book of their choice (valued at up to $15 Canadian) from The Book Depository.   

Giveaway Rules:

- The giveaway is open internationally, the only restriction being the winner must live in a country where The Book Depository ships.

- To enter, simply leave your name and email address below.  While entrants are not required to be a a follower of this blog, new followers are always appreciated :-)

- The giveaway will run until midnight (EST) on October 11, 2013. 

- The winner will be selected using and will be contacted by me via email. 

Good Luck!

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

Synopsis (From

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making.

Hadrian Blackwater, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with Royce Melborn, a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm's most prized possessions. But it isn't gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, just might do it.

Orbit | August 6, 2013 | 432 pages

My Thoughts
  • The Crown Tower is the first novel in Michael J. Sullivan's newest series, the Riyria Chronicles.  This new series is a prequel to Sullivan's fabulous Riyria Revelations books, and focuses on the early days of Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn's partnership.  In this novel Hadrian and Royce are paired for the first time, charged with stealing a sought after treasure from the top floor of a seemingly unassailable tower.  But Hadrian and Royce take an immediate dislike to one another, which puts the achievement of their quest in jeopardy.  
  • I absolutely love, love, love the characters and world Sullivan introduced in the Riyria Revelations, and was so excited when I heard that a prequel series was in the works.  Of course, I was also a little bit anxious.  Would I enjoy this new series as much as I did its predecessor, which is one of my all-time favourites?  Almost from the opening pages of The Crown Tower I knew I had nothing to worry about, as this book is every bit as good as it predecessors. 
  • The best thing about The Crown Tower is its lead characters, Hadrian and Royce.  I fell in love with both of them in the Riyria Revelations and I think their friendship is one of the best in the fantasy genre (or any genre for that matter).  While the Riyria Revelations notes that Hadrian and Royce had a rough beginning, I loved being able to read about how and why they were brought together in the first place.  I was also happy that Sullivan chose to showcase Gwen's, another great character from the Riyria Revelations, early years in Elan. 
  • Sullivan has created an interesting world - Elan - in this novel, and what I especially enjoy about his world-building is that it isn't overly complex.  Some fantasy novels can get bogged down by world-building, but The Crown Tower certainly isn't one of them. 
  • As noted by Sullivan in his author's note, the Riyria Chronicles is free of spoilers for the Riyria Revelations.  As a result, readers new to Sullivan's novels can start with either series knowing that information important to one series will not be revealed in the other.    
  • If you enjoy fantasy novels or fantastic storytelling no matter the genre, Sullivan's novels are a must read.  If you're new to Sullivan's works The Crown Tower is a great place to start.   If you're a fan of the Riyria Revelations The Crown Tower will not disappoint you.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Source: Purchased  

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Few Thoughts on The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark


For Callie McFay, a half-witch/half-fey professor of folklore and Gothic literature, the fight to save the enchanted town of Fairwick, New York, is far from over. After a hostile takeover by the Grove—a sinister group of witches and their cohorts—many of the local fey have been banished or killed, including Callie’s one true love. And in place of the spirit of tolerance and harmony, the new administration at Fairwick College has fostered an air of danger and distrust.

With her unique magical abilities, Callie is the only one who can rescue her friends from exile and restore order to the school—a task that requires her to find the Angel Stone, a legendary talisman of immense power. Propelled on an extraordinary quest back to seventeenth-century Scotland, Callie risks her life to obtain the stone. Yet when she encounters a sexy incarnation of her lost love, she finds the greater risk is to her heart. As the fate of Fairwick hangs in the balance, Callie must make a wrenching choice: reclaim a chance for eternal passion or save everything she holds dear.

Ballantine Books | September 3, 2013 | 320 pages

My Thoughts
  • The Angel Stone is the final book in Juliet Dark's Fairwick Chronicles trilogy, following The Demon Lover and The Water Witch (click on the book title to read my review).
  • At the opening of this novel, the running of Fairwick College has been taken over by enemy Nephilim, and heroine Callie McFay, a professor of folklore at the college, must struggle to ensure the needs of her students are met and the spirit of the college is not lost.  With most of Callie's friends banished to Fairy, it falls upon Callie to find a way to get them back.  Doing so, however, will require that she travel back in time to retrieve a mythical stone - the Angel Stone - that will enable her to bring her friends back to Fairwick and defeat her enemies.  But Callie's quest is not an easy one.  While in 17th century Scotland she meets the original incarnation of her demon lover.   Rescuing her friends means Callie will once again have to give up her lover.  But now that she's found him again will she be able to let him go? 
  • I have mixed feelings about this novel.  I really like the characters in this trilogy, especially Callie McFay, but several of the secondary characters who helped make the first two novels in the trilogy so enjoyable are, unfortunately, largely absent from this book.  The new characters introduced in this novel couldn't make up for the loss of my favourites. 
  • The setting of the trilogy, small town Fairwick, New York, is also one of the reasons I've enjoyed the earlier novels in this series.  While Fairwick is still featured prominently in The Angel Stone, a significant part of the novel also takes place in 17th century Scotland.  While I generally enjoy novels that involve time travel, and 17th century Scotland was an interesting place, I never became engaged in this aspect of the storyline -- I just wanted Callie to hurry up and get back to modern-day Fairwick.
  • The conclusion to The Angel Stone is ultimately satisfying, but I did feel it was too rushed and didn't do justice to some of the events that take place in the final pages.  
  • Although The Angel Stone concludes The Fairwick Chronicles, given I genuinely enjoyed the characters in this series I would like to see Juliet Dark revisit the world she has created in this trilogy. 
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen


For fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Sarah Addison Allen, The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love.

The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

Ballantine Books | August 27, 2013 | 400 pages

My Thoughts

  • The Wishing Thread, Lisa Van Allen's debut novel, tells the story of the three Van Ripper sisters - Aubrey, Bitty and Meggie.  After the passing of the aunt who raised them, the three sisters must come together to decide upon the fate of the Stitchery, the magical home they were raised in.   But outside interests are also keen to determine the future of the Stitchery, as well as that of the neighbourhood in which it is situated, Tappan Square. 
  • Although sisters, Van Allen shapes Aubrey, Bitty and Meggie into unique individuals who, on the surface at least, have little in common.  For Aubrey, the tradition and duty associated with being the caretaker of the Stitchery are important above all else.  For Bitty, who left home as soon as she was able, the magic of the Stitchery is something to be denied.  Meggie, meanwhile, drifts from place to place with little thought for those she leaves behind. 
  • The primary settings of this novel, the Stitchery and Tappan Square, are important parts of the narrative.  Through her descriptive proses, Van Allen successfully brings the Stitchery and Tappan Square to life.   Indeed, the Stitchery is a good example of place as character, and it is every bit as fundamental to the narrative as Aubrey, Bitty and Meggie are. 
  • Given the magic of the Stitchery and the women who reside there rests in knitting, it is not surprising that the craft of knitting is integral to the story.   Even though I'm not a knitter, Van Allen was still able to successfully draw me into this element of the book.  I think knitters would likely appreciate this aspect even more than I was able to.
  • The only issue I had with this novel was the romantic subplot.  While it was sweetly done, and I was a fan of the two characters involved as individuals, I wasn't a fan of them as a couple.   I'd be curious to know if other readers felt the same way.  
  • As The Wishing Thread is a work of magical realism, the book is being marketed to fans of Sarah Addison Allen.  I think associating The Wishing Thread with the works of Addison Allen is a good strategy.  In addition to the magical realism element, there are many aspects of The Wishing Thread that are reminiscent of Addison Allen's books. 
  • The Wishing Thread was an enjoyable read.   I'm looking forward to hearing more from Lisa Van Allen. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Winner of The Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the e-copy of The Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs is:


Congratulations!  An email has been sent to the winner, who was selected using  Thanks to all who entered, as well as to Elisabeth Storrs for the opportunity to host the giveaway.

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Few Thoughts On A Clockwork Heart by Leisel Schwarz


FOR BETTER OR CURSE.  That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.

As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally.

In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.

Del Rey | August 13, 2013 | 304 pages

My Thoughts
  • A Clockwork Heart is the second novel in Leisel Schwarz's Chronicle of Light and Shadow series.  The series begins with A Conspiracy of Alchemists (click here to read my review).
  • Like the first novel in the series, the heroine of A Clockwork Heart is Elle Chance, who serves as the Oracle.  As the Oracle it is Elle's responsibility to keep the Shadow forces from gaining power over the Light.  
  • One of the things I liked best about A Conspiracy of Alchemists was the characterization of Elle, who was a heroine easy to root for.  Unfortunately, the Elle presented at the beginning of A Clockwork Heart doesn't come across anywhere near as likeable as the Elle from the first book did.  In fact, the Elle of this novel rather annoyed me, at least initially, given her unwillingness to compromise with her new husband, a man who willingly gave up his powers as a warlock in order to spend his life with her.   
  • I really enjoyed the supporting characters in this novel, especially nightwalker Loisa Beladodia.  My favourite character is Adele the absinthe fairy - I really wish she'd had a larger role in the story!
  • I thought the conflict between Light and Shadow in this novel, one that centres around the creation of a zombie-like army of humans whose hearts have been replaced by a clockwork device, was fairly well done and that the villain was sufficiently creepy.  I especially liked that Schwarz wasn't afraid to transform Hugh, a key character of the series, into one of the clockwork zombies.   It is this transformation that drives the plot of the novel. 
  • The ending of this novel was not at all what I expected it would be, but that's a good thing.   While I wasn't as fond of the Elle of A Clockwork Heart as I was of the Elle of A Conspiracy of Alchemists, the ending of this latest book, while not a cliffhanger, has definitely left me curious to know where the series is going next. 
  • Since I'm not all that well-read in the steampunk genre - the only other novels I've read within the genre are Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate books - I'm not sure how much of Schwarz's world (if any) follows any sort of steampunk convention.   I do enjoy the world Schwarz has created and for this reason will pick up any future novels in the series. 
  • While A Clockwork Heart would work as a stand alone novel, if you are interested in this series I recommend starting with A Conspiracy of Alchemists

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Few Thoughts On A Question of Honor by Charles Todd


In the latest mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford investigates an old murder that occurred during her childhood in India, a search for the truth that will transform her and leave her pondering a troubling question: How can facts lie?

Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood in India, where her father, a colonel in the British Army, was stationed on the Northwest Frontier. But an unforgettable incident darkened that happy time. In 1908, Colonel Crawford's regiment discovered that it had a murderer in its ranks, an officer who killed five people in India and England yet was never brought to trial. In the eyes of many of these soldiers, men defined by honor and duty, the crime was a stain on the regiment's reputation and on the good name of Bess's father, the Colonel Sahib, who had trained the killer.

A decade later, tending to the wounded on the battlefields of France during World War I, Bess learns from a dying Indian sergeant that the supposed murderer, Lieutenant Wade, is alive—and serving at the Front. Bess cannot believe the shocking news. According to reliable reports, Wade's body had been seen deep in the Khyber Pass, where he had died trying to reach Afghanistan. Soon, though, her mind is racing. How had he escaped from India? What had driven a good man to murder in cold blood?

Wanting answers, she uses her leave to investigate. In the village where the first three killings took place, she discovers that the locals are certain that the British soldier was innocent. Yet the present owner of the house where the crime was committed believes otherwise, and is convinced that Bess's father helped Wade flee. To settle the matter once and for all, Bess sets out to find Wade and let the courts decide.

But when she stumbles on the horrific truth, something that even the famous writer Rudyard Kipling had kept secret all his life, she is shaken to her very core. The facts will damn Wade even as they reveal a brutal reality, a reality that could have been her own fate.

William Morrow | August 27, 2013 | 320 pages

My Thoughts
  • Mother/Son writing team Charles Todd have delivered another winner with A Question of Honor, the fifth installment in their Bess Crawford historical mystery series. 
  • In this latest addition to the series, Bess finds herself investigating circumstances surrounding murders that occurred in India and England when she was a child.  Murders that were committed by an officer serving in her father's regiment and who is now believed to be dead.  Much as she had been in the previous novels in the series, Bess is helped in her endeavours by close family friend Simon Brandon.
  • The mystery in this book was intriguing and I had little inkling of how events would be resolved until the story's end.  
  • Bess Crawford, a battlefield nurse, remains one of my favourite heroines in literature. She's smart, capable, committed to her charges, independent, and fully committed to uncovering the truth even if it means placing her own life in jeopardy. 
  • One of the greatest strengths of this novel, and the series overall, is Todd's ability to capture and vividly convey the realities of life in the casualty clearing stations, field hospitals, and base hospitals where doctors and nurses, during the period covered by this novel, had to deal not only with soldiers wounded in battle but also those suffering from the Spanish influenza epidemic.  
  • The only issues I had with this novel are that the people or answers Bess was searching for throughout this book came, time and again, a little too easily.  Also, I missed the interactions between Bess and her London flatmates, a part of each of the series previous novels but not this one.
  • Does anyone else think Bess and Simon Brandon would make a good couple? Upon completion of the fourth book, An Unmarked Grave, I thought Bess and Simon were headed for romance.  Now I'm not so sure since their relationship in this book remained purely platonic. 
  • This novel was set during 1918 and, given that World War I is coming to an end, I'm looking forward to reading where Todd takes Bess next.  I imagine the next novel will still see Bess close to the front lines, but I'd love to see a novel that takes her back to India in future.  I'd also love to read a novel that delves into Simon's history. 
My rating4 out of 5 Stars

Source:  My personal collection

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