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by Deborah Harkness

Published July 10th 2012 by Viking Adult

 

 

Summary:

“Together we lifted our feet and stepped into the unknown”—the thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

 

 

Review:

I was super excited about getting an ARC of this book.  I am a huge fan of A Discovery of Witches and am now a huge fan of Shadow of Night.  Shadow of Night picks up right where Discovery left off, so if you have not read the first book, I highly advise you to do so before reading Shadow of Night, otherwise you may be a bit confused, oh and you will also be missing out on a super awesome story!

I don’t want o give too much away, but in Shadow we learn more about both Matthew and Diana, as they learn more about themselves.  We are introduced to quite a few historically famous people, who just happened to be friends with Matthew in Elizabethan England, unfortunately, even though Diana expects to have intelligent conversations with some of these men, she soon learns that not all of Matthew’s friends are as accepting of her as she would have hoped.  This causes both tension and problems for the new couple.

The longer Diana and Matthew stay in Elizabethan England, the more they change history, causing ripples that run all the way through to modern day, little hiccups that the rest of the family, still in modern times, must strive to clean up in order to cover-up Diana and Matthew’s time jump.  This was a neat way of keeping the reader connected to what was going on in the present time, so that we were not left wondering what was going on with Ysabeau and the rest of the de Clermont family.

Overall, I have nothing but positive things to say about this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who read the first book, if you have not read Discovery, please do so and follow up with this one.  I recommend this book more to adults, this is because there is sex in this book, it is not super graphic but it is described in some detail.  The positive is that this is sex between a married couple in order to consummate the marriage and make it official in both the human and supernatural worlds, and to prove their love for eachother.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy.

Please read more of my reviews on my blog: sarahereads(dot)wordpress(dot)com

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by Angela Elwell Hunt

Published June 5th 2012 by Howard Books

 

 

Summary:

“If these three sisters don’t change direction, they’ll end up where they’re going. “Darlene Caldwell has spent a lifetime tending Sycamores, an estate located five miles south of a small town called Peculiar. She raised a family in the spacious home that was her grandfather’s legacy, and she enjoys being a pillar of the community. Sycamores is the kingdom where she reigns as queen . . . until her limelight-stealing twin sister unexpectedly returns.

Carlene Caldwell, veteran of the Broadway stage, is devastated when she realizes that an unsuccessful throat surgery has spelled the end of her musical career. Searching for a new purpose in life, she retreats to Sycamores, her childhood home. She may not be able to sing, but she hopes to use her knowledge and experience to fashion a new life in Peculiar, the little town she left behind.

Haunted by a tragic romance, Magnolia Caldwell is the youngest of the Caldwell girls. Nolie has never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores. She spends her days caring for her dogs and the magnificent gardens she’s created on the estate, but when she meets a man haunted by his own tragedy, she must find the courage to either deny her heart or cut the apron strings that tie her to a dear and familiar place.

Can these sisters discover who they are meant to be when life takes an unforeseen detour? In a season of destiny, three unique women reunite and take unexpected journeys of the heart.

 

 

Review:

 This was a great novel.  Ms. Hunt does a superb job of developing her characters, especially the main ones.  Five Miles South of Peculiar explores in depth each character’s past, why they are the way they are, how they got to be where they currently are, present, the life that they each created for themselves, and ends with a glimpse at each woman’s future.

This book has a nice happy ending for each woman, making this a nice light beach read.  There are some heavy things in this book as well; the loss of love, family dynamics, and a different dysfunctional past for each character even though they are siblings and all grew up together.  Five Miles also looks at life in a small town and what that is like for those living in it.

There are many other characters in Five Miles that add to the story including but not limited to a Pastor who was let go from his church after a divorce and the mayor of the city.  There are also many plots and sub-plots that make this novel the kind of story that you do not want to put down.  Nothing gets old or boring in this book, there are no slow parts that you just want to skim over.

There is no sex, but there is the mention of sex when one sister’s dysfunctional past comes out.  This incident is not glorified in a positive way, and it is not descriptive, but it would be up to you whether you would allow your kids, maybe in upper High School to read this book, if they so desired. I would recommend this book mostly to women, especially those with sisters or at least are interested in the family dynamic that comes with having a sibling.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy.

 

 

by Robin Wasserman

Published April 10th 2012 by Random House Children’s Books

 

 

Summary:

 It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

 

 

Review:

This book was better than I expected it to be, but not as great as everyone says it is.  The book of Blood and Shadow is full of twists and turns and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  It is a mystery, historical fiction, and love story all rolled into one.

Nora is a likable character, but is also a bit dim witted at times.  There are so many things that have been going on around her that she somehow never saw or never realized were happening, it is just insane.  I got annoyed by her pretty quick.

Adriane is not at all likable, she seemed spoiled and obviously thought she could do whatever she wanted and didn’t care who she hurt in the process.

Max- well- I’m not sure how he fooled everyone so well.

All these people, Chris included, were supposed to be Nora’s best friends but yet she knew nothing about any of them in the end.  I wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed at Nora’s stupidity, or sad that she somehow never knew any of her “friends” at all.

Even though this does not seem like a review with flying colors, overall The Book of Blood and Shadow was a good read.  It was both entertaining and fresh.  I have not read anything like it before.  Now it does have similarities to some popular movies and some would say, another well known book, but I saw it mostly as an original work that is worth reading.  I would recommend this book to older high school student through adults.  Both males and female would probably enjoy this book.  There is violence and references to sex, but nothing graphic.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy and also to assist parents and teachers in recommending appropriate books for your kids to read.

Kill Me Softly

 

 

by Sarah Cross

Published April 10th 2012 by EgmontUSA

 

 

Summary:

“Clever fun.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Incorporating suspense and romance, this contemporary, edgy, Grimm-based novel is an entertaining and well-written entry in the crowded but popular genre.”—Booklist

Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

 

 

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book.  There are many “modern fairy tale” novels out there as well as TV shows so I was hoping that Ms.Cross would  be able to bring something different from all the rest, and let me just say, she brought it.  I was hooked from the beginning.  First I wanted to know why Mira wasn’t allowed to go back to her birthplace, then I wanted to know who these brother’s were, then what was Mira’s curse…  the list goes on and on.  As soon as I thought I knew the answer to a question, I had more questions.  This is a good thing.  Kill Me Softly kept me intrigued and on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

Kill Me Softly has romance, a bad boy, a “perfect” gentleman, princes, princesses, though they don’t actually live in castles, heroes, heroines, everything that a good fairy tale has, even a happy ending.  One of the things I loved about this book was that there is an ending for the two main characters.  There is not a huge cliff hanger, but there are enough sub-plots and other characters that the next book in the series should hopefully follow one or two other characters, only mentioning Mira briefly so we know what is going on with her and if any unfinished business needs to be cleared up.  I don’t know for sure, but that is what I would do.

This book does not have any graphic sex, but it is mentioned and there is at least one sex scene, almost.  Because of this, I would recommend this book primarily to older high school kids and adults.  Adults will really get into Kill Me Softly if they have a pretty good knowledge of the original Grimm Fairy Tales, the ones that really were not so pretty.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy and also to assist parents and teachers in recommending appropriate books for your kids to read.

 

 

by Sandra Byrd
Published June 5th 2012 by Howard Books

 

 

Summary:

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor.

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.

 

 

Review:

This is a historical fiction book told from the POV of Juliana St. John, the daughter of a knight. She becomes a member of Kateryn Parr, King Henry the VIII’s last wife’s household. There is a bit of the supernatural mixed in with the history, which adds an interesting element to the story.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as other books I have read. I think that was mostly to do with one of the scenes in the book, it left a sour taste in my mouth and influenced my opinion of the rest of the story. There was a vividly described scene in which Juliana is raped. This event influenced Juliana’s life greatly. She forever felt unworthy of any decent gentleman’s affection since she was ruined and tainted by that event. This was even emphasized by a suitor telling her he wanted nothing to do with her after her so called friend betrayed her and told her suitor of the rape in order to gain his affection for herself. How Juliana ever forgave her, I will never know.

Secret Keeper is full of lies, deceit, and intrigue, portraying almost all of the bad things that can happen to one involved in the inner workings of court life. I would never have wanted to be a courtier or even a woman in that time period. I know that it looks fun and that the clothing was beautiful, but women were treated terribly. The double standard of what was acceptable behavior was so much more pronounced then, and women were so cruel, crueler than women are to each other in an average person’s life today.

On a happier note, this is actually more of a romance story than one would think given the title and what you may know about the life of Kateryn Parr, at least it is for Juliana. I am not going to give away anymore of the plot, except to say that it is very good and keeps the reader riveted to the story. This book has so many levels, plots and sub-plots that all mix and intertwine to give the reader a fresh perspective on the life of Kateryn Parr and the women who were loyal to her. Even if you are not fans of the supernatural, that element of this story is so small that it is almost insignificant and should not deter you from reading this book.

In case you wanted to know, there is sex in this book, besides the rape scene. There are not many sex scenes and there is a significant amount of material between the rape and the next sex scene, but sex in general is brought up fairly often because of the insecurities that this traumatic event created for Juliana.

I would recommend this book for adults only because of its overall content including but not limited to sex scenes, the rape scene, and events that follow due to the rape. I do not feel those would be appropriate for kids. If you are very sensitive to rape and all that follows, this book would not be good for you. It may bring up things you don’t want to think about and the scene is described in quite a bit of detail. It is also a main part of the plot and continues to be brought up throughout the entire novel.

I received this book as an ARC. I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy.

 

 

by Kristine Grayson

Published March 1st 2001 by Zebra Contemporary Romance (first published February 1st 2001)

 

 

Summary:

 In Utterly Charming, Kristine Grayson took readers on a delightful romp through a modern fairy tale. Now, she picks up where she left off when a thoroughly modern Sleeping Beauty finds the kiss she’s been waiting for all these years.

Emma Lost can still remember the day she woke up in the back of a VW van after her famous thousand years’ snooze — the one that inspired the Sleeping Beauty myth. Emma knows it’s no fairy tale — she’s the real Sleeping Beauty, trying to hide her magical powers and swearing off kissing strange men for the rest of her life. Of course, most men follow her around like lovesick puppies…except for Michael Found, her gorgeous boss. The rational, logical Mr. Found doesn’t believe her theories about such things as Fates and fairies and magic, and he’s determined to expose her as a fraud. But Emma knows for sure the magic truly does exist, and she’s going to give Michael a lesson he’ll never forget — even if it means breaking her vow of not kissing men.

 

 

Review:

When I requested this book to read as an ARC, I did not realize that it was a continuation of a previous book.  That being said, I was able to read this one pretty easily without having read the first book.  Anytime there was something from the previous book alluded to, the author briefly explained what was going on and what happened in the previous book so that you got the gist of what was going on.  I was not confused at all, which is a good thing.  Reading this book made me want to read the first one, but I am not sure there is a point since it seems like all the high points were covered in this one.

I enjoyed the way Ms. Grayson wrote and I would most definitely read another book by her.  She writes in a very fluid manner and draws the reader into her work.  I was sucked in and wanted to know everything that was happening to the characters.  There was not a ton of character development and I still really would have liked to get to know some of the characters better, but not every book is written that way, and that is not a bad thing.  Thoroughly Kissed is just a nice book that allows the reader to get away from the world and enjoy a little romance without any of the heavy plot that can be in some other books.

Since I am moving out west in less than a month, I loved reading about the places that we will probably drive through.  I have one complaint though; Ms. Grayson was quite rude when she mentioned Sheridan, Wyoming.

“The only place I’d feel comfortable stopping in the middle of the night between here and Billings is Sheridan, and it’s not the friendliest city I’ve ever been to.” Pg. 239 of the ebook.

Now most readers probably just skimmed over it and didn’t think much of the sentence, but I take offence to it.  Sheridan, Wyoming is my new home and we chose to move there specifically because of the hospitality that it offers.  It is a beautiful, friendly city centered in the Big Horn Mountains.  Before Ms. Grayson, or any other author, decides to say hurtful things about a city, maybe actually going there and meeting the people would be a good thing, and if Ms. Grayson did go there and had a bad experience, I don’t think knocking a small town that really is friendly and has many neat experiences (Huge rodeo in July) and a strong history (Buffalo Bill and the Wild West show) to offer visitors, is a good thing to do.  There were other ways she could have gotten the point that it was too long a drive across to readers without mentioning Sheridan, Wyoming in a negative way.

Overall, this is a great romance novel that really didn’t have any bodice ripping.  Now it does have a lot of sexual tension and kissing and sex are a big overlapping theme, but it doesn’t happen in the book, you just know it happens after the book ends.  I would recommend this book to adults only because of the sexual tension and overall theme.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy.

 

 

by Leigh Bardugo

Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

 

 

Summary:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

 

 

Review:

This book had me hooked from the very beginning.  Shadow and Bone was amazing.  Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down.  Yes, it was a bit slow in the beginning/middle, as Alina learned how to use her power, but the ending was well worth the buildup.  This book has quite a bit of character development for Alina, the main character, and some for both Mal and the Darkling.  Those three main characters developed throughout the story and you got to see more about what was going on inside them as time went on.

Alina is a wonderful heroine and through she needs to be saved a bit a time or two, like most heroes do, she learns to trust in herself, in her instincts, as the story develops.  Alina starts out weak and confused, but once she embraces who she really is, there is no stopping her.  She is also not the most beautiful girl in the room and that keeps her humble, along with her upbringing as a peasant orphan.  I felt bad for Alina because she doesn’t really ever know who she can trust, and because of her naiveté, she is easily swayed, until her eyes are opened, that is.

I loved the romance between Mal and Alina.  I was hoping he would open his eyes and see her as more than his best friend and that he would see Alina as a woman, a woman who loved him and had stuck by him their entire lives.  I am hoping that in the following books, Alina isn’t swayed toward the Darkling, and that a love triangle does not emerge.  I hope Alina isn’t let down by Mal and that he does not go back to his womanizing ways.  I have hope for this couple.

The bad guy is yet again a conflicted character, which is kind of predictable, does he really love Alina, or was he just using her?  There are many unanswered questions at the end of this book.  It is a cliff hanger, but it leaves you with the illusion of a happy ending, at least until the saga continues.

I am eager to read the next one in this series.  I loved Shadow and Bone and cannot wait to continue on the journey that Mal and Alina have embarked on.  I highly recommend this book to anyone from 7th grade all the way through to adults.  This book would probably appeal most to girls, but there is a lot of action, so a boy might enjoy this as well, even though the hero(ine) is a girl.

There is no sex or alluding to sex.  There is a make-out scene that gets quite heavy, but that only happens once.  This book is appropriate for most readers in the specified age group.  There is violence, but it is just fight scenes, or training scenes, nothing gory.  There are monsters that appear in the dark, so if nightmares are a problem, you might want to avoid this one, but I HATE the dark and it was fine for me.

I received this book as an ARC.  I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy and also to assist parents and teachers in recommending appropriate books for your kids to read.

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