Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back – Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: February 18, 2020

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

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I was really excited to try THE KINGDOM OF BACK, something totally different from Marie Lu’s previous books! I’ve read the Legend trilogy and the Warcross duet, so I was interested to see what THE KINGDOM OF BACK would have in store, knowing how a good portal-world book can capture my curiosity. This one ended up being just a bit too different in too many ways for me and it just ended up not being a “me” book.

This was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” The writing in this book was just lovely and and it was a lot more prosaic and lyrical (which is fitting since the book is about music — ha!) but I usually don’t get along with these types of writing styles with very few exceptions. If that’s a writing style that you enjoy, I think this could be an instant hit for you, but I just know it’s something that I don’t particularly care for and I feel like things end up being too drawn out.

I also just had a complicated relationship with the book overall. I really, really did not like the fantasy aspect of the book. There is a portal world/alternate universe type-thing happening here but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It largely revolved around faeries which I have zero interest in and some of the faerie magic was just a bit too fanciful for me. My magical preferences are more about systems and structures than whimsy so I just really didn’t care for it at all and I hated the parts that glanced back over at the faerie world. It wasn’t that it was bad, but again, tooootally not my thing.

The children are young for most of the book and it takes a very long time for them to even been teenagers, so I would barely even call this YA. It’s more so a book that maybe doesn’t need an age categorization since it’s not a specifically teen coming-of-age story but really just a story about these two children and their lives. I also didn’t understand for the beginning of the book why it was important for this story to be about the Mozart children and it was kind of annoying that it could have been anyone. This does make a little more sense and ties into the story more as the book goes on, so I eventually did end up liking how it tied in (even if I didn’t like the fantasy world still). By the time the book was ending, I actually found that I would have liked the Mozart story by itself all together and a fun YA historical fiction book about the Mozart children that didn’t have fantastical elements would have been cool too.

I think fans of The Hazel Wood and Uprooted will enjoy this. 

There is an author’s note at the end of the book where Marie Lu explains the origins of the book. She had discovered that Mozart had a sister that was barely ever heard of so she investigated her story, and The Kingdom of Back was a real (well, “real”) place that the Mozart children invented and they used it to pass the time in their carriage rides (which does happen in the book, as well as further development of the world). If I had known that beforehand, it would have been much more interesting knowing that The Kingdom of Back actually had historical origins and that was why/how the book came about. I still wouldn’t have cared about the fairy world but it would have made me a little more interested to understand actual historical significance of the fantasy world and that’s why it was included. That author’s note to allow me the hindsight to make this connection is the only reason I felt in the middle about this book instead of disappointed.

It’s actually weird looking back because I really enjoyed the end of the book and it left on a good note. The book wasn’t bad at all but between the writing and the faerie world, it really just wasn’t my style and if I had known that, I might have not read the book or at least waited to hear from someone else if I might like it. I’m actually still kind of glad I read it because I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book but I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. I really don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I really enjoyed knowing that this stemmed from something real in history. That’s really what held my interest!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just really didn’t care for the fantasy aspect in this book, weirdly enough. It was too whimsical for me and I just don’t love fairy type fantasy.

Addiction Rating
Check the reviews

I think you’ll either love it or end up feeling like I do. If this is your style, you’ll probably love it! If you think we share some opinions, I would say check out some more reviews.

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BOOKS LIKE THE KINGDOM OF BACK

             

Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) – Kerri Maniscalco

Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) – Kerri ManiscalcoTitle: Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publishing Info: September 10, 2019 by Hachette, Little Brown, Jimmy Patterson
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: December 25, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2), Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World's Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they've heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him---and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device---is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end---together and in love---or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

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It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of Kerri Maniscalco and her Stalking Jack the Ripper series! Audrey Rose and Thomas were such a beautiful couple and the books were so much fun, getting me into a historical fiction perspective while having a fun mystery and a dash of romance. I actually started CAPTURING THE DEVIL around when it released back in September and just due to a busy schedule, I wasn’t able to finish until my holiday break in December. I’m really glad I was able to give it time so I could spent a good chunk reading!

I was incredibly curious about the inclusion of H.H. Holmes AND the finale of the whole series, really bringing everything full circle! I really enjoyed how there were pieces of this book that were hidden throughout the series. I did find that portion to be a little rushed, though, and I really wished we had gotten to see more of Audrey Rose’s and Thomas’ interactions with Holmes and not just a quick rough & tumble portion where things concluded in a frenzy. We barely even got to see Holmes or the “murder castle” and I just thought the characters would be spending much more time there and not just a quick, fast-paced conclusion. I feel like the other books spent a lot more time setting up and developing the mystery where this book spend a large amount of time with the romance.

While I do love Audrey Rose & Thomas, I just felt like there was way too much time spent on their romance and I wanted it to flow more naturally within the story and not take up a third of the book on its own. I feel like when it came down to it, this book was more about Audrey Rose & Thomas and their romantic drama than it was about the mystery, so that was really a bummer for me. I know that tons of people love their romance and I can imagine a lot of people being happy with it, but for me, I liked it more when it was a part of the character development that came along with the story and felt natural as the mystery investigation was going on. The beginning of the book and the wedding drama felt really forced and totally unnecessary and I really wish there had been no drama revolving around the wedding and that it would have been a shining moment to close the series. Instead it was kind of a negative thing for a long time. I guess I did like that it wasn’t an ideal situation and that Audrey Rose & Thomas were once again able to work through something that was a “scandal” or wasn’t a society norm.

Sadly, this was probably my least favorite book of the series. Series finales are always hard for me but I just really wanted so much more murder mystery and time focused on H.H. Holmes. It seemed like he and the murders were more of a thing in passing instead of being the most important thing of the book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Murder Mysteries. It was really neat to see things taking place in Chicago and to get a glimpse of H.H. Holmes to uncover what was happening there.
Left Me Wanting More: Murder Mystery. I just wanted so much more mystery and far less romance. I just don’t like when the romance takes over a book when it’s not “supposed” to be the main plot. It was very important in this book but it just felt like a little too much of the focus.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’ve been following the series and you’ve been enjoying it up to this point, I would say definitely finish the series. I’m glad that I did! If you haven’t enjoyed the series much then I’d say maybe this book wouldn’t be for you either.

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BOOKS LIKE CAPTURING THE DEVIL

             

The Disappearances – Emily Bain Murphy

The Disappearances – Emily Bain MurphyTitle: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
Publishing Info: July 4, 2017 by Hachette
Source: Subscription Box
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: October 16, 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

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THE DISAPPEARANCES sounded quite interesting with touches of magical realism and intrigue, but I just never quite clicked with it. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was quite boring so I’m sure that didn’t help, but I just didn’t really connect with this book on many different levels.

I did like Aila’s personality but there was something about her that just didn’t quite fit in the story. The historical aspect of the book just seemed unnecessary to a certain extent, and that’s not to say that an author needs a reason to set a book in a specific time period but I wished there had been something more to establish exactly why this time period was special besides the kids’ father being shipped off to war.

This was the type of magical realism that stretched just a bit too far beyond reality and was in that weird in-between state that asked me to suspend reality a bit too much, for my personal tastes. It was interesting to think about the different disappearances and why they were happening, but I didn’t find the answer satisfactory and it felt a little too cheesy. Plus, the addition of the Variants sort of took away from the atmosphere of the book when it could have been darker and grittier. (I mean, that’s just what I was hoping for.) Despite this being more magical realism, I felt like the Variants delved a little too into fantasy and things got a little muddy as the book went on. I wasn’t sure how much was supposed to be magical and how much was supposed to be scientific. There’s no right or wrong answer to that but I just personally didn’t love how everything was handled.

All of the little world-building additions just didn’t click for me either. There were neat things like games, sports, and traditions that were woven in that were unique and captivating but they really took me out of the story more than they pulled me in. They were things I enjoyed experiencing but it didn’t feel like it kept with the tone of the novel, or maybe I was just looking for a tone that wasn’t quite there (as I often spoil things for myself in that regard).

THE DISAPPEARANCES wasn’t a bad book but it just wasn’t the style I was hoping for and it really didn’t pull me. About halfway through I actually considered not finishing because I wasn’t really interested but then things started to evolve and questions were getting answered so I stuck with it. I’m glad I finished it but it didn’t shine for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical, I guess? This wasn’t in a contemporary time period so it was interesting to have it set in another time… I wouldn’t say I loved that aspect but it did change the way I looked at things!
Left Me Wanting More: Intrigue. I wish some of the more interesting concepts had been introduced earlier on to spark some more interest. There was some time spent with things I didn’t care about and I wanted to get into more of what was happening and why.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Some people really enjoyed this one, but writing this review so long after reading the book, I just remember being bored and not loving how the book was structured. I would personally say skip it but hey, it’s always worth looking into!

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The Light Between Worlds – Laura E. Weymouth

The Light Between Worlds – Laura E. WeymouthTitle: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Publishing Info: October 23, 2018 by HarperCollins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Parallel Universe
Date Completed: August 19, 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

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What a beautiful book this was! THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it turned out to be even better. The focus was much more on the time after the fantasy world and how the three siblings had to deal with being back in the real world and it made for such an emotional story. I loved the characters and how real everything felt. The emotions really struck me and I connected with these characters so much.

The writing was positively gorgeous. It was a tad flowery at times which sort of took away from some of the beauty because it was so well-written that it didn’t need to be over the top. Those quiet moments and emotional connections did the work so the overly flowery passages weren’t necessary, but they still evoked emotion as well, even if they did become a bit distracting. I was easily swept away with this story and I had a hard time tearing myself out of this world.

I actually really appreciated that this book wasn’t so much about the fantasy world that these children found but about how it changed them and the people they became. It wasn’t about all of them needing the world and everyone took away something different from the experience. I loved the sibling connection and the other relationships in the book were positively perfect as well. Tom was easily the best character in the book and I loved him so much, and Philippa’s Jack made for a wonderful addition as well. It’s wonderful to see supporting characters doing just that — supporting the leads for exactly who they are, despite heartbreak, secrets, stubbornness, and all the other things.

I actually didn’t quite love the ending. It was quite fitting and I knew it was one of two possibilities but I still didn’t love it. It also leaves a lot of questions left unanswered (like what will happen after the closing chapter), but it’s also not necessary to address those questions because that would be another story entirely. I’m so glad I read this book and although it wasn’t what my heart told me I was in the mood for when I picked it up, it founds its place quite fittingly.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique books about portal worlds. I really liked that this focused on what happened to the kids after they returned from their alternate world. As much as I love seeing those unique worlds, it was really interesting to see the story about what happens after, pulling on all of those raw emotions.
Left Me Wanting More: Ease of reading. One of the only things that took away from my reading experience here was some of the more flowery passages. They were beautiful but I don’t think the book needed it and at times they became a bit distracting. I was more than happy with the rest of the narration!

Addiction Rating
Read it/Try it

I highly recommend this book BUT I know a few people didn’t love it as much because of their experience with reading the Narnia books, causing a comparison between the two. I never read the Narnia books so my experience with them is much more surface level. I didn’t have a comparison here and I was able to enjoy this book without a bias.

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Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) – Kerri Maniscalco

Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) – Kerri ManiscalcoTitle: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publishing Info: September 18, 2017 by Hachette, Little Brown, Jimmy Patterson
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: June 4 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2), Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4)

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

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I’ve enjoyed all of the Stalking Jack the Ripper novels and ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI was no exception! It didn’t quite bowl me over the way the previous novels have but I always love a good murder mystery and the chemistry between Audrey Rose and Thomas is stellar, as always!

Let’s start with the awesome things. Audrey Rose always feels like such a real character. She’s strong, quick-witted, and she’s still human and makes typical mistakes that we’ve all mad. Sometimes it’s frustrating (and some things in the book did frustrate me more than I would have liked), but that’s all very true character-building. Thomas really comes more and more alive in each novel and I really felt like this was his best book yet. Where I’m normally drawn to Audrey Rose, Thomas really stole the show here and I was itching for more scenes with him front and center while Audrey Rose was off having carnival adventures! There was something that caused their chemistry to be shaken up here, which honestly, I didn’t love, but I did love how much more it connected me to Thomas and his emotions.

I noticed here were moments where I was having a hard time getting into the setting and putting myself in that place and I’m not sure why. It’s happened before (mostly in HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA) and I’m wondering if it’s maybe the historical element throwing me off since I don’t read or enjoy a lot of historical fiction. Usually it’s not an issue when a mystery or some sort of supernatural element but for some reason I just haven’t been as attached to settings like Bran Castle and here, the cruise ship. I had moments where I’d be into it and then moments where I just didn’t feel like things were clicking but I still can’t quite pinpoint why, even looking back. I think the settings are just so different from book to book that maybe I’m just missing the London/Whitechapel/original setting.

I do basically live for Audrey Rose and Thomas though. I have so much love for the chemistry between those two and I was saddened to see how a few things were handled here because you know I hate shaking up couples, depending on how it’s handled. I don’t want to say a lot more so I don’t spoil anything but I just really wanted more time with them together and the murder investigation be the only thing that really shook things up. I’m so curious to see how the final copy differs from the ARC! The ending was changed and now I need to know so I’ll have to decide whether I want to go reread the whole thing or peek at the last section! addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Historical murder mysteries. The historical aspect of a murder mystery really makes things interesting! I love the lack of technology and how much the characters have to rely on investigative skills. Left Me Wanting More: Couple time. I was really saddened to witness a few of Audrey Rose’s choices. I guess I can understand how a mysterious stranger is alluring but she also doesn’t seem like she should be manipulated so easily, especially at the expense of Thomas.

Addiction Rating Read it!

I do enjoy this series so much and I’m a big fan! This wasn’t my favorite book of the series but was still very enjoyable. I’m hoping with this obstacle out of the way, we get back to some major swoons again!

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The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) – Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) – Alison GoodmanTitle: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman
Publishing Info: January 26, 2016 by Penguin
Source: Audible, Gift
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Date Completed: February 21, 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

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I had heard a lot about THE DARK DAYS CLUB and seen it around many places and actually didn’t pick it up until I had read a little bit more about it. Demon hunting in the regency era? Heck yeah that sounded interesting, so I grabbed this book in an Audible sale!

THE DARK DAYS CLUB started off interesting for me and then quickly hit a really big stall. It was such a weird read for me. I knew what I was getting into and yet the pacing really took me by surprise. For the first 100+ pages, really nothing happened. There was a lot of set-up but not even the demon-hunting side of things. There was a lot of Regency Era story and set-up but honestly, that wasn’t why I picked up the book so I really wasn’t interested without the demon-hunting part.

Things really did finally start to pick up around 40% and I really did end up enjoying the end. I was hoping more would happen throughout the course of the book but it finally did hit its stride and I surprisingly do want to continue the series. I almost DNFed this book, actually, with so little taking place at the beginning but now that things have been established, I actually am looking forward to seeing what else happens.

I’m still  little hung up on the fact that it felt really slow to me so although I enjoyed the ending, I’m not sure when I might continue on in the series. I liked where things were going and yet writing this review quite a bit after finishing, I don’t really feel that pull to keep going.

I’m also not really sure about the love triangle here… but it did give me feels on both sides. I have a lot of thoughts. I didn’t really think it was necessary to throw in there and one part of it seemed odd to me. I guess all of these factors combined may have me skipping the rest of the series.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Regency era. I really don’t read a lot of historical fiction or paranormal/urban fantasy period books so this was interesting! I don’t think it’s my favorite time to read about but it was fun.
Left Me Wanting More: Action. This book did have some good action but the beginning and middle just really dragged. I actually wanted fewer pages instead of more of something.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

This is highly rated by many of my friends but it didn’t quite do it for me. It was an interesting read but I struggled with it in more than one way. Something for which you might want to check out reviews!

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Mini-Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) – William Ritter

Mini-Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) – William RitterTitle: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: August 22, 2017 by Algonquin
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 29, 2017
Related Posts: , Jackaby (Jackaby #1), Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2), Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3)

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push Earth and the Otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve the daily mysteries of New Fiddleham, New England — like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why zombies are appearing around. At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for 926 Augur Lane’s ghostly lady, Jenny, begins to give way. Before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

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For some reason, this was the least engaging book of the series for me and I felt a little bogged down and that things were going slowly in the middle. It’s entirely possible that it was because I essentially binge-read the first three books, but that was also only earlier this year and it’s not like there had been THAT much time in between reads. I had a hard time picking the book back up because I felt like it wasn’t really progressing for a while, but I also know that’s my lack of reading time that really hurt my reading pace as well.

I also know that I have a tendency to get overwhelmed when so many supernatural creatures are introduced at once because it always feels like overkill to have them all present at the same time, and that was a big part of THE DIRE KING. Things come to a grand conclusion so everyone an everything are involved and it sort of loses that magic for me when so many creatures are present.

I did absolutely love the ending! There was the perfect amount of bittersweet that every series finale should have. Things were wrapped up nicely, concepts exchanged hands, not everyone was perfectly okay, and it presented a new life for the characters after the events of this series wrapped up. I thought that was handled beautifully!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Paranormal but historical. This whole series was a lot of fun! I loved the historical meets paranormal and it was great fun to read.
Left Me Wanting More: Grounding. I just felt like everything was rushing to a conclusion and it was all a bit much sometimes. It didn’t really feel like a natural flow and it seemed like ALL of the supernatural concepts were thrown in at once.

Addiction Rating
Read it

The actual ending itself is super solid — one of the best wrap-ups, I think — but I just wish I had felt the same about the rest of the book. Still worth the read if you’re already three books in!

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The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 23, 2017
Related Posts: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

THE CROWN’S GAME was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I absolutely loved how much it reminded me of THE NIGHT CIRCUS in so many ways (which I actually just finished re-reading and it cemented this feeling even more)! Naturally, I was very excited to read THE CROWN’S FATE and it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! It’s always so hard when I have an most-anticipate read coming up because I tend to hype the book up for myself so it was an interesting experience reading THE CROWN’S FATE!

There’s no way I can talk about this book without specific spoilers, so first I’ll talk about some non-spoilery things! I loved that this world felt the same! There are some times with sequels that it feels like a totally different book but I was able to fall back into this world right where I left off.
The world where we left it after THE CROWN’S GAME was much more political and while I don’t mind that, I did miss some of that fun and a “challenge” aspect of THE CROWN’S GAME itself (the game, not the book) because it was a fun structure and involved some creativity on the characters’ parts to explore their abilities.
And I still love Pasha. He was very different in this book because of all the political ramifications and situations that he had to deal with so he just wasn’t as much fun but I still loved his spirit.

Okay, so here are the spoilers. While the world felt the same, why why whyyyyy did we have to have Nikolai turn bad?! Nikolai was too pure and sweet and precious and he was my favorite part of the whole darn book, so I was SO SAD to see that his character was essentially removed from the story line since his whole personality changed. I know it was because of REASONS, yes, but still. My favorite part of this story was changed and to boot, that affected the romance too which I wanted to see developed even MORE but that got put on hold because “bad” Nikolai, of course, wasn’t pursuing romance. SIGH. The book was still enjoyable but this changed so many things and took away those little nuances that really had me enjoying the series so much!

I also just wanted more magic…? The magic involved in this book was kind of dark, which is cool, I can appreciate dark magic… But I missed that sparring between Vika and Nikolai so much. I guess I’m just tired of everything ending in war or battles (which is silly considering that this series is also kiiiiind of historical fiction, with magic) so I didn’t really want to see things come to that. I just really loved the structure of the Game itself, which encouraged the enchanters to grow and explore their powers and THE CROWN’S FATE was more of a desperate battle for power or to stop that power, so it lost that magic and that spark that I loved so much. I didn’t feel as enchanted, no pun intended.

I DID appreciate that things didn’t turn out too sunshine-y though. I actually liked what happened to Vika in the end, actually. There has to be something in the events of war because no one comes out wholly unscathed and it’s a great shock to readers when something happens to a main character, even if it’s not a death. I applaud Evelyn Skye for taking it there like so many other authors have avoided. I know it’s hard to have something difficult happen to your characters without a way to “save” them but these things need to be done to keep things realistic or at least not a cheesy happy ending.

When it comes down to it, this was not the ending I was expecting or hoping for the series but I also appreciated how it wrapped up. I think I just wanted more romance and more Nikolai. Always more Nikolai.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical fiction meets magic. I never used to enjoy history or historical fiction so I’ve really been appreciating books that combine it with magical elements! It’s kind of a way for me to catch up on some historical events or at least feelings, even if they are fictionalized and combined with other things.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance. I don’t always need romance in a book but I was so delighted by the relationship between Vika and Nikolai in the first book and things were heading in a great direction… until the end. But then they didn’t really continue in this book!! I almost feel like THE CROWN’S GAME should have been a stand alone in many ways, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t totally love the finale here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved THE CROWN’S GAME, it’s definitely still worth the read! It was different than what I was expecting and I would have loved just a bit more but I also did appreciate so many things still!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    GRAVE MERCY

The Valiant (The Valiant #1) – Lesley Livingston

The Valiant (The Valiant #1) – Lesley LivingstonTitle: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston
Publishing Info: February 14, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 18, 2016

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

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Am I in a reading slump? Am I destined to be the black sheep for this year’s popular titles? Or do I just need to wait for similar opinions and reviews to surface?

Sigh.

This one didn’t do it for me. The pacing was a little too slow and there just wasn’t the amount of action that I expected. When a book advertises female gladiators, I’m expecting quite a bit of fighting or training or… something. Fallon was awesome in the beginning, being on Team Fallon and kind of pushing the boys aside but then I just lost interest in her character. She ended up annoying me, being more stubborn than logical, and then saying some really dumb stuff of the “oh, of course he doesn’t like me” realm. Meh. Stop it.

It was almost halfway or around halfway through the book for Fallon to even get to Rome and literally 75% of the way in for a single battle to happen. And then it was a party, a bargain, and the final battle of the book. What??? Where was like… everything? Again, I don’t NEED action to keep me hooked to a book but the rest of the plot and character development didn’t do it for me. Fallon started off awesome and then I didn’t feel like her character got anymore complex. There was a whole aspect of the book (which I can’t talk about because spoiler) that I thought could really have developed the characters some more and there could have been so much more done there but wasn’t. The romance in the book was also way underdeveloped. Barely into a boy as more than a friend in the very beginning and then pining over him the rest of the book (although I can give her some of that since they were childhood friends. I’ll take that as mourning someone close to you and not mourning the romance). Then a meh romance throughout the rest of the time in Rome when there could have been an awesome slow burn, a forbidden romance, any romantic tension at all. I wasn’t feeling it.

I’m mostly saddened that the plot didn’t really go anywhere here. The book can basically be summarized as: Fallon is stolen away to Rome. Plot twist happens that changes her view of things but if it wasn’t there, the rest of the book still could have happened. Kissy things at some point. An epic battle at the very end. End book. It just didn’t feel like there was a lot of meat to the story and I felt like there could have been a lot more plotting elements that could have developed the story so much more.

I also felt weird with the way the book ended. It was so much action all at once and then I’m assuming was set up for a sequel. I would have much preferred this to be a stand alone novel and had it wrapped up in one book. It felt like it was stretched out unnecessarily and forced to continue into a sequel.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. The gladiator concept and setting was a unique historical fiction (well unique to YA, I think) that I haven’t seen done often or at all! It was an interesting way to read historical fiction.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. There was one big twist and that seemed to be all of the plot. I just wished that more had been built up and developed. There was plenty that could have been but it seemed like it all just happened instead of experiencing it.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I didn’t think this was a bad book but it really didn’t do it for me. Tons of other people really loved it so I’d recommend checking out reviews!

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BOOKS LIKE THE VALIANT

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER

Blog Tour: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Welcome to the blog tour for
The Valiant by Lesley Livingston!

I’m so excited to share today’s blog post which is my blog your stop for THE VALIANT by Lesley Livingston! Thanks to the amazing team at Penguin Random House for having me be a part of the tour and share some of my favorite parts of any book… the scents! Being a candle-maker, I’m obsessed with the different scents described in books and there were a few lovely aromas in THE VALIANT that caught my eye. On today’s stop, I’m sharing some of those and have a special candle giveaway too!

Before we jump into the tour, let’s take a second to check out some details about the book:

Blog Tour: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston | Book Scents + Giveaway!Title: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Publishing Info: February 14, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 18, 2017
Related Posts: The Valiant (The Valiant #1)

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.


ABOUT LESLEY LIVINGSTON

Lesley Livingston is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto. 

BOOK SCENTS: THE VALIANT

Ever since I started making candles, I’ve been so much more in tune with the sensory notes in the books that I read. I feel like aromas in a book are easily skipped over and forgotten once a reader has finished because noticing and committing a smell to memory is such a unique experience that it’s harder hang onto if you haven’t experienced it first hand. I know at least for me, when a book draws on a familiar smell, I’m instantly hit with memories and nostalgia that have the potential to tie me to a book more than any other scenic description so I feel like those smells that add to the atmosphere are not to be overlooked!

Drawing upon my newly heightened awareness, I’ve started keeping tracking of specific scents described in book and how they really paint an even more vivid picture for a reader! Today on Book Scents, I’m sharing some of my favorite aromas from THE VALIANT! They immediately had me thinking back on what fragrances I would use to mimic each experience and I’ve included each one below. (Now how do we make these posts scratch and sniff?)

 

“Now. Into the cold pool and scrub off as much of that travel muck as you can. Gruoch will be back to assist you once she’s disposed of those rags. You’ve probably both got fleas so use the sopa — it’s got rosemary and lavender to kill the little buggers — and lather it through your hair. Thoroughly. More than once. And don’t dawdle.”

Inspiration: Roman baths
Fragrances: Lavender, rosemary, clean soap smells

When I got to the practice yard, I saw it had been decorated for the occasion. Garlands of green leaves and sheaves of lavender and lemon verbena hung between the pillars of the courtyard colonnades, perfuming the night air with heady scents that mingled with the smoke from the braziers.

Inspiration: Huntress Moon Oath
Fragrances: Lemon verbena, lavender, greenery, smoke

With the door to the hallway open, the subtle perfume of lilacs on the window sill was displaced by a heavier, cloying haze of incense.

Inspiration: House of Venus
Fragrances: Lilac, musk, cloves

So what do you think?! Which scents do you think are the strongest sensory inspirations? Which are your favorites?


Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour stops for THE VALIANT!

Week One
2/13 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Gladiator Makeup
2/14 – Two Chicks on Books – Author Interview
2/15 – Alexa Loves Books – Weapon Spotlight: Bow & Arrow
2/16 – Novel Novice – Review
2/17 – Arctic Books – Review + Book Look
Week Two
2/20 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Author Guest Post
2/21 – What Sarah Read – Review + Mood Board
2/22 – Mundie Moms – Weapon Spotlight: Shield
2/23 – ButterMyBooks – Author Interview
2/24 – Fiction Fare – Weapon Spotlight: Dimachaerus
Week Three
2/27 – Oh the Book Feels – Author Interview
2/28 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Weapon Spotlight: Gladius
3/1 – No More Grumpy Bookseller – Review
3/2 – The YA Book Traveler – Weapon Spotlight: Trident & Net
3/3 – My Friends Are Fiction – Author Guest Post
Week Four
3/6 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Weapon Spotlight: Spear
3/7 – A Page with a View – Like/Try/Why
3/8 – The Young Folks – Author Guest Post
3/9 – Icey Books – Quote Candy + Review
3/10 – Book Addict’s Guide – Bookish Scents

GIVEAWAY

There are TWO exciting giveaways for my stop on the blog tour today! The first is through Penguin for a chance to win a copy of the book! See rules and details below and enter the first Rafflecopter form for you chance to win!

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 13, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 15, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The second giveaway is my own personal contribution to this blog tour stop because I turned one of these book scents into a VALIANT-inspired candle! The candle giveaway is for one 8oz tin of “Huntress Moon Oath” with scents of lemon verbena, lavender, fern, and smoke. Open to US entries only. Must be 13 years of age or older to win. Candle giveaway open from 3/10/17 through 3/17/17. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

The Valiant Candle

a Rafflecopter giveaway