Tag «Historical Fiction»

Blog Tour: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for The Hummingbird Dagger (from Goodreads):
1833. After young Lord James Ellerby witnesses a near-fatal carriage accident on the outskirts of his estate, he doesn’t think twice about bringing the young woman injured in the wreck to his family’s manor to recuperate. But then she finally regains consciousness only to find that she has no memory of who she is or where she belongs.

Beth, as she takes to calling herself, is an enigma even to herself. She has the rough hands of a servant, but the bearing and apparent education of a lady. Her only clue to her identity is a gruesome recurring nightmare about a hummingbird dripping blood from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind her identity and the sinister circumstances that brought her to their door. But the dangerous secrets they discover in doing so could have deadly ramifications reaching the highest tiers of London society.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, Canadian Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Cindy Anstey fan! I love her historical YA titles for their playfulness and charm. So a ride on the darker side with a murder mystery? I couldn’t wait to uncover it!

The Plot:

This story is very reminiscent of Victorian era murder mysteries. It’s a lot of dialogue at times but I enjoyed the banter between the characters and found it to be engaging. The story really starts with a bang and then you slowly rebuild everything to the climax. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and it had some layers to it because it made the reading experience richer.

The Characters:

While this story lacked the playfulness of Anstey’s other works, it didn’t lack the charm she brings to her characters. We have a full cast of them to follow her and I liked that we have the various POVs. It helped to develop the individual characters while giving a fullness to the plot.

That being said, there could have been a little more to the character development. But that can be hard to do in a mystery where the lead has amnesia. And I liked that the focus remained on uncovering the plot and Beth’s past.

The Romance:

This is really a minor aspect to the story so it isn’t super fleshed out. But that worked for me because it was exactly the type of romance I expected for this genre.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
If you enjoy a mystery story with a classic vibe to it and charming characters, check this out!

Read if You Like: historical fiction, mystery, amnesia storylines
Avoid if You: want a lighter read, want more romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Queen of Someday (from Goodreads):

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?

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Series: Stolen Empire Trilogy
Author: Sherry Ficklin (or Sherry D Ficklin)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2014 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle)

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Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up Books #2 and #3. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I LOVE stories set in Imperial Russia. I just adore the setting; the politics; the forbidden romances; the folklore–everything about it sucks me in as a reader. So I was super excited to read this series and managed to snag the boxset when it was on sale (though I had already grabbed Queen of Someday as a freebie prior).

It has been awhile since I read a book set in Imperial Russia so I made sure to add this series as a pick for my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a selection for the year 2014. I also added it to my 2018 #MakeMeRead It Readathon where it tied for 1st place for the greatest number of votes.

What I Liked:

–It’s Inspired by Catherine the Great–

I will admit that I missed that part when I actually started reading but once that became apparent to me, I was definitely intrigued. I even had to do some research on Catherine to see what her story was about. I love books that make me dig a little deeper.

–Video Bonuses at the End of Chapters–

You can tell that Sherry Ficklin has put a lot of research into this series in terms of history, characters and setting. So it was a neat treat to get video bonuses at the end of some chapters where she explains her inspiration or what she was attempting to do in that chapter.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Couldn’t Get a Read on Sophie’s Character–

I was definitely a Sophie fan in the first few chapters. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and that shows in the opening scene when her carriage is attacked. She came across as strong and independent and I liked that a lot.

But then something happened where it seemed like her character almost had two different personalities. I get it, she’s 15 years old and has the pressure of the Empress and her mother on her back so I don’t expect her to make flawless decisions at all times. Yet, I craved some consistency in her character. One moment she’s this docile thing falling into love within moments of talking to a man and in the next she’s this bold and cunning heroine laying down threats like she owns the place. It was just a weird disconnect for me and I almost felt like I was reading about two different characters in one body.

–The Romances–

Yes, that’s a plural and no, I’m not talking about different characters. I’m talking about the numerous romances Sophie finds herself entangled in. Thanks to my research, I know that Catherine the Great was a lady who liked her male company so that isn’t overly surprising that in her youth she’d be the same. What irked me was how fast Sophie fell for these guys. They share one conversation and she’s willing to risk anything to be with them.

Again, she’s 15 and I get how fickle the heart can be. But add to that my issues with her character and I quickly lost interest in her romantic relationships–which do take up the vast majority of the book.

–Peter–

You can’t label some as “sadistic” in the synopsis and then not show that side of him until the last quarter of the novel. I had to reread the synopsis multiple times to make sure that it was Peter who was supposed to be the cruel one because for the most part, he was just an immature royal who toyed with Sophie’s feelings like any 16 year old boy would.

Will I Finish It?

Nope! I read the real Catherine the Great’s biography and I have a good sense of how her story ended and what was to come in the future books so I’m good with leaving this series here.

My Rating: DNF

Queen of Someday 2/5 | Queen of Tomorrow N/A | Queen of Always N/A

overall

If you like teenaged historical fiction and don’t mind love at first sight triangles and drama, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, teen soap operas
Avoid if You: want a more mature story

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Series Review: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Grave Mercy (from Goodreads):

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

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Series: His Fair Assassin

There is a spin-off duology in the works.

Author: Robin LaFevers
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected by Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2013 – November 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There is nothing more I love in the world of reading than a heroine who can kick serious butt. So it seemed like I no brainer that I would pick up this series. I don’t remember how exactly I learned about Grave Mercy, but I read it years ago (just shortly after its release) and it left such a mark on me that I refused to remove the sequels from my TBR despite the fact that I could never find the time to read them.

The Concept / The World:

I love worlds that are a mix of actual history with a little dash of fantasy–which is what we get here. These stories are inspired by true events but the timelines and the external forces involved are often altered by artistic licence. The result? You get a world filled with twisting politics (yay!), villainous characters and strong heroines you can’t help but root for.

Each book follows a different daughter of St. Mortain (Death) but they all follow a continuous story arc. It’s a great way to keep things fresh and moving throughout the series. You get to see old characters weave in and out of the story and it just gives this series a 360-degree view I think.

The Plot:

As I said above, each book features a different assassin so you get a fresh start every time in a sense. So in that regard, I found it took me a couple of chapters to get into the new swing of things and orient myself in the world. (It also didn’t help that I read Books #1 and #2 nearly five years apart…). This was especially true for Book #3, Mortal Heart that seemed to take twice as long to establish itself.

But once you are a few chapters in, you’d better hold on! I found these stories were constantly evolving and twisting and it’s hard not to be addicted. You get sucked into the heroine’s pasts; the politics are fascinating and don’t forget that dash of romance along the way!

The Writing:

Usually I don’t comment on the writing style but I do want to mention the fact that sometimes I had a hard time figuring out what was actually happening. It’s weird because this isn’t told in the third person (which can be tricky to navigate). I think it’s just that some things are alluded to; some things are “magical”/”supernatural” and with its historical setting I think the style just takes some getting used to when reading and interpreting what is happening.

The Characters:

I love that this series focuses on a different heroine in each book. You get to spend time uncovering every aspect of their character within the novel. Nothing gets drawn out between sequels or intentionalLY hidden. You just get solid characters throughout.

And each of our leading ladies is unique. Whether it’s their pasts before their time at the convent or their abilities, they each bring something fresh to this world and I loved that.

The Romance:

This is perhaps, for me, the most underdeveloped aspect of the plot because we don’t spend copious amounts of time with it. Of course, we get this great underlying tension between the characters but in the grand scheme of things, I found that the feelings developed fast (again, understandable given the circumstances) and don’t get a ton of screen time.

My Expectations for the Spin-Off Series:

I didn’t end the series on a particular high note (Mortal Heart was my least favourite of the trilogy), but I do like the idea of continuing on with some characters but getting a new cast of characters at the same time.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 4/5

Grave Mercy 4/5| Dark Triumph 4/5 | Mortal Heart 3/5

overall

I’ve never read a series like this before and that only is noteworthy. But if you enjoy historical fiction that focuses on the grittier side of things, check this series out!

Read if You Like: assassins, historical fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike long books, dislike darker reads

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  • Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (Maids of Honour Series #1)
  • Scarlet by A C Gaughan (Scarlet Trilogy #1)

 

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Blog Tour: Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

Synopsis for Illusions (from Entangled Teen):

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

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Author: Madeline J Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT, Magic
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. The first is its historical setting–I love a good Victorian Era YA novel. The second is the gay romance between the leads–I haven’t read too many books set in this era with that romance. And the third is the premise itself–who doesn’t love some good magician sabotage?

The Plot:

This book took me awhile to get into probably because it is told through (primarily) journal entries and that delivers the story in a different way. You focus more on the characters, their feelings and daily events more so than the setting or interactions with other characters. In a sense, you are getting the story secondhand story because they are describing what has happened without you experiencing it first hand. But once I got into the groove of the POV format, the story was easy to read.

I, personally, would have enjoyed a more amped up rivalry between the two master magicians; with more sabotage. Instead, the focus remains on the two apprentices creating a very character driven story that is still very enjoyable to read because there is some great character growth (in addition to the very sweet romance).

The Characters:

It was amazing to watch these two transform before my eyes as the story progressed. The Thomas and Saverio we get at the start of the novel definitely aren’t the same boys we end the story with. I just loved the personal growth we see in these characters. I think the journal entries provided that touch of intimacy into these characters’ emotions and inner thoughts that really adds to the characters’ many layers.

The Romance:

These two were simply adorable together! I always enjoy romances that don’t start out with the nicest intentions, yet twist into something real and strong. When the plot isn’t focusing on them as individuals, I like how it concentrated on how they navigate their relationship given the various circumstances (their rivalry, the nature of their relationship in society, etc.). I also appreciated how it took the time to tackle them realistically; nothing ever felt rushed in that sense (and that isn’t always the case).

My Rating: 3/5

overall
Despite a slower start, this is a great read for fans of character driven historical YA reads!

Read if You Like: historical, stories told through journal entries
Avoid if You: want more than romance

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Madeline J Reynolds

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Blog Tour: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage (from Goodreads):

Two young people must hide their true feelings for each other while figuring out who means them harm in this cheeky Regency romance from the author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

In Suitors and Sabotage, author Cindy Anstey delivers another witty young adult historical fiction novel that is the perfect mix of sweetly romantic and action-packed.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Kobo / B&N / iBooks

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s become a bit of a tradition on my blog that every April I take part in the blog tour for Cindy Anstey’s latest novel. She quickly became a must read author of mine when I read her debut novel, Love, Lies and Spies, thanks to is sweet romance and witty dialogue. It doesn’t hurt that she is a fellow Canadian either 😉

I was really excited when I read the synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage! I love historical fiction and Anstey writes fabulous YA stories as her previous novels can attest to. This book sounded like it would be filled with some great character chemistry and no doubt be utterly charming. I couldn’t wait to sit down and devour this!

The Plot:

This book was a lot of fun–and that’s not something that you would immediately think when you read the plot synopsis. I mean, someone is possibly trying to kill Ben and Ben is in love with the girl his brother is pursuing. Things could definitely take a turn for the dark but they never do and I think that’s where Anstey’s talent for writing shines the best. She has this ability to keep things light and captivating all the same.

I’ll get to the characters later but they honestly make this book. It wouldn’t be half as charming if it wasn’t for the cast of people Anstey has assembled to tell this story!

I did find that this book did suffer from a little too much filler at times. Not that I minded too much since I adored the characters and any scene they were in but I did find it dulled the suspense of the sabotage. The sabotage is more subtle than I anticipated it would be though it did bring excitement to the plot.

The Characters:

Honestly, the cast in this story is fabulous! Imogene is sweet and evolves before your eyes (I loved her character growth!). Ben will definitely steal your heart with his longing glances and kind intentions. But their friends and family are just as entertaining and genuine. Everyone contributes to this story in a way that takes it to the next level. They truly make this story!

The Romance:

Despite there being a bit of a love triangle/square situation happening, I couldn’t get enough of the romance! Again, this has to do with the great cast because I seriously loved everyone and hated to see anyone hurt. But you can’t deny the chemistry that lies between certain characters more than others. I love longing glances between characters and when the inner monologue drifts off as the character becomes absolutely smitten with the other. The romance here was simply perfect.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall
Honestly, Cindy Anstey is the bar when it comes to writing fantastic, entertaining YA historical fiction. She always has a fabulous blend of romance, danger and wit that I’ve yet to come across in another book. This one is definitely another win!

Read if You Like: historical YA fiction, witty banter, subtle suspence
Avoid if You: want more “in your face” romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Series Review: Montague Siblings by Mackenzi Lee

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (from Goodreads):

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

breakdown

Series: Montague Siblings or Guide Series
Author: Mackenzi Lee
# of Books: 2 (Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #1.5 The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 2017 – October 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Audiobook (Petticoats)

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t think I could escape this book if I tried in 2017. Not that I wanted to. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun but people also said that about My Lady Jane and I didn’t “love” that one either.

So I was hoping for more of a Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda type of experience going into this. I didn’t know what else to expect plotwise but I was ready to be surprised!

What I Liked:

–The Tension–

I’ll be honest, I mostly picked this up for the romance between Monty and Percy. I just love all the tension that comes from “off limits” romances. And this is a romance that is off limits in a lot of ways which makes it such an intriguing one to read. Not only are the two best friends but they are two males in a time when that relationship isn’t accepted in popular society. Add to that their ranks in the peerage, race and their own coming of age stories, you have a lot of factors telling these two to stay away.

Which makes those moments of letting go so enjoyable as a reader. These two are just so genuine with each other that you immediately want them to be together no matter the obstacles in their way.

–Slightly Dry Humour–

When everyone mentioned the humour in the book, I was worried I wasn’t going to find it funny. I’m a girl who laughs at everything but humour in books sometimes escapes me. That’s why I considered listening to the audiobook instead because I find it easier to get the sarcasm and laughs. But when I listened to the sample, the narrator didn’t sound like what I imagined Monty would sound like so I stuck with the print.

I’m glad I did because I did find myself chuckling quite a bit at this book. Monty has such an interesting perspective and his off-hand, dry comments just seemed so “British” to me.

–Felicity–

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Monty as a lead. As I mentioned above, he’s witty and dramatic and he’s a lot of fun to read about. But Felicity really surprised me as a character. I didn’t think she’d have much of a role but I loved all the little tidbits we got about her and her attitude in general. She’s a fantastic supporting character.

–Diversity & The History–

Like I said in the “Tension” section, you have a lot of social issues/topics at play here. When they are used all together you feel as though you are transported to the 1700s. It just adds this depth and realism to the world by highlighting various things.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Felt a Little Long–

I definitely missed the “manhunt that spans across Europe” in the synopsis. And while I enjoyed that plot (I’m glad there was something else at play besides the romance) I felt like it took far too long to get resolved. I just found myself getting a little bored with it near the end. While that dramatic plot was moving forward I felt like everything else went to a standstill. For me, this book could have been 50 pages shorter and I would have been more than satisfied.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Obviously I enjoyed Felicity’s character so I’m excited for her to get her own book!

updates

–November 9, 2018– Book #2: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Felicity was one of the highlights of the first book so I was very excited for her novel.

But I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think I was expecting a different type of novel. I wanted a pirate adventure (I kept reading “piracy” as “pirates”) and that’s not what this is. Not that the story we get is bad–I appreciate the science angle–but I didn’t enjoy the pacing of this novel at all. I thought we spent far too long rehashing Felicity’s constant rejections and it took a long time to get to the “adventure” part of the story.

I respect Felicity’s drive and passion to study medicine. I also liked the fact that she doesn’t really have a romance plotline either. All too often the girls who strive to defy societal norms find love–and that isn’t a bad thing–but I really respected the fact that not every girl wants or needs a romance in her life; that they can want other things and they aren’t any less (or more) of a woman because they don’t want that.

So this book was a bit of a miss. I think if I had a better idea of what to expect my review and rating would be different but this was just so-so for me.

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue 4/5 | The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy 3/5

overall

This is a great read for historical YA fans without a doubt or if you love stories that take you on a fun and heartwarming adventure, pick this up!

Read if You Like: adventure, historical, GLBT
Avoid if You: dislike adventure, historical

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DNF Series Review: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Bright Young Things (from Goodreads):

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: Flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York’s glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star….

Cordelia is searching for the father she’s never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined — and more dangerous. It’s a life anyone would kill for…and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is ­Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia’s brother, Charlie. But Astrid’s perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the ­illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls’ fortunes will rise and fall — together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of THE LUXE comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

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Series: Bright Young Things
Author: Anna Godbersen
# of Books: 3 (Bright Young Things, Beautiful Days, The Lucky Ones)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: October 2010 – November 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Disclaimer: I stopped reading Bright Young Things at 72%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I read The Flappers Trilogy years ago, I devoured them! Like most people, I’m fascinated by the 1920s culture. It seems like it was a decade unlike any other and I love exploring that further. After I finished that series, I put Bright Young Things on my TBR because it looked to be a very similar series: multiple leads, girls trying to navigate society and a dash of romance.

Like most things on my TBR, it took me years to get back to this series. Godbersen’s The Luxe Series has also been on my TBR forever and I had every intention of reading it first since it’s billed as a “historical Gossip Girl”. But when I was looking for a new audiobook series to start, this one popped first and I decided to try it first.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Obviously I like the decade and this story hits all the necessary requirements. You’ve got independent girls, aspiring actresses/singers, mobsters and prohibition. Oh, and don’t forget the forbidden romance.

But that was all I did enjoy in this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Leads–

I could probably rant for DAYS on why these girls are just plain awful but I’ll try to keep it short and logical.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it either: these girls seemed like complete idiots to me. And I get it, Cordelia and Letty are supposed to be the naive young girls from the country trying to make it in the big city on their own. That’s the premise of the story and I can forgive that. But they literally lack any intelligence. Sames goes for the “big city girl” Astrid. The elevator just doesn’t reach the top floor for any of these girls.

It doesn’t help that they are all very selfish girls either. They all think the universe should revolve around them (and I truthfully think Letty does believe it revolves around her) and so they act like it does. They don’t give any thought about the impact their actions with have on anyone and that drove me bananas!

*Spoiler* Case and Point

When Letty learns that Cordelia ran away from Ohio to find her lost father, Letty is completely flabbergasted that Cordelia’s motives to go to NYC weren’t to start Letty’s singing career. I mean, obviously Cordelia would spend all her savings on Letty’s music career and not on escaping her forcefully arranged marriage. That would be the same conclusion I would draw too if my best friend told me minutes before the wedding I knew she didn’t want that we were running away to NYC…dumbass Letty

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I know that I am a hard person to please and the lack of logic and/or impulsive/thoughtless character actions in novels is one of the reasons I am particularly choosey when it comes to my YA reads because teenagers don’t always make the best decisions. But if that character evolves from that, I’m all for it and often enjoy the novel.

One of the reasons I enjoy novels with multiple character POVs is that if I don’t enjoy one character’s POV, I can usually latch on to (at least) another to keep me reading. And because I couldn’t stand any of these girls, I didn’t find that with this novel.

–The Lack of a Plot–

And when you detest the leads, you count on the plot to keep you interested but there really isn’t much of one here. Unfortunately, this is a very character driven story. You really are just following these girls through their mundane lives of bad decisions and selfish actions. It’s very boring to read/listen to.

Why Wait so Long to DNF it then Lauren? You were 72% done!

Truthfully, I should have put this book down when Cordelia reveals her plan to Letty about going to NYC in Chapter 1. See, she tells Letty maybe 8 hours before the train leaves (moments before Cordelia’s wedding–which she goes also goes through with too!) that they are going to run away that night. Letty agrees, not even thinking about logistics (ie money, living, etc) because she thinks Cordelia is doing this all for her. (Again, read my previous section above for the vanity of this girls and the spoiler for Letty’s thought process).

But see, I forgave them that because you wouldn’t have a story otherwise and you need some catalyst to get the story going.

The straw that broke it for me–at 72% into the novel–were these two particular scenes. One featured Letty and the other was Astrid and I finally realized this wasn’t going to get any better. That’s when I decided that I wasn’t going to torture myself for another 2 hours of audiobook, let alone 2 more books (though truthfully, I had already decided I wasn’t going to finish the series before this point), watching these girls act like complete morons. They weren’t going to get any better as characters and I knew that if I ended it now before that cliffhanger every other review mentioned that happens in the end, I wouldn’t be compelled to pick up the sequels.

Spoilers: In case you want to know what the scenes were

Letty earlier in the novel goes on this date with a guy (Grayson? Gary? I think it started with a G) and for some reason they end up witnessing this old many killing his racing greyhounds. The boy (I’m going to call him G) she is with ends up saving the 2nd dog–at Letty’s insistence!–and they continue on. Later on, Letty waiting for some big-shot music guy to show up for this date and G shows up at the same time wanting to (for some unfathomable reason to me) ask her out again. But Letty doesn’t bother giving him the time of day because she wants to launch her music career. Ugh. But the scene that really did me in was the scene where Astrid uses her mom’s much younger boy toy against her mom to make her jealous because she is petty like that. Who in their right mind tries to make their mom jealous over a boy? I like drama but that is just too much.

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Will I Finish It?

Hell no! I read through some spoilers and am super glad with my choice to let this one go.

Audiobook Experience:

I will say that I did enjoy the audiobook production. Emily Bauer had the perfect voice and tone for narrating this book. She made it really easy to listen to even when the characters were being total fools.

Though I will say, I did struggle at the start with the Third Person POV. Because you don’t get page breaks in the audiobook, I had a hard time keeping track of who was the focus at the time. The shifts between characters wasn’t always apparent to me. And truthfully, I couldn’t keep straight who was Letty and who was Cordelia at the start either because we shift view points so much. But once I got into it a little more and the characters are expanded upon a bit, it gets better.

Series Rating: DNF

Bright Young Things 2/5 | Beautiful Days DNF | The Lucky Ones DNF

overall

AVOID AVOID AVOID!

I’m going to make a Downton Abbey reference here so bare with me.  Astrid and Cordelia reminded me a lot of Lady Mary Crawley: they want their independence and will damn well do it however they pleases no matter the consequences or impact on others. And Letty reminded me of the whiny Lady Edith from the first two seasons who never seems to get what she wants and makes terrible choices as a result. Only Letty never grows up like Edith does. But the worst part is that there is no Lady Sybil to root for.

Read if You Like: flappers, don’t mind naive & silly leads
Avoid if You: can’t stand selfish characters
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Series Review: The Ladies Janies by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for My Lady Jane (from Goodreads):
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

breakdown

Series: My Ladies Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane, My Calamity Jane)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; Audiobook (Plain)

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**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was everywhere in 2016! And I’ll admit, I didn’t know much else about it other than it was a retelling of Lady Jane Grey who was somehow connected to the British throne and it was supposed to be funny. I’ve also read series by all three of these authors in the past and enjoyed them. Sounded like a winning combination to me!

So I went in without reading any other reviews in order to not raise my expectations too high. I was hoping for a fun and entertaining read–and if I learned something about the British Monarchy, bonus!

The Concept / The World:

Years ago, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and really enjoyed it. So I am completely open to magic/supernatural changes to a classic story or history. But I really wasn’t expecting the animal shifter storyline we got here. It took me a long to time get comfortable with it.

I also think part of the problem was that I’m not entirely familiar with English History. It was a similar problem to when I picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer–I don’t know American history and so I couldn’t make the little connections between the parody and actual history and that diminished my reading experience.

I really didn’t know who Jane Grey was before I picked this up.  So I read Wikipedia a lot to find out who all the players were and what actually happened in history just so I knew what the authors were trying to do.

Once I made the connections between history and this fictitious story, I started to appreciate it a lot more. The writing here is smart. The conflict between shifters and nonshifters here and its parallel to the religious conflicts of Jane Grey’s time (for example) is fantastic. It’s those little things that make this story interesting to read overall.

The Plot:

I really found the first half of this book to be slow–so slow that I almost contemplated DNFing. Yes, I did love the humour but the animal shifting really threw me off and I wasn’t sure if I liked how the story was progressing. But once I got familiar with the history and got comfortable with the world, I started to enjoy it a lot more.

Plus, I really wanted to know how it was going to end!

And I have to say, that once I got to the halfway point, it really started to pick up. It got a hell of a lot more exciting and I started to get won over by the characters and the plot.

The Characters:

What I liked about this story was that it was told from Edward, Jane and Gifford’s POVs. Not only do you get to learn more about these characters through their POVs, but I find multiple POVs help keep the story moving even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

All of these characters have their little quirks which makes the narration a lot of fun to read. So even when the plot was slow to get somewhere, the characters kept me entertained.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge part of the story but it is pretty cute. The romantic in me was happy with the little spurts we got throughout the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see what will happen next and what these ladies have in store.

updates

–January 4, 2019– Book #2: My Plain Jane

So I can say with absolute certainty that this second novel was much, much better than the first–for me at least. I really enjoyed the plot and approach this story had. It was a fun satire of sorts on the classic gothic novel and the literature lover in me really enjoyed that. While I’ve never read Jane Eyre (shame on me I know), I know enough of the story to truly appreciate the parallels the authors have created here. I also think listening to this as an audiobook vastly improved my overall experience because the humour and sarcasm were much more apparent.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

My Lady Jane 3.5/5  |  My Plain Jane 4/5  |  My Calamity Jane TBR

overall

I’m in the minority with this series I think because I know a lot of people who LOVE this novel. If you go into it knowing that it doesn’t take itself seriously and has magical elements to it, you’ll enjoy this a lot more. I also highly recommend the audiobooks if you are someone who struggles with humour in novels.

Read if You Like: humour, historical novels, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike parodies, want a serious retelling

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Blog Tour: Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Duels & Deception (from Goodreads):

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Regency
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // iBooks // Kobo

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s no secret that I absolutely adored Cindy Anstey’s debut, Love, Lies and Spies. It had everything I love in a novel: wit, fun and a swoon-worthy romance. As soon as I finished, I had to know what else she had written and that’s why I’ve spent the better part of the last year awaiting Duels & Deception.

The Plot:

Anstey has such a talent for writing entertaining stories. Should a kidnapping scene have you laughing out loud? Not likely but Anstey manages to do it. That whole event was super entertaining and it made me wish it lasted longer.

However, I did find the momentum of the novel slowed a bit after the kidnapping chapters. The mystery of who is after Lydia is enticing but unfortunately, I had a pretty good idea of the culprit before the big reveal. What I didn’t guess who how everything was going to be resolved so that had a few good twists for me to read.

The Characters:

Lydia was everything you like in a historical fiction leading lady. She’s as sharp as a whip, a compassionate daughter and definitely independent. If she was real, she would be my best friend.

And starring opposite her is Robert, pretty much the ideal hero. Again, he’s super smart but he is also adorably sweet and caring. He isn’t some over the top hero and I loved how grounded he was.

The rest of the cast is quirky and entertaining and adds to the story’s fun and lighter tone.

The Romance:

SWOON! Talk about two leads who are perfect for each other! Not only did they compliment each other in every way but they also had fantastic banter. I loved every scene with these two in it.

My favourite part was watching these two slowing coming to the realization that they were falling in love. The slow burn romance was so on point!

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This is a perfect read for fans of historical romance who love quirky, witty characters and a romance that has you swooning from the start!

Read if You Like: regency reads, witty leads, slow burn
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction
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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Series Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Crown’s Game Duology

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Crown’s Game (from Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

breakdown

Series: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
# of Books: 2 (The Crown’s Game, The Crown’s Fate)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiosity) was inevitable. But it was also on my radar because it is set in Imperial Russia–the kryptonite of book settings for me. I LOVE that setting and I try and read any book that uses this time period.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Like I said, Imperial Russia is one of my favourite book settings and this one was pretty perfect. You could tell that Evelyn Skye had done her research before writing this book. She really brought this setting to life in nearly every aspect: clothing, royalty, perception of magic. It hit all the marks.

–Multiple POV–

I LOVE having multiple POVs in my novels. It just gives you a full-circle view of the world I think and adds dimension to the plot and world. This one succeeds in that. It kept the story moving, added suspense to the plot and just gave you more insight into the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Hard Time Picturing Magic Scenes–

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the best headspace to start reading this book. I was studying for my licensing exams and was a little pre-occupied in my brain. So maybe take the next two paragraphs with a grain of salt and read another review to get another perspective.

For a third person POV, this book flowed wonderfully. It’s easy to get lost in the 3rd person narration when pronouns are used liberally; but I never found that to be the case here.

What I did struggle with is the scenes where magic is described. I had a hard time visualizing it. I think I missed the part about the purpose of the Enchanter and how the Game works so I didn’t get why these two were doing what they were doing when it was their turn. Again, I think I just wasn’t in the right place to read this.

–The Romance–

While I don’t enjoy the aspect of a love triangle in any book, that isn’t my sole issue here. My issue: the insta-love. I can forgive Vika and Nikola’s insta-connection because of the magic. That makes sense. But love? Stretching it a little. And Pasha hardly interacts with Vika before he is swooning at her feet. I just wanted a stronger romance here or at the very least, pick a team to root for and I never did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There was a rush of things that happened at the end and so I’m excited to see what will happen next. There’s so much potential moving forward.

updates

–June 25, 2017– Book #2: The Crown’s Fate

I think I might be in the minority but I fully believe that this book was better than the first one. I found the plot to be much more engaging and interesting than it was in The Crown’s Game. Despite some slight monotony in the middle of the book with one plot aspect, I found that this story always kept moving and developing in a way that was rather addicting to read. I was flying through the pages.

The character development was also great. When you have essentially 3 key players to keep tabs on, one or more will inevitable fall to the wayside in terms of growth. But I felt like everyone had a great story to tell and I’m glad we got to see them all.

This series is still missing that something to make me give it a 5/5 though.  And truthfully, I was leaning more towards a 3.5/5 rating for this particular book because I did find the middle of the novel to be a little stale. But I really liked how everything was brought together in the latter half of the novel and I did feel like this was a much stronger showing on Evelyn Skye’s part. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her in terms of her writing and I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate 4/5

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. (Maybe the hype monster killed this one for me?) It’s a solid series and definitely worth a read if you love alternate history with a dash of magic!

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia, alternate history
Avoid if You: dislike magic, want more romance
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