REVIEW: Pandora

When Dora’s parents die in a tragic accident, her horrible uncle takes over their antiquities shop and her care. For years she is under his thumb and has nothing but her companion, a magpie, to keep her company. She dreams of being a jewelry designer, which is not a woman’s trade in the 1700s. When she stumbles upon a beautiful Grecian urn in the basement depicting Pandora’s story, it tips off a chain of events that changes all of their lives forever.

Who knew opening Pandora’s jar could be so boring. I hate to say that because the historical fiction aspects of this novel were written and well researched. But it is sort of billed as a story about releasing a curse. All we really got was a bunch of greedy men fighting over a vase. There was some action in the final third of the book are we see some comeuppance… but it all happened a little bit too late for me. And I think this premise could have been executed a little bit more thrillingly. 

Thanks to Netgalley advanced access to this novel. I did purchase a copy before my approval came through. All opinions above are my own.

I’ve got this signed copy up for sale on Pango books if you’re interested! What do you do with your books when you’re done with them? Do you keep them all? Sell? Donate? Give to a friend?

REVIEW: The Children of Gods and Fighting Men

“Ireland is our home. It is a land of myth and magic, but our magic is fading.”

—————————

This is the story of tenth century Ireland told from the viewpoint of two women of vastly different clans of magical immortals. Gormflaith is the widow of the Viking king of Dublin and she is enamored with her mortal son, manipulating everything she can to make him the new king. She and her brother are the last fire-wielding Fomorians. Fodla is a healer of the Tuatha Dé Danann sworn to not meddle in human affairs and yet has found herself in the court of Brian Boru. History plays out as true history did but we get a unique perspective from these two women and how their choices and magic impacted it all.

I LOVED this story, I did not want to put it down. I have been spending more time reading Irish history this year and really loved my recent read Follett’s The Morning and the Evening. It too tackles Viking culture but in England and Normandy. The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is just as immersive and powerful but the magical, mythical elements were fabulous. I also appreciated that we got a little more of a female perspective, especially since both of these are badasses. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Head of Zeus via Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. I have since purchased a copy. All opinions above are my own.

I am obsessed right now with Viking mythology and history… Give me a recommendation for my shelves!

REVIEW: The Atlas Paradox

I’m not gonna offer a synopsis for this one… Because there’s too many spoilers for the first one… And holy cow it’s a lot to encapsulate.

I feel exactly the same way about this one as I did when I reviewed the first one. Solid premise. Intense characters. But it’s really all talk and postulation without very much action… Until the end. And then you get too much action and a cliffhanger all at once.

I still think there were a lot of unneccessary sex scenes. Literally none of them added anything of value to the story. I get that some people like steam for the sake of steam but this is not a romance novel… 

I did this one on audio, I found the slinky voice for Parisa was so annoying.

I still find the story compelling… and enjoyed listening to it for the most part, but I’m really hoping the last book will pull everything together in the series will have been worth it.

Thanks to Macmillian Audio for access to the audiobook. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the last book you read you weren’t sure how you felt about it after you finished?

REVIEW: The Whalebone Theatre

… for it is exactly the thinning of the ordinary that allows the unordinary through.”

—————————–

Honestly the first half of this book was uniquely magical, unlike anything I had read before. Christabel is a plucky, imaginative child with a broken home life who infuses the world around her with joy. She and her siblings come upon the carcass of a whale beached on the shore and she claims it, not realizing anything that washes ashore is the King’s. They transform this experience into one that benefits everyone around them, creating a theater out of the whale’s body. That half of the novel was lovely and I was well entranced.

The second half of the novel is more a WWII spy novel and I don’t generally gravitate towards that for reading. There was a little bit of balance showing a few other characters lives during the war but for me it was a little too heavy on morse code, clandestine chats and changing identities. It was definitely well written and I think would appeal well to folks loving that genre but it was a bit too much for me. Cristabel’s abilities as a spy coming from her love of the theater was a lovely connection but I would have liked 100 pages less of the spy bits. Overall a new take on historical fiction which I really enjoyed.

Thanks to Knopf Doubleday for access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

We’re one week from Thanksgiving here in the US, what are your plans?

REVIEW: Echo North

Echo is a young girl with a horrible facial scar from a wolf attack. She lives with her father in their bookshop when he disappears into the forest. She finds him six months later guarded by the wolf who offers her a trade: stay with him for one year in an enchanted house below a mountain and her father will be returned safely. She agrees and finds herself in this enchanting magical world where rooms disappear and books can literally transport you to other places. Trapped inside one of these books is the handsome Hal who is unable to return home. Echo has one year to figure out how to save the wolf, Hal and herself.

I love a fairy tale based fantasy and this one was absolutely magical. Echo is the perfect protagonist – she’s strong yet vulnerable, plucky, caring and just a little naive. The people she meets along the way are all fascinating and her adventures are engrossing. This was one of those books I wanted to live in forever. If you love Alice in Wonderland or wanted to know what was in all those books Belle was living in during Beauty and the Beast… definitely check this one out. It has immersive imagery, amazing characters and a perfect ending.

Tell me, how many years would you have to live to read everything on your TBR?

Pub Day REVIEW: Heart of the Sun Warrior

Last year’s Daughter of the Moon Goddess was one of my favorite fantasy reads of the year. I really loved Xingyin’s journey to free her mother the Moon Goddess. The sequel give us more of this amazing heroine as she battles to save her family, their home and even the fate of the empire. If you like a story with lots of perilous quests, twisting adventure and fabulous battle scenes… this story is for you. We get much more of the intricate character driven story of these Chinese based mythological characters in book two. The battle scenes definitely rival those of Kuang’s Poppy War series. I would not consider these books spicy in any way, but the love triangle between Xingyin, Liwei and Wenzhi gets even more complicated.

I really enjoyed this extension of the Chang’e story and getting to know more about Xingyin’s history. The magical elements and creatures of this one are just as unique and interesting as the previous story. Boy, did I not predict how Xingyin’s love life would go either… she finds herself more of a pawn than ever as she tries to save the realm from a very dangerous usurper. The emotions as Xingyin navigates her foes and her two suitors are heavy. The ending was definitely not what I expected but I really loved the storytelling.

Thanks to Harper Voyager via Netgalley for access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

Any books publishing today that you’re excited about?

REVIEW: The Fortunes of Jaded Women

I really enjoyed this multi-generational story. It showed us a slice of Vietnamese culture with a focus on the role of women. As in many cultures, baby boys are valued over girls and in this family the curse of only daughters impacts so many lives. But as each story is revealed and they start to come together, we see that a curse can also be a blessing. This one was equally entertaining and beautiful. This would make a fabulous TV series.

I accessed this one via Libro.FM thanks to their ALC program. All opinions above are my own.

This was too complex to give a real synopsis that would be any better than the one you can find online. Do you prefer reviews that give you a synopsis or ones that just dives into what they think?

REVIEW: Hidden in the Mists

I really enjoy time slip stories, the mix of historical fiction with fantasy, when done right can just be enchanting. I really enjoyed Courtenay’s Tempted by the Runes where we see a character slip back to Viking times a la Outlander style. This story gives us a different kind of historical romance, one of a love that spans the ages. Skye and Rafe live in modern day Scotland and Ottar and Asta in the ancient lands of the Vikings. Each are living in uncertain times and find one another to lean on… and find they quite fancy one another.

We get a good bit of Viking culture and from several unusual points of view, that of a usurper, the daughter of a fallen jarl and a thrall. I enjoyed that half quite a bit more than the modern one but I did like the aspect of history echoing throughout the ages

Thanks to Headline via Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

If you could slip into another time for a few months, what time would you choose?

REVIEW: Lost Souls of Leningrad

There is a lot of WWII fiction out there, it was an immense moment in history and every story deserves to be heard. The author starts with a note telling us why she was motivated to tell this story, the fact that the Eastern European front does not get as much attention as stories of the Jewish survivors or the Western world. Leningrad was under siege from . To me this read like a modern day Masada, so many innocent people not interested in anything but living their lives but they were completely cut off from a way to save themselves. There is much of the horrors of the war we have come to know but we get a bit of a different angle on the government’s role in Russian involvement and how dispensable it viewed its citizens (gee, sounds familiar…).

Sonya is a musician living with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter when the Germans begin pressing towards Russia. Her son is arrested after an accusation against him and her daughter-in-law joins an initiative to ingratiate herself with the Party. Sonya and her granddaughter are left to survive by any means necessary. We see the struggles against starvation, bitter cold, the delicate balance to stay on the right side of the government and trying to maintain their hearts in the face of the worst of humanity.

There are some utterly heartbreaking moments in this one. However there are also such moments of strength, resilience and love. This one is so well researched but also well written.

Thanks to Booksparks for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

Happy Veterans Day to all who served! 

REVIEW: Fatty Fatty Boom Boom

I fell in love with Rabia Chaudry’s sensibilities and passions listening to her podcast, Undisclosed. When I saw that she was writing a book about her life, I was immediately on board. I enjoyed it as much as I hoped to. Rabia tells us about her young life in Pakistan and immigrating to America, what it’s like to be a girl between two cultures and her love for them both. We learn all the cultural expectations of being both Urdu and Punjabi and how Rabia and her family were torn between tradition and immersion in American culture. She gives us her story through her love of food and how her parents best intentions for her as a baby set her up for a lifelong food addiction. She describes the trials and travails of trying to get in shape, gastric surgery and how she came to love herself just as she is. The stories were told with humor and love and raw truth. She takes us right from childhood through her first marriage, divorce, her law career (including Adnan of course) and becoming a mother. I was both entertained and learned so much about the culture of the people of Pakistan, Muslim tradition and of course… the food. The last quarter of the book is recipes and commentary on them. 

Thanks to Algonquin Books for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

What are you reading this year for #NonFictionNovember?