Review of Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

DuelandDeceptionDuels and Deception
By: Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: Print arc
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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…

My Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was exactly what I expected and wanted! It was a fast, fun read that had that Jane Austen feel and such a cute story. Have you read any of Tessa Dare’s historical romance novels? This book had that feel but for a YA audience.

The pacing was quick and this was one of those books that’s perfect for vacation reading, waiting for an appointment- really- the kind of book you stick in your purse and read whenever you get a few minutes. The driving force in this novel was by far the characters and the chemistry they have with one another. I immediately liked the main character Miss Lydia Whitfield. She’s pragmatic and knows exactly what she wants out of life. She’s got everything planned (if only others would play by her rules a little easier).

The law clerk, Mr. Rober Newton, was so cute. I shipped these two quickly and looked forward to their interactions. I loved their misadventures and how they brought out the best in one another.

This book wasn’t overly mysterious- I thought it was obvious what the outcome would be but that didn’t diminish the fun of reading for me at all. It was, as they say, the journey that mattered and not the destination. Reading about these two characters was so much fun. I loved the historical setting and felt that the author did a great job of taking the reader there.

Final Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was an adorable read with quirky characters you love and a fun story line. It’s a standalone and perfect for a vacation read or something quick to pick you out of a reading slump.

Review for Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

LikeaRiverGloriusLike a River Glorious
By: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:
After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

My Thoughts:
I am really loving Carson’s newest series and her foray into westerns. I think she has captured the harshness and tension that had to have been present during this time period in California. My take-away from this novel- the gold rush was not fun. I’m not sure I’d have made it due to the hardships but reading Lee’s journey was incredibly riveting.

This book was very dark at times and the tension was hard to get through. I had to read this one slowly because all the struggles Lee had to endure really took a toll on me. I am really emotionally connected to these characters so their journey was my own. It was hard reading about them coming upon one bad thing after another. And Hiram- ack what a sadistic jerk. Carson has given his character incredible depth but my dislike for him runs deep. I wanted to throttle him throughout his scenes. His treatment of Lee and the people working his mine…grr.

There was a romance that started in the first novel and grows some in this one. It wasn’t a focus of the novel although it does push along the plot and Lee’s motivations at times. I really love this couple and I hope that at the end of the series there ends up being a HEA. I need it. This novel wasn’t at all filler to me, the plot points of the storyline were done wonderfully and this didn’t end on a cliff-hanger which I appreciated. I’m not all that sure where the last book of the series will go but I’m excited to find out.

The historical aspects of the novel were well done though I don’t have much to base them on. I’ve not done much study into this time period or the treatment of the Native Americans or Chinese workers but this depiction seemed incredibly realistic and makes me want to further my education and learn more about what it was like for them. It wasn’t easy to read but I think necessary for all of us to remember. I think it’s so easy for our historical knowledge to gloss over these nasty bits and that really needs to change.

I love that this series is so based in history and reality and the magical elements are incorporated seamlessly. Lee’s magical ability was such a blessing yet curse for her. I love how she struggles throughout both novels to really grasp the extent of her skill and its impact on others around her.

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Final Thoughts:
Like a River Glorious was such a beautifully done novel though certain aspects were really hard for me to read. I had to take it slow and read another novel in between because the struggle Lee goes through as well as the treatment of people in this book could be really depressing. I was always riveted to the storyline and feel it was a strong follow up to the first book.

 

Review of How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Math_9780553539479_jkt_all_r1.inddHow to Hang a Witch
By: Adriana Mather
Release Date: July 26th 2016
Publisher: Knopf/Random House
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials.

Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history is about to repeat itself.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I didn’t notice at first the author’s last name and that she shared it with her main character. Upon realizing that I had to flip to the back and make sure there was an author’s note (which there was). Knowing that the author was a Mather herself really added credibility to the story for me.

This story takes place in Salem present day but the main character has ties to the past- and not in a very popular way. I was really impressed with how the author handled Sam’s disconnect to those around her and the progression of bullying she faced in the town and school. It was hard to read at times but really tied together the past with present and the importance of not standing by while others are mistreated. I found the message to be very powerful and enjoyed that aspect of the book a good amount.

The town of Salem as well as the history of the Witch Trials was really interesting. I loved the little historical tid-bits and found the descriptions to be very vivid and clear. The author obviously knows this time period and history well and she incorporated it very well into her storyline.

Where things went a bit off for me was the romance in the novel. I never really felt anything towards the two and yes…there’s a slight triangle. I’m really not sure if everyone would consider it that but the main character does sort of feel things for two different people View Spoiler » I felt that the main romantic element was rushed and I didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters.

Another thing that fell a bit flat to me was the big reveal. I felt it was pretty easy to predict and though it was dramatic I never really felt the tension I’d expect. I wasn’t all that invested in the secondary cast so I didn’t have the emotional attachment I’d have liked.

Final Thoughts:
Regardless of the issues I had with How to Hang a Witch I did find it to be an enjoyable read and well worth the time. I thought the author did an excellent job adding in historical details. I loved that the author has an actual past with her story and used that to help develop and write this book. I think that aspect really added to the book.

Blog Tour- The Dark Days Club Character Playlist + Giveaway

DarkDaysBlogTourBannerI am so thrilled to be highlighting The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman today.  I recently reviewed this book and if you missed that- I’ll sum it up- I LOVED it. TDDC was an engrossing read with beautifully implemented historical bits along with some incredible paranormal aspects. I feel that everyone with a taste for Jane Austen style writing, period dramas, paranormal and a slow burn romance should read this book.

Character Playlist-Lady Helen from The Dark Days Club

This playlist is all about the main character in The Dark Days Club – Lady Helen Wrexhall. The novel is set in 1812, and in those times a young noblewoman’s life was severely restricted. The Dark Days Club follows Helen’s adventures as she discovers that her world has a dangerous and demonic underbelly, and her family has some very dark secrets that will change her life forever.

The Verve –– Bittersweet Symphony

Although The Dark Days Club is set in the Regency era, the lyrics of this song about modern life really resonates with me, and the anthemic music always gives me goosebumps. The video is brilliant too. For me, Bittersweet Symphony is about the desire for change and how difficult it can be to find a way to shift your own circumstances. Lady Helen finds herself in this predicament at the beginning of book.

No Doubt –– Just A Girl

As a young noblewoman living in the early 1800’s, the only life path for Helen is to marry, produce children and act as hostess for her husband. Until that time, she is “just a girl”. I like the irony in this song and it suits Helen’s personality: she has far more courage and integrity than most of the men in her family.

Jessie J –– Price Tag

Helen’s uncle wants to find her a suitable husband and get her married as quickly as possible—he’s not sure her fortune will overcome the taint of her infamous mother!

Queen –– I Want To Break Free (Official Video)

A more light-hearted song about finding a way out. I’ve been a Queen fan since I was a teenager, and this is one of my favourite songs. The official video is hilarious too.

4 Non Blondes ––What’s Up?

Another favorite song of mine, and one that echoes Helen’s growing uneasiness as she starts to ask her self: what’s going on?

My Demons – Starset

A hint of what is to come in Helen’s world. This song has a great driving beat and sense of dread.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way.

Helen does not know it yet, but she’s not who she thinks she is!

Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong

Helen is beginning to realize that something is very wrong in her opulent world, and this song is about yearning for something more.

Jessie J – Who You Are

This could very well be Helen’s theme song for Book 1.

Britney Spears – I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman

Lady Helen is making her debut to polite society, a time when a Regency girl steps into “official” womanhood. Yet, curtseying to the Queen does not bring instant wisdom and maturity. That is a much longer and harder journey.

Kelly Clarkson –Breakaway (With Lyrics)

“Take a risk, take a chance, make a change and breakaway; a song for Helen as she takes her first step into a strange new world.

Rhianna––Umbrella

This is such a great song about friendship. Helen finds a great friend and confidante in her maid, Darby and their bond grows throughout the book.

Katy Perry––Wide Awake

When Helen discovers the truth, she’s finally wide-awake!

Mahalia Jackson ––Trouble Of The World

A beautiful song sung by one of the greats. Helen finds the truth about her world hard to bear.

Annie Lenox and David Bowie ––Under Pressure

Helen feels the pressure of the decisions that she must make. This version is a tribute to the late great Freddie Mercury and, now sadly, the brilliant David Bowie.

Des’ree -––You Gotta Be

Helen has to find her true strength, but will it be enough?

About the Book

DarkDaysClubThe Dark Days Club
By: Alison Goodman
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Summary:
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?

Giveaway:

Entries are US only, there will be 5 winners, and it will run from Jan 18 – Feb 18
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A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis- Deeply disturbing yet beautifully written

efitz-5528355e1a3aaa4@2xA Madness So Discreet
By: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: ARC
Source: Friend picked me up a copy. Thanks Kate!

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

My Thoughts:
I went into this book expecting to be disturbed, creeped out and generally enthralled. I was happily not let down on these desires though the story was much different I expected. McGinnis’ writing style always manages to really grab my interest and I find it to be incredibly beautiful.

A Madness So Discreet started out in an asylum that had little care to actually help those living there. Grace has swallowed her words and refused to speak. This first section of the story was DARK. Really, really disturbing and a good amount of the subject matter was really hard to read though somehow it didn’t manage to be so dark I was at all wanting to stop reading. It was a mesmerizing darkness that kept me eager to know what would come next.

Once Grace meets the doctor, Thornhollow, the pacing and the feel of the book really switched gears. Going into this book I expected the asylum darkness and the horror of reading about Grace’s horrible past. What I didn’t expect was the banter between Grace and Thornhollow and the focus on Grace’s friendships with the inmates at her new ethical asylum.

McGinnis introduced many side characters that really played a major role throughout the story. I enjoyed watching Grace open up to them and begin to live again. Dr. Thornhollow pulled her from inevitable death and despair and gave her the hope to live again. I felt this was all very well done. Grace as a character was exceptionally strong, loyal and brave. I was very impressed with her perseverance in the face of amazingly awful things occurring.

Thornhollow was the classic intelligent, socially awkward and brilliant doctor/detective type. I am such a sucker for this character type I was immediately a fan of him. His care for his patients and his dedication was also a draw to his character. I loved that though he was caring and considerate he lacked that human connection to others in many cases. I felt that as the story progressed and as he gets to know Grace he learns from her and begins to open up himself.  I also liked that though many elements of his personality seemed so positive it still look me back a bit by the things he was willing and able to do to others.

While reading this book I became fascinated in asylums and the use of lobotomy. I have had very little research in how asylums have changed through time and how our perception of mental illness continues to evolve. I still have some researching I’d like to do because of questions and curiosities this book introduced. I can easily see that McGinnis did a wealth of research to be historically accurate and it came across very naturally within the story.

The only aspect that sort of threw me off was that the story switched gears three times. The first section was dark and disturbing, the second was the hunt for a serial killer and the last section focused on Grace coming to terms with her family history and seeing retribution and protection for her sister. Somehow, McGinnis was able to succeed in her execution and the story did flow rather well for containing so much in a rather small amount of pages. I was able to connect to the characters and I was always interested in the outcome. I do think that it might have been a little more successful to me if more time was spent on the different story themes.

The book didn’t leave off in a manner where there HAS to be a sequel though I really would love to read more with these characters. I still see many possibilities for expansion on the character’s stories and growth.

Final Thoughts:
Mindy McGinnis is an incredibly strong writer and it’s always a pleasure for me to read her writing. I really enjoyed the characters introduced in A Madness So Discreet and it was evident many hours of research were done to help create the setting and historical elements. I only wish that some of the story elements had been either cut or expanded on since it felt rushed in spots.

Extras:

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