Gorgeous Cover- Decent Story

ArtintheBloodArt in the Blood
By: Bonnie MacBird
Release Date: August 27, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Print ARC
Source: McDuffie Communications

Summary:
London. A snowy December, 1888. Sherlock Holmes, 34, is languishing and back on cocaine after a disastrous Ripper investigation. Watson can neither comfort nor rouse his friend – until a strangely encoded letter arrives from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star writes that her young son has vanished, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre.

Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single, untouchable man, an art collector seemingly beyond reach of the law.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft.

My Thoughts:
First, look at that cover. Take a moment to fully appreciate how absolutely beautiful it is. Okay, now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about the insides. I am a huge fan of the TV show, Sherlock and have loved reading the newest YA renditions and reworking of the classic Sherlock/Mycroft/Watson dynamics. Art in the Blood pulls more from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works at least in stylistic terms. The time period as well as the writing feels very much like an added work to the older classics. Full disclosure–I’ve never actually read Doyle’s work (!!!). I know. This needs to change.

Sherlock’s character was as expected- playing violin, brooding and genius. Since I’ve not read Doyle’s work I can’t adequately compare this version to the original but I had the impression MacBird incorporated many elements. In comparison to the more modern Sherlock renditions, I felt that this one was fairly accurate. One difference was that MacBird actually made her Sherlock not 100% right all the time. He made an error!

The book followed from Watson’s point of view for the most part though we got a couple chapters from Sherlock’s. The pacing was a tad slower (especially in the beginning) than I expected with the action scenes spaced out. I felt that the mystery wasn’t one in which I needed to figure it out and sadly, I didn’t care what the outcome would be for most of the characters. I feel that there wasn’t enough suspense to really carry the mystery and left me feeling a tad bored in areas.

I did, however, enjoy Sherlock and Watson. Their dynamic was exactly as I’d expect and want. The two start out at odds with Watson having been recently married. I do feel that because I’m such a fan of the TV show I was able to fill in gaps and imbue the characters with personality that I’m not sure was present in the writing. It was difficult to separate my own perceptions from what I was reading and I’d be interested to hear the opinion of a reader that was not a fan of the TV series.

Final Thoughts:
Art in the Blood lacked the suspense of the mystery that I expected but overall I did enjoy this book. I do think that my love of the TV show helped to fill in gaps in personality and helped to give me an easier time envisioning the story, especially with the newest episode (you really must watch the trailers!) being a more historical one.

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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Review of This Monstrous Thing- Stellar Re-working of Frankenstein

ThisMonstrousThingThis Monstrous Thing
By: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

The Story:
This Monstrous Thing was everything I wanted in a Frankenstein retelling/reworking. The story was evenly paced and pulled enough from history that it felt plausible. Lee took the classic storyline and added a mechanical element (dare I say steampunk?) and the complexities of a sibling relationship.

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The setting was so eerie and vivid it was easy to visualize the time period as well as the setting. I loved all the little details that were included in the descriptions. I have never honestly considered the idea of bringing someone back to life with mechanics though the way Lee presented it along with medical know how it all seemed incredibly realistic.

In this world those that have had mechanical elements added to themselves are looked down upon and considered nearly evil and a stain on God’s creation. The vast societal gap between this created between characters was incredibly interesting and beautifully executed.

Lee eloquently questioned what makes someone human and how much does our own medical tinkering impact this. I loved the questions the characters dealt with as well as how much it led me to consider things on my own as I read. Even with such deep questions being asked and addressed this story moved at a fast pace and there were some very tense action sequences. I don’t think anyone will have trouble becoming entranced with the story-line.

The Characters:
Where this book really shone for me was with the main character, Alasdair. I loved how he suffered from guilt, self loathing yet ambition. He wrestled with his own decisions and choices and questioned himself. I found his character to be so incredibly complex.

His relationships with all of those around him were also a major draw for me, especially with him and his brother. I found the love between the brothers realistic as well as touching. Though these two love one another they aren’t free of sibling rivalry or a touch of jealousy.

I really loved reading about Alasdair’s self discovery and growth. He changed a good amount from the beginning of the novel to the end. I felt that this gradual growth was really one of the best aspects of the novel.

Lee didn’t disappoint with her secondary characters either. They were all well executed, detailed and unique. I felt that she gave them all depth and complexity.

Final Thoughts:
What an impressive book This Monstrous Thing was! Not only were the characters well developed but Lee’s grasp of history and her ability to provide a detailed and rich setting provided a wonderful reading experience. I’d highly recommend this one to anyone with an interest in historical fiction.

Blog Tour- Review and Giveaway of Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

BloodandSaltBlood and Salt
By: Kim Liggett
Release Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publisher: September 22nd 2015
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Review

Blood and Salt was an entertaining and original story that successfully utilized a setting with a massive corn field. That might be a random thing to mention but really…this corn field was so creepy and really well detailed-enough so that it was its own character.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Ash’s mother and her past in Quivira. Learning about the village’s past and traditions along with Ash and her brother was the highlight of the book for me. I felt that the author did an excellent job creating a history and myth that not only held intrigue but also an element of the creepy.

What would Quivira be without the characters? The secondary characters had such a crucial role in this story and book. I felt that they were all unique and I especially enjoyed Beth. Her lack of general knowledge about how the world operates was enduring as well as her openness to Ash and her brother.

Of course, with that line about Romeo and Juliet in the summary you know that romance had a large role to play. There were super natural reasons why these two are pulled towards each other which worked well for the story even though it was a bit of insta-love. These two did have chemistry together though I could have used a bit more than their instant attraction to draw them together. I know for a fact that they will be progressing and growing in the next book which has me very excited.

Another element I enjoyed was how Liggett incorporated magic within the story. Magic was used in a very subtle way but she presented it with a great aura and I could really imagine it being reality.

One caveat for the future reader–you might go into this book expecting a horror novel and the first chapter does have that feel but, for me, this book wasn’t all that scary. Creepy things happen but never once was I afraid to turn out the lights. The creepiness was more a general feeling as you read, and like my friend Crystal so eloquently said to me, “it had the feel of someone watching you” I think that’s a perfect description.

Final Thoughts:
Kim Liggett successfully created a wonderful novel that excelled at transporting me to a small village within a corn field. I was mesmerized with the history surrounding this village and its impact on the characters. I look forward to reading more hopefully sooner than later.

Giveaway

Thank you Penguin for providing a copy for giveaway. This is US only.

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Review of An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

AnInheritanceofAshesAn Inheritance of Ashes
By: Leah Bobet
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm.

When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.

My Thoughts:
I had heard nothing about this book when I requested it and after realizing it was fantasy I was sold on reading it. I found An Inheritance of Ashes to be a really slow paced, atmospheric and eerie. When I say slow paced I don’t mean boring at all- more the feel of the book was slow (like Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink).

The story takes place right after a war with The Wicked One and his Twisted Things have ravished the land. The people remaining are forced to live in fear and with little conveniences. Our main characters, two sisters, are waiting on Marthe (the older sister’s) husband to come home from the war to help run their farm.

I really enjoyed the characters in this novel and I think because I was so invested in the small things in their lives this book never seemed dull to me. I will say there are many pages where not a whole lot happens. We as the reader deal with Hallie’s internal struggles with her relationship with her sister and the stress she feels trying to keep things together in her life.

My favorite character hands down was the veteran that happened by Hallie’s farm and was hired as an extra farm hand. This character was so wonderful to me and I could do with an entire novel about just him. I really can’t say enough about how expertly he was crafted and how his relationship with Hallie and the farm progressed was wonderful.

There was a minor romance but it does not drive this book nor take center stage. Did I perhaps ship the wrong couple? Why, yes I did. I was a tad disappointed when things didn’t go as I’d have liked but it was rather obvious that I was deluding myself early on.

The setting in An Inheritance of Ashes was beautifully rendered. Because Bobet’s world works on the same rules for the most part as our own the instances of magic felt even more creepy to me. There was a literal hole in the sky and it was so fantastically done I can’t really even say any more about it. Just incredible writing and the entire mixture of the Twisted Things and Hallie’s world was breathtaking. Don’t go into this book expecting a ton of magic or a typical fantasy book. There aren’t dragons or wizards as much as a world much like our own with magic that seemed incredibly realistic.

Final Thoughts:
To me, An Inheritance of Ashes, was a breathtakingly well done novel. I adored the characters and though the book moved at a slow pace it kept my interest start to finish. I do think that many readers might not connect but those that do will without question love this book and the visuals Bobet created.