Book reviews and recommended Kindle books for fantasy, historical fiction, and mystery.

I’ve been remiss on getting my reviews on the blog posted so sit back and let’s get started on my book pile. I’ve wrapped up a lot of reads and I’m just now getting back to my book reviews.

Nowadays, I read in batches. I’ll set aside a day or two and just hit the books in my Kindle that I’ve set as my highest desired reads. I actually have folders that are entitled “Read Next” and “Samples” as I read a lot of samples before buying some books. Those that I dismissed quickly, I move into my DNF (Did Not Finish) folder.

From a reader standpoint (that authors should be aware of) is my reading habits have changed. I suspect many have also changed how they approach books.

If your book hasn’t captured me in the first page, it is doubtful I’ll continue. I’ve read a lot of fiction over these 45 odd years and when I picked something up and start reading I can summarize in my head if this read will be worth my time (i.e. plot, pace, writing quality, characters all play into this).

If after the first three chapters you don’t continue to interest me with your story, well I will again set you aside. By the time I’m one-third through I will finish the story. It is rare for me to set aside a book at this point.

Because of the decades I’ve been a reader, your book must offer me something new. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve read far to many stories this last year that were the same tired, worn out plot. The teen girl who suddenly gets powers and must save the world springs to mind. But also, the young man who is noble in intention and will save the world also exists.

Don’t think you can copy a plot wholesale and think it will gain you the loyalty of the discerning reader.

Ready to dive into some book reviews?

My favorite read this week was Olivia Atwater’s Half a Soul, enjoyable from beginning to end. This was one of those books that as soon as I had read a few pages I knew it was going to be exactly what I wanted. It delivered. Regency romance with magic and intriguing characters.

This book will especially appeal to those who loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell although Atwater’s book isn’t as intricate as Clarke’s.

Theodora (Dora) is cursed as a child by a fairy. This leads her life down a curious path since she doesn’t act normally, and it especially is difficult when to know if you are falling in love. The main character’s journey is really entrancing. This is going to be an author to follow for me!

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since a faerie cursed her, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear, embarrassment, or even happiness—a condition which makes her sadly prone to accidental scandal. Dora’s only goal for the London Season this year is to stay quiet and avoid upsetting her cousin’s chances at a husband… but when the Lord Sorcier of England learns of her condition, she finds herself drawn ever more deeply into the tumultuous concerns of magicians and faeries.

Andrei Baltakmens Hangman for Ghosts is a Noir Victorian in Sydney, Australia, with a convict hangman playing detective. This gritty read gives a real sense of the desperation of the life that transported convicts and the administration appointed to look after them faced in the early 1800’s. I will be buying Baltakmen’s other historical fiction piece as this was an engrossing read with excellent writing (although he did mention Australia being hot a LOT),

When an innocent woman known to Gabriel Carver, the convict hangman of Sydney Prison, is charged with one of the murders and faces execution at his hands, she threatens to reveal an incriminating secret of his own unless he helps her. So Carver must try to unmask the killer among the convicts, soldiers, sailors, and fallen women roaming 1829 Sydney.

Blood Curse by Ursula Visser is part Gladiator, part Dragon fantasy. #1 in the Dragon Queen series. This was a fun read that I felt it rightly didn’t take itself too seriously. I don’t mean in a parody sense, but that the author isn’t being highbrow, but having fun with the genre. She knows you are reading fantasy for a good, ripping tale!

Probably why it captivated me was the main character of Mara. She’s equal parts naive, good-humored, and a determined over-achiever. She gets herself involved with not one but three men (not intimately) who all in-turn want to help her (sometimes in spite of themselves). One of the guys she meets near the near the end of the book, I found pretty hot so I’m hoping the story goes with him. Hint – Hint.

In the end you get the sense that Mara is just a good person and one of those you’d love to have as your best friend even if she would get you into a lot of trouble.

The moment Mara took two beautiful eggs from a hidden burrow on forbidden land, she sealed her fate. Her actions triggered a ripple effect which could not be stopped.

Hugely disappointing was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. This book had a great idea but ended up being a carbon copy of Practical Magic (and not in good way). A prime example of how publishing houses create a false buzz around a book that is mediocre.

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls is another fake bestseller – the book’s writing is murky and the plot laughable. This book is riddled with so many historical errors I won’t bore you with them. I was expecting a read with female-power, historical witch magic and instead got this pregnant woman riding a horse everywhere by herself in the 1600’s. Not worth your time or money. Hard pass.

IN 1612 IN LANCASTER, ENGLAND, THE HUNT FOR WITCHES IS RAMPANT…

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is with child again. As the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she is anxious to provide her husband with an heir. When she meets a young local woman named Alice Gray, the midwife makes promises to help. But soon Alice is drawn into the frenzied accusations of witchcraft sweeping the countryside.

I bought this on sale because I was curious. I had read some work by Phyllis A. Whitney way back in the day. Her work is mostly Gothic romance in a contemporary setting. It is a ‘clean’ book so is probably being re-issued to milk some more money out of her huge backlist.

In reading this, her work has not aged well in terms of themes. For example, Emerald is about an abusive wife on the run from her husband. In today’s courts Carol Hamilton would have been in violation of the law in leaving the state with her child. Worse, Carol’s abusive relationship doesn’t ring true with what we know now of stalking ex’s. She isn’t frightened enough, even when someone tries to kill her, and leaves her vulnerable child with strangers (not once but many times).

Ever since New York journalist Carol Hamilton was a young girl, her great-aunt Monica Arlen has been for her the stuff of glittering, starry-eyed fantasy. Now, the reclusive movie star offers Carol an escape of another kind. In flight with her son from an abusive marriage, she’s come to Monica’s isolated, fortress-like home on Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs—and not only for sanctuary.

blog post reviews of books, including fantasy, science fiction, paranormal fantasy, mystery, and historical. Wherever my whimsy takes me.

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