Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Immortal Circus: Act Two Book Review

The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A. R. Kahler


Vivienne is almost content with her new life in the Cirque des Immortels. She has moved up from selling cotton candy to telling fortunes, she has a gorgeous, magical boyfriend, Kingston...and no one has been murdered since the clash between the otherworldly Courts. Her life under the faerie big top would be perfect, in fact, if not for the nightmares and visions that compel her to seek and confront her half-remembered past. But for Viv, not knowing her past may well be a blessing. There's a reason she ran away. But can she truly escape herself?

Review by Brittany:

I read and enjoyed - and reviewed - the first in this series, so buying Act Two was a no-brainer for me.

This story is supposed to be about a magical circus, but about half of this installment does not take place at the circus. Instead, there is more focus on the different faerie Courts and what both Mab and Oberon - the Queen of the Winter Court and the King of the Summer Court - want with Vivienne.

One thing that was lacking from the first Act was answers to the mysteries of Vivienne's past. This book explores more of what she went through and why she ran to the circus, under the contention that her memory would be erased. More importantly, this book also explains why Vivienne is such an important player for both sides.

This book made me fall in love with Mab a little more. She's a character that intrigues me so much, largely because all of the other characters essentially fear her. She is also the most cunning of all the characters, understanding how to manipulate people and her surroundings to put herself in a prime position of power. There's something about her that leaves me in awe, even though I'm not really supposed to love the villain. I look forward to reading more about Mab in the Final Act, which I have already purchased.

I'm still not sold on the fey as supernatural creatures. For me, they just aren't my favorite, although this author has done a great job of making them more interesting to me. For those who are interested in supernatural stories, this series is a good choice. I would not recommend reading this one if you have not read the first, though.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Changeless Book Review

Changeless by Gail Carriger


Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband - if she feels like it.

Review by Brittany:

This is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series, and I read and reviewed the first so jumped into the second with high expectations.

Similar to the first book, this one had a certain writing style that fit the time period, so I had to adjust to the style when I picked this one up. I think the style works well for the novel, though, and after just a few pages it was easy to get back into the flow of it.

This novel was a little more risque than the first one. The author makes many more allusions - some not so subtle - to the intimacies of Alexia and Conall in their married relationship. As readers of the first book know, Lord Akeldama is a vampire of a certain sexual preference, and this book introduces another character with a certain preference. This isn't an overtly huge theme in the book, merely a characterizing detail.

The big reveal at the end of this book was fairly predictable. The author gives enough clues to explain why the supernatural set are unable to change that the reader figures it out before the characters in the novel. There's a certain appeal to this, but it also means that the reader isn't surprised. The "villain" in the book is also pretty predictable by the end of the story. This doesn't detract from the story, although I would have liked to have been a bit more surprised by the big climax.

The very ending of the book leaves a bit of a cliffhanger for Alexia and Conall's personal relationship. It also introduces the idea that Alexia might be studied for scientific purposes because of her preternatural state. These two events open up some possible story lines, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Overall, this is a series that I do recommend, if paranormal is an interest of yours. I would recommend starting with the first book to make a more seamless reading experience.

Notable quotes:

"We all become what we are taught to be."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

You Will Never Find Me Book Review

You Will Never Find Me by Robert Wilson


Amy Boxer, the precocious daughter of London kidnap consultant Charles Boxer and Detective Inspector Mercy Danquah, has drifted from melancholy and frustration to drastic action: she's leaving home. But Amy can't just walk out, and goads the talents of her parents with a challenge: YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME.

Amy's destination: Madrid. Here, in the strobe-lights of bars and crowded dance clubs, she's anonymous and untraceable. Except to a volatile, unpredictable leader in the Madrid drug trade, the man known only as El Osito.

Charles Boxer will use his very specific set of skills to retrace Amy's quickly vanishing steps, while DI Danquah takes on her own case in London: a young boy, Sasha Bobkov, has gone missing. Is the disappearance connected to Sasha's father, a retired agent of the Russian secret service, who is working to discover who poisoned his former fellow agent, Alexander Tereshchenko.

As Danquah begins her search for Sasha, a body is found in Madrid. Amy's father may be the next target.

Review by Brittany:

I won a free copy of this book on Goodreads, entering because the blurb interested me.

I didn't realize that this was the second in a series featuring Charles Boxer, but that did not impact my reading experience at all. There is limited character development for both Boxer and Mercy, but I didn't feel shortchanged or as if the author might have given that information in the previous book.

This book jumps right into Amy leaving home, leaving her parents in the dark about where she's going and stunned at her leaving. Boxer is a kidnap consultant, so finding people is what he does and what he's good at. He goes on a search for Amy, which the reader stays up to date on, while also getting information about El Osito, the dangerous drug leader. El Osito is clearly a villain, and the author wrote him to be one that has no redeeming qualities. He's smart but vicious, a dangerous combination.

The action in this story kept me reading, both with Amy's case and with the case that Mercy takes on. There are constant developments being made, and about halfway into the book, there's a twist that alters the course of the story. I thought this author did a great job of keeping me hooked on what was happening.

Something interesting about this book is that I felt like I got more character development for the villains than the main characters. Boxer and Mercy both just are the way they are, and there's really not much development to help the reader understand their personalities or to care about them too much. But the author took time to develop El Osito - which makes the reader hate and fear him - and other criminals that are introduced in Amy's case. There is one villain in particular who I couldn't help but feel a little bit of affection for because of the way he was written.

My one complaint about this book is that there is a lot of discussion about the Russian government that I found confusing. It was a lot of information that came out at once, which left me feeling a little overwhelmed. This is not a knock on the author, merely more of a personal preference and based on my limited prior knowledge on what the author was talking about.

Overall, I think this book is one worth reading. The suspense is good, the villains are good, and the twist was one that I personally didn't see coming. I definitely recommend to those who like a good crime novel.

Notable quotes:

"It's a messy business being human."

"You only ever know about yourself, and most people don't know that much, and it's in a constantly shifting state, rarely still for long enough to be analysed."

"We talked about everything except the thing that was always just out of reach."

Grief is essentially a selfish emotion. It's inspired by the loss of others, but it's private and deeply personal. No one but the individual experiencing it can understand its power...

Isabel wanted to ask about those secrets, but she also didn't want any answers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aquarium Book Review

Aquarium by David Vann


Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother - a docker at the local container port - in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

This book was interesting. The first thing that sticks out to me is the formatting. The dialogue was hard to follow at first because of a lack of quotation marks to differentiate between exposition and dialogue. This book also included pictures of the fish that Caitlin was observing during different parts of the books, a neat addition to the book that puts the reader right into the story.

I'm not sure if I liked this book or not. I did feel compelled to finish it, but that may have been largely due to the fact that I was hoping for the story to improve. I mostly felt sorry for Caitlin. About halfway through the book, the story takes a turn that made me despise her mother. I had that horrifying feeling of wondering why in the world some people have children. Caitlin's mother was awful to her from the middle to the end of the book.

Caitlin also formed a bit of a weird attachment to one of her school friends. The development of this relationship made me a bit uncomfortable and felt a bit unnecessary to the main theme of the book. I also thought Caitlin's teacher was made out to be superbly incompetent based on what happened in his classroom, another addition to the story that I felt was unnecessary.

Overall, it's hard to say that I would recommend this book. It's definitely not a happy story, but there's something almost horrifyingly compelling about it that made me continue to the end.

Friday, October 2, 2015

One Wish in Manhattan Book Review

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot


With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there's more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish - to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfill her daughter's wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there's something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true - could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn't just about filling the minutes...it's about making every moment count.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this book through Net Galley at my request for review purposes. I requested this book because the cover is gorgeous and immediately appealed to me.

This is a lighthearted Christmas book, one that you know is going to have a happy ending and wrap up nicely at the end, which it did. This book had a nice cast of characters, all of whom are likable. I really enjoyed reading about Dean and Vernon, Hayley's brother and his partner. Although their relationship isn't explored in depth, I loved reading about them and the way they interacted with one another. Hayley and Oliver are also given good dialogue together, which helps develop the relationship.

Angel is my favorite character though. She is smart and quirky, and she's the character who is given the most personality in the book. She loves to rattle off random facts about America since she is from the UK. She was written to be a very neat kid, and I loved reading about her.

Overall, this book is just a fun, lighthearted read. If you're looking for something to curl up with during the Christmas season, this one is a good choice.