Tuesday, December 29, 2015
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
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East London, 1888 - a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.
Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.
Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.
But Fiona's dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything - and everyone - she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit - and the ghosts of her past - propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.
Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.
Review by Brittany:
Donnelly is an author that I've never read before, but she will easily become a new favorite of mine. This book was beautifully done. I loved how the author stuck to the accents each character had, adjusting her writing to illustrate those. This is an author who writes delicious sentences and descriptions, and this book is one I enjoyed falling into.
I also loved the story, although it was often so heartbreaking that I couldn't help but feel sorry for Fiona. She lived a tough life. Growing up poor and eventually left to her own devices because of tragedy after tragedy, Fiona still manages to make something of herself and to reach her dreams. The author used Jack the Ripper as a way to move the plot forward and took creative liberties to tie him into her story. I loved this part of the book. Jack intrigues me, and as a villain he is most definitely a scary one. While the story was high on drama, I never felt like any of it was too wildly unbelievable. Each tragedy and success that Fiona experienced seemed plausible, although I often wished for a little more happiness for her. In the end, the story does work out, although there are many hardships on the way.
The characters in this novel were all well done. My favorite was probably Nick, a man Fiona encounters on her way to New York who becomes a rock for her throughout the beginning of her new life there. Nick is often funny and cares about Fiona to a degree that almost no one else in the book does. He supports her in all endeavors that she undertakes, and who doesn't want a best friend like that? Michael, Fiona's uncle, was an interesting character, often funny because of his developing paternal feelings toward Fiona. Although many of Fiona's family is lost early in the book, those characters are also given a certain livelihood that sets them apart, a testament to the skills of development on Donnelly's part.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It's sizable but quite worth it. There's enough story to keep the reader interested, and it's so beautifully done that it's a world readers won't want to leave.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Twisted Webs by Darlene Quinn
The stunningly beautiful and elegant Ashleigh Taylor gives birth to twin daughters while she's in Long Beach visiting her father figure, Charles Stuart, the founder of Bentley's Royale. Hours later, a parent's worst nightmare occurs: Cassie is kidnapped. Twisted Webs unravels the mystery of the abduction of Callie's identical twin. With the same drama, tension, and high style that hooked readers of Webs of Power, the author invites loyal fans and readers new to the series to step into this provocative sequel set in the 1990s. There is plenty going on to keep them turning pages all the way to the end.
Review by Brittany:
I requested a copy of this novel off of NetGalley for review purposes.
I did read the first book, and one thing I was excited about for this book was learning more about Ashleigh as a character. I enjoyed reading about her and the way she dealt with losing one of her children. The book spans over 8 years and consistently revisits Ashleigh's feelings and experiences. She was extremely positive, more so than I think would be realistic in the situation, which allowed for a happy ending for the book.
I also enjoyed reading about the life of the abducted twin, Marnie. The author built her world, making the reader empathetic towards the kidnappers. I thought it was interesting that the author made Marnie's mother deteriorate a bit at the end of the book, thereby giving her an opportunity to meet her biological parents.
Overall, I didn't think this book was very realistic, but I still enjoyed reading it. There was information about Bentley's and it revisited the takeover of Consolidated that was the focus of the first book. Other characters from the first book also got a revisit in this one, which I liked. I will be reading the next in the series.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Blameless by Gail Carriger
Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.
Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.
While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about preternaturals to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires - and they're armed with pesto.
Review by Brittany:
This is the third in the Parasol Protectorate series, and I enjoyed this one as much as the other two. The writing style follows the same pattern as the other books, with characters speaking in a dialogue appropriate for the indicated time period but also utilizes humor to keep the reader interested.
One basis for this novel was that Alexia wanted to learn more about her pregnancy and how it's possible. Although she does travel to Italy and meet some folks along the way who believe it's possible, I didn't feel like I learned much about her or her pregnancy. I hope that this part of the story develops more as the series continues.
I did enjoy reading about Conall's depression after Alexia left him. While the author made the experience a bit humorous, I think she also did well with illustrating how deeply his feelings for Alexia run and how important their relationship is to him. In the end, when he comes to his senses and goes back to her, her relief is palpable and illustrates her feelings for him as well. Their relationship is one that is quirky and believable, and Carriger has done a fantastic job of maintaining the relationship throughout the books.
I'm also enjoying the development of Madame Lefoux throughout the series. She's an interesting character and an intelligent woman who is quickly becoming one of my favorites in this series. I missed having scenes with Lord Akeldama in this book as he spends most of it outside of London.
Overall, this book is a wonderful addition to the series. I'm looking forward to continuing on!
Trying to understand one's own emotions was a grueling business.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Facing Evil by Kylie Brant
A serial attacker is locked up, and his murderous accomplice has been gunned down. But the true mastermind behind their lethal reign of terror still hasn't been taken in or taken down, so the harrowing case of the Cornbelt Killers isn't closed - and one murderous woman is determined to keep it that way. The only thing more important to her than evading capture is hunting down her hit list of enemies, topped by Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation agent Cam Prescott and forensic psychologist Sophia Channing.
Faced with an opponent both quick-witted and cold-blooded, Cam and Sophia must scramble to keep up with this horrifying new threat. Little do they realize that in this game of cat and mouse, they're lambs being led to the slaughter.
Review by Brittany:
This is the third in the Circle of Evil trilogy, and I received a free copy on Net Galley per my request. After reading the first and second, I knew I had to pick this one up.
This book wraps up the search for the final Cornbelt Killer. As in Brant's previous novels in this series, her villain, Vickie, is genuinely scary. Here's a woman who thrives off pain and feels absolutely no remorse for the things that she has done to other people. Her complete lack of conscience and sense of responsibility is off-putting and makes her an interesting villain.
Vickie utilizes revenge as a factor in why she chooses her victims, making Sophia a major target. She blames Sophia for the death of her son and partner crime. In an extremely creepy way, Vickie is creative in how she chooses to send men after Sophia. There are also allusions to explosives and her plans to use those on Cam. Her desire for revenge is what drives this final book.
Cam also revisits his undercover FBI task force in this book. This allows him to wrap up a piece of his story line that has been mentioned throughout all three books. It also gives the author an opportunity to reinforce Sophia's feelings for Cam.
Overall, I thought this was a good final book for the series. It wrapped things up nicely and completed the story lines it was meant to.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Webs of Power by Darlene Quinn
Webs of Power is a raw, unsentimental portrayal of greed, manipulation, and relationships set in the excessive, insatiable retail industry of the 1980s. When a hostile takeover of the retail giant Consolidated is announce, the lives of three determined women, each linked to the corporate upheaval, are unexpectedly thrown off course: Paige Toddman's marriage to Consolidated's West Coast Division CEO is threatened when she decides to step out of her fast-paced lifestyle to raise the unwanted child she is carrying, a choice driven by her secret past. The fabric of Ashleigh McDowell's life begins to fray when her fiance, the president of Consolidated's West Coast Division, moves away and her father figure faces a lawsuit that could wipe out his controlling shares of the company's stock. Vain and power hungry, Viviana De Mornay will stop at nothing to become the wife of the man leading the takeover. Webs of Power is a thrilling real-world drama with dynamic characters who find the courage to drastically reshape their lives in the face of crises and the twists of fate.
Review by Brittany:
I requested this book on NetGalley because the cover and blurb sounded interesting to me. The blurb of this book reminded me of another book I read recently, so I was in the right mindset to jump into this one.
I did enjoy the parts of the novel that focused on the women and the repercussions to each of them. Viviana and Paige both had stories that interested me. Ashleigh's story in the book spiraled a bit out of control, and it reached a point where it was almost too crazy for me to enjoy. In future books, I hope that her story calms down a bit. I think there's potential for her; I just felt overwhelmed by some of the things that happened to her. Viviana was probably my favorite. She's greedy and focused on what she wants out of life - which circles largely around power and money - and there was something about her that intrigued me. I would like to read more about her in future books in the series.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I would have liked more focus to be on characters and pacing to be a bit better, but I do think this series has potential and I plan to continue reading.