Oct 31

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, Book 2)

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Soho Press

Genre: Historical Mystery

Pages: 311

How I Read It: Hard cover borrowed from the library


Synopsis: It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it’s too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.


* Synopsis taken from Goodreads


My Review: I loved the first Maisie Dobbs novel, so I was excited to get around to the second one. This mystery was decent, but a little more predictable than the first one, and I left it feeling a little disappointed. In fact, I felt so blase about this book that it has taken me forever to write my review. It’s not that it was bad, just average and I don’t feel like I had much noteworthy to say about it.


I liked the character development outside of the main story a lot more than the actual mystery in this one. Billy in particular had some growth I enjoyed, and the insight his character gave into more of what a war survivor would go through was interesting. Sometimes I get caught up in modern times and forget the advances in medicine, and the knowledge we have now that has changed the way we treat people. It makes me feel bad for veterans of these earlier wars, who became addicted to a variety of things that were designed to treat their pain. And it also makes me wonder what the effects of current treatments will be down the line.


I’m looking forward to continuing with this series, and seeing what comes next for Maisie and her friends. I enjoy her pluckiness and determination for figuring a mystery out. She’s one of those characters that would have been a strong woman in her time, and that’s always something I like to read about.


Read this book if: I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this one, or people who are interested in continuing the series.


My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!


Jun 21

Delirium 1.1 – Pilot

I’ve been anxious for the Delirium TV show ever since it was announced ages ago. The book was absolutely one of my favorites in the last little while, so I really wanted to see a show that would do it justice. So what did I think after watching the pilot now that Hulu has picked it up? I have mixed feelings. And if you haven’t read the book, I suggest you stop reading, and probably don’t watch the show, cuz it’s going to be spoilery.

Things that struck me at the very first were that they completely removed Lena’s extended family, whom she lives with in the book. It makes me wonder how they’re going to handle the future in the show, because Lena’s family becomes more important down the line. I’m a stickler for continuity, so I already don’t like that this was different.

The Fineman family, who we don’t meet until the second book, is introduced at the very beginning of the show. And in doing that, they changed some of what Lena really does for Julian instead. I’m sure this is just so they can introduce the love triangle between Lena, Alex, and Julian more quickly, but it was annoying. In all honesty, it was like they were trying to fit the entire first book in the initial episode. They completely rushed the timeline, changed out Lena’s mom for her dad, and revealed Hana’s involvement in Lena getting caught instead of the watcher wondering how the authorities found out, just like Lena does. In fact, Lena never finds out the truth in the books, so this destroyed something beautiful for her right from the start.

They also made the character of Alex less likable. In the books, he’s just this kid who falls in love, and acts on that. Sure, he’s “with” the resistance, but he’s not actively doing anything aside from letting in the occasional farm animal. This version has him deliberately searching Lena out because she’s his mission. Not only is this totally not romantic, but we miss out on a lot of the sweet scenes that show Lena’s journey from believing in the cure to loving Alex and realizing their society is a farce.

I also felt like the cured adults were far more caring than they should have been. In the books, it seems like most adults have effective cures and live on because that’s what you’re supposed to do. This version made the cure seem far less effective, like there were deficiencies with it across the board in all our major adult characters. While this makes their actions seem a lot more sinister, it gets away from the point of the book.

I think I probably could have accepted these things if they had been presented to me in a more laid out fashion. Since I’m such a devout fan of the series, it’s hard for me to accept all of these differences in the span of 43 minutes. And since it looks like only this one episode was ever shot, it really seems like we just got a shitty not even movie instead of a proper show. It’s too bad, because this could have been a really fantastic series, and I really wish it had been done right. All I can really hope at this point is that someone else tries it again, perhaps with more involvement from Lauren Oliver next time.

Jun 16

The Loved & the Lost by Lory S. Kaufman

Title: The Loved and the Lost (The Verona Trilogy)

Author: Lory S. Kaufman

Publisher: Fiction Std.

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 313

How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.


Synopsis: A quest for lost love. An adventure of many lifetimes.


They are three 24th century time travelers desperate to return to 14th century Verona to reclaim their medieval family’s shattered lives. It is a mission fraught with danger and the risk of dire consequences for themselves and their worlds.


For all three, it is a matter of the heart. For one though, it is the only thing that matters, as the fate of his eternal love and the life of their unborn child is a prize to be won – or lost forever.


In this final book of The Verona Trilogy, Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln go on the boldest adventure of their lives. They will face hardship, tragedy, and threats from sources they couldn’t have imagined – all in an effort to wrestle a future from the steely grip of an unforgiving past.


* Synopsis taken from the book jacket


My Review: The events of this final installment of The Verona Trilogy had me both excited and shaking my head at the same time. I’m a stickler for timeline and continuity, so the entire premise was a little difficult for me, knowing that the ultimate results of everyone’s actions were unknown. At the same time, I wanted to see how this story would end, so I felt compelled to read to the end.


Hansum, Lincoln, and Shamira have all grown up a bit at the beginning of this novel. Their main focus is to train for the eventual mission Hansum proposes: to go into the past and save Guilietta. It’s a noble and romantic goal, one my heart can get behind. The more practical side of me, however, kept wondering why on earth this would even be considered! We do eventually get an explanation for why this plan is allowed at all, and we are soon taken on another journey with our heroes.


As you may expect, there’s a lot of action as we revisit parts of the history to see just when Hansum might be able to save his wife, with the help of his friends. However, the revisiting of these scenes was a little tiresome after awhile, since much of the dialog had already been covered in the previous two novels. I wish some new elements had been introduced since the option of adding a new perspective was on the table. I also felt like the end was slightly rushed, so it would have been a better experience for me if more of the pages were devoted to expanding new story instead of rehashing what we’d already seen.


Still, the premise is a sweet one, and I wanted the teens to succeed as I read it. While this isn’t my favorite time travel story, it’s a fun love story that will keep the reader wondering how it will end.


Read this book if: Not the strongest novel in the trilogy, but a decent end. Read it if you want to see how the series finishes.


My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!


Jun 10

The Bronze & the Brimstone by Lory S. Kaufman

Title: The Bronze and the Brimstone (The Verona Trilogy)

Author: Lory S. Kaufman

Publisher: Fiction Std.

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 338

How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.


Synopsis: What could go wrong in the 14th century for three time-travelers? How about – everything!


Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln, three teens from the 24th century, are trapped in 14th century Verona, Italy. They’ve survived many deadly experiences by keeping their wits about them and by introducing futuristic technology into the past. Principal among these inventions is the telescope, which brought them to the attention of the rich and powerful.


But standing out can get you into unexpected situations. The Verona nobles now believe Hansum is a savant, a genius inventor, especially after he brings them plans for advanced cannons and black powder. Being the center of attention is great, but the potential for trouble is now exponentially greater because people are watching Hansum’s every move.


Meanwhile, artistic genius Shamira has fallen for a Florentine artist with bloody and disastrous consequences. Lincoln, considered an incompetent back home in the 24th century, has blossomed – at least until he’s shot in the head with an arrow. And Hansum, after secretly marrying his new master’s beautiful daughter, Guilietta, is offered the hand in marriage of Lady Beatrice, daughter of the ruler of Verona. To refuse could mean calamity for all the tens.


Amazingly, none of this is their biggest challenge. Because a rash illness is spreading across Verona – and it is threatening to consume everyone.


Do they have a future in this past?


* Synopsis taken from the book jacket


My Review: In the second installment of The Verona Trilogy, the trio find themselves wondering what to do next since they’re stuck in the past. The reality of their situation has sunk in a bit – they truly need to figure out how to adapt to this new life and get along in a world they’re only slightly familiar with.


Despite the urgings of their genie, Pan, the teens (lead by Hansum) forge ahead with bringing future technologies to the 14th century. At this point in the story, I kept asking myself why they were doing it, since it didn’t seem necessary by then and had more potential to bring about unnecessary attention. That being said, I was along for the ride, and boy was it fast paced! It seemed like the kids were in constant danger!


The ideas Hansum brings to Podesta Mastino are absolute game changers, which left me wondering what human history would have looked like if those things truly did come earlier as inventions. Certainly all of the founding of the United States would have been drastically changed, assuming only the Italians had the knowledge for awhile.


This novel did a fair amount of wrapping up story lines from the previous one, while introducing new questions to ponder before picking up the third installment. Will the teens be able to pick up the pieces that shook out as a result of their actions? There are a couple of things I’m definitely curious about, and they’ll keep me reading to see what comes next!


Read this book if: It’s a decent follow up to the first novel, and fans of the genre will probably want to continue.


My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!


Jun 10

The Lens & the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

Title: The Lens and the Looker: Book #1 of the Verona Series (History Camp: the Verona Trilogy)

Author: Lory S. Kaufman

Publisher: Fiction Std.

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 336

How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.


Synopsis: It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s), have finally created an almost perfect “post-dystopian” society.


To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full-sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.


In this first book of the Verona Trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum, almost 17, is good-looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent, and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck, whose wisecracking hides deep insecurities.


The three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they ony hve two choices: adapt to the harsh medieval ways, or die.


The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history.


* Synopsis taken from the book jacket


My Review: The Lens & the Looker starts out in the 24th century and quickly moves to the History Camp mimicking 14th century Verona. They manage to sneak a genie along with them, with the intent of teaching the Elders a lesson, which quickly turns into a huge blessing once they actually end up in 1347 Verona. These teens, along with their mischievous genie Pan, are in for quite the dangerous ride once things get going.


As a reader, I can tell that a lot of detail and effort was put into what life was actually like during this time period, so it felt pretty vivid and realistic to me. I could imagine what it would be like to grind and set lenses in the early days of making glasses, which made me wish that there was a little more detail in the lives of the kids before they went on this adventure. What made them hard cases, and how were they different from their peers? While they were certainly troublesome, they seemed like pretty average teenagers to me, so I really wanted to see more about what they had done to take them down this path.


I also wish that there was a bit more explanation about why the teens continued creating havoc when it became apparent that they were stuck in the past. That piece of the story didn’t make total sense to me, but it could be due to the fact that I’m a bit of a stickler for history. I don’t love the idea of messing with the past, particularly when you don’t know what the end result will be.


Other than those bits of confusion on my part, I quite enjoyed the story. So much time travel fiction is very centered around the romance of it, and that wasn’t really the focal point of this story, which I really liked. And I loved the insight into the making of eyeglasses – it’s one of those things I never really thought about, but it seems like a kind of miraculous thing that they were making glasses so far back in time.


The novel leaves the reader with a few questions, like are the teens really going to live out the rest of their lives in the 14th century? What will be the affect on the future with all the things they’re introducing before their time? Maybe we’ll find out in the next novel!


Read this book if: This is a fun YA story and a good introduction to time travel novels.


My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!

Jun 06

Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman

Title: Freud’s Mistress

Author: Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman

Publisher: Putnam Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 357

How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.


Synopsis: His theories would change the world – and tear hers apart…


In the vibrant, extravagant world of turn-of-the-century Vienna, Minna Bernays is an overeducated lady’s companion with a sharp, wry wit. Unwilling to settle and marry, she has spent years working for frivolous, difficult women, stuck in a social limbo, neither servant nor master. When Minna is abruptly fired, she finds herself out on the street and out of options. In 1895, the city is aswirl with avant-garde artists and writers and revolutionary ideas, but a single woman’s only hope for security is still marriage. In desperation, she turns to her sister, Martha, for help.


But Martha has her own problems – six young children and an overworked, disinterested husband who happens to be the brilliant but imperious Sigmund Freud.


At this time, Freud is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses. And while Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s “pornographic” work, her sister is fascinated by his startling discoveries.


Minna is everything Martha is not – intellectually curious, engaging, and passionate. Minna and Freud embark on what is, at first, simply a meeting of the minds, but something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, an inevitable catastrophe that she cannot escape.


In this sweeping tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal, fact and fiction meld seamlessly together. After years of research, the authors have constructed a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman and her struggle to reconcile her love for her sister with her obsessive desire for her sister’s husband, the mythic father of psychoanalysis.


* Synopsis taken from the book jacket


My Review: In this novel, we get to explore what may have happened between Minna and Sigmund Freud. Although there is a lot of speculation, from a historical perspective, we don’t know for sure if this affair ever happened. However, speculation in historical fiction is one of my favorite things, so I was all for this ride!


Minna is a rather entertaining character, just the sort of woman I like to read about due to her progressive nature. From what I can tell based on actual accounts of her, she really was a reasonably progressive woman for her time, and I really like that. Although she did spend more time worrying about what Freud thought of her than I would have liked, but I guess a woman can only be so progressive!


That all being said, I had such high hopes for Minna throughout the book, and I felt like she didn’t live up to them. Minna seemed to lose a lot of her independence as a result of her relationship with Freud, and I generally prefer more of an attitude from my heroines where they are completely willing to leave the men in their lives behind based on what they think is best for them. I didn’t see this with Minna, which made me rather sad, particularly at the end of the novel.


Freud also comes across as such a selfish jerk a lot of the time, which seems about right for him based on common perception, but still not fun. It’s one of those situations where I kind of wish I could have met him in person, just to see what he was like, and find out if these ideas about him were right or not.


On the whole, this wasn’t my favorite read, but it was still enjoyable and an interesting look into life before women’s suffrage.


Read this book if: I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this one.


My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!


May 28

Sometimes my work is too nerdy to function…

mugglesActual conversation at work today…

Coworker 1 (to coworker 2 and me): You guys look like you’re up to no good.

Me: We solemnly swear we are up to no good.

Coworker 3: That only works if you have the map.

Me: How do you know I don’t have it?

Coworker 3: Because the map isn’t real.

Coworker 2: Muggle!

Coworker 1: I have no idea what just happened here.

Me: Definitely a muggle.

Mar 14

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Title: Burial Rites: A Novel

Author: Hannah Kent
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 322
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
Synopsis: Charged with the brutal murder of two men, Agnes Magnusdottir has been removed to her homeland’s farthest reaches, to an isolated farm in northern Iceland, to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family on the farm avoids Agnes. Her arrival threatens the peaceful rhythm of their way of life, while her stoic approach to the daily chores is an unsettling contrast to the passion that, rumor has it, drove her to kill – disturbing proof for them of the dangers that can lurk beneath a placid surface.
Only Toti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. As the winter months pass and Agnes’s death looms closer, the farmer’s wife and his daughters learn there is another side to the sensational tale they’ve heard, but will their new knowledge be enough to save her?
Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the saga of this young woman, the last to be publicly beheaded in Iceland, in the early nineteenth century. Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the heartbreaking question: How can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Inspired by true events, this is an astonishing and exhilarating read that gives voice to a fierce and daring heroine and heralds the arrival of a great new talent.
* Synopsis taken from the book jacket
My Review: This was one of those novels that was a tough one to get in to, in some ways, because we know the eventual outcome from the start. Knowing that Agnes is doomed made it more heart-wrenching for me to read her story as she reveals it to Reverend Toti, from her earliest days through the unfortunate murder of Natan Kettilson. She’s the sort of woman who doesn’t seem able to catch a break, being shuffled from one sad situation to another.
The novel presents a somewhat sympathetic look at Agnes and the situation she finds herself in. There’s no way to know what really happened with her, whether she really participated in the murder or if she was just a bystander, so this alternate perspective made it an interesting story. That being said, it did take awhile for me to really become interested in it, but the slow pace was really the only complaint I had.
I also found it fascinating that a convicted murderer, one sentenced to death, was sent to live with a random family on a farm in Iceland. The whole scenario makes me very curious about the Icelandic justice system, both past and present, so I may have to read more about it to understand it on a better level. Their concept is very different from the one we use in the U.S., plain and simple.
Knowing basically nothing about Iceland, I enjoyed the look into what life was like there a couple hundred years ago. It seems like a reasonably harsh climate, and the idea of having to walk everywhere in it had never really occurred to me. Reading that made it seem even more difficult for someone like Agnes to rise above the station in life she was born into. When you think about it, that seems a pretty bleak life to live in a lot of ways.
Although a little depressing, this was an interesting story, and I’m glad I read it. I’d encourage everyone to pick it up, being a historical fiction novel from a place we’re less familiar with in general.
Read this book if: If you’re looking to branch out from the typical historical fiction, you should check this one out.
My Rating: 3.5/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!

Mar 09

It’s Monday! What are you reading? March 9, 2014

Reading on MondayThis is a weekly meme run by Book Journey, where we post the books we completed during the last week, what you’re currently reading, and really whatever other book related stuff you want!

And Mailbox Monday is an awesome way to share the books you received during the week!
The last couple of weeks have been spent doing a fair amount of house painting, so I haven’t been doing as much reading as usual. The plus is I’m close to done now!
Books completed last week:
The Hypnotist (The Reincarnationist) – MJ Rose: Third book in the Reincarnationist series, and a definite improvement over its predecesors.
Burial Rites: A Novel  – Hannah Kent: An interesting historical fiction novel set in Iceland. Sad, but interesting!
Books I’m reading this week:
Freud’s Mistress – Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman ~ Page 20: The title is basically self explanatory, hehehe. I’m not very far into it, but I am enjoying it.
Books ongoing:
Emma – Jane Austen ~ 41%: Oh Emma, I will finish you some day I swear!
What I watched this week:
  • Star Crossed
  • The Originals
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Almost Human
  • Grimm
  • Sex & the City
  • Parenthood
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Crazy Ones
  • Castle
Stuff I listened to:
  • Kelis
  • Scissor Sisters
  • Björk
  • The Cure
  • The Smiths

Mar 07

The Hypnotist by MJ Rose

Title: The Hypnotist (The Reincarnationist)

Author: MJ Rose
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 416
How I Read It: Hard cover borrowed from the library
Synopsis: An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn’t able to prevent, a crime he’s never been able to solve and a love he’s never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a past life…
Haunted by a twenty-year-old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation – dedicated to the science of past-life study – where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.
Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to nineteenth-century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of the world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity, and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history – the theft of a 1,500-year-old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
My Review: The Hypnotist was a bit different from the first two novels in this series, in that the reincarnation story line wasn’t nearly as important as it was in the other novels. As a result, I liked this one quite a bit more, and it was much easier for me to get through it. Additionally, our main character, Lucian Glass, was also in the last novel, and I enjoyed the continuity that his story brought.
Our ever present villain, Malachai Samuels, was far more tolerable to me this go around as well, which definitely helped the story move along for me. Lucian is a character that was pitted against Malachai in The Memorist and this novel, and that was much more fun to read about. In the previous novels, our main characters were working with Malachai, and it bothered me a ton cuz I haven’t trusted that guy from the start!
Lucian has demons of his own – he’s being faced with the repercussions of events towards the end of the previous novel, plus old demons coming back to haunt him twenty years later. I wished we’d had more of a story with Lucian before this novel, because I liked him quite a bit and would have liked to learn more about him as a character before he had all these new issues. Either way, stories about the FBI always interest me, so that made Lucian a character I wanted to root for from the start.
As was the case with the previous novels in the series, there were some unnecessary characters that I didn’t feel belonged for any good reason. That being said, they were less obtrusive in this one, so it was easier to deal with in a lot of ways. We do have the typical helpless female, but at least this one had a bit of spice to her!
On the whole, this works both as a continuation of the series, and as a stand-alone, which was nice. It’s by far my favorite of the series to date, and I hope we get to see more of Lucian in the future.
Read this book if: I think people who read the other books in the series would enjoy this one. It’s also a decent paranormal type mystery.
My Rating: 3.5/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!

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