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100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

Animal Graph

Animal Graph (SFF Post-Apocalyptic) (Graph World Book 1) - M. Black
In the recent future, a nuclear war has changed the face of the world.  The Americas are ruled by a dictator, King Borran, who enforces a rigid class system.  The Prestige receive access to  health care, food and safe living conditions, while everyone else must fend for themselves.  Anyone who has been burned by the radiation is now an outcast.  Beyond this, Borran wants control and has implemented a system to create a stronger army by combining animal and human DNA in order to give humans animal traits.  The result is a human with an animal graph, but the animal graphs can be unpredictable and deadly.  In order to perfect the animal graphs, Borran experimented on prisoners.  Jin is imprisoned for stealing bread for her family when she is experiment on and graphed with a poison dart frog, Harpy eagle and Jaguar.  After her Graphing procedure she is released into the jungle to be hunted by Borran's soldiers for practice.  While figuring out her new capabilities, Jin is assisted by another Graph, Adan.  Adan seems to know a lot more about their predicament and is skilled in survival, but Jin has trouble trusting the fellow Graph. 

Animal Graph introduces us to an exciting and dangerous new dystopian world for YA readers.  We are immediately thrown into the action with Jin as she is released from prison and trying to figure out her new graphs.  I was very intrigued about how the world came to the state it is in, how Borran functions and how the Animal Graphs work.  This is revealed as Jin recounts her time in prison, her family and as she meets Adan.  Jin was very easy to get to know and seemed like someone that I would like to know in real life.  After Jin met Adan, the suspense intensified and I was hooked further into the story.  I was personally very interested in the human and animal connections that were made, not only with the Graphs, but through thought connection.  I think Jin's connection with Jade the Radguar, a radiated Jaguar is the best relationship. I am really excited to see what else the Graph powers can do as well as what other animals can be graphed with humans in the next books.  Faced-paced writing, an action-packed story line and short chapters kept my interest up throughout the book. 
 
This book was received in exchange for an honest review. 

The Atomic City Girls

The Atomic City Girls: A Novel - Janet Beard

During WWII, a small farming town in Tennessee was quietly demolished and a government facility popped up nearly overnight.  The facility at Oak Ridge hired many young woman to spin dial and push levers, but none of the young women knew what they were working on, only that they received decent pay and housing.  Among the young women were scientists, military and families all living and working under tight security and keeping secrets.  Many people working there didn't know what they were working on or the consequences.  One of the women working at Oak Ridge is eighteen year old June, a local girl whose grandfather once lived where Oak Ridge now sits.  June and her roommate Cici quickly become acclimated to the strange life at Oak Ridge.  Cici's goal while at Oak Ridge is simple to strip away her penniless background and emerge as a well-bred young woman who can catch the eye of an affluent man.  June, on the other hand would like to move on from the death of her fiance, Ronnie and enjoy life again.  June may find the answer in physicist, Dr. Samuel Cantor.  However, as their relationship grows, Sam shares the secrets of what exactly everyone at Oak Ridge is working on and the mental toll of what they are doing begins to trouble Sam more and more.

This is a fictionalized account of the historic town of Oak Ridge that captures a small piece of several employee's stories.  The Atomic City Girls is a lighter story than the non-fiction  The Girls of Atomic City; however, it is still just as important in the sense that it brings to light the important work that was done during the war by a variety of people.   Throughout the book, we follow the stories of June, Cici, Samuel and Joe.  So, I did find the title a little bit of a misnomer, although, all of their stories are important. One aspect that is very well highlighted are the stories of Ralph, Joe and Shirley, the African-American workers at Oak Ridge.  While working, they were segregated and discriminated against and worked towards as well as gained some equal rights while at Oak Ridge.  June's story was the most compelling to me as we learned about the tight security and how the young women were trained as well as the diverse social life offered at Oak Ridge.  Sam's point of view offered a look at the mental struggle of the people who knew exactly what they were building and what it would accomplish.  The story was accompanied by actual photos of Oak Ridge, which helped to beef up the historical aspects, however I do wish there was just a little more history in my historical fiction. 

This book was received in exchange for an honest review. 

The Phantom's Apprentice

The Phantom's Apprentice - Heather Webb

Christine  Daaé has grown up traveling the country with her father performing music.  Christine is an accomplished vocalist, accompanied by her father, a violinist. Christine's true passion, however, is illusions.  Christine's father takes her to see an Illusionist, the Illusionist brings about a spirit and makes a prediction that someone in the audience will soon pass.  That evening, the theater is set on fire.  Christine is taken in by a benefactor, Madame Valerius and is encouraged to sing again for employment.  Assisted by Monsieur Delacroix, Christine secures a place at the opera house.  Christine is quickly identified as a featured singer and made the understudy of the diva, Carlotta.   Trouble brews as Monsieur Delacroix asks for Christine's assistance in finding the opera ghost, Carlotta despises Christine's competition and the opera ghost takes Christine under his wing as her Angel of Music to train her to be the star that he believes she was meant to be.  As Christine trains with the Phantom, she learns that he may not be her true Angel of Music.  Christine must use her other talents to break free. 


In The Phantom's Apprentice Christine takes center stage as the hero of her own story. Christine was very easy to like as she grew from humble beginnings and knew the power of hard work, dedication and friendship.  Along with Christine, I enjoyed the bubbly, supportive personality of Claudette and the perfection of Raul.  The Phantom is done in such a way that he is both the hero and anti-hero.  His past is clearly outlined and from that, his actions border on honorable.  I believe it is Christine's presence that throws his over the edge.    The writing gradually builds the atmosphere of suspense as the mystery of the Phantom grows.  I loved the inclusion of the illusions, they give depth to both the Phantom and Christine as well allow us to be able to delve into a fad of the age, spiritualism.  As the Phantom and other characters begin to show their true colors, the danger and tension increases in the story and I found myself flying through the last quarter.  I was very happy with the way Christine found to outwit the Phantom and her other pursuers as well as how Christine was able to live her life afterwards.  Overall, an exciting and intriguing new look at The Phantom of the Opera


This book was received in exchange for an honest review. 

She Regrets Nothing

She Regrets Nothing: A Novel - Andrea Dunlop

With the death of her mother, Laila Lawrence is left an orphan at the age of 23.  Laila resides herself to a middle class life in the midwest, engaged to a dentist and working as a hygienist.  However, when three unknown Lawrence cousins show up at Laila's mother's funeral, Laila discovers an entire family, lifestyle and family feud that have been hidden from her.  Her cousin, Liberty makes a connection with Laila.  With her mother's death Laila discovers the reason for the feud and decides to change her life.  Two years after becoming an orphan, Laila divorces her husband and sets out for New York City.  Laila is staying with her cousin Nora and soon discovers the affluent Lawrence lifestyle, living off of a trust fund, partying every night and meeting billionaires, Laila begins to find her place among the family she believes she should have been part of all along.  Although, as her star rises, Laila becomes entangled in other schemes and plots that may set off yet another Lawrence family rift when all she wanted to do was fit in.


She Regrets Nothing is an interesting twist on a modern glam Cinderella where Cinderella uses her family for all it's worth and Prince Charming is anything but.  Laila intrigued me from the beginning and even now, I don't really know how I feel about her.  As Laila maneuvered her way through the Lawrences, my feelings for her see-sawed from 'you go girl!' to asking myself if she had a mental problem.  Although, as Laila states, she is playing the part of the chameleon; and she does it amazingly well.  I do wish that I got to see more of the true Laila, but perhaps we got to see her in the end.   It was Liberty that captured my full attention, I loved her authenticity and the way she both accepted and declined parts of her expected role within society.  The writing skillfully balanced mystery, suspense, complicated relationships and family drama  against the backdrop of Manhattan's posh social scene.   I was probably as awed as Laila at some of the clubs and people in it, I was equally amazed when I found out that Mustique Island was a real place.  I became even more pulled into the story near the end as things began to fall apart and I wondered how Laila would keep her carefully crafted life afloat.

This book received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Everything That's Underneath

Everything That's Underneath: A Collection of Weird and Horror Tales - Kristi DeMeester

Everything That's Underneath is a short story collection that explores the ignored, dark spaces, and things we try to not see or remember.  With this unifying theme, the stories ranged from horror, to grotesque to strangely unsettling.  With all short story collections, there were some stories that I loved and some I could live without.  With this collection, there were also some stories that were very similar, like the same darkness was affecting different people .  

Some of my favorite stories included The Dream Eater and Split Tongues.  These stories were a little longer and really allowed me to get into them and wonder about the darkness and what it's intentions really are.  In these stories I was also able to relate to the characters better and feel their interactions with the forces at play.  Overall, an intriguing group of stories that explores themes of family, grief, sexuality and the draw of the unknown.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

A Peculiar Courtship

A Peculiar Courtship (The Beckett Files, Book 2) - Laura Beers

Johnathan Beckett is on a mission as an agent of the Crown.  The mission is to save Lady Hannah who has been missing since an attempted abduction.  Lady Hannah's father holds sensitive information about a traitor to the Crown and her life is now in danger because of it.  Lady Hannah finds refuge on a country farm where Johnathan finally finds her; but Hannah's abductors are not far behind. While on the run, Johnathan and Hannah act as husband and wife so Hannah may stay under his protection. When Johnathan  and Hannah reach safety at his sister, Eliza's estate, Johnathan and Hannah's feelings for one another grow; however, Johnathan's attitude toward Hannah changes.  Johnathan would now like Hannah to act as a lady and Hannah would like to learn to defend herself as Eliza does.  Unfortunately, before Johnathan and Hannah can sort things out, trouble catches up to them and a conspiracy unravels.  

A Peculiar Courtship continues with Johnathan Beckett's story as it left off in Saving Shadow.  However, you do not have to read Saving Shadow first in order to enjoy A Peculiar Courtship. I enjoyed getting to know Hannah and loved that there was yet another strong female character in the story.  I liked that Hannah was a quick thinker, able to outrun her attackers for at least a little while, she was grateful and gracious to the family that saved her, even if it meant working on a farm and she was able to mold herself to be useful in a variety of situations.  I also got to learn more about Johnathan in this installment.  He is, as I expected, an excellent agent of the Crown, but surprised me with his treatment of Hannah.  Johnathan's overprotective nature almost ruins Hannah's perception of him.  As in Saving Shadow, the characters are all very well developed and I am happy to see Eliza and Benedict as a couple.  At first, the action and suspense all seemed to be concentrated at the beginning of the book, although, underneath the surface a bigger conspiracy is brewing that could affect Parliament and will need several agents of the Crown, including Shadow, in order to bring down French traitors.  With many well crafted spy elements, a sweet love story and plenty of fierce female characters, A Peculiar Courtship is a wonderful addition the The Beckett Files and I can't wait to see what's next.

Trumpeterville

TrumpeterVille - Dean Gessie, Anna Faktorovich

The lake called Swanville is in need of new leadership. President Lulu, the black knob duck that previously served as President is on his way out. In the running is his Secretary as well as newcomer, Trumpeter. To everyone's surprise, Trumpeter wins with his brash Honks and cries to overturn Lulucare and tear down the beaver's wall that is eating up precious shoreline. As Trumpeter assumes leadership, the lake learns that he is more Honk than action and the Trumpeter's team seems to be just as silly flapping around the lake. Trumpeter's slogan was to 'Make Swanville Great Again." But no one is sure it needed saving in the first place.

 

TrumpeterVille is a satire of the current American political situation that revolves around the aquatic birds of Swanville. Amusingly, there are many quick one liners and similar names to the current leadership, that there are plenty of laughs; however, it too closely parallels President Trump's current situation to be called an allegory or have anything intellectual about it. It is simply the last election and the USA's current political state loosely placed in a swan pond. When I read the description, I imagined this story to be more of a takeaway of current politics using the actual ecology of the birds that occupy the pond. Instead, I read about anthropomorphized birds parroting back the current rhetoric. That being said, this is a short story and has plenty of amusing points throughout.

 

A Librarything Early Reviewers book.

A Certain Age

A Certain Age: A Novel - Beatriz Williams

Theresa Marshall is a woman of a certain age who appears to live a comfortable life in her Fifth Avenue home during the Jazz Age.  However, she is in a loveless marriage with her much older husband and has not gotten over the death of one of her sons during the Great War.  Things change for Theresa when she meets Octavian, a young pilot and hero during the war.  Theresa and Octavian begin a love affair and Octavian becomes intensely involved with Theresa.  When Theresa's brother Jay becomes engaged to a young Sophie Fortesque, he needs a cavalier to deliver the engagement ring according to family tradition.  Theresa offers up Octavian for the job.  Octavian and Sophie meet and they know there is something more there.  When Octavian is asked by Theresa to look into the new money of the Fortesque family, he finds a secret that not even Sophie knows about.  Decisions will be made by Theresa, Octavian, Sophie and Jay that require courage , conviction and love.

 
Another fabulous look into the lives of those who lived in New York's Jazz Age.  If you have read other Beatriz Williams books, you will reconnect with some characters and haunts around the city.  A Certain Age, however, focuses on the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian and Sophie.  This is not a typical love triangle though, I truly cared about all of these characters and their well being.  There also was no obvious answer to their conundrum, and yet, everyone somehow made the best and most difficult decisions in the end. I felt connected to Theresa and the twists and turns that her life made.  She was one of the products of the age, married young into a loveless marriage, Theresa enjoys her upper class lifestyle, but would happily give it up to be with Octavian.  Octavian is a different product of the age, a war hero who returned to life and felt lost.  Sophie is yet another product of the Jazz age, a young woman who has lived under her father's rules and yearns to be independent and make her own decisions.  These well developed characters combined with the mystery of the Fortesque family created and exciting and intriguing look into the lives of those during New York's Jazz Age.

The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck

Three women are bound together by fate and their husbands choices made during World War II.  The husbands of Marianne von Lingenfels, Benita Fledermann and Ania Grabarek were all involved in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler in July of 1944.  Appointed "the Commander of Wives and Children" by her husband, Marrianne takes her duties seriously and decides to round up those she can find in the aftermath of the War in the relative safety of her family castle, Burg Lingenfels.  While Marianne succeeds at the impossible task of finding the dispersed  women and children, her harsh steadfastness combined with Benita's gentle inward intuitiveness, Ania's survival drive and the children's collective shock makes for a difficult group to have under one roof.   The secrets that each woman must keep combined with their sense of camaraderie creates  a very different post war experience for Marianne, Benita and Ania.


The Women in the Castle is an epic story that creates a great range of feelings and complicated and scenarios.   It also shines a light on the role of women and children before and after the war, but more importantly, the resistors.  In thinking of the heroes of World War II, I don't often think of the Germans who were strong enough to resist Hitler's pull, even in little ways.  All of the women's characters were strongly developed and I enjoyed that they showed their strength in different ways.  At first, I was pulled toward Marianne's conviction and dedication to her task, but as each woman's story unfolded and the layers peeled away, I felt more and more connected to their stories and understood their reasoning.  The writing does jump back and forth through time and each woman's perspective.  Keeping track of the time jumps and point of view can become a bit confusing; however, you do learn things at appropriate times instead of being bombarded with too much information at once.  There are many, many more things I could say about this book, but most importantly, it provides a different perspective of World War II, and comments on the importance of friendship, compassion and resistance.

The Muse of Fire

The Muse of Fire - Carol M. Cram

Grace bolts from her London home late one night after her father comes home drunk and hits her.  Still blaming Grace for her mother's death, Grace has become the unwilling scapegoat.  However, the streets of 1800's London are not a friendly place for a lady at night.  Grace is found by Ned, a stage manager at the nearby Theatre Royale.  Ned graciously helps Grace recover over the next few days.  During their stay together, Grace tells Ned of her interest in the theatre and how she and her mother would recite lines.  Ned allows Grace to sit backstage and watch a performance before she must leave and face her father once more.  Before Grace goes, an opportunity arises for Grace to be in the Chorus of a show.  Grace falls in love with the theatre and finds the strength to part from her father's household.  Upon hearing the news, Grace's father writes her out of his will.  Soon, with help from Ned, Grace finds her place among the acting troupe.  Although, just as Grace begins to rise, the theatre burns down and when it is rebuilt and hike in prices results in a riot at theatre every night.  As Grace and Ned deal with the Old Price riots, they also uncover a mystery dealing with Grace's mother and Aunt.  

The Muse of Fire transported me directly to London's Theatre scene in the early 1800's.  I was taken with the historical detail, I had never heard of the Old Price Riots and were surprised to learn that they were very real and just as comprehensive as described.  I also enjoyed that some of the actors, actresses and directors were also taken from history.  The thoroughness in describing how backstage operations at the theatre worked was entertaining as well, from costuming to props, fly rigs and makeup, to orchestras and prompters the liveliness and excitement of live theatre is revealed.  Grace and Ned's characters were complete and well thought out.  Both had interesting histories and good backbone.  From the beginning I wondered what their relationship to one another would be and I was pleased to see how they ended up.  I loved Grace's direct nature and willingness to endure.  Ned is exceedingly kind and able to use his wit to his advantage.  The mystery and drama created by Grace's Aunt, Father and cousin Percival was exciting and unexpected, creating just as much drama as the stage.  Overall, another rich and exhilarating historical fiction from Carol M. Cram.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The King of Average

The King of Average - Gary  Schwartz
James is a very average kid.  He received all C's in school, he is ok at sports but not great, he gets along with other kids, but wouldn't say he has a lot of friends.  One day, James has a thought and exclaims that he must be the most average person alive!  James' exclamation is heard and he is approached by a not-so-average talking goat named Mayor Culpa.  Mayor Culpa wants James to be the new King of Average since their former king has disappeared.  Mayor Culpa transports James to the Land of Average where he must complete a quest in order to become the King of Average.  On his quest he is accompanied by some strange friends including his talking goat, and a duo of a Professional Pessimist and Optimist. As James explores the land of Average he is sent to such places as The Sea of Doubt, Appathia, The Flatterlands, Uppity, and Shangri-La where he might just reach Epiphany.  On his journey, James will discover if he is fit to be the King of Average of if he is above average.
 
This is a wonderful book for middle-grade readers who are probably facing a lot of the same feelings as James.  Humor, word play and wonderfully imaginative characters and places created a fun and whimsical story.  Some of the word play might go over younger readers heads, such as Mayor Culpa as a professional scapegoat.  However, the intention of the story, for James to come into his own and deal with his emotions and feelings as they come to life as people and things will be something that any reader can relate to.  I did love reading about James' adventures in the different parts of Average and exploring the places and people there.  Overall, a magical and imaginative coming-of-age and character building story for middle-grade readers.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Wicked City

The Wicked City - Beatriz Williams

In 1924 Geneva, or Gin, as her friends call her, has become entwined in the atmosphere of Manhattan's speakeasies. A typist by day, Gin let's loose in the evenings and often visits the speakeasy, Christopher's in the basement of the building next door to her apartment. Life is good for Gin until Christopher's is raided one night and she is pulled back into the life she thought she had escaped and the step-father she would rather forget back in River Junction Maryland. Prohibition officer Oliver Anson has recruited Gin to help him bring down one of the biggest bootleggers in the East, her step-father Duke Kelly. At first, Gin is hesitant, but when she returns home to see how Duke has influenced everyone, she agrees to join, the stoic and strong prohibition officer on his mission. Recently, in 1998, Ella Hawthorne walks in on her husband cheating and promptly walks out of their home. Ella finds refuge in a humble apartment on Christopher street. Ella immediately finds a friend in her upstairs neighbor, Hector. Hector also gives her a warning to not go downstairs to the laundry room at night since there was a speakeasy in the basement next door and strange sounds can still be heard.

 

I found myself immediately pulled into The Wicked City. The writing and the characters grabbed my attention. First of all, I adore dual time stories. I do admit that Gin's story grasped my attention more; the writing so perfectly conveyed Gin's personality that I felt that this is someone that I would want to be friends with. Her strength, resolve and willingness to do what was right for her family and town made Gin irresistible to me and the other characters. I loved her sayings and her witty banter, everything she said felt so perfect for the time period but not overly done. The city itself also became a character; the city becomes alive as Gin states:


"...and I thought I had made a terrible mistake, that I would never belong in this sea of stink and vice, this hive of determined bees ling heir cells with hones. Ant then I tasted the honey, honey , and I stared to understand what New York City was all about. Hallelujah. I started to glimpse my place in the hive, how each tiny insect contributed her mite of pollen, how grand it was to live in a hive like this at all..."


With the city taking on a life of it's own, it made more sense that there was a lingering of spirits and the hint of a ghost story waiting in the wings for Ella to find and explore. I do feel like this side of the story could have been expanded, but the air of mystery it left was ideal for the atmosphere. As Ella connected more with Gin's story line, I did feel a stronger pull toward her as well. As Ella and Gin's story lines weaved together, I could see the parallels of their situations despite the years apart, both women were dealing with issues within their professions, man troubles and above all else, a new found sense of independence. Overall, a great mix of history, atmosphere, mystery and a touch of romance. I can't wait to see where it goes next!

 

This story was received for free in return for an honest review

Saving Shadow

Saving Shadow (The Beckett Files, Book 1) - Laura Beers
Lady Elizabeth Beckett has been trained as a code-breaker and spy for the English Crown from an early age.  Elizabeth watched in envy as her brother Jonathon took on dangerous missions and soon forced her way into accompanying him.  Being adept at the longbow and a dagger, Elizabeth excelled in the field and earned the code name Shadow.  When young ladies begin to disappear around London, Eliza makes it her personal mission to stop the man responsible for selling the women off.  However, to complete the mission, Eliza must partner with the agent, Benedict, who believes his step-brother is responsible for the missing girls.  When Eliza and Benedict meet, sparks fly, but the mission must come first. 
 
Saving Shadow is a fun, intriguing, historical spy-thriller with just the right touch of romance. I absolutely loved Eliza's character, for a story set in Regency London Eliza is a good blend of a lady of high society and a woman who gets to use her intellect while not being pigeonholed into the image of a proper woman.  I enjoyed that her intelligence and unique talents of memory and coding were utilized and promoted instead of stifled.  I do wish we could have seen some of the examples of the encryptions that she decoded.  My favorite scenes were those where Eliza was in action, it is truly her element.  The theme of being in control was prevalent throughout the story.  Eliza wanted to continue having control over her life after being banished from the control of her mother's household.  All of the men in Eliza's life attempted to establish control, however quickly learned that it would not work with Eliza.  The man responsible for the kidnappings of the young women also wanted to feel powerful and in control.  The pacing of the story was just right, I savored the scheme leading up to Eliza and Benedict finding the stolen women and bringing down the man responsible.  Not to mention the super-sweet romance with a wonderful amount of witty banter that added some spice. I'll look forward to reading more about the Beckett's in A Peculiar Courtship.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

House on the Forgotten Coast

House on the Forgotten Coast: A Novel - Ruth Coe Chambers

 

Square 14 for the 16 Festive Tasks- Seaside setting

 

When eighteen-year-old Elise's parents decide to move from their comfortable lives in Atlanta to a small fishing village in Apalachicola, Florida, Elise becomes anxious.  Her mother has asked Elise to put off going to college for a year in order to help them settle in.  Elise has always been an outsider, even to her parents, she decides that the move may mean a new start for her as well.  When Elise first sets eyes on their new home, something inside her clicks.  Finally, Elise feels like she belongs,  the townspeople adore her and the boat shaped house feels like home.  Then, the dreams intensify, Elise dreams of another young woman, Annelise, who never got the chance to live in the boat shaped house that was built for her in 1897.  Elise keeps getting clues to Annelise's life and how the man she loved died.  Elise feels she might be burdened with living out Annelise's dream but those around her are worried that Elise is living in a fantasy world.


House on the Forgotten Coast pulled me in with the intense atmosphere and air of mystery.  I was grabbed by the snippet from Annelise's demise and then caught up in Elise's story and wondered how the two women connected.  I was effortlessly drawn to Elise, she has been an outsider all of her life, not even understood by her parents, but determined to make her own way.  I was pleased that she was generously taken in by the inhabitants of Apalachicola.  The residents of the town were also very well developed, I loved getting to know Peyton, Dallas, the Myers, the Aunts and Ty.  They all added to the mystique of the town.  Through the entire story, the writing presents a very gradual build up of something being not quite right.  The mystery lies in whether or not the town is cursed due to Annelise's demise or if Elise herself is the only one being haunted by Elise's memory.  Overall, a mysterious and haunting story that I absolutely devoured. 


This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

 

1

Venetian Blood

Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City - Christine Evelyn Volker

Anna decides to take a trip to Venice and visit her friend Margo in order to get her mind off of her impending divorce back in the states. Instead, Anna finds herself in a romantic entanglement with serious complications; furthermore, she is the prime suspect in a murder when the man she slept with is found murdered. Anna's job at the US Treasury is put in danger when she begins to look into the life of Count Sergio Corrin, Anna finds a sordid past entangled with many other Venetians who just may want to kill the man. While Anna desperately searches to uncover any information to clear her name, she reveals some other secrets of the closely-knit Venetian people. Meanwhile, the person who murdered Sergio is still on the loose and is attempting to throw Anna off the trail. 

An exciting and suspenseful murder mystery set in the sensuous and mysterious island of Venice. Immediately, I was pulled in by the murder scene, a gruesome murder committed by someone who appears to be female. Then, I was connected to Anna's character. Anna is intelligent and resourceful but has been handed a difficult lot in life, her parents died when she was younger, she has had a miscarriage and her marriage has fallen apart. Venice was made into a sumptuous setting, I could easily image the aging but descendant buildings, the murky canals and small passageways. The suspense grew for me as Anna started digging up the past. Most interestingly, I began to question Anna's reliability as a narrator even as she began to uncover other's motives. Overall, a uniquely woven murder mystery with intricate twists and turns.

Stone Circle

Stone Circle - Kate Murdoch

 

 

In Renaissance Italy in the village of Pesaro, Seer Savinus is looking for someone who shares his talents for divining the future so he is able to cultivate the next generation and Seers.  Savinus' daughter, Guilia is talented, however, women in the trade are simply not respected.  Savinus decides to hold a competition.  One of Pesaro's noble family's son, Nichola Valperga competes as well as a servant in the Valperga household, Antonious.  Antonious has far more ability in the field and is recognized right away by Savinus.  Nichola has limited ability, but Savinus agrees to apprentice Nichola as the secondary apprentice out of respect to the noble family.  From the start the two young men are at odds, Nichola can not stand that a servant has a position above him and Antonious can not understand Nichola's haughty nature.  Tensions rise as Giulia's affections towards one apprentice emerge and jealousy leads to violence.  

Stone Circle immersed me into 16th century Italy and the alchemy practices of the time.   I was surprised to learn the esteemed role that Seer's played in the society and that they were often employed by nobles to learn the best time for special events to take place and even who they should marry.  Savinus was my favorite character, wise and conscientious in his choices, helped along by his psychic abilities. Antonius and Nichola were typical young men, but their strained relationship demonstrated the division between classes at the time.  I was waiting for one of them to compromise on their differences as so many of the adult characters suggested.  Guilia was an interesting character for me, I really wanted her to take a more prominent role in her father's practice rather than simply be a love interest; however she did show insight and grow as she realized the apprentices true nature.  Jealousy was a theme throughout the story, and it was one that had dire consequences.  It was interesting to see that even with magic and alchemy all of your problems could not be fixed.  Overall, an engrossing story that mixes history, magic and romance. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.