Review: Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Title: Scent of Magic
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: fantasy
Series: Avry of Kazan #2/Healer #2
Pages: 416 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected December 18 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.75/5

Hunted, Killed—Survived?

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.

A swing and a miss for veteran fantasy author Maria V. Snyder. The first novel, Touch of Power, was a great introduction to the newest series by this prolific writer, but much like what happened for me with her Study series, the sequel left a lot to be desired. It took me a while to sort out how I felt about this novel after finishing it, especially deciding on the rating. 3 stars? 2.5? I just split the difference and settled with 2/75. What I have decided is that this is a far cry from its action-packed predecessor. All the key elements are here - Avry, Kerrick, their chemistry [for the 30ish pages they're together...], the monkeys, the new spin  on magic. Where Scent of Magic fell apart for me was the slower pace, and the complete and utter lack of any actual plot momentum. I was bored for a lot of this read - and for a novel that clocks in at a hefty 416 pages, that's a lot of time to be bored.

I had to sit and think on this, but I seem to see a pattern with Snyder's inability to follow-up awesome first novels. It's a shame, because this series, with these likeable, usually interesting characters, have a lot of potential. I was frustrated with so much of what doesn't happen over the duration of the book. There's a lot of Kerrick missing/worrying about Avry, and her the same about him. EVERY CHAPTER, it must be stated how worried one is about the other - give me a break. It feels like filler, and it doesn't help that in the first 120 pages, nothing important happened. I distinctly remember thinking, "C'mon, Snyder, you're better than this." Another irk for me was the POV shifts from Avry's first-person to Kerrick's third person. They go their separate ways early on, and while I can see why Snyder's used multiple POVs to show the larger story at play, I will never be a fan of such rapid, and vastly different POV styles.

For all the POV headjumping, all the trekking around from one place to another, the endless woods-traininf and all the hidden identities and secrets and foul play, not much of note happens in Scent of Magic. While the characters can pick up some of the slack, there isn't a whole lot of evolution going on for them, either. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't seem like Avry or Kerrick or anyone else really grew or changed from the version shown of them in the first novel. Avry is well-written and a strong female character in a fantasy world (which are few and far in between), but her trials and tribulations seem small - except in the case of her sister. Kerrick, whom I loved in the first book, was somewhat..... wooden and flat in this. He had moments of brilliance and interest, but I didn't invest in him the same way I had before.  Sequel syndrome struck with a vengeance here, for both plot, characters, pace, and momentum. It's a shame, because this series (still) has the potential to be awesome. I'll hold out hope for book three - Taste of Death - but not my breath.

I always want to like Maria V. Snyder's novels, but I can't help but see patterns and similarities the more of them I read. Even characters can read reminiscently of ones from before (like the "monkeys" from this series and Ari and Janco from the Study series, or Valek/Kerrick). Snyder really seems to struggle and end up disappointing with sequels after a promising first novel (see also: the Study series rapid decline from awesome to blah to baaaad). With so much potential and so many plotlines to engage with, it's a shame that Scent of Magic fails to live up to it's predecessor and fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way. So - 2 stars for fun, interesting - if stagnant - characters, and .75 for all the mess rest.

Here We Go Again

Friday, November 23, 2012
Remember that post, from about a week ago, about how I promised my boyfriend I wouldn't buy any more book this year? I literally have hundreds of books that I've bought and are unread, but I can't keep that promise. It's Black Friday, and through the wonders of internet shopping, I bought 10 books, for under $85 - with 4 of them being hardback copies. I am ashamed, and excited!

I bought all three of Charlie Higson's The Enemy series -  each novel was half off at B&N!

The Enemy - The Enemy #1 - by Charlie Higson

They'll chase you. They'll rip you open. They'll feed on you...When the sickness came, every parent, policeman, politician - every adult - fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they're fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city - down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground - the grown-ups lie in wait. But can they make it there - alive?

Teens battle diseased grown-ups in this post-apocalyptic thriller full of unexpected twists and quick-thinking heroes.

The Dead - The Enemy #2 - by Charlie Higson


THE DEAD begins one year "before" the action in THE ENEMY, just after the Disaster. 

A terrible disease has struck everyone sixteen and over, leaving them either dead or a decomposing, flesh-eating creature. The action starts in a boarding school just outside London, where all the teachers have turned into sickos. A few kids survive and travel by bus into the city. The bus driver, an adult named Greg, seems to be unaffected by the disease. Then he begins to show the dreaded signs: outer blisters and inner madness. The kids escape Greg and end up at the Imperial War Museum. A huge fire in South London drives them all to the Thames, and eventually over the river to the Tower of London. 

The Fear - The Enemy #3 - by Charlie Higson


The sickness struck everyone over the age of fourteen.

Mothers and fathers, older brothers, sisters and best friends. No one escaped its touch. And now children across London are being hunted by ferocious grown-ups . . .

They’re hungry. They’re bloodthirsty. And they aren’t giving up.

Dog Nut and the rest of his crew want to find their lost friends, and set off on a deadly mission from the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace and beyond, as the sickos lie in wait. But who are their friends and who is the enemy in this changed world?

I bought the first two in Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting historical fiction series. I've already read (and loved) the Secret Keeper when I was granted an ARC, but I wanted a finished copy of both it and its predecessor.  

To Die For - Ladies in Waiting #1 - by Sandra Byrd 

 Meg Wyatt has been Anne Boleyn's closest friend since they grew up together on neighboring manors in Kent. So when twenty-five-year-old Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes Meg along for the ride.

Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling... at first. Meg is made mistress of Anne's wardrobe, and she enjoys the spoils of this privileged orbit and uses her influence for good. She is young and beautiful and in favor; everyone at court assumes that being close to her is being close to Anne.

But favor is fickle and envy is often laced with venom. As Anne falls, so does Meg, and it becomes nearly impossible for her to discern ally from enemy. Suddenly life's unwelcome surprises rub against the court's sheen to reveal the tarnished brass of false affections and the bona fide gold of those that are true. Both Anne and Meg may lose everything. When your best friend is married to fearsome Henry VIII, you may soon find yourself not only friendless but headless as well.

A rich alchemy of fact and fiction, To Die For chronicles the glittering court life, the sweeping romance, and the heartbreaking fall from grace of a forsaken queen and Meg, her closest companion, who was forgotten by the ages but who is destined to live in our hearts forever.

The Secret Keeper - Ladies in Waiting #2 - by Sandra Byrd

 Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII.

Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr. Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly.

 For she keeps a secret.

 As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life-threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew.

 And from Amazon:

After seventeen-year-old Thais Allard loses her widowed father in a tragic car accident, she is forced to leave the only home she's ever known to live with a total stranger in New Orleans. New Orleans greets Thais with many secrets and mysteries, but none as unbelievable as the moment she comes face to face with the impossible — an identical twin, Clio.

Thais soon learns that she and the twin she never knew come from a family of witches, that she possesses astonishing powers, and that she, along with Clio, has a key role in Balefire, the coven she was born into.
Fiery Clio is less than thrilled to have to share the spotlight, but the twins must learn to combine their powers in order to complete a rite that will transform their lives and the coven forever.

The award-winning author of The Four Seasons retells The Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus and Penelope's daughter.

With her father Odysseus gone for twenty years, Xanthe barricades herself in her royal chambers to escape the rapacious suitors who would abduct her to gain the throne. Xanthe turns to her loom to weave the adventures of her life, from her upbringing among servants and slaves, to the years spent in hiding with her mother's cousin, Helen of Troy, to the passion of her sexual awakening in the arms of the man she loves.

And when a stranger dressed as a beggar appears at the palace, Xanthe wonders who will be the one to decide her future-a suitor she loathes, a brother she cannot respect, or a father who doesn't know she exists...

From the author of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are comes a gripping story about one girl’s search for clues into the mysterious death of her father.

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

The Tudor Secret - The Spymaster Chronicles #1 - by C.W. Gortner

Everyone has a secret.

Like the oyster with its grain of sand, we bury it deep within, coating it with opalescent layers as if that could heal our mortal wound. Some of us devote our entire lives to keeping our secret hidden, safe from those who might pry it from us, hoarding it like the pearl, only to discover that it escapes us when we least expect it, revealed by a flash of fear in our eyes when caught unawares, by a sudden pain, a rage or hatred, or an all-consuming shame.

I know all about secrets.

Secrets upon secrets, wielded like weapons, like tethers, like bedside endearments. The truth alone can never suffice. Secrets are the coin of our world, the currency upon which we construct our edifice of grandeur and lies. We need our secrets to serve as iron for our shields, brocade for our bodies, and veils for our fears--they delude and comfort, shielding us always from the fact that in the end we, too, must die.

"Write it all down," she tells me, "every last word."

We often sit like this in the winter of our lives, chronic insomniacs in outdated finery, the chessboard or the game of cards neglected on the table, as her eyes- alert and ever-wary after all these years, still leonine in a face grown gaunt with age--turn inward to that place where none has ever trespassed, to her own secret, which I now know, have perhaps always known, she must take with her to her grave.

"Write it down," she says, "so that when I am gone, you will remember."

As if I could ever forget...

and lastly, 

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Wife of Henry VIII comes a novel about the bitter rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I and her fascinating cousin, Lettice Knollys, for the love of one extraordinary man.

Powerful, dramatic and full of the rich history that has made Carolly Erickson’s novels perennial bestsellers, this is the story of the only woman to ever stand up to the Virgin Queen— her own cousin, Lettie Knollys. Far more attractive than the queen, Lettie soon won the attention of the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a man so enamored of the queen and determined to share her throne that it was rumored he had murdered his own wife in order to become her royal consort. The enigmatic Elizabeth allowed Dudley into her heart, and relied on his devoted service, but shied away from the personal and political risks of marriage.

When Elizabeth discovered that he had married her cousin Lettie in secret, Lettie would pay a terrible price, fighting to keep her husband’s love and ultimately losing her beloved son, the Earl of Essex, to the queen’s headsman.

This is the unforgettable story of two women related by blood, yet destined to clash over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men.

I'm pretty happy with my haul. Maybe NOW I can hold that promise and not buy any more books for while.

Review: Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George

Sunday, November 18, 2012
Title: Princess of the Silver Woods
Author: Jessica Day George
Genre: fantasy, young-adult, fairy-tale retellings
Series: Princess #3
Pages: 336 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected December 11 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley

Rating: 2.5/5

When Petunia, the youngest of King Gregor’s twelve dancing daughters, is invited to visit an elderly friend in the neighboring country of Westfalin, she welcomes the change of scenery. But in order to reach Westfalin, Petunia must pass through a forest where strange two-legged wolves are rumored to exist. Wolves intent on redistributing the wealth of the noble citizens who have entered their territory. But the bandit-wolves prove more rakishly handsome than truly dangerous, and it’s not until Petunia reaches her destination that she realizes the kindly grandmother she has been summoned to visit is really an enemy bent on restoring an age-old curse.

The stories of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood get a twist as Petunia and her many sisters take on bandits, grannies, and the new King Under Stone to end their family curse once and for all.

This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what I say here about Princess of the Silver Woods holds true for all of the books. I so wanted to love these - I had heard great things and excitedly requested this as an ARC, even without reading the first two. Sadly, I was confused, bored, uninvolved from the very start, so I DNF'd 50 pages in. A week or so later, the first two went on sale for ebooks for less than $2 each. I thought I would give it another try - this time with the benefit of reading the series in order. I read the first two... and it wasn't pretty. They aren't the worst books I've ever read, but I am hard-pressed to remember a series as lackluster and unengaging as this was for me. 

Each novel tackles a different fairytale, and occasionally Day George would create a new twist or idea that worked well for her books. I liked the spin on Red Riding Hood meets Robin Hood, but it's hard to recall a lot about these novels. What didn't work well, ever, were her characters. Galen, Rose, Poppy, Christian, and here in book three, Petunia and Oliver all come across as wooden and flat for the duration. Their actions are contrived, their dialogue laughable or vague, their magic and abilities too convenient or too unexplained.I wanted to like them, but their trials, tribulations and eventual coupledom were all too expected and very predictable.

Also working against the books is the worldbuilding. Or rather, the lack of any substantial effort to create a real, vibrant setting for these characters to operate upon. The thinly veiled countries that represent a more magical Europe (Breton = Britain, Spania = Spain, Russaka = Russia, so on and so forth) left a lot to be desired in terms of backdrop. It's all too simple and easy across the board - the relationships, the magic, the world itself. I wanted more from Jessica Day George, and what is provided leaves a lot to be desired.At several points in each novel, I would think that these books and characters came across as much more MG than YA in tone and characterization.

This series is too simple and predictable to be memorable. I read all three in a four day span, and I doubt I will remember anything about any of them in a week's time. All in all: third verse, same as the first. Too simple, too easy, too predictable, too short to pack a punch. The magic is too vague, or too silly (the whole knitting aspect just makes me laugh, every time), and once again, none of the characters really stood out as remarkable, or even really three-dimensional. This series is just not for me, though I can see why others are drawn to it and enjoy it.

Book Buying Binge!

Thursday, November 15, 2012
I went a little nuts in Barnes and Noble today. I had to return a novel I bough that I already own (this is what happens when people rush me in a bookstore!), and so, $12 in hand, I proceeded to buy five more. And then, my lovely boyfriend, bought me a sixth book I really wanted but had put back on the shelf, in the interest of saving some money for, y'know, food for the next few days. I had to promise this was my last spree for 2012, so here are my purchases!

Two of the books I got,I had already read as ARCs, and wanted finished copies for my library. Those two are:

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

I love love love this book --- and this cover. It's gorgeous, and Hannah Harrington grabbed me with this in a way her first novel, Saving June, failed to do.  


Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts - Dark Inside #1


Since the beginning of mankind, civilizations have fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs...and now us. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening: An ancient evil has been unleashed, and it's turning everyday people into hunters, killers, and crazies. This is the world Mason, Aries, Clementine, and Michael are living in--or rather, trying to survive. Each is fleeing unspeakable horror, from murderous chaos to brutal natural disasters, and each is traveling the same road in a world gone mad. 

Amid the throes of the apocalypse and clinging to love and meaning wherever it can be found, these four teens are on a journey into the heart of darkness--and to find each other and a place of safety.

I read this back in 2011 as an ARC from Simon&Schuster, and I've been on the lookout for a copy since then. Creepy, fun, and my first real "zombie"-ish novel, I had a great time with this suspenseful novel. Now I just need a paperback edition of Rage Within to come out!

Totally new books:

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

Again, another novel I have heard such good things about. Tackling such a difficult subject matter, I am interested to see how Christopher executes her novel.  


On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings—and to catch their wives.

The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.

Margo Lanagan has quite the following and a lot of hype. I have Tender Morsels waiting to be read, but the reviews for this one made it impossible for me not to pick up.

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
I love this cover - and I love the idea for this story. Peter Pan before Wendy? And I've always thought Tiger Lily deserved more time and attention than either the book or movies have given her. Countless good reviews combined with all that to make me want this one very very much.

Living in the aftermath of the Event means that seeing the dead is now a part of life, but Veronica wishes that the ghosts would just move on. Instead, the ghosts aren’t disappearing—they’re gaining power.

When Veronica and her friend, Kirk, decide to investigate why, they stumble upon a more sinister plot than they ever could have imagined. One of Veronica’s high school teachers is crippled by the fact that his dead daughter has never returned as a ghost, and he’s haunted by the possibility that she’s waiting to reappear within a fresh body. Veronica seems like the perfect host. And even if he’s wrong, what’s the harm in creating one more ghost?

From critically acclaimed Generation Dead author Daniel Waters, comes a delectably creepy and suspenseful thriller. Break My Heart 1,000 Times will leave readers with the chills. Or is that a ghost reading over the page?

Oooh, this sounds creepy and inventive AND was just optioned for a film version.I'm interested in the movie, so clearly I had to read it first.  

I'm pretty excited for all of these - rereads and new buys! I just have to find time to read them all.....

Review: The Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockway

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Title: The Lady Most Willing
Authors: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockway
Genre: romance novel
Series: Lady Most #2
Pages: 384 (ARC edition)
Published: expected December 26 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Step into the glittering world of Regency and prepare to have your hearts warmed by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway...

During their annual Christmas pilgrimage to Scotland to visit their aged uncle in his decrepit castle, the Comte de Rocheforte and his cousin, Earl of Oakley, are presented with unique gifts: their uncle has raided an English lord's Christmas party and kidnapped four lovely would-be brides for his heirs to choose from well as one very angry duke, Lord Bretton. As snow isolates the castle, and as hours grow into days, the most honourable intentions give away to temptations as surprising as they are irresistible.

Reviewed by Danielle.

I was absolutely thrilled when The Lady Most Willing’s ARC showed up on edelweiss, because I have a massive soft spot for it’s predecessor, The Lady Most Likely. Likely was the first real “romance novel” I read, and that coupled with its unique anthology style stuck with me, so I was highly anticipating a return to the three authors.

Not a traditional sequel, Willing features an all new cast of characters in an entirely different country. What ties it back to the original is the structure. Again, each author will write a third of the novel, detailing a romantic connection between two characters as a group of Scottish and English gentry are stuck together during a snowstorm. <SPOILER>Quinn starts us off with Catriona and John, the Duke of Bretton; James takes Fiona and Byron, the Earl of Oakley; and Brockway winds us up with Lady Cecily and Robin, Comte de Rocheforte. <SPOILERR The fact that they were brought together by a kidnapping by Byron and Robin’s uncle, well that’s what brings a freshness to Willing.

Taran Ferguson has a dilemma. The Scottish Laird is a widower with no heir and his sisters had the nerve to marry an Englishman and a Frenchman, each giving him a half-Scot nephew. Taran does not feel these nephews are up to snuff, as neither of them are showing the proper Scottish attitude to inherit Finovair Castle, particularly in the matrimony department. Having drunk a bit too much, Taran hatches an ingenious scheme. He’ll raid a ball at a nearby castle and kidnap several eligible young ladies, forcing his nephews to choose one.

Unfortunately, as most schemes hatched at the bottom of a scotch bottle, Taran doesn’t quite end up with what he bargained for. He does kidnap three heiresses, (although one of them is ruined and not marriage material,) but he also ends up with Miss Catriona Burns, lovely but poor and untitled, and the Duke of Bretton. One was scooped up in all the excitement, the other was sleeping in his carriage. I’ll leave you to imagine which is which. The octet is quickly trapped in the castle by a massive snowstorm, forcing everyone together into a great big orgasmic lovefest.

As with Likely, Quinn is hamstrung by going first and again her couple falls in love and agrees to wed in about the span of an afternoon. I really must pick up some of her longer books to see if she’s able to build tension when given more than 24 hours. This time there is external conflict carried through the entire novel, which greatly elevates everyone’s plotting, but the major conflict remains societal expectations and class. This section is no exception, dealing mostly with the heroine's feelings of unworth when compared to her intended. I thought her hero did the best at reassuring the H and I felt their connection most strongly.

James continues to be my least favorite of the trio with a can’t miss plot involving feuding sisters, Jane Austen, and a man who fell to his death trying to commit rape. And what does the plot resort to? Jealous alpha males compromising women and magical virginity detecting penises. I will say Fiona was my favorite of the three heroines and I really liked her chapter by herself in the barn. Shame about her hero. I enjoyed the novella more than James’ previous.

Brockway closes with a flatly ridiculous confection that is nonetheless humorous and charming, Her characters can lack depth, but they’re endearing and work well together. I don’t feel like we learn enough about Cecily to root for her specifically, as her characterization is the only one that feels like it was written by a different author. Her hero blends seamlessly with the rest of the book, making me think it’s not a mark against Brockway so much as an oversight when working with multiple personalities.

The end is typical full-blown fantasy, with a massive, multi-person wedding ending just as the pass opens and everyone’s father comes streaming in, out for blood. Of course, one look at how happy their daughters are, all is forgiven and no one’s reputation suffers. 9 months later, there are a gaggle of babies for everyone to coo over and silly things, like the fact that someone’s inheritance just got totally knackered, are forgotten. The end.

An easy, enjoyable read, the book mostly focuses on romantic love and less on the erotic. There is one steamy love scene, personally marred for me by the aforementioned virginity detecting peen, and a few fade to black moments. For the most part, everyone is satisfied with kisses and vows of undying love. There is no resolution to the conflict: once the person is beaten, they magically turn nice and get a happy ending too. The Lady Most Willing is sugar and spice and everything nice, a bubbly Christmas Regency without the overt holly and ivy. Bright and fun, but probably not destined to stick with me forever. 4 out of 5 stars. 

Book Tour Review: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Title: The Lincoln Conspiracy 
Author: Timothy L. O'Brien
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 353 (hardcover edition)
Published: September 2012
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him

From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O’Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital, into bawdy houses and back alleys where ruthless enemies await him in every shadowed corner. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

Bristling with twists and building to a climax that will leave readers gasping, The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion.

Historical fiction set in post-Civil War America is far from my forte or an time period I read much about, but when I was offered a chance to read The Lincoln Conspiracy as part of a blog tour, I couldn't resist. From the title to the cover to the blurb, this is a book that seemed right up my alley. Lincoln is one of those Presidents that will always intrigue and interest me and I was curious to see what type of individual spin O'Brien would use for his version of the events around the assassination. Timothy O'Brien proves himself a more than able storyteller in his easy-to-envision version of Lincoln's American. This wasn't a perfect read for me, but I was impressed enough with the author's style and imagination to be more than willing to read another book of his down the road. His obvious enthusiasm for American history and this particular time period shine through the narrative, and is one of the most compelling components to a well-constructed novel. 

Though I was interested in both the plot and the protagonist of Temple McFadden, the novel started off slowly for me. There's action and adventure and gunfights from the first chapter, but I wasn't fully involved in the plot being unwound until about halfway through the novel, and had a hard time being fully engaged in the story. I think that the introduction is so frenetic and fast-paced, I was left without a firm impression on who the key players were and what their motivations were towards the diaries. The suspense was not as heavy or all encompassing as I would have expected for a thriller novel about uncovering an assassination conspiracy; again I believe that is the result of breakneck speed at which everything happens in Temple's dogged and dangerous investigation. That isn't to say that I wasn't eventually caught up in the plot and reveals, but that it just took a while longer than I would have liked. Once The Lincoln Conspiracy starts hitting on all cylinders, it is an entertaining and vivid look at the fallout from one of America's most shocking events.

Coinciding with O'Brien's obvious knowledge and love for the time/area shown, it's easy to get a good feel for postbellum Washington, D.C. The scenery and the various aspects of the city are always described and so easy to imagine. Such detail is worked into the narrative easily, and doesn't distract from the main focus of the momentum that O'Brien started off with. Appearances from well-known historical personages - from Pinkerton to Lafayette Baker to Mary and Robert Todd Lincoln - are fun additions while adding to the overall benefit of the story. The main characters can come across as slightly blasé and flat, but for the most part, they are wildly disparate and well-rounded people with unique motivations and personalities. I thought the secondary and tertiary characters were great additions - and ones that often stole the show from Temple and his various antagonists.

I did have some issues with dialogue and vocabulary of the novel. Sometimes the interactions between characters and how they talked felt just off to me, but it was an intermittent problem and so small of a one that didn't distract me too much from the story itself. I also felt very uncomfortable with how many times the n-word was used - authentic or not. While that may be how the populace talked and addressed other races at the time, I will never be okay with reading it. A personal issue, to be quite honest, and one I don't begrudge the author for using. O'Brien is authentic to history in so many ways over the course of the novel, and my personal attitudes didn't drastically impact my reaction to the novel. Just be warned, it is used frequently.

The twist at the end is a good one, if not a wholly unexpected turn of events. Those familiar with conspiracies about Lincoln's death will half-expect how things turn out with the conspiracy, but O'Brien is more than capable of  managing to manipulate a different ending than the one I assumed it would be. If The Lincoln Conspiracy ends with less solid resolution than I think it deserved, it is still a rewarding, engaging and creative novel about an interesting time, peopled with well-drawn characters.

Don't miss the other stops in store for this fast-paced thriller! 

Tuesday, November 13
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Always With a Book

Wednesday, November 14
Review at The Relentless Reader

Thursday, November 15
Review & Giveaway at The Novel Life
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Relentless Reader

Friday, November 16
Author Interview at The Novel Life

Monday, November 19
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Review at Lit Addicted Brit
Author Interview at Tribute Books

Tuesday, November 20
Review at The Bookworm
Feature & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, November 21
Review at Crystal Book Reviews
Author Guest Post at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Friday, November 23
Review at Sir Read A Lot

Monday, November 26
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, November 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Author Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Book Journey
Review at My Reading Room
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 29
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Author Interview at My Reading Room

Friday, November 30
Review at Impressions in Ink

Monday, December 3
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Giveaway at A Writer's Life: Working with the Muse

Tuesday, December 4
Review at Paperback Princess
Review at Cheryl's Book Nook

Wednesday, December 5
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Stiletto Storytime
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Paperback Princess

Thursday, December 6
Review at One Book at a Time
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Review: Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks

Saturday, November 10, 2012
Title: Wards of Faerie
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Dark Legacy of Shannara
Pages: 384 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: August 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

When the world was young, and its name was Faerie, the power of magic ruled—and the Elfstones warded the race of Elves and their lands, keeping evil at bay. But when an Elven girl fell hopelessly in love with a Darkling boy of the Void, he carried away more than her heart.

Thousands of years later, tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. Elves have distanced their society from the other races. The dwindling Druid order and its teachings are threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl’s heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous—as Aphenglow quickly learns when she’s set upon by assassins.

Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. For whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come. But Aphenglow and her allies—Druids, Elves, and humans alike—remember the monstrous history of the Demon War, and they know that the Four Lands will never survive another reign of darkness. But whether they themselves can survive the attempt to stem that tide is another question entirely.

This was a struggle for me, from beginning to end. Of the twenty+ Shannara serues novels Brooks has published to date, I've read fourteen and never have I had as hard a time finishing as I did here with Wards of Faerie. A novel nearly four hundred pages in length should feel and read more than as filler and introductory information. While there is a conflict and climax, both are minimal, predictable, and reminiscent of many other Shannara novels. A disappointment from a well-known author, Terry Brooks can and has done better than this latest effort.  Almost uniformly flat and uninvolving, fans of this long-running (and soon to be adapted to tv series) will do better to stick to Brooks' earlier, and much better executed, Shannara novels.

While my enthusiasm for Shannara books has waned with each new novel and my exposure to more creative examples of fantasy, Brooks usually at least manages to entertain with his incredibly fleshed-out world and usually interesting and well-rounded characters. Not so is the case with Wards of Faerie. Once again, an Elessedil heir is searching for a set of Elfstones (as seen in Elfstones of Shannara), while wrestling with foes from the Federation (as seen in nearly every Shannara novel written.) Once again an Ohmsford descendant is required to save the world (again, as seen in _every_Shannah_novel_ever), no matter that the popular family tree has whittled down to two heirs (sound familiar?). Brooks clearly has a pattern for these books, and a little invention or deviation from the known path would have done much to save this anticlimactic and formulaic fantasy novel.

This novel is a lot of time invested for very little payoff. It's not rewarding to read those three hundred eighty four pages because the entire novel reeks of set-up and introduction. New characters (even if set on predictable paths) fail to engage, the plot feels extremely recycled and old-hat. There's so little to recommend about this novel - it's really a shame that 35 years after this world was created, it has so little to offer new and old readers. Brooks is comfortable in his ironclad paths of writing, but a little more imagination in Wards of Faerie would have made for a much better, more original novel. It might be written passably well - Brooks definitely has a vibrant setting to work with - but the lack of action, the lack of advancement is a major player in why this novel is such a miss. 

Sadly for a sometimes/used to be major fan, I found this to be a vastly unsatisfying latest effort from a fantasy juggernaut. In the plainest terms, Brooks' latest effort is a typical, very predictable, slowly paced, usually frustrating 2/5. Some credit is due for the richly imagined world (though that owes more to the multitude of novels before this that helped to fashion it). Far from the best to offer out of the series, Wards of Faerie could use some work - tightening, plotting, and pacing.
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