Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: The Smoke Hunter

The Smoke Hunter
By Jacquelyn Benson
Published: September 13, 2016

Frustrated suffragette and would-be archaeologist Ellie Mallory stumbles across a map to a city that shouldn't exist, a jungle metropolis alive and flourishing centuries after the Mayan civilization mysteriously collapsed. Discovering it would make her career, but Ellie isn't the only one after the prize. A disgraced professor and his ruthless handler are hot on her heels, willing to go any extreme to acquire the map for themselves.

To race them through the uncharted jungle, Ellie needs a guide. The only one with the expertise is maverick surveyor Adam Bates. But with his determination to nose his way into Ellie's many secrets, Bates is a dangerous partner.

As Ellie gets closer to her goal, she realizes it's not just her ambitions at stake. A powerful secret lies hidden in the heart of the city - and if it falls into the wrong hands, it could shake the very fate of the world.

My review:

Eleanora Mallory has worked very hard to get her civil service job but she longs to be out in the field working at dig sites and making discoveries. On the very day she loses her job because she was arrested (as part of a women's rights protest), she  finds an old prayer book with a map and mysterious object hidden inside. She takes it home with her to investigate further but her actions are the start of a dangerous journey as the map could lead to a lost city of gold and there are those who would kill to get it. Ellie grudgingly realizes she needs help so she reluctantly hires surveyor Adam Bates as her guide. She finds Bates infuriating and attractive in equal measure though she won't admit that even to herself. 

The Smoke Hunter reminded me of both the Indiana Jones films and The Mummy.  There is action, adventure, a little bit of history and some romance.  The novel doesn't take itself too seriously and that is part of the fun. I liked Ellie as a protagonist. She is smart and brave and while she still has much to learn she proves that the men underestimate her. Bates is pretty much Indiana Jones with a dash of Han Solo, especially when he starts calling Ellie "Princess" to annoy her. I enjoyed the interaction between Ellie and Bates and the adventure scenes especially after they arrive at the city.  I found this story to be highly entertaining and a quick read. 

If you liked The Mummy and the Indiana Jones movies consider adding The Smoke Hunter to your reading list. Other similar books include A Curious Beginning and Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List".

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

I loved the first book, Walk on Earth a Stranger and I'm a big fan of her Girl of Fire and Thorns series so I have high expectations for Like a River Glorious.

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver

This is the third book in the Amory Ames mystery series and I thought the first two books were a lot of fun. I am looking forward to reading this sometime soon.

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal

I love this historical mystery series set during WWII and this one has a plot involving a serial killer who is copying Jack the Ripper (but targeting female British spies).

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

This is a standalone novel about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland when she was a teen. I am curious to see if the author will make her a likable protagonist or give her the Queen Levana treatment. Hopefully I will like this more than Fairest.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

I can't believe I haven't read Belgravia yet. I meant to read it on my recent vacation but I ended up not packing it. 

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

I just found out about this book yesterday and I think it sounds wonderful. I like that the main character is a librarian and it is all about books.

One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi

This is the author's first Middle Grade novel and like her other books, it is set in Afghanistan. I am a huge fan of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and one of the characters from that book appears in this one too.

United by Melissa Landers

I will hopefully start this in the next couple of weeks. I just finished rereading Invaded and I can't wait to find out how the story ends.

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

I loved Ink and Bone and I've had this checked out from the library for a couple of months now so I really need to read it soon.

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

I want to finish this before the end of the year. I started rereading The Lord of the Rings earlier this year but after finishing The Two Towers, I decided to take a break from it. I think fall is the perfect time to read fantasy fiction so hopefully I'll get this finished before December!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Post (63) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Well I'm back from my family trip to Williamsburg. I had a great time and I didn't really want to come back! It is a beautiful area and I enjoyed learning more about American history. I'd wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg since I was a kid so I'm glad I finally got to go. I loved visiting the historic trade shops and learning more about how people lived. I had wanted to see the Printer, the Bindery, the Milliner and R. Charlton's Coffeehouse (because as part of the tour you get to sample historic hot chocolate which was so yummy). We also went to the Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Victory Center, Virginia Beach and Monticello. 

The highlight of my trip was seeing Monticello. It was fascinating to see where Thomas Jefferson lived and learn more about his life. What made the visit even more special was that I was reading America's First Daughter, a novel about Jefferson's oldest daughter, during the time of my visit. It was neat to see places described in the book in person. I only wish we could have toured the whole house. Maybe next time! The other highlight was seeing Liberty the Briard at Colonial Williamsburg. Liberty is often featured on Colonial Williamsburg's Instagram feed and I was excited that I got to meet her. She is such a cute dog!

Here are some pictures from our trip:

(At Colonial Williamsburg)
Liberty the Briard, the Governor's Mansion and a seamstress at the Milliner's shop

My parents and I at Monticello

My parents have fun at Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown :)

Last two weeks on my blog:

The Reader by Traci Chee (review)

Books read:

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

I thought this was a pretty good sequel to A Kiss of Deception though I did sometimes get frustrated with the characters. I can't wait to see how the story ends.

Rebound by Noelle August 

This is the second book in the Boomerang trilogy.  I didn't always like the romance but it was an entertaining and quick read.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I was so glad I got to read this around the time that I visited Monticello. It really enriched the experience. I think Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph was a really interesting person and reading this novel made me want to learn more about her and Thomas Jefferson.

I liked Eden and how she persevered in spite of all the obstacles in her way. I also liked that the book featured an interracial romance. Unfortunately I did have a few issues with the book that kept me from liking it as much as I would have otherwise.

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

I thought The Smoke Hunter was a fun adventure/romance. It was like a combination of Indiana Jones and The Mummy. I couldn't help but picture the hero as a younger Harrison Ford, especially once he started calling the heroine "Princess" to annoy her (which reminded me so much of Han Solo in Star Wars).

Books listened to:

Alienated by Melissa Landers (reread)

Invaded by Melissa Landers (reread)

Currently reading:

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

My evening book group selected this for our September book. It is a novel written in diary format and based on the author's family history. I am really enjoying it so far (I'm halfway through) but I need to finish it by Tuesday.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I am reading this on my Kindle and it is so good that I have to make myself put it down so I can read my book discussion book. I think it is definitely a timely topic and a book that will provoke strong reactions in readers.

On My TBR Pile:

United by Melissa Landers

Now that I've finished rereading the first two books in the series, I have to find out what happens in the end. I will be sad to say goodbye to the characters though.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I may be going to see the movie with my sister next month. I haven't decided yet if I want to read the book first or be surprised by the movie. With suspense stories, I think it might be worth it to watch the movie first.

New Books Received:

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (for review)

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins (for review)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (for review)

A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev (for review)

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden (for review)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (library book)

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner (library book)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Blogging Break

Greetings from Colonial Williamsburg! 

I am currently on vacation with my family and taking a much needed break. Hopefully I'll also find some time to read. Be back next week!

Note: the picture is a generic photo from CW and not one I took. I hope to share some pictures of my trip when I get back to blogging.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: The Reader

The Reader
By Traci Chee
Published: September 13, 2016

A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone
Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

My review:

The Reader is a creative fantasy with convoluted storytelling that takes a little time to get used to. There is the story of Sefia who is on a quest to save her aunt and get vengeance for her family with the help of Archer, a mute young man she rescues. There is also the story of Lon, a young man who becomes an Apprentice Librarian and the story of the legendary pirate Captain Reed and his crew. There are a lot of characters and various settings to take in but in the end all of the stories mesh together in a way that (mostly) makes sense.

Sefia is used to being on the run since her dad died. She and "Aunt" Nin travel from place to place ahead of whoever it is that killed Sefia's father. When Nin is captured, Sefia is on her own. She stumbles across Archer on her search and the two of them form a friendship even though he can't speak. Sefia is determined to reach Nin but she isn't always cautious about tracking down information which gets her into trouble. I found Sefia to be frustrating at times because she is so open and naive for someone with experience of being on the run from enemies. She is both brave and rash in her actions. She is smart enough to basically teach herself to read but yet she doesn't show any caution in confronting enemies she doesn't understand. She reminded me a little of Arya Stark!

I enjoyed the stories about Captain Reed but then I do like pirate stories and movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Princess Bride. At first it was confusing to figure out how his story fit with Sefia's and why it was important. I am looking forward to finding out more about him hopefully in the sequel.

The magical world is never fully explained. I still have many questions. Why are books so rare and what is the purpose of the shadowy organization in charge of everything? I hope more answers will be found in the next book. 

I was expecting something a little more like Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine or Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan but The Reader reminded me more of Soundless by Richelle Mead. Overall I enjoyed this fantasy though I think readers who are new to fantasy or not as patient to let the story unfold may find themselves giving up on it which would be a shame. They'd be missing out on a great story.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Top Ten Favorite TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Favorite TV Shows".

Gilmore Girls

My favorite show of all time, this is a smart and funny show with a great mother-daughter relationship at its center as well as the complicated relationship between Lorelai and her own parents. Of course I also loved the secondary characters and the romance between Lorelai and Luke. I'm so glad we get to see some more episodes this fall!

Downton Abbey

I am still mourning the loss of Downton Abbey. While I know it couldn't be on forever, I wish we'd had a few more seasons, maybe through the rest of the 20s. Now I'm left worrying about what happened to them during the stock market crash and recession and if George survived WWII. Who knows, maybe like Upstairs Downstairs we'll get to find out what happens to them later on.


I didn't really become a fan of Friends till it was nearly over. I wasn't allowed to watch it when I was a teen and I didn't keep up with it in college so I mostly caught up through reruns. I still enjoy watching old episodes even though I know what happens. So glad it's on Netflix!

Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances was already off the air when I started watching it. My parents love it too. Something about that British sense of humor and seeing Hyacinth's failed attempts at social climbing makes me laugh. I guess that the BBC just showed a special called Young Hyacinth. I hope they'll show it here eventually. Of course it won't be the same without Patricia Routledge and the original cast.


This comedy series reminds me of Keeping Up Appearances. Frasier and Niles act pretty posh and like to put on airs though their lovable dad is very down-to-earth. I still enjoy watching reruns and have some favorite episodes I watch every year like Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz and The Seal Who Came to Dinner. Makes me laugh every time :)

Jane the Virgin

This is a dramedy I'd recommend to fans of Gilmore Girls. When I first heard of this show (without knowing what it was about), I had no interest in watching it. That's until I read some glowing reviews after the first episode aired. I started watching and I was hooked. I love the close relationship between Jane, her mom and her grandmother. I enjoy the over the top references to telenovelas (Jane the Virgin is based on one) and Jaime Camil as telenovela star Rogelio (also Jane's dad). And of course I love Jane's sweet love interest, Michael. #TeamMichael

The Flash

As a (maybe former) fan of Arrow, I decided to give The Flash a try though I wasn't sure I'd like it. I am so glad I did! I actually prefer The Flash to Arrow which can be too grim or slow moving ;) The Flash has a lot of humor and a lighter tone, especially the first season. I am curious to see how things will change in season 3. Unlike Arrow, I really like the characters and character development too.

Game of Thrones

I really enjoyed this latest season and can't wait to see what happens next. 

Once Upon a Time

Admittedly I didn't watch the last half of the most recent season (though I plan to). My favorite season is still the first and I have lost some of my love for the show but it is great characters like Regina (the Evil Queen) that keep me watching (as opposed to  the very boring Snow White and her prince). I'm hoping this next season will be better as it is supposed to be more focused on Regina.

The Great British Bake-Off

Here in the U.S., it's called The Great British Baking Show and they've only shown 3 seasons on PBS but I am addicted. I even got my mom to watch the first season on Netflix. Unlike American cooking and baking shows, the contestants are really nice to each other and help each other out. Even the judges are nicer (though critical too). Plus they show all kinds of unusual desserts and you get to learn British baking terms. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday Post (62) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe it is Labor Day weekend already. It feels like summer just started! I am busy with preparations for my trip to Williamsburg this coming weekend. I have to pack, figure out food (my mom doesn't want to cook but my dad doesn't want to eat out much), and finalize the itinerary. I bought some tickets already but for the other things we will wait till we get there. I hope Hermine doesn't affect the area too badly. We are going to spend a few days at Colonial Williamsburg, one day at Monticello and one day at the Jamestown Settlement as well as a visit to Virginia Beach where my mom's best friend lives. I am trying to decide about the Yorktown Victory Center as it is under renovation so a lot of the exhibits are closed. 

This past week my book group met at a winery to discuss Eight Hundred Grapes, a book about a family and their winery. We had a wine tasting and then talked about the book over dinner. It was a fun evening. 

With fall on the way, I've started planning fall programs. I don't have much of a budget left but I want to have one more murder mystery dinner before the year is out. The company I use has a library murder mystery that I thought sounded like a lot of fun. I also can save some money by not decorating and using the library as the setting instead of our really boring meeting room. I am also showing a few movies starting with Love & Friendship and Me Before You. I watched both movies earlier this week. I thought the book version of Me Before You is much better than the movie. Love & Friendship was confusing at first but I really liked it in the end.

Last two weeks on my blog:

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms (review)
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (review)

Books read:

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Did you know that there are 800 grapes in a bottle of wine? That is just one of the wine related facts I learned from this novel. My book group had fun picking this book apart (I liked it more than some of the other members) though we did enjoy the details about wine making and the excuse to meet at a winery :)

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

Another enjoyable entry in the Royal Spyness series. Although the mystery wasn't as satisfactory as in some of the other titles, I still liked catching up with Georgie and other favorite characters. 

The Reader by Traci Chee

I liked this fantasy novel though it definitely took awhile to get into the story and it was a bit confusing at times.

Books listened to:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reread)

Summerlost by Ally Condie

I was looking for an audiobook to listen to from Overdrive and came across Ally Condie's MG novel. I thought it was really cute and an enjoyable book to listen to.

Currently reading:

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

I am finally reading this sequel to A Kiss of Deception and I'm on hold for a copy of the final book, The Beauty of Darkness. I loved A Kiss of Deception and this book is pretty good too. I have heard some negative things about the last book though.

Currently listening to:

Alienated by Melissa Landers (reread)

When I came across this audiobook on Overdrive, I thought it might be fun to listen to the series again before I read the last book, United. I am really enjoying listening to this. I am picky about narrators for YA fiction but I like the narration, even for Aelyx. This book is kind of timely too.

On my TBR pile:

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I bought this when it was a Kindle Daily Deal (it's still $1.99 last I checked) and thought it would be the perfect book to read now as I am going to be visiting Monticello next week. 

Invaded by Melissa Landers (reread)

I may just buy this on audio to listen to instead of rereading my e-book copy but I want to remind myself of what happens before I start reading United. That will have to wait till I'm back from vacation.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

I thought this would be a fun book to read on my vacation. I've heard it is excellent. My only issue will be if I can fit it in my bag with all the other stuff I have to take :) I may have to wait till I get back to start this one since it isn't on my Kindle.

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

I am really looking forward to reading this soon. I think it would be another fun vacation read. 

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

I was so excited to get an ARC of this book. Rae Carson is one of my favorite authors and I loved the first book, Walk on Earth a Stranger.

New books received:

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz (for review)

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson (for review)

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson (for review)

The Possibility of Somewhere by Julie Day (for review)

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (purchased)

The Rules of Love & Grammar by Mary Simses (library book)

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (library book)

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (library book)