Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen
By C.J. Redwine
Published: February 16, 2016

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My review:

Lorelai's father was the king of Ravenspire and when the queen died, he married her older sister Irina. Like Lorelai and her mother, Irina practices magic and is a powerful mardushka. Lorelai and Irina share a close relationship with Irina teaching Lorelai about her magical abilities but Lorelai starts to notice strange things going on in the kingdom and how Irina seems to have control over everyone. Lorelai tries to save her kingdom from Irina but everything goes wrong and her father loses his life. 

Now years later, she and her little brother Leo are hiding and Irina believes they are dead. Irina's magic is destroying the land and the people are suffering. Lorelai and Leo have been stealing from Irina and getting supplies to the villages but it is not enough. They must move up their plans to overthrow Irina. Unfortunately it will be even harder than they anticipate as she now has the help of a dragon king. After the sudden deaths of his father, mother and brother Kol is not really prepared to be king but he is prepared to do what he must to save his people. He agrees to hunt down a traitor to the crown, not knowing the truth until it is too late. 

I mostly liked this retelling of Snow White especially because the heroine is not passive or perfect. Lorelai is unsure of herself and her magical ability. She feels a lot of guilt and responsibility over what happened with her father among other things. Lorelai has to learn to believe in herself and to develop her magical ability so she can defeat Irina. I thought the concept of the Eldr was interesting. We see only a little of their world but I liked what I did see. I was not a big fan of the romance however. I can't quite figure out why. I liked Kol but perhaps it was the whole "I want to kill you" thing even though those thoughts were not his own. The villain Irina is very reminiscent of Charlize Theron's character Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman. She is creepy and evil but doesn't have much depth beyond that. Perhaps I am just spoiled by Once Upon a Time which gives its villains such depth (especially since the TV show allows time for that kind of character development).

In spite of my issues with the book I still enjoyed the story and would probably read the next book which will be a companion novel set in the same world. I think readers who like twists on fairy tales and fans of Once Upon a Time or Snow White and the Huntsman would like this. I think the book may also appeal to readers who liked the Lunar Chronicles.

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten 5 Star Reads

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 Recent 5 Star Reads".

I've only given one 5 star rating this year (not including favorite books I've reread like Pride and Prejudice) so these are mostly from 2015. Of all the books, The Nightingale is my absolute favorite. 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Post (45) / 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.

Happy first day of spring! It is ironic that the high is in the low 40s today and there is snow in the forecast but I guess that isn't too unusual for Ohio in March! 

This week I will be heading to my parents' house on Wednesday. I was already planning to go home this weekend to celebrate Easter and my dad's upcoming birthday but on Wednesday my mom will be getting the results of her bone marrow biopsy and I wanted to be there for that. The doctor believes she knows what the result will be so I've been doing some research to be prepared but I'm also praying that the doctor is wrong and we get good news. It wouldn't be the first time my mom has stumped science.

The library's Celtic music concert on Tuesday was a big success. There weren't enough chairs for all the people in attendance so I saw some folks standing up in the back. The music was fantastic. A local musician and instrument maker played the harp, various kinds of pipes, and even an accordion at one point. He played mostly Celtic music with a few movie songs that had a Celtic feel also included (In Dreams from The Lord of the Rings, Misty Mountains from The Hobbit and A Narnia Lullaby from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe). Since my music programs are usually poorly attended I was thrilled. I definitely plan to invite him back for next year! 

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

I did much better with my steps this week which made me really happy! I exercised on most days this week but what really helped me get my steps in was shopping! I needed some retail therapy and spending an afternoon in Barnes and Noble on Wednesday did wonders for me both mentally and physically :)

Unfortunately I did not eat a very healthy diet and Girl Scout cookies and chocolate were on the menu (though I did have a few healthy things like oatmeal, spinach and broccoli too). While I plan to try to eat healthier this week I have a feeling I won't succeed. I'm sure we'll have birthday cake for my dad and my parents usually ply me with chocolate every time I visit!

Sunday--6,398 steps
Monday--6,435 steps
Tuesday--10,511 steps
Wednesday--11,218 steps
Thursday--10,814 steps
Friday--12,092 steps
Saturday--12,069 steps

Last week on my blog:

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix (review)

Books read:

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I liked this book though I preferred the historical fiction part to the paranormal fantasy stuff. That aspect reminded me a little bit of Cassandra Clare's books with the demon-like Deceivers. I definitely liked her YA fantasy novel Eon more than this one though I may read the sequel just to find out what happens.

Books listened to:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)

I enjoyed this audio book version of Pride and Prejudice. I thought the narration was well done and it was just fun to revisit a favorite novel. Now I want to watch the miniseries again. I may also check out some other Jane Austen novels on audio book. With my upcoming road trip I need to find something good to listen to!

Currently reading:

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

Not much progress made this week. I am at the part where Frodo and Sam discover that Gollum is still following them. Things are about to get interesting.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I like this book so far. Something about the writing style reminds me a little of Liane Moriarty. The main character is in her late 30s and with her husband's sudden loss of job has to leave her beloved part time job as a magazine book reviewer to take a full time job, meaning less time to spend with the kids too.

On my TBR pile:

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I am moving this contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice up on my TBR pile because I think it would be fun to read it so soon after rereading the original. I've never read anything by Curtis Sittenfeld but I hope I will enjoy this novel.

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace

I thought the first book in this series was fantastic (The Storyspinner) and it sort of ended on a cliffhanger so I am eager to read The Skylighter to find out what happens next.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

New books received:

See How They Run by Ally Carter (from the library)

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews (for review)

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (for review)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review: Newt's Emerald

Newt's Emerald
By Garth Nix
Published: October 13, 2015

After Lady Truthful's magical Newington Emerald is stolen from her she devises a simple plan: go to London to recover the missing jewel. She quickly learns, however, that a woman cannot wander the city streets alone without damaging her reputation, and she disguises herself as a mustache-wearing man. During Truthful's dangerous journey she discovers a crook, an unsuspecting ally, and an evil sorceress—but will she find the Emerald?

My review:

Lady Truthful Newington is supposed to inherit the Newington Emerald and on her 18th birthday, her father brings it out so she and her cousins can see it. When the emerald is stolen, Truthful decides to go to London to look for it herself. She stays with her aunt, a talented sorceress who is able to disguise Truthful as a man.  In the guise of a French gentleman and distant cousin, Truthful hopes to find out who took the emerald and retrieve it. Unfortunately she discovers that the thief was a powerful malignant sorceress who may be planning to use the emerald to free Napoleon from his prison. In the course of her search, Truthful also meets the handsome and infuriating Major Harnett who decides to help her find the emerald. 

This is a charming historical fantasy set during the Regency period. It is an homage to Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen but with magic. I enjoyed the story and the development of the romance. There is humor as well as a little bit of suspense and adventure. I think the author did a good job of blending the historical Regency romance with just a touch of fantasy. Truthful is a fun heroine. She is plucky and resourceful and I loved how she saved herself and Major Harnett from scrapes. 

I have never read Georgette Heyer (something I need to remedy) but I think readers who love Jane Austen would like this book as well as fans of Gail Carriger's Etiquette & Espionage series, Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl and A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin. I listened to the audio book version of the novel and I thought the narration was well done, particularly for Truthful's voice. I really enjoyed Newt's Emerald and I hope Garth Nix writes more novels like it.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss but I ended up listening to the finished audio book instead

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top Ten Books on My Spring 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 Spring TBR List"

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Post (44) / 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 am glad to be back this week! Last week was pretty rough with my mom's illness. She was hospitalized for just under a week and we found out she had hypothermia and anemia. She is doing much better now. She has some followup appointments this week and next week and has to get a bone marrow biopsy done so the hematologist can figure out why her hemoglobin is low. We were initially afraid that her symptoms were due to a return of the encephalitis so that was a big relief that it wasn't. Now she is at home with my dad who is taking good care of her and checking her body temperature regularly (at one point before she was hospitalized it was under 92 and in the hospital it was 93 until they used the Bair Hugger to warm her up). They never did figure out why her body temperature gets so low but they suggested that she dress warmly and drink hot liquids to counteract it. 

Work has been kind of stressful since I got back on Wednesday because I realized that I am very behind in advertising the Edible Book Festival. I just got the registration forms done and I did get a supportive news reporter to write an article about the event which should help get the word out. I felt so bad because I didn't think about when that stuff needed to be done (February) so we could advertise in March even though the event itself is not till April 12th. I am a little worried that participation won't be as good this year.

This week my library is hosting a Celtic music concert at our local coffee house. I think we get better attendance that way for some reason. Unless a band already has a big following my music programs at the library have been a bust. I do have a jazz pianist scheduled for May at the library but I am thinking of seeing if we can move the venue though it may not be necessary as he has played well attended concerts in the area before. We'll see how Tuesday goes. So far I think there are around 20 people planning to attend which is really good.

Yesterday I participated in the 24Hr Take Control Read-a-thon and read three library books. I didn't spend the whole day reading or I might have managed another book or two. It was kind of relaxing to just sit and read. I am also signed up for the March Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge. I am so behind on reading and reviewing ARCs so I thought it would be good motivation.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

With my mom's health issues and my own back muscle injury I was only able to exercise and make my step goal one day last week. I hope that this coming week will be better. I started the day off with a 45 minute workout and my back didn't bother me at all so that's a good sign! It is hard to get back into the habit of exercise when I fall out of it. I am also not a fan of the time change and it will be difficult to get up early because it will feel like it is 4 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. Fortunately I can ease into it because I work Monday and Tuesday evening this week and I have Wednesday off.

Sunday--5,216 steps
Monday--4,981 steps
Tuesday--10,625 steps
Wednesday--4,411 steps
Thursday--3,236 steps
Friday--5,553 steps
Saturday--984 steps

Last week on my blog:

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (review)
Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth (review)

Books read:

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

I enjoyed this Regency historical fantasy. It was funny and had a little mystery and romance too. My review will be up later this week.

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany

This novel is about a young and irresponsible mother who gives up custody of her daughters to the state and what happened to those daughters who are now grown women. I think the author did a good job of helping us to understand what Jennifer (the mom) goes through as well as her daughters Brooke and Natalie. I felt sorry for all of them though I had more sympathy for the girls and found Natalie to be the easiest to relate to.

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

I mostly liked this retelling of Snow White. The evil queen Irina reminded me of Charlize Theron's Queen Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman and thankfully Lorelai was nothing like Snow White from that movie.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

This is our afternoon book discussion selection this month. I'd noticed this book at the library before and I saw it on several book club lists in the past but I probably wouldn't have read it if it wasn't voted on and I am so glad it was. I really liked it. The novel reminded me of Nicholas Sparks but for Christian fiction readers and without the strong focus on romance.

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

This short story collection from the Lunar Chronicles had some real gems. Some of the stories I'd already read in e-book form but I loved the new material especially finding out more about Michelle Benoit and her connection to Cinder as well as the romantic final story that included a wedding (not saying whose!). I'd say it was well worth reading for fans of the series.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This book was amazing. I wasn't familiar with the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustlaf before I read it. I liked the historical details and loved the characters (except for Alfred). Joana was a minor character in Between Shades of Gray (she is Lina's cousin) and Lina is mentioned but this book can definitely be read as a standalone. 

His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison

This is the second book in the Linda Wallheim mystery series but I still haven't read the first book (The Bishop's Wife). It was interesting learning more about Mormon beliefs and culture. The story presented a sticky situation when the bishop's right hand man is murdered and the autopsy reveals that victim Carl Ashby was biologically female. In addition to the murder investigation the book takes a look at transgender and homophobia within the LDS community.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I'm so glad I finally read this graphic novel. It was a lot of fun! I loved the shapeshifting feisty Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart who grudgingly takes her on as his evil villain sidekick only to become genuinely fond of her.  The story is entertaining and I liked the illustrations. I hope there will be another book!

Currently reading:

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I made a little progress with my reread and just got to the first chapter with Frodo and Sam.

Currently listening to:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)

I like Rosamund Pike and her narration is pretty good though I'm not a fan of her voice for Mrs. Bennet. I've never listened to an audio book version of Pride and Prejudice so I can't compare her voice to other narrators. It has been fun revisiting the story on my work commute though. I'm at the part where Lizzy is visiting Charlotte and Mr. Collins.

On my TBR pile:

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I hope to read this soon since it is due back at the library. I have read some mixed reviews but hopefully I will still like it.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I can't believe I never got around to reading this last summer. I am moving it up my TBR pile because I want something lighter to read.

I loved A Man Called Ove but didn't read this one last year like I'd planned. I want to read this now so I can read Britt-Marie Was Here later this spring (I believe Britt-Marie is a minor character in this book).

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

New books received:

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace (for review)

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (for review)

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (from the library)

After the Woods by Kim Savage (from the library)

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera (from the library)

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (from the library)

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard (from the library)