Tag Archives: Book Review

Blood Sisters

I snagged an early copy of Jane Corry’s new book, Blood Sisters, and let me say, I was not disappointed. I read the whole book in one day.

Blood Sisters, obviously, focuses mostly on two sisters, dealing with the aftermath of an awful childhood accident that left younger sister Kitty unable to speak or remember, and elder sister Alison riddled with guilt and anxiety. Alison is trying to make a life for herself, and takes a job teaching art in a prison. But soon she starts receiving anonymous, and ominous, notes, and she starts to realize the past may be coming to get her.

Only three people know what happened that fateful morning. Two of them have slightly but significantly different versions of the events. The third can’t remember, even though the closure everyone needs depends on her.

Blood Sisters ends up having four points of narration: one from Alison’s point of view in first person, one from Kitty’s point of view in third person, some diary entries, and, later, flashbacks from Alison’s point of view. But the narration works for the story, and it’s easy to follow the threads as they weave their way into a final picture.

Corry’s book was easy to read. It gave enough so you have a general idea of what happened, but enough misleading hints to keep you guessing about all the fine but crucial details. And just when you think you’ve figured it out and uncovered the secret, Corry reveals that there’s still more. But she does it in a way that keeps you engaged, not tiring you out from gratuitous word padding or layers of “suspense.”

Corry’s book is my latest go-to recommendation and, of course, it means her first book will have to go on my never-ending list of books to read.

So if you’re looking for an easy suspense read, be sure to check her out.

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Tempests and Slaughter

When I was a teen, Tamora Pierce was my favorite. I remember reading everything she had, waiting anxiously for the library to have what I get wanted next. So when she finally decided to write the back story of Numair, a well-known figure in the Tortall realm, I was excited. And when we got the advanced reader in at work, I and as even more so.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Numair is a child, still going by his given name, Arram Draper, only 11 years old, and follows four years of his schooling with his best friends, a smart girl called Varice, and one of the royal heirs, Ozorne.

Arram faces trials and finds that mages sometimes must do things they don’t want to do for the sake of learning, and for helping others. Arram realizes that the future he’s planned with his friends may not be possible, if he can’t reconcile himself to certain social injustices the Carthak society praises.

This book is very much a character building platform. It’s all about setting up the character, identifying certain character traits, and preparing for more action to come in following books. That said, I honestly felt that it lacked drive. The story meandered on, and I think it would have benefitted from being shortened. Even the moments of tension just fizzled out without anything really coming from it.

Additionally, at least in the very beginning, the writing style felt very childish, and that made it difficult to press on.

While I’m not writing off the series just yet, this first book was a little disappointing to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve grown out of Tortall, or if it truly isn’t quite the same as before. But, I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will take off and reestablish Pierce as one of my childhood favorites.

Micro

While it may not be obvious from my reviews, I’ve lately been enjoying dipping my toes into different kinds of science books (ok, maybe more enjoying the thought of it). Between nonfiction and fiction, I’ve been touching in several branches. The latest was a combination of several in Michael Crichton’s Micro.

Lured to Hawaii with the promise of jobs and secret technology, seven graduate students find themselves in the middle of intrigue and business politics, while fighting for their very lives. Armed with only their wits and the knowledge of their respective fields, the students realize just how big the world is.

Notwithstanding that my book was missing 10 pages near the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Only the first I’ve ready by Crichton, it seemed in keeping with his style, based on the Jurassic Park moves, full of action. To be honest, as I read, I kept thinking the story was going to take a different turn. Instead, it kept heading toward the logical conclusion, but I didn’t mind. Crichton, it seems, is an excellent author when you want an action-packed story that’s just a little different than the rest of the stuff on the shelves.

The Third Twin

I’m familiar with Ken Follett as a historical fiction author, but The Third Twin was my first taste of him as a thriller author.

Jeanie Ferrami has been doing research into the nature versus nurture question in regards to crime by studying twins, specifically those who were raised separately. But when a normal day on the university campus turns into a nightmare, Jeanie finds herself knee deep in conspiracy and cover-ups– Jeanie has uncovered identical twins born to two separate mothers.

Refusing to give up on uncovering the truth, and finding it difficult to know who she can trust, Jeannie must bring the secrets to light quickly, before she becomes another fatality to maintain the secret.

In the whole, the premise was excellent, and the story was engaging. The story moved quickly and Follett dropped enough hints to lead you along while reserving some secrets for the ending.

However, I confess I’m getting a little tired of thrillers being chock full of romance, or of relying on sexual crimes as the catalyst for the storyline. I suppose it makes sense, for the romance, because intense situations tend to create a strong bond of intimacy, but, many stories lately seem to be romance stories tucked into intense situations.

All in all, Follett didn’t disappoint. And I certainly wouldn’t pass up any of his other works on just this premise. So when you need a good, fast-paced story with romance as the underlying theme, try out one of Follett’s thrillers. You won’t be sorry you did.

Hiddensee

I decided I wanted to read Gregory Maguire’s latest book because it seemed perfect for the holidays, “A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”

Dirk is a foundling, an orphaned, abandoned child who was raised by stranger and never had a last name or a childhood. As a young boy, he sets out on his own, believing the couple who raised him had tried to kill him.

Dirk bounces from place to place, spending some time at a church where he’s given a surname, moving on to be a servant in a rich family’s summer home, a paper maker’s apprentice and finally settles himself down as a toy maker. But it seems sorrow and trouble follow him wherever he goes.

Hiddensee wasn’t so much a story about the Nutcracker as the story of the man who created him, though I suppose it does go in to the why of it. And the familiar story for Fritz and Klara turned out to be much darker than our familiar childhood story.

While it was an enjoyable book, I had expected a little more from it. I had expected it to be something more Christmassy. And perhaps it’s just because I’m not familiar with the back story of the Nutcracker and all it’s lore. But with the subtitle “A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker,” I thought it would be about him, not Drosselmeier.

That said, the book had lots of underlying themes and was quite allegorical, and I confess I probably missed half of the underlying meanings.

So, maybe when I’ve got a little more time, I’ll read it again to get some of the deeper meanings. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of Maguire, certainly check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A Conjuring of Light

The final piece of V.E. Schwab’s series, A Conjuring of Light was almost everything I wanted it to be.

In this final book, White London is awakening, but not as innocently as it seems. Kell, taken captive in the end of the second book, is quickly rescued by Lila, but they are catapulted into chaos as Osaron, the sentient, rogue magic from Black London, attempts to take over Red London.

Kell and Lila find themselves paired with unlikely allies as they set off to find the once thing that they hope can contain Osaron and save all the Londons.

This book has a lot more deaths, and meaningful, painful ones at that. But, it also has the long-awaited romance too. I’m not sure if I love or hate books and authors who leave two characters locked in romantic tension until the end. I think it must be both, because there’s something fun about crying in exasperation, “just kiss already!”

This action-packed finale wrapped up all the loose ends, except one. Kell decides he doesn’t want to know his past, even though he has a spell to find out– and is told that the memory-repressing mark on his arm is held in place largely by his unconscious desire not to know. It’s great and all, but some of us are curious and want to know, even if he doesn’t.

The series, as a whole, was excellent. The characters had depth and grew throughout the story. They felt like real people, and wrestled with real emotions, even in the midst of everything else. The writing moved the story along, and I didn’t feel like it got bogged down by fluff or filler. Even when Schwab was using the second book to develop characters and set the stage for the finale, it moved at a good pace and the development was interesting to see.

It’s a fantasy series readers will want to return to again and again. I know I will.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Lately I’ve been sticking more to plain fiction and nonfiction, because that seems to be what I have the most of right now. So dipping back into fantasy was a nice break from reality.

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic is the first installment of a story about three Londons, each in its own world. Two have magic and one has forgotten magic all together. The only way between these Londons and their worlds are doors, opened and used by two special magicians called Antari. Kell is one of these Antari, in the service of the royal family in Red London, the most thriving and magical of them all.

But Kell finds trouble and a very sinister magic when a poor woman thrusts a talisman upon him–one from Black London, the fourth London that was destroyed long ago by corrupting magic and power lust. Now Kell has to return the talisman before it can wreak havoc on the rest of the worlds. And naturally, the power-hungry rulers of White London would love nothing more than to get hold of it.

The story starts out a little fragmented, narratives of a few characters’ lives as Schwab weaves them all together into one cohesive narrative. It’s clear from the reading that she put a lot of thought into her worlds, and into the rules of her magic, which can be one of the most frustrating things for a reader (magic that just does what it wants with no clear rules). Her characters also developed well and had clear, distinct personalities.

Overall, it was a fun book to read. No grand plot twists, but the story itself was engaging enough that it didn’t suffer the lack.  As the first installment in a series, it draws readers in. And while it ties up the loose ends relevant to the plot, it leaves enough mystery that I’m ready to dive in to the second book to find answers to the underlying questions.