Ensnared Cover Reveal!

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love the Splintered series by A.G. Howard, a modern-day Goth spin on “Alice in Wonderland.” The trilogy, started with Splintered (reviewed here) and Unhinged (reviewed here), will conclude with Ensnared in January. The author has been doing a week-long cover reveal that concluded today on Two Chicks on Books. The cover showcases Jeb:

Ensnared Final Cover

Ensnared Final Cover (Amulet Books/ABRAMS)

If you saw the preliminary cover, which was yanked after it was accidentally posted on Edelweiss, you should agree that this is a big improvement. I generally don’t care for Jeb as a character (I’m a Morpheus fan), but this Jeb looks sympathetic and vulnerable (as opposed to the almost villainous looking Jeb on the prelim cover). I love that it’s red, so it looks great with the other two covers from the series.

Splintered Series Covers

Splintered Series Covers

Ensnared will release in hardcover and ebook formats on January 6, 2015. Are you excited? I’m excited!

 

Doctor Who: The Bog Warrior (Time Trips Series) by Cecelia Ahern

I’m always up for a Tenth Doctor story, so requesting this ARC was a no-brainer.

The Bog Warrior ebook cover (Random House UK/Ebury Publishing)

The Bog Warrior ebook cover (Random House UK/Ebury Publishing)

PLOT: This is a version of Cinderella, with all the details you expect to find in a Cinderella story, but a bit more menacing all around. And with zombies. And the Tenth Doctor.

MY TWO CENTS:  It’s a short story, so (duh) it’s really short. This is set at a time when the Tenth Doctor is companionless, so he’s on his own when he stumbles into the plot. This allows him to quickly (but lightly) bond with the protagonists. He certainly acts like the Tenth Doctor,  which helps the reader believe in the story. On the other hand, you just don’t get much time to bond with the other characters, and yet that seems okay.

BOTTOM LINE: A cute little story, but not super-special. The Cinderella connection is amusing, but it’s all just a pleasant diversion. If you’re missing Ten and want a little bit of a story, then go for it. If you’re looking for more character development, this won’t fulfill you.

TEACUP RATING: I give it around three out of five teacups. I’m not sure I’d want to reread it, but it doesn’t stop me from looking into other Time Trips stories.

ON SALE DATE: The Ebook version of The Bog Warrior and other individual Time Trips short stories are available now; the entire Time Trips Collection will be published in hardcover on March 3, 2015.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

I’ve always been interested in the Romanovs and have read a couple of nonfiction books about them. I had never read a book focused specifically on the Grand Duchesses, and Helen Rappaport is a new author to me, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The Romanov Sisters Front Cover (St. Martin's Press)

The Romanov Sisters Front Cover (St. Martin’s Press)

THE COVERAGE: The book begins with the courtship of Nicholas II and Alexandra, with a special emphasis on Alexandra’s background. It then follows through the birth of all the children, discussing their servants and caregivers, special friends, and major milestones. It pretty much ends with the removal to the “House of Special Purpose,” with no details on the execution. (The author says very early on in the book that this will be the case, and says the details are covered in her other book on the subject, The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg.)

The day-to-day of the Romanov family is revealed chiefly from primary sources: letters from Queen Victoria to her granddaughter, Alexandra; letters from the Grand Duchesses to friends and relatives; quotes from interviews of revolution survivors who knew the family intimately; and the surviving diary entries of the entire family. Although the focus is on the sisters, Alexei is discussed throughout, along with his considerable health issues, since they had such an impact on the family’s life. Rasputin and his influences are also discussed, but not in great detail. The last quarter to third of the book discusses the family members’ various roles during WWI.

This is NOT a book on the revolution. There aren’t many specific details about the causes and major players. (Of course, some issues are discussed and referenced; but it is presented more for its effect on the family rather than a focus on the revolution itself.)

MY TWO CENTS: I like that the book references so very many primary sources. This helps the reader see what was really going on in the family. You also get a good view of how Alexandra’s poor health, reclusive nature, and withdrawal from society helped fuel the revolution from early on. These factors also kept her daughters living pretty sheltered lives…even more so than other royals of the period. I will say that it’s a pretty long book, and took me a while to read. The information is good, and the presentation is engaging, but I felt like I could only process so much information at a time. I liked that I didn’t have to read details about their imprisonment at Ipatiev House and execution.

TEACUP RATING: I give the book 3½ to 4 out of 5 teacups. I haven’t decided yet if I will look into Helen Rappaport’s other book on the Romanovs or not…but if I don’t, it’s because of the upsetting nature of the content, not any fault of the author’s. I don’t think I would reread this entire book, but it’s great to have as a reference.

ON SALE DATE: The Romanov Sisters: The Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra will be on sale in hardcover and ebook formats on June 3rd.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

A coworker suggested this book to me, and she was right: I read it as fast as my eyes would let me.

Ghost Bride Front Cover

Ghost Bride Front Cover (William Marrow/HarperCollins)

THE PLOT: It’s a little hard to explain. In Victorian-era Malaya, Chinese-descended Li Lan is approached by a wealthy family to become a ghost bride for their deceased son, Lim Tian Ching. While taking the offer would guarantee her comfort for the rest of her life, she’d also be stuck as a “widow” forever. Her father, an opium addict, wants her to make the deal to ensure her future, but Li Lan declines. Then her prospective ghost husband starts haunting her, his family starts “courting” her, and she becomes enamored of the family’s new heir, Tian Bai. But Lim Tian Ching believes his cousin Tian Bai poisoned him. An unexpected incident catapults Li Lan into the spirit world and on a journey of discovery.

MY TWO CENTS: My coworker recommended this book because she knows I love the Miyazaki film “Spirited Away,” and she said this reminded her of that. I completely agree. If you liked “Spirited Away” or any other Miyazaki film, then you will probably like the style of this book. The plot meanders around through different characters who appear and disappear from the narrative, but everything ties together in the end. Put another way, it’s kind of an Alice in Wonderland style of book. I’ve seen negative review points that focus on the style, so if you don’t like this disjointed style, you may not like the book. I knew going into it what to expect, so it didn’t bother me at all.

I was also inspired to do a little research on the custom of ghost brides. It was interesting to find out more about the beliefs of other cultures.

BOTTOM LINE: I LOVED this book. I read a library copy, but we’ll be investing in our own copy. Remains to be seen if that will be hardcover, trade paperback, or electronic, but I definitely want to own this book. [EDIT: we picked up a hardcover, but an ebook is not out of the question.]

TEACUP RATING: Five plus teacups out of five from me. LOVED IT. Hoping for more from this author, possibly even a sequel?

ON SALE DATE: The book is currently available in hardcover and ebook formats, and will be released in trade paperback on August 5, 2014.

Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather

Trapped at the Altar is the first book in Jane Feather’s new Restoration-era series.

Trapped at the Altar Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

Trapped at the Altar Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

THE PLOT: Ariadne Daunt has lived all her sheltered life in Somerset with a family who became outlaws during the Protectorate. Now Crowell is dead, Charles II is on the throne, and the Daunts want Ari to marry her distant cousin/childhood friend Ivor Chalfont to get the Daunt family back to respectability. Rumor has it that Charles leans Catholic, and everyone know his brother and heir James is unabashedly Catholic. To tread this tightrope, the couple will head to the royal court. Ari will represent the Catholic side of the family and Ivor the Protestant, so either way the Daunts come out winners.

The only problem is that Ari is already in love with someone else, a gentle poet named Gabriel, and has no interest in marrying Ivor. When she’s forced to marry him anyway, she tells Gabriel to meet her later in London and they’ll resume their affair. She tells Ivor that she may be his wife, but she can never possibly love him when she already loves Gabriel. With Ari already planning to wreck the marriage before its begun, can these two ever become a real couple?

MY TWO CENTS: This book is reminiscent of several really good Jane Feather books (Violet, The Silver Rose) and yet doesn’t click all the way. First, Ivor seems much older than 23. (I realize to make them childhood friends, he and 20-year-old Ari had to be in the same ballpark age-wise, but that seems really young.) Second, I don’t feel that lifelong friendship between him and Ari after they’re married. I know there’s obviously friction there, but they seem like an of Feather’s other couples who married as strangers.

One thing I do like about Feather’s books is that her heroines are very rarely virginal  young debutantes. Most of her heroines have had previous lovers, or (romance taboo!) have other lovers during the course of the novel. I think this especially rings true for a country-bred hoyden like Ari. On the other hand, she may be somewhat off-putting to some readers who might find her morally challenged. After all, she was betrothed to Ivo for more than a decade, but hooked up with someone else anyway. Is that okay when the betrothal choice wasn’t hers? Does this make her less honorable? (I personally love that this heroine is flawed.)

Also, the setting is unusual for romance books: the West Country, late Restoration period, right before James II becomes king and the Monmouth Rebellion. (Eventually the action moves to London, but you have to figure that Daunt Valley will continue to play an important part in the series.)

NOTE: Ari’s family name according to the version I read is Daunt, not Carfax as advertised in the summary copy.

BOTTOM LINE: I usually find Jane Feather’s books either a solid hit or a solid miss. This one is in between, leaning more toward hit, but still with issues. And I don’t know where the rest of the series is going. I could see the entire thing being built around Ari and Ivor because I don’t really feel like their story was complete and finished…yes, they got to court and wiggled in Charles II’s inner circle, but how does their plan progress? Despite this, I’m sure we’ll see a new couple in the next book. (Maybe Madeleine Covington, the “very junior lady of the bedchamber” to the Duchess of York? You got to figure she’ll be more important once Mary of Modena becomes queen or “Queen Across the Water.”)

TEACUP RATING: Three and a half out of five teacups, with genuine interest for the next book in the series. Looking forward to reading about James II’s ascension and the Monmouth rebellion.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats on July 22, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead

I love Richelle Mead books. Flat-out love them, unapologetically. I don’t see them as “guilty pleasures”—just plain-old pleasure reading. They’re usually engaging and fairly light, easy reads. The characters are interesting, and the plots don’t require a lot of thoughtful analysis afterwards. Therefore, I was slightly taken aback by the first book in Mead’s adult “Age of X” series, Gameboard of the Gods. To begin with, it was written in third person with three narrators while her other books are first-person with one female lead. Second, it just seemed overly ambitious, maybe even heavy. I’m not saying Richelle Mead shouldn’t try to change up her game; I just didn’t love it for reasons I usually love Richelle Mead books. So on to Book 2!

The Immortal Crown front cover (Dutton/Penguin)

The Immortal Crown front cover (Dutton/Penguin)

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers from Book 1, Gameboard of the Gods.

THE PLOT: The series takes place in a dystopian society where the Republic of United North America (RUNA) is a superpower. The decline took place after a genetic disease referred to as Cain ravaged the world, and religious beliefs aren’t tolerated. But the ancient gods are rising and ready to take over the world.

In this installment, “religious investigator” Justin is still dodging being officially pledged to the god Odin, whose two ravens live in Justin’s head and provide guidance. (That sounds REALLY weird if you didn’t read the first book.) Praetorian Mae is still protecting him, and they head with a group of politicians to Arcadia (i.e.,  the country made up of the former southern United States such as Alabama). But Mae has a secret agenda of looking for her long-lost niece in the horrible Arcadian wife-and-concubine farms. An unknown goddess seems to be providing her with assistance, but what will be the price? Justin is defusing an Arcadian plot to bring religion to the RUNA, all while wondering if he should just finally cave and become Odin’s priest. And of course, he has to fight his attraction to Mae, because “claiming her” will mean he belongs to Odin. There’s some political intrigue, and also Justin’s ward, Tessa, possibly being used by various forces to stir the pot.

MY TWO CENTS: I really got into this book and wanted to keep reading to see what happened…with the exception of the Tessa sections. I just felt like all the action ground to a complete halt with her. I just don’t find Tessa that interesting of a character…which bums me out, because, hey, love the name! 😉 I wouldn’t recommend SKIPPING the Tessa chapters or anything, because you know it’s all going to tie together. But all the action is with Mae and Justin, and that’s where the reader wants to be.

As a side note, when Odin was revealed as Justin’s god in the first book, I wondered about that in light of the recent popular Thor movies. Mostly, I wondered if we were going to see this guy:

Hiddles, I love you so much.

Hiddles, I love you so much.

Okay, maybe not in this Disney/Marvel incarnation, but, you know, the character of Loki is pretty popular. All I’ll say is, keep reading.

BOTTOM LINE: Maybe I just knew better what to expect from the series this time, but I liked this installment much better than the first one. That said, I’d like to go back and reread the first one now, so I’m inclined to make that purchase when I wasn’t on the first read.

TEACUP RATING: I give it a solid 4 out of 5 teacups, maybe even a little more. I’m now fully engaged in this series.

ON SALE DATE: The Immortal Crown will be on sale in hardcover and ebook formats on May 29, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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