Category Archives: Fiction

Look for the Girl on the Golden Coin

Girl on the Golden Coin

Title: Girl on the Golden Coin: A novel of Frances Stuart

Author: Marci Jefferson

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Galley from author in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary (From Goodreads):

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

My review:

Girl on the Golden Coin is a well written and entertaining book. This is a period of history that I have little knowledge of so it was fun to be immersed in Frances Stuart’s world. She is a fascinating character and life in the court of Charles II is filled with political intrigue and danger, especially for a single woman in the Queen’s service.

Francis is one smart girl and is able to use her personality and charm to make a place for herself in England and to protect her family from destitution. As she moves her way through the court she has to decide how far she is willing to go to uphold promises made to the King of France and the Queen Mother, while also maintaining her virtue. Because of her beauty and grace she is not only loved by two kings, but by many in court as well.

Marci Jefferson’s writing style is fast paced and engaging and the book is hard to put down. All of the characters are well developed. Frances is endearing and realistic. The reader experiences dilemma after dilemma with Frances and we get to see how she maneuvers her way through her uncertain world. Charles II is not simply the king, but is a passionate man who is filled with his own inner struggles about his personal and political life.

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 bookmarks. If you like historical fiction pick up this book. Even if you are not into reading historical fiction you should read this book. The writing is fantastic and this is a fascinating time period to explore.

 

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Review for Tempered by Karina Cooper

tempered

Title: Tempered

Author: Karina Cooper

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Series: Book 4 of the St. Croix Chronicles.

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

Cherry St. Croix has been in a downward spiral since the murder of her husband on the day of their wedding. Ever since she has had one thing to comfort her as she disappeared from society and into the filthy streets of the London below: opium. However, now she has hit rock bottom and can no longer dwell in either London society or the dark underside of London.

Her guardian, Mr. Oliver Ashmore, is involved and she has to deal with something even harder to come to terms with: sobriety.

My Review:

I have been reading right along with this series and I have not been disappointed yet! In fact, I think that this was a great story because many of the plot points from the past three books have been tied up and we find Cherry up against a very different kind of enemy: herself. We are taken out of the environment of London and are placed in a more introspective place. She must battle her own demons, and eventually those of her parents. Unfortunately for Cherry, things are not straightforward with her guardian either and she learns that there was more to her parents’ lives and deaths than what she has been told.

In the last three books we have watched Cherry become more and more reliant on the opium that she has used since her days in the traveling carnival as a child. As things got worse and worse for her she spiraled down, relying on tar rather than simply a draught of opium to help her sleep. On top of this her life in the London Underground has come to an end after she was saved from total humiliation at the Menagerie.

It is painful to watch Cherry work her way through the process of becoming sober. We are right along with her as she is desperate for more opium, willing to do anything to get it, and finally stops caring about living. Ashmore is there with her as well, and since she barely knows him it is interesting to watch her learn about him in her compromised state.

The entire story is not made up of these intense emotions because she finally pulls through, but this leaves her with other aspects of her past to deal with, things that she is surprised to discover about her family and the unknown Mr. Ashmore.

My Rating:

4.5 out of 5 bookmarks. This books cannot be read out of order, so take the time to read the earlier books in the series. You will be glad that you did. I have enjoyed this entire series. This was different from the rest, making the story fresh and moving it along from the plot that had occupied the first three books. I would recommend this series to anyone who wants to read steampunk set in an alternative London. I cannot wait to read the rest of the books to find out what happens since there are still loose ends to deal with.

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Review: Sleep No More

Sleep No MoreTitle: Sleep No More

Author: Aprilynne Pike

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer:Emily Bedwell

Summary (From Goodreads): Oracles see the future but are never supposed to interfere. Charlotte learned that the hard way. If she hadn’t tried to change one of her childhood visions, her father would still be alive. Since the accident, Charlotte has suppressed her visions to avoid making the same mistake. But when she receives a premonition of a classmate’s murder, she can no longer ignore her powerful gift.

Then Charlotte meets someone who not only knows her secret but who also has a way for her to stop the killer. He offers to teach her how to manipulate her visions to change the future. But doing so will put Charlotte in the path of the murderer...

My Thoughts:

I love Aprilynne Pike. Seriously. And, I’m not going to lie; this book kind of scared the snot out of me. “Sleep No More” is unlike anything I’ve read from Pike before, and it was brilliant. Charlotte is an Oracle; someone who gets images of the future and has learned to stop them. She changed the future once and it changed everything. She won’t make that mistake ever again. Until she can’t stop the visions and she sees the murder of a classmate, then another. Now, Charlotte has a choice; she can see the visions and try and change the future or she can do nothing, be nothing and sit by knowing that her friends continue to die.

“Sleep No More” is dark, twisting and scary all at the same time. Pike creates complicated characters that are three dimensional and seem like they could be people you interact with every day. This fast-paced page turner kept me on the edge of my seat as Charlotte learned more about her family, her powerful gift, and the consequences and responsibilities of knowing what the future holds.

Final Thoughts:

Five out of five bookmarks. I loved this book.  A little bit Stephen King, a little bit Doctor Who, a little bit dark comedy and romance.

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Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

Intangible ThingsTitle: The Museum of Intangible Things

Author: Wendy Wunder

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer:Emily Bedwell

Summary from Goodreads: Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

My Thoughts:

I was not expecting this book. From the back of the cover, it looked like it was going to be a fun, last chance to relax before two girls go to college. And, in some ways, it is. It is also a heart-breaking, tragic story of mental illness, friendship and what it means to love and help the people in your life. “The Museum of Intangible Things” is about Hannah, an average New Jersey girl who wants more from life, and Zoe, who is beautiful, smart and battling some inner mental demons. Something inside Zoe snaps, and she and Hannah run out on their boring lives and chase something bigger.

It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away some things that I think are important to discover as you go through Zoe and Hannah’s story. Emotionally, I went from laughing to crying and back again depending on the chapter and the page. Zoe has to come face-to-face with the darkness inside her while Hannah tries to help her friend and find herself.

Author Wendy Wunder creates a powerful story of what friendship means, how it can define you no matter the age, and what it looks like to be willing to give everything for the friends you love.

My Rating

Four out of Five bookmarks. Beautiful, tragic and expertly written!

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The Scar Boys

Scar BoysTitle: The Scar Boys

Author: Len Vlahos

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary from Goodreads: A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

My Thoughts:

This is not my typical book. I received the ARC from a friend and thought I’d give it a chance. There were several things I loved about it: the narrator is a flawed, angry, frustrated teen who has had a rough life. He’s been bullied and burned and has very few friends. Through a series of events, he finds a good friend and a love for music.

A band, The Scar Boys, is founded and actually finds some success. Their road to a summer tour felt forced and a little made up, but I was able to give this first time author the benefit of the doubt. Overall, the book was entertaining and a strong debut. Harry Jones is a sweet kid who has been given a hard life. He lived in relative anonymity for years, trying to avoid the bullies and stay out of eyesight of anyone and everyone. Suddenly, he is in a band, and, eventually, leading the band.

“The Scar Boys” is a fun, fast read. I read it in a morning while waiting to visit the doctor! I would recommend it to people who loved books like “Wonder” or movies like “Powder.” If you’re a lover of underdogs and good music, this is the book for you!

My Rating:

Three out of Five bookmarks. A solid, easy read. It probably won’t change your life, but it’s still an entertaining story!

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Review: Just One Year

just one year cover

Title: Just One Year

Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . .

My Review:

Author Gayle Forman has created powerful characters and stories with If I Stay, Where She Went and Just One Day. Because I enjoyed all those books, I really wanted to love Just One Year. In fact, I was so excited when this book came out that I looked everywhere for it on vacation, to no avail. That said, I’m not disappointed that I didn’t find it. I liked this book fine, but didn’t find Willem’s story nearly as exciting as Allyson/Lulu’s story last year. After 24 hours in Paris with the girl of his dreams, Willem goes to get breakfast, gets attacked and never makes it back to her. He spends the next year wandering the world, never quite finding his place and hoping to figure out who she was and where she is now. Along the way, he finds himself in a Bollywood movie, being distracted by a few other girls, understudying for a real Shakespeare company, playing a lead role, and, eventually discovering a little more about who he is and his place in the world in the process.

Just One Year has the same strong characters and writing as Forman’s other books, but somehow just lacked the pizazz of Forman’s other works. Maybe it was because we didn’t really get a chance to know Willem in Just One Day, but I found it harder to keep interested in this story.

My Rating:

3/5 Bookmarks. Still a good book, but not my favorite.

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Review: The Girl You Left Behind

the girl you left behind coer

Title: The Girl You Left Behind

Author: JoJo Moyes

Genre: Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

My Review:

I first read JoJo Moyes over the summer when someone at the library introduced me to her via Me Before You. I loved that book and had high expectations for The Girl You Left Behind. The two books, in reality, couldn’t be more different, but they are both beautiful in their own ways.

The Girl You Left Behind takes place in two different timelines; the early 1900s and the early 2000s. The girl in question is both a real person Sophie LeFevre, and a painting made of her that endures past the first war, second war and into the 21st century. Their stories are woven together as both Sophie and her painting continue to impact the world.

Masterfully told, The Girl You Left Behind is part historical fiction and part adult contemporary. The historical part of the book is wrought with the pain and sorrow and struggle of a woman trying to survive to see her husband again through a dark war. Sophie is weak and strong at the same time and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family alive. The dark moments of the German occupation are written to evoke the fear of the time period.

When the book transitions to the contemporary world, it feels a little like the rug has been pulled out from under you. While it is also well written, it didn’t keep my attention quite as much. While I enjoyed learning what happened to the painting, and, in turn, Sophie, I would have enjoyed the story just as much without the modern elements.

My Rating:

3.5/5 bookmarks. Well written and executed, but I didn’t need the parallel stories to feel like it was completed.

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