Category Archives: Kristen’s Review

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 for Hang Wire

hang wire

Title: Hang Wire

Author: Christopher Adam

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror (Stand alone)

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

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

Ted is a Bay area blogger. He doesn’t feel quite right after a strange event at his birthday party involving an exploding fortune cookie. Around town there have been horrific murders by the Hang Wire Killer and Ted’s own sleepwalking tendencies seem to coincide with the occurrences of the crimes.

At the same time a new carnival has come to town and it boasts an eclectic set of performances, including Celtic dancers and an amazing high wire act. With the carnival comes Victorian carnival rides and there is something about these rides that is not quite right as violent and bloody events surround them and their operator, Joel.

There are forces at work around San Francisco, both good and bad, as immortals search for the ancient power stirring beneath the city that has the potential to destroy the world and the unsuspecting mortals that are caught up in the middle.

My review:

This is a quirky tale that was a bit confusing at first, but once I got into the story it was intriguing. The reader starts out just as confused as Ted. After the fortune cookie incident he is exhausted despite all of his efforts to rest and recover. After a full night’s sleep he is still sore and he starts waking up in places that he does not remember going. The phrase from his exploding fortune cookie shows up all around him “You are the master of every situation.” On his laptop, other places that he goes, over and over again…

At the same time the reader is taken to scenes from the past and the present and is not allowed to view one character for long. Mixed into the modern day scenes are glimpses of the past. It is not at first clear how these relate to the story, but as the reader is introduced to more characters in the present the connection develops that links them to those in the past.

This back and forth method of storytelling is a refreshing way to show the evil forces that the characters are up against. Instead of simply telling about how evil the carnival rides and their operator are and where the evil comes from, the reader discovers it through the flashbacks to earlier times. The story of the rides and the one who is searching for their pieces builds up as the flashbacks continue and the true nature of the situation comes to light. As the events lead closer to the present day and we learn about the immortals in the current day, the reader learns just what peril the people of San Francisco, and the world, face in this tale.

It soon becomes clear that some of the characters may, in fact, be the same people, even if they do not realize it quite yet. The downside to all of this jumping around is that we do not get to learn as much about the characters as one might like. This does make it a bit difficult to care about the main characters as much as one might desire but in the end it creates a compelling story.

 My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  Your enjoyment of this book depends on the type of storytelling you like. Be prepared for something different and just go with the flow, even if you are a little lost at first. Take your time with this book. Read carefully. The different parts of the story come together and it makes it all the more creepy and exciting.

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by | April 10, 2014 · 12:36 am

Review: Something More than Night

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Title: Something More than Night

Author: Ian Tregillis

Genre: “… a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven.”

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

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

The angel Gabriel is dead and the Jericho Trumpet has gone missing. Why was Gabriel killed and by whom? What connection does his death have with a possibly crooked priest, the recipients of a plenary indulgence and body-mutilating penitentes?

Bayliss is an angel and a hard-boiled detective, complete with the dialogue to accompany the roll.  When he kills Molly, a human, and turns her into a fellow angel, he fills the hole left by Gabriel’s murder and keeps order in the universe. Bayliss is a poor mentor and Molly causes havoc due to her lack of knowledge and her human way of thinking. The pair is roughed up by angels who do not like the questions they are asking about Gabriel and this causes them to push harder for the truth, if only to preserve themselves.

My review:

This story presents an interesting take on the manner of the universe. The heavens, angels, and reality are not the typical sort that one usually imagines. This is in no way the common Christian idea of the angels and heaven.  There are no souls of the faithful departed amongst the heavenly Choir, nor are the angels at all concerned with the affairs of humans (who they call “monkeys”). The universe is held together by a disinterested Choir of angels who live in the Plemora, the wilderness where most angels make their home.

Complex prose and complex concepts. Due to the nature of the story there are many philosophical themes and explanations. There were times in which there was so much technical description going on that it was hard to follow.  However, because I found it confusing I was able to understand how confusing all of these concepts were for Molly.

The world building is smoothly integrated into the story.  This is not quite the Earth of today.  We are sometime in the future, sometime that has different technology and a slightly different culture.  Tregallis interweaves these details lightly and delicately throughout the narrative and the reader is fed little bits of this information as the story progresses.  Nicely done.

My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  Beautiful and engaging prose. I recommend this book for someone looking for a mystery with philosophical underpinnings. This is not for everyone, but is certainly great prose and an interesting premise.

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Review of Sing for the Dead

Sing for the Dead (London Undead, #2)

Title: Sing for the Dead

Author: P.J. Schnyder

Series: London Undead #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance (Adult)

Format: eARC

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Synopsis:

London is crawling with zombies and nobody knows why. Werewolves and other were-creatures help the human police keep the zombies and stupid zombie hunting humans under control.

Kayden is a were-leopard living in zombie infested London.  Though a loner by nature, he is allied with the London werewolf pack and aids in patrols. Sorcha is the child of a Baen-sidhe and a mortal, cursed to carry the battle rage of her berserker father. She is a half-fae warrior sent by the Court of Light to investigate the danger that the zombies may pose to the fae.

Some of the zombies are moving in coordinated attacks, the likes of which have not been observed before. Sorcha agrees to temporarily team up with the were-creatures, specifically Kayden, to investigate the reason for the new zombie behavior.

Review:

This is book two of the London Undead series. I am the kind of girl who does not like to start reading a book in the middle of a series, so I began with the first story, Bite Me. This was a good investment of my time and money because it gave me a fuller understanding of the setting and I got to read the story of Seth and Maisie, who are great characters.

That being said, this story can easily stand alone.  The author incorporates enough back story so that reading the first book is not necessary, but it is highly suggested because it is well written and enjoyable.

Sorcha’s internal struggle is compelling.  She has berserker tendencies and is ashamed of her lust for violence:

“And that was her shame, wasn’t it? Violence sang through her blood – the mortal part of her heritage surging to the fore at the mere memory of the earlier fight. More.  She needed more.”

With the help of Kayden, who is not ashamed of his own violent tendencies, Sorcha can start to come to terms with who she is.

Schnyder’s writing style is engaging.  Characters each have a unique voice. As the point of view alternates between Kayden and Sorcha the voices are distinct. The descriptions of London and the parks in which some of the action takes place are very well done:

“The trees in Kensington Gardens were bare skeletons this deep into the winter in London—sleeping, but restless, tugging at her heart. Would the trees be too sickened to bring forth new life after the roots had bathed in blood?”

Rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks. This is an original take on zombies, which was refreshing.  I recommend this book for anyone who is not too bothered by zombies.  This really is more of a horror romance novel, which is just fine with me.  I only wish it was a little longer so that I could spend more time with the characters and their world, though the current length does not make the story seem rushed or incomplete. I hope the author will set a full length novel in this world but I will happily buy another novella length work in this series.

 

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Review: Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1

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Title: Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1 (Mercedes Thompson Graphic Novels #1: part 1 of 2)

Author: Written by Patricia Briggs & David Lawrence, Artwork & collection cover by Amelia Woo

Genre: Urban Fantasy Graphic Novel (Rated T+, suggested for teens and up)

ISBN: 9781606902035

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Summary:

Mercy Thompson likes to spend her days working on cars at her shop in the Tri-City area of Washington.  Mercy is a walker and can shapeshift into a coyote. When Mac, a 16-year old werewolf on the run, appears asking for a job, Mercy pities him and decides to help. Strange men attempt to kidnap Mac and she is forced to take actions that involves Adam, the local pack’s Alpha.  Soon after, Adam is attacked and his daughter is kidnapped leading Mercy to become involved in werewolf business.

Favorite quote:

“In this house we eat out cookie dough like civilized women- with a spoon.”

Review:

I am not a frequent reader of graphic novels but I like Patricia Briggs so I decided to give this one a try.  While this is not as good as the book from which it is adapted, it is entertaining, gets the main story across and the artwork is generally appealing.

Artwork:

I realize that it is not likely that an artist’s interpretation of a character will match what he or she looks like in my head.  That being said, I thought that some of the male characters, particularly Adam, were strange looking and not nearly as attractive as they were described in the novels.   This will not be the vision of Adam that is in my head when I read about him in the future.

The drawings of the wolves and coyote were awkward. I imagine that the coyote should be slimmer and smaller than the wolves but it was hard to see the difference between the two species and they almost looked like the same type of animal. In some scenes the manner in which the animals were positioned and interacted with their surroundings was unnatural.  There was one scene where Mercy, as a coyote, was jumping over a fence and the position of her legs looked more like she was flying in a standing position rather than leaping.

On a positive note, the characters’ faces are expressive, adding to their personalities and enhancing the story. Nudity is tastefully done.  It is present in the sense that when a person shape-shifts their clothes do not shift with them, but it is not graphic or distracting.

While I am a novice graphic novel reader I was able to follow the setup of the panels once I realized how they were meant to be read.  The panels do not always follow a straight left to right reading pattern, which is not a problem once you realize the flow. The fact that it took some getting used to is not the fault of the graphic novel , as it was due to my personal inexperience.

Story:

The story is easy to follow and the basic plot elements come through clearly. The interplay between text and visual meshed well and enhanced one another.

In this adaptation the reader gets a glimpse of Mercy’s personality. There is a sense that she has an independent streak and a snarky sense of humor.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other characters. However, this is only the beginning of the story and this is an introduction to the people in Mercy’s world.  Mercy, being the main character, is rightfully the most fully developed.

There is a “Bonus Chapter” at the end of the book that tells Mac’s story of the night of the dance when everything changed for him.  The story is very short, not terribly deep and the artwork is not good at all. It is nice to have a little more information about how Mac came to be in his predicament, but the artwork was a big turnoff.

Rating:

3 out 5 bookmarks.  The story was clear and hit the main plot points and the visual element interplayed well with the text, but the artwork was at times awkward and most of the characters felt flat.

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Harry Dresden-Wizard: A review of Storm Front by Jim Butcher

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Title: Storm Front

Author: Jim Butcher

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Storm Front is the first book in the Dresden Files series that is now up to 14 books and counting.  I read this book during college and have kept up with the series since then.  I wanted to reread this book to see if it held up in comparison to the rest of the series and to see how the story held up the second time around.

Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire in Chicago. His ad in the yellow pages reads:

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.

Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.

No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment

In the city of Chicago people are dying in a messy and frightening way. Black magic is afoot and the police do not know how to handle it so they call in their wizard on retainer, Harry Dresden. There are factions on all sides that do not want this mystery solved but the police are looking to Harry for answers and they need them before the killing happens again.  His past transgressions, no matter that they were in self defense, has Harry on the White Council’s watch list. This makes it risky for him to figure out what kind of spell is killing people and to find the murderer, but it is important for him to figure it all out before he is framed as the murderer or taken out by the killer himself. 

Harry is a great character and is my favorite part of the story.  He is funny, intelligent and is a genuinely good guy. He is a sucker for a damsel in distress. He may not always know exactly what to do but he will work hard to get the answers. Though he is a good man he is still tempted by evil.  He struggles with the temptation that comes with great power, especially when he encounters the magic that causes the murders.

Unfortunately for Harry Dresden, but fortunately for us, the author is not afraid to hurt his characters.  Both physically and emotionally the story is a gauntlet for Harry.  The story says NO to him just when things seem to be going right in the case and in life. This not only creates an entertaining story but also prevents things from going too easy for Harry.  This leads to character development that will be present across the entire series of books.

I tried to come up with a negative criticism of the book but I could not.  It has a well developed story line, well developed characters and the plot moves at a good pace.  The ending is well thought out without giving any crutches to the main character.

Earlier I mentioned the re-readability factor since I had read this before.  You may be able to tell from my review, but to make it clear it was just as good as I remember and rereading it was a great experience. If you have read this book in the past I would recommend doing so again. It contains all of the elements that have kept me loyal to the series over all of these years.

My rating:

5 out of 5 bookmarks. I would recommend this book to lovers of urban fantasy or mystery with paranormal elements.  If you read and like the first chapter you will get sucked into the book and into the series. Try it, you’ll like it.

 

 

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