Tag Archives: historical

Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

Burning Bright (The Extraordinaries #1) by Melissa McShane
Published in August 2016 by Curiosity Quills Press.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical fantasy romance.

My rating:

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary and the only one in England in over one hundred years. 

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she joins the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of the crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

srcek

Burning Bright is a curious book. It’s a historical romance with fantasy elements yet it’s actually very slow and light on romance – so maybe it’s a historical fantasy with romance elements? You know I’m rubbish at classifying books.

I liked the story a lot, actually. Elinor makes an important decision and joins the royal navy instead of being bartered off to the highest bidder like a prize mare when her talent manifests. She can manipulate fire – and what makes her Extraordinary is the fact that she can put fires out as well as light them. Her father, a renowned scholar of people with magical talent, is a cruel, ambitious man, and I really respected Elinor from the start because she made the best decision she could in such a situation.

There is the fact that Elinor is a bit of a special snowflake. Not only is her talent incredibly rare, she’s also the first woman to join the navy. And she remains the only female character in the story (well, there’s her sister but she’s barely there and has no real function in the story). I’d hoped we would meet more kickass ladies with awesome talents but nope, nothing so far. I’m really hoping this will change as the series progresses!

Other than that, I liked the worldbuilding (the magical system) and the setting – a large part of the story takes place on a ship, there are pirates, and we sail the clear waters of the Carribean, so this was pretty unusual. I haven’t read many books with such a setting, so I enjoyed it a lot.

I did wish the romance wasn’t quite so slow at times. I guess it’s more realistic from a historical point of view but I kind of wanted Captain Ramsay to make his move (or for Elinor to finally tackle the man) sooner. I dislike insta-love but a healthy dose of insta-lust wouldn’t hurt here because the entire romance is pretty clean. I know, I’m probably too used to traditional historical romances where the characters are tearing at each other’s clothes by Chapter Two, but romance was really, really slow here.

There are also some interesting thoughts on war and killing in this book, which isn’t something you’d typically expect from a romance, so this makes it lean further towards the fantasy genre, I think. Elinor thinks a lot about the lives she takes in the naval battles she participates in – it’s rare to get such an in-depth exploration. I don’t really understand people who choose to be soldiers (like picking this as a profession – that’s just beyond me), but I do understand duty and the wish to protect people. So yeah, this was a welcome addition to a story that could have veered into fluff pretty easily.

I’m curious to see how the story will continue. This one had a pretty decent ending (meaning that it could have functioned as a standalone) so I wonder whether we’ll get a new set of characters. I’ll be on the lookout for it for sure.

srcek

Have you read Burning Bright? What did you think?

Historical fantasy romance is an interesting mashup of genres – do you know any similar books?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Recent Romance Reads

Ooh, I love alliteration, sorry. I’ve been reading more romances lately, probably because I need fluffy stories in my life. I am very happy with reading fluff at the moment, though I’m trying to offset it by reading other stuff as well. Just so there’s some balance. Anyway, these are some romances I’ve enjoyed – I can heartily recommend all of them if you need an evening of uncomplicated fun.

what-happens-in-londonWhat Happens in London by Julia Quinn – this is an older title but it’s so good. It was a re-read for me, actually, and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. Harry and Olivia are both intelligent and curious by nature, so their story was a joy to read. I also liked the fact that Harry wasn’t your typical alpha hero, he’s not a rogue or anything, and it’s very refreshing for a historical romance. This is the second part of the series but it definitely can be read separately – I don’t remember a thing about the first book and I had no problem with it. Also, I think it might be one of my favourite Quinn books (if you like historicals and are unfamiliar with Quinn, you should really reassess your priorities). ;) I’d give this one 4/5 stars.

 

Charlie All Nightcharlie-all-night by Jennifer Crusie – despite the horrific cover, this was a fun, fluffy contemporary romance with a bit of a mystery thrown in. I read it because I’ve previously enjoyed Crusie’s Bet Me – and while this one didn’t quite match the fun tone of that great story, I still enjoyed it a lot. I have Becky to thank for pointing me in Crusie’s direction – I think her books are perfect for curling up on the couch when you need some comfort in your life. They’re like the bookish equivalent of good chocolate chip cookies. This one gets 3/5 stars.

 

 

Act Like Itact-like-it by Lucy Parker – this is the most recent title of the three and the one that surprised me the most. Quinn recommended this one recently, she said it was one of her favourite books to re-read and I can definitely see why! It has an enemies-to-lovers plot with a slow-burn romance, which ticks two of my “yes please” boxes. The hero, Richard, is an asshole at first but I thought the transformation/reveal of his true nature was very believable. Lainie is a great heroine and I liked her a lot. The fact that the story is set in London and that both the main characters are theatre actors are just bonus points in its favour. I’m definitely looking out for Parker’s next book! 4/5 stars to this one.

The Goalthe-goal-elle-kennedy by Elle Kennedy – I’ve been waiting for this one and it was pretty good. It’s the last in her Off Campus series that I’ve enjoyed a lot and Tucker’s story was really touching at times. I wished Sabrina would relax a bit and let Tucker help her sooner but we need the drama, of course. Tucker is such a good guy, though! I think he’s my favourite hero of this series. I liked reading about the other “players” but Tucker’s a quiet guy with great manners and a heart of gold. You know I’m partial to good guys. Anyway, the cover is… stunning, if a bit cringe-worthy. I think these covers are the reason I read most of my romances on my Kindle… Also, compared to the other three books of the series, this one features much less hockey! And it definitely should be read last – there’s some overlap of the story. 3/5 stars.

srcek

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have any fluffy recs for me? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Published on October 11, 2016 by Amulet Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Amulet Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical urban fantasy.

My rating:

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

srcek

Iron Cast was one of those impulse requests on NetGalley that usually turn out to be horrible – but I am very, very glad I let myself be pulled in by this gorgeous cover.

This is the story of two best friends, Corrine and Ada. I’ve recently talked about friends and cited this novel as a good example of a bookish friendship – and I stand by this. These two young women are an unlikely pair but I think their relationship is what made the book for me. I loved their loyalty, their willingness to sacrifice their own safety for the other, their acceptance of the other’s flaws (but not blind acceptance, mind you). This is what true friendship is about and I loved how Soria portrayed them.

As characters, Corrine and Ada are very interesting. They are both hemopaths – their “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to manipulate people’s emotions and create illusions through words and music – but their gifts are very different. Corrine, a daughter of an important and wealthy family, is headstrong, impulsive, and often too brash; Ada, a girl shunned not just for her ability but for her dark skin, is calm, thoughtful, and steadfast. I liked the contrast between their personalities, I think they worked very well together.

The supporting characters were well-fleshed out, too – I enjoyed their stories and the fact that I never knew who to trust, who to like. I’m not entirely sure whether this is meant to be the first part of a series but the story, while featuring a perfectly good ending, definitely made me wish for more. I hope Soria will continue Corrine and Ada’s story.

loved the world and the worldbuilding. The pre-Prohibition era isn’t a historical period I know well – it certainly isn’t very common in literature, at least I haven’t read a lot of books in set in that time period (I can only think of The Great Gatsby, which I hated). It wasn’t just about the dresses and the illegal clubs, though, Soria did her homework well and created a rich environment where the glitzy high society meets the underbelly of the city. The asylum brings a note of horror to the story (but not too much, it was fine for me and I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror).

The magical system was very interesting as well – art as magic is a fantastic idea, especially since we have different types of hemopaths that use words, music, painting for their illusions and manipulations. The ethical implications of such abilities were very intriguing, too, and I liked that Soria took the time to explore them.

All in all, this is a really good novel. As far as I can tell, this is Soria’s debut – and you can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for her next novel, whether it’s a sequel to this one or something else entirely.

srcek

Have you read Iron Cast? What did you think?

Do you have any recs for books set in the same time period?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Published in 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA fairytale retelling.

My rating:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

srcek

Lovely people, please be aware that this review will contain SPOILERS (like major spoilers, not just tiny unimportant ones), so if you haven’t read this book, you should probably stay away. Just sayin’. I wanted to write a normal review but then I decided that I wanted to rant a bit and I can’t do that without discussing some plot points that happen later in the book. Also, if you’re feeling very protective about this novel, you should probably skip this as well. I won’t be posting this to any of the usual sites like Goodreads, I don’t want to spread misery around, but this is my place and I think I can safely express my opinion here.

This was actually the first book I read after my son was born earlier this month, so I was a hormonal mess at the time, which – if you think about it – should make me more lenient in my criticism. But I just didn’t like this story that much. I know I’m a black sheep in this case, the majority of the reviews I’ve seen around the blogosphere were very favourable, so I’m guessing I had the misfortune of encountering a huge number of my pet peeves in a single book. Eh.

I tend to dislike a novel when I dislike the characters. And I just didn’t connect with Shahrzad like I was supposed to. The girl was forever crumbling to the floor, worrying about her dresses and makeup while in mortal danger, and making silly decisions. Let me just ask you something: if you found out you had a latent magical ability, would you calmly go about your business like nothing had happened? NO. You’d demand someone teach you how to use it, for fuck’s sake. Ditto with the magic carpet. How can you own a flying carpet and not give it a spin? The fact that she volunteered to become Khalid’s next wife and went in with the half-assed plan of telling him a story and killing him without a weapon also made me roll my eyes. As did the teensy problem that she fell in love with her would-be killer (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?). See, it pushes my buttons, this story.

Then there’s the love triangle. The boys of this story, the Caliph (= king) Khalid and Tariq, Shazi’s childhood fancy/fiancé, were… bland. I was rooting for Tariq up until the moment when he decided that Shazi certainly couldn’t know her own damn mind and decided to remove her from the palace against her will. Khalid was so unsure about his decision to keep her alive that she nearly got choked to death before he changed his mind yet again and beat the guard who was charged with killing her – even though the guy was just doing his job. *sigh* Add the sexy girl from Khalid’s past and a heavy dose of jealousy on Shazi’s part and you get a nice picture of the romantic situation in that palace. Ugh.

I didn’t even like the writing. I’m sure it’s accomplished and all but it just seemed like too much. Okay, so I enjoyed reading about the food, especially since I was eating hospital food at the time (as I said, this was just after my kid was born), but the flowery language just didn’t do it for me.

Nevertheless, I’m still debating reading the sequel. First of all, it’s a duology, so I’m in no danger of tackling a six-part series, which is good. I also want to see if Shazi will step up and own her power – she might redeem herself yet. I don’t know. I wanted to like this story so badly, it has everything I usually want in a book, but the execution was just not for me. I’m in no rush to go and buy The Rose and the Dagger but I might pick it up at some point.

srcek

Have you read The Wrath and the Dawn? What did you think?

Will I have to defend myself against a hail of stones for my crappy review? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean
Published on August 30, 2016 by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

Lonesome Lily Turned Scandalous Siren … Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn’t hesitate…until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.

Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke … The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.

Tartan Comes to Town … Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else’s problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It’s the perfect plan, until Lily declares she’ll only marry for love…and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much…

srcek

I’m a big fan of Sarah MacLean, so I had a preorder out for this one for a long time. I was so excited to read it! I loved the first book of the Scandal & Scoundrel series, The Rogue Not Taken, though for some reason I never reviewed it here on the blog. *shrug*

A Scot in the Dark (I just love her titles) is a tale of Alec, one gruff Scot who inherits a dukedom after a series of misfortunate events eliminates seventeen of previous heirs. And nobody informs him that he also inherited a ward, one Lillian Hargrove, muse to the most famous painter in London.

After a scandal breaks out – Lily posed for a portrait thinking the painter would be the only one who’d ever see it, so you can imagine what kind of a portrait it is – Alec is summoned to town to help her and clear her name (somehow). This is, for him, an equivalent of pulling teeth, as he hates everything to do with England, however, he soon finds out that Lily has plans of her own – plans that don’t necessarily match his own.

Naturally, the two feel a powerful attraction to each other, you can’t have it any other way in romances, but I did find the love part a bit rushed – they’ve only known each other for ten days. But hey, that’s all you need sometimes.

Alec is one of those huge, hulking heroes that can be hit or miss for me. He’s gruff and powerful – but luckily doesn’t act like a total Neanderthal (with the exception of breaking down one door). I’m saying this because I recently read a novel (a contemporary, even) where the hero was basically an ape with (questionable) speech faculties and I hated the cliché so. much. I didn’t even want to write a ranty review, I was so disgusted. Alec, however, resents the public opinion that has formed around his big stature and goes to great lengths to prove that he’s not actually a brute.

I’m not a huge fan of “I’m not good enough for you so I’ll find you a better husband” trope but even that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. MacLean’s writing is just that good. Her romances are always on top of my to-buy list and this one was just perfect for my last evening as a pregnant lady. :)

I am very excited for her next book, The Day of the Duchess, which is supposedly coming in April 2017! Thank the skies for romance authors who actually write fast and publish two books a year! :)

srcek

Have you read A Scot in the Dark? What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Published in 2015 by NAL.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you NAL for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical fantasy.

My rating:

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

zmaj-desno

Well! This one was a nice surprise! You can never be sure what you’ll get when you start a new series – even though Ink and Bone got some highly favourable reviews from blogs I follow – so I was very happy that it turned out so well.

Ink and Bone is an imaginative historical fantasy set in a world where the Library (of Alexandria) rules in the sense that it controls all knowledge and learning. The idea of a world where books aren’t readily available gives every bookworm the creeps, I’d bet, but this was done really well – the knowledge is there, just distributed and parcelled out according to who you are. The world is really complex – and I liked the addition of steampunk elements like the scary automatons the Library employs to protect its books and premises.

The story follows Jess, the son of a London book smuggler, who is on his way to become a scholar at the Library. His training is to be completed in Alexandria, where he meets other hopeful young people. I love every kind of school story involving magic (hello, Harry Potter), so I was excited, at first, when I figured out where Jess would be going, and disappointed when his training didn’t involve much magic at all.

But the complex relationships between the students, their mentor, and the political intrigues soon overshadowed any disappointment I might have felt. The writing itself (or maybe the pacing?) might have been somewhat stilted in the first third of the book but the story picked up when I came to the halfway mark – and I read the last 40% of the book in one sitting, which is unusual for me these days.

As more and more dirty workings inside the Library were uncovered, I was pulled into the story and found myself rooting for Jess and his friends. The fact that the seemingly pointless academic tests they had been subjected to in Alexandria were replaced by some very real field experience didn’t hurt the pacing, either. I loved the fact that Jess and his fellow characters were complex and not at all morally white – I never like perfect characters and Caine wrote some really great gray souls.

Overall, I’m very excited to get to Paper and Fire, which has been published in July this year. I haven’t read any of Caine’s books previously, though she seems to have published quite a few (including some vampire UF!). I’ll have to check those out as well.

zmaj-levo

Have you read Ink and Bone? What did you think?

Can you imagine a society where owning original books is punishable by death? O_o

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.