Showing posts with label Debut Author 2019. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Debut Author 2019. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 458
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?  Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive."

Galaxy "Alex" Stern is anything but a normal Yale student.  In fact, she didn't get accepted to Yale by excelling at school, sports, or any of the usual things.  Simply, she got in because she can see dead people and this really appeals to Yale's secret societies.  Alex can attend Yale for free, (yes, free!), if she helps out the Lethe, one of the secret societies, by overseeing society rituals.  You see, all of these rituals attract ghosts and Alex has the uncanny ability to see ghosts without having to take a special drug.  Things start to get really complicated for Alex though.  For starters, there's a murder, there's corruption, and there's a whole slew of problems heading right for Alex.  Not to mention the fact that the ghosts, despite her avoidance of eye contact, are starting to engage with her.  Leigh Bardugo's creepy Ninth House is an adult fiction debut that will appeal to fans of fantasy as well the horror genre.

Alex is a complex character in Ninth House.  Based on her back story, I did feel for her and the many obstacles she had to overcome. I also could see why she became addicted to drugs in order to numb her existence and avoid ghosts.  Despite all of her mistakes, she is granted a second chance by going to Yale and essentially wiping her slate clean.  How could I not get behind her at this point? Everyone loves an underdog story.  When Alex starts to investigate a murder in town things start to heat up and I started to enjoyed her courage and gumption even more.

Bardugo's world building is really good in Ninth House.  I can see why so many people are fans of her YA novels.  The different secret societies at Yale were also done well. I think what is most captivating is the fact that part of this story could very well be true.  Ninth House isn't such high fantasy that none of this could occur, so it was fun to imagine what truly happens in the secret societies.

The best part of Ninth House were the ghostly elements and how Bardugo brought that to life through Alex's abilities. I really love a good ghost story, so I especially appreciated this part of the novel.  I found it to be the most atmospheric and compelling part of Ninth House, especially since I read it around Halloween.

One of my biggest issues with Ninth House was the tough material.  I am not bashful to say the least. I've read plenty of edgy novels, but I think Bardugo, for me, really was pushing the envelope in some instances. There's a lot of triggers in here: drug overdose, rape, statutory rape, forced eating of human waste, assault, etc. It's not for the faint of heart.  

But this made me think. I have dealt with a lot of dark material in novels and despite this, I ended up really LOVING them (Outlander, I am looking at you), but that was not the case here.  The problem came down to characters in Ninth House. I didn't care about Alex enough to be truly impacted by any of the violent elements, so in that case, it just felt like plot devices at times. Each chapter something happened, but nothing.actually.happened.  It just felt like a wash-rinse-repeat sort of situation. 

But with that said, I do think Ninth House will find legions of fans; after all, it was nominated by Goodreads as one of the best books of the year and there will be many people desperate for book two. I, on the other hand, will check out Bardugo's YA fantasy novels as I think they are more my speed.

Did you guys read Ninth House? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Book Review: The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "In a historical debut evoking the style of The Crown, the daughter of an impoverished noble is swept into the fame and notoriety of the royal family and Princess Margaret's fast-living friends when she is appointed as Margaret's second Lady-in-Waiting.  Diana, Catherine, Meghan…glamorous Princess Margaret outdid them all. Springing into post-World War II society, and quite naughty and haughty, she lived in a whirlwind of fame and notoriety. Georgie Blalock captures the fascinating, fast-living princess and her “set” as seen through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting.   In dreary, post-war Britain, Princess Margaret captivates everyone with her cutting edge fashion sense and biting quips. The royal socialite, cigarette holder in one hand, cocktail in the other, sparkles in the company of her glittering entourage of wealthy young aristocrats known as the Margaret Set, but her outrageous lifestyle conflicts with her place as Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister. Can she be a dutiful princess while still dazzling the world on her own terms?  Post-war Britain isn’t glamorous for The Honorable Vera Strathmore. While writing scandalous novels, she dreams of living and working in New York, and regaining the happiness she enjoyed before her fiancĂ© was killed in the war. A chance meeting with the Princess changes her life forever. Vera amuses the princess, and what—or who—Margaret wants, Margaret gets. Soon, Vera gains Margaret’s confidence and the privileged position of second lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Thrust into the center of Margaret’s social and royal life, Vera watches the princess’s love affair with dashing Captain Peter Townsend unfurl.  But while Margaret, as a member of the Royal Family, is not free to act on her desires, Vera soon wants the freedom to pursue her own dreams. As time and Princess Margaret’s scandalous behavior progress, both women will be forced to choose between status, duty, and love…"

Vera Strathmore thought she had it all.  She was engaged to a great guy and even had a career as a novelist writing romance novels under a pseudonym, Mrs. Rose Lavish.  However, her world came crumbling down around her when her fiancĂ© was killed in World War II.  She now lives at home with her parents and her sister, who will soon be moving out once she's married.  Vera has become a bit of a homebody and spends most of her free time writing her romance novels.  Princess Margaret is a fan of these novels and Vera's cousin, Rupert, is friends with Princess Margaret and part of her social set, so he decides to introduce the two women.  Vera and Princess Margaret surprisingly hit it off and in turn, Vera is now catapulted into the Princess's fast moving and hard drinking world.  In fact, Vera finds herself as second lady in waiting to Princess Margaret and now she is exposed to not only the vibrant social life of the Princess, but also the demands of the Royal family.  Georgie Blalock's historical debut, The Other Windsor Girl, is a fascinating glimpse into Princess Margaret's life and is perfect for fans of The Crown.

Blalock gives us Vera, who is a fictional character, but it's interesting to see things through her eyes as opposed to Princess Margaret's. I found Vera to be an interesting character in her own right and liked that she had a promising writing career and dreams for herself despite the cards life dealt her.  However, all of this is put on hold once Princess Margaret sets her eyes on Vera as she finds her very compelling. It was smart of Blalock to write The Other Windsor Girl though Vera's point of view so we are able to experience characters from history and important events, but indirectly.

Blalock's Princess Margaret is well done in The Other Windsor Girl.  I always felt badly for the Princess as she is torn between love, loyalty and duty. She can't seem to get it right at times and the pressures of being a Royal are always on the forefront.  I loved visiting Princess Margaret's world filled with epic parties, amazing clothing, scandalous behavior, and we can't forget the affair with Peter Townsend! 

So, if you are a fan of The Crown of all things Royals, you must check out The Other Windsor Girl.  It will definitely hold you over until the new season of The Crown comes out.  If you are a Royal lover, like me, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Some bury their secrets close to home. Others scatter them to the wind and hope they land somewhere far away. Judith Kratt inherited all the Kratt family had to offer—the pie safe, the copper clock, the murder no one talks about. She knows it's high time to make an inventory of her household and its valuables, but she finds that cataloging the family belongings—as well as their misfortunes—won't contain her family's secrets, not when her wayward sister suddenly returns, determined to expose skeletons the Kratts had hoped to take to their graves.  Interweaving the present with chilling flashbacks from one fateful evening in 1929, Judith pieces together the influence of her family on their small South Carolina cotton town, learning that the devastating effects of dark family secrets can last a lifetime and beyond."

Judith Kratt has inherited the Kratt family estate along with all the other family heirlooms.  It's a crumbling mansion in South Carolina and it's filled with a lot of Kratt family secrets.  Judith's sister, Rosemarie, left home at thirteen years old and she hasn't heard from her since.  After many years, Judith receives a post card from her saying that she is returning home.  Judith hasn't seen her sister since her brother Quincy's mysterious murder.  The main suspect in Quincy's murder was an employee of the Kratt Mercantile Company, but he also missing, so the murder has always been shrouded in mystery.  Rosemarie thought that Judith committed the crime and this is what made her flee the house so many years ago.  Judith is determined to go through the house and all of its belongings, but as she uncovers each and every heirloom more and more Kratt family secrets float to the surface.  The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis is a debut mystery that fans of Southern fiction will enjoy, especially ones filled with dark family secrets.

The character of Judith is an interesting one and the Kratt family captivated me from the beginning in The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt. I mean how could it not? There's a murder mystery in her family, a crumbling mansion, heirlooms, and an estranged sister, and so much more.  Plus, there's the fact that Judith has a serious Miss Havisham vibe going on as she relies completely on her maid for just about everything.

In The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt, the mystery of Quincy's murder and why the killer did what he did kept me interested and I was surprised by the outcome.  Bobotis tells the story through flashbacks and that definitely kept me engaged as I loved the setting of 1920s in South Carolina.

Despite the slow start to The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt, I think it's a solid debut novel. Be forewarned, its themes are a bit darker as it does highlight some of the racial tension present in South Carolina in the 20s, screwed up sibling relationships, and some other darker themes as well.  But this is just a word of warning, especially if you like your beach reads to be a little less serious and a whole lot more fluffy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Book Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Pages: 388
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Montauk, Long Island, 1938.  A simple town on the brink of a glamorous future.  A marriage drifting apart.  A life on the edge of what is and what could be... An epic and cinematic novel by debut author Nicola Harrison, Montauk captures the glamour and extravagance of a summer by the sea with the story of a woman torn between the life she chose and the life she desires.  Montauk, Long Island, 1938.   For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.   College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.   As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.   Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…"
Beatrice, although she grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, now lives a life of luxury along with her banker husband, Harry.  Harry wants her to spend her summer at Montauk Manor, where all the other well-to-do wives stay for the summer while their husbands toil away in the city.  Montauk, in 1938, is an up and coming sleepy fishing town that at least for the summer is filled with the city's finest, so the Manor ends up employing many locals.  While there, Beatrice finds herself gravitating to the wrong crowd as opposed to the other wealthy wives.  She finds herself especially drawn to Elizabeth, the Manor's laundress.  While spending time with Elizabeth, she meets the lighthouse keeper, Thomas.  Sparks fly and it leaves Beatrice wondering if perhaps she made the wrong choice in marrying Harry, who has essentially left her all summer and she comes to find that he is up to no good in the city. Well, you know what they say? While the cat is away, the mouse will play!  Harry wants Beatrice to focus on what he wants her to focus on this summer, so when she comes in contact with a Manhattan journalist who wants her to write an anonymous column about life in Montauk, she initially declines. As her summer goes on, she decides she might do it after all and highlight some of the ridiculous things the upper class partakes in while summering in Montauk.  Montauk by Nicola Harrison is a decent historical beach read and while I really enjoyed parts of it, such as the time period and the setting, a lot of the story ended up being just ok.

Beatrice, also known as Bea, is someone I really initially liked in Montauk.  I felt badly for her that she is trapped in such a horrible marriage, but summering in Montauk doesn't sound like a bad trade off, right? Wrong.  Bea is like a fish out of water in Montauk. She finds herself relating more to the "help" and the locals instead of mixing and mingling with the upper class like her husband wants her to do to help his business.  Harry at first seems like a good guy, but once you peel back the layers of their relationship you see inside is a rotting piece of fruit.  He ends up being a pretty toxic character and in turn a bit of a caricature at times.  Even though I wanted Bea to escape his clutches, I didn't necessarily agree with her interest in Thomas.  I mean she is upset her husband is having an affair in New York City, so should she stoop to his level and do the same thing? Or perhaps this is true love?  Is this risk worth losing it all?

The setting of Montauk in 1938 is my favorite aspect of the novel.  I loved the time period, the Manor, and the dynamic between the locals and the wealthy.  The crazy antics that they partake in, such as mailing dirty diapers home to be cleaned is just unbelievable.  Rich people problems, I suppose?  I also enjoyed how Bea started working for a Manhattan newspaper and anonymously exposing some of Montauk's secrets.  The events at the Manor, the dinner parties, the cocktails, the lighthouse, the quiet fishing village, and beaches were all well done and my favorite parts of Montauk.

While Montauk was entertaining enough, I do wish that Harrison would have explored the characters a bit more and fleshed out some of the plot points.  I felt like Bea and especially Harry became a bit derivative at times.  Oh, and that ending!! It was over the top depressing.

Nonetheless, if historical beach reads are your go-to summertime read, then give Montauk a try, especially if you like a story that examines the important question of whether it's worth it to risk everything for love or is money more important?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Monster Catchers by George Brewington

Pages: 288
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction/Fantasy
Pub. Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "A father-son monster hunter duo must save the Bay Area from an evil villain in The Monster Catchers, a madcap middle-grade fantasy debut from George Brewington.  If there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?Buckleby and Son!  Whether it's a goblin in the garden or a fairy in the attic, Bailey Buckleby and his dad can rid your home of whatever monster is troubling you—for the right price. But when Bailey discovers that his dad has been lying—their pet troll Henry is actually a kidnapped baby sea giant—he begins to question the family business. Enter Axel Pazuzu, criminal mastermind, who will stop at nothing to make a buck. With everyone and everything he loves in peril, it's up to Bailey to save his family and set things right in this funny, fantastical adventure."

Bailey Buckleby lives an interesting life in San Francisco, California with his father.  They run a monster catching business and a souvenir store that features some of San Francisco's most strange things.  Bailey, and a few others, know the secret that is in the back room of their store: monsters! Monsters are everywhere; in fact, one of Bailey's pets is a Swiss Troll, so his dad says, that he often dresses up like a human and takes for a walk to the beach.  Also, Bailey accompanies his monster hunting father on trips to rid monsters from people's homes.  He isn't able to share this secret with anyone until he meets Savannah, a fellow seventh grade student, who knows about the presence of monsters.  As the story progresses, Bailey meets Axel, part human/part dog, and he wants to take down Buckleby and Sons and also keep Henry, the supposed Swiss Troll, for himself.  Axel starts making Bailey question things his father has told him in the past, especially about Henry and the untimely death of his mother.  His interaction with Axel really highlights the differences between Bailey and his father.  Can the father and son duo defeat Axel and his clan? Is Henry truly a Swiss troll or are there are more secrets Bailey's father is keeping from him and what exactly happened to Bailey's mother?  George Brewington's debut, The Monster Catchers, is an adventurous tale for children who love imaginative stories filled with monsters, action, and heroic children.

Bailey Buckleby is such a fun character and his interest in monsters is heartwarming in The Monster Catchers. Bailey doesn't necessarily agree with his father that they should catch monsters, put them in cages and sell them for profit. This doesn't sit well with Bailey and he starts to realize that monsters have feelings just like he does and perhaps not all are bad.  This is a good message to the story that can lend itself to discussion.  I really enjoyed Bailey and the fact that he was caring, brave, and very smart....not to mention his awesome frisbee skills!

I also really enjoyed the fact that the father and son duo in The Monster Catchers worked together and that Bailey was such an integral part of the team.  What fun! My son loves all things monsters, so he couldn't want to find out what the Bucklebys were up to next.  His father, Dougie, was the polar opposite of Bailey, but I liked that the characters were foils for each other.  While I usually didn't agree with Dougie, I was still rooting for the Buckleby family in the end.

If you have an upper elementary child or a middle grade child at home that loves high fantasy as well as monsters, give The Monster Catchers a try this summer. My son was glued to the pages when I read this book aloud to him and he kept asking me to read more.  The unusual monsters, the interesting characters, and the world that Bailey lives in kept my son excited.  What more could you want from a summer read?

Thanks to Henry Holt, I am hosting a giveaway for an ebook of The Monster Catchers by George Brewington. This would be the perfect ebook to load onto your child's e-reader this summer or to share as an engaging read-aloud.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 30, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A mesmerizing debut novel by Chip Cheek, Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.  Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.  The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.  Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage."

Henry is a young country boy from Georgia and he just married his high school sweet heart, Effie.  They are on their honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey and the year is 1957.  They are not only exploring their sexuality as newlyweds, but they are also expanding their horizons as this isn't rural Georgia anymore.  In fact, Cape May is pretty much abandoned for the season except for a group of sophisticated city dwellers from up North.  They have money, they throw lavish dinner parties, they drink, they go boating, they drink more.... rinse and repeat.  When Henry and Effie fall into their clutches, it alters their marriage irrevocably.  Cape May by Chip Cheek is an erotic story filled with despicable characters and horrible situations--very much so that I was unable to put down the book.

At first, I really thought Henry and Effie were cute in Cape May. Adorable, really. But then I realized how naive they actually are.  When they meet up with Clara, Max, and Alma who are also in Cape May during the off season that is where things go awry.  It was like watching two baby rabbits fall into the clutches of a vulture.  Clara, Max and Alma are worldly, experienced, and live life by their own rules.  When Henry and Effie try to assimilate into their world, things don't go well as one could easily predict.  So, this is where I thought the story would take on this Great Gatsby vibe with partying and different psychologically thrilling details, but I was wrong.  

Without giving too much away, Henry is seduced by someone (on his honeymoon!) and starts an affair with her. Willingly. And continues it. On his honeymoon.  I repeat. On his honeymoon.  I was appalled. I won't say more, but it's like just the tip of the iceberg here with these two.  Everything that could possibly go wrong on a honeymoon goes wrong in Cape May and it almost became unbelievable at one point.  Then I started disliking all the characters.  To the point where I put down the book, because I don't want my beach reads to stress me out in this manner.  This was just.too.much.  

And the sex. Oh, man. Now I am not a romance novel reader per se and I didn't read 50 Shades of Grey, but I like to think I can deal with an average amount of sex scenes in a novel.  I can also let go of a lot of erotic details if the story is strong.  But this was just too much.  The sex scenes were so overly detailed that it left a bad taste in my mouth and it felt almost smutty.  In fact, there was so much detail that all the sex became ineffective and I became numb to it.

But I will say I somehow became addicted to Cape May in the same way I might watch a reality TV show that is a disaster. I usually don't finish books like this, which is why I rarely review a book that I rate as two or three stars, but I had to know how it would end for these characters.  And once I got to the end, I was disappointed and almost depressed by it.  The overall message of Cape May, for me, was dismal.

Was Cape May well written? I guess. I will admit I was entertained, but I was disappointed because Cape May is one of my favorite places in the world and I was hoping for so much more. The town doesn't shine through the novel in the least bit.  However, there are some outstanding reviews for this novel; in fact, Kirkus gave it a starred review, but ultimately, this book is not for me and one I wouldn't recommend unless novels about drinking, sex, bad decisions, and more drinking are your cup of tea.

Did you read Cape May? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Blog Tour and Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.  A prince in danger must decide who to trust.  A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.   Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.  In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy."

Nadya lives in monastery in a remote village.  She isn't your usual teenager though; she can speak to all the Gods which is rare.  The priests know Nadya is special and are hoping she will be an unrivaled weapon in the Holy War, which is why she is training at the monastery.  However, before the priests can finish training her training, they are attacked by their enemies. Leading the attack is Serefin, a prince, who can preform dark magic, and holds many secrets of his own.  Can Nadya really stop the war and save her people like they all had hoped?  Emily A. Duncan's Wicked Saints is an action packed young adult fantasy for fans who enjoy dark magic, adventure, and corrupt kingdoms. 

Nadya is an interesting character right off the bat in Wicked Saints. I liked that she's fierce, independent, and holds a lot of power.  She can talk to not only her patron God, but all the Gods, which makes her a force to be reckon with. Who doesn't love a little girl power? Whereas Serefin was a bit more complex. I did feel badly that he has to deal with his crazy and power hungry father, but I didn't always agree with his decisions. For starters, every time he uses his magic, he has to shed blood. That's right. Blood. Yikes.  Chapters alternate from both Nadya and Serefin's perspectives, so readers will get to know both characters well, although I will admit that I had hoped Duncan would have fleshed them out a bit more.

The setting, although a little confusing at times, was really unique in Wicked Saints.  Duncan created a world that that felt a bit inspired by Russia.  The churches, the complex names, the blood magic, and the Gods all added to a memorable and atmospheric setting.

So, Wicked Saints was a bit darker than I was expecting.  It's pretty action packed and in turn, can be very violent for a young adult novel.  There are some definite o-m-g moments and don't get me started about that ending! So, if you like your YA fantasies a bit more action packed and cutthroat, definitely check out Wicked Saints. It is the start of a new trilogy that I think fans of darker high fantasies will enjoy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Review: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Pages: 360
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.  Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.  Who is the child and what really happened that day?  One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her."

Seraphine was born and raised at a large estate in England called Summerbourne along with her twin brother and older brother.  Her childhood would have been idyllic except for the fact that her mother committed sucide the day she and her brother were born by jumping off the cliffs near their house.  After her father's untimely death many years later, she finds herself going through his personal belongings at Summerbourne.  While doing so, he finds a suspicious picture of her mother looking happy on the day of the twin's birth and holding only one baby.  Could this person have jumped off the cliffs minutes later after such a normal looking photo or is there more to her mother's story than Seraphine knows. Her grandmother doesn't give her straight answers, so she knows that she must contact her older brother's former au pair.  This au pair should definitely have the answers as she was around when her mother was pregnant and on the day she died.  While doing so, Seraphine uncovers some major secrets about her family.  The Au Pair by Emma Rous is a domestic thriller about family secrets and cover ups all with a Gothic vibe.

Seraphine wants answers despite her grandmother's warning that she really shouldn't pry.  Her grandmother's insistence on not reaching out to the former au pair made Seraphine even more curious.  Can you blame her? What could her grandmother be hiding?  As Seraphine gets more and more answers about her family's sordid past, she starts to learn the truth about her own life as well as some answers regarding her childhood.  I can understand why Seraphine would want to know what happened to her mother, so I was rooting her on in The Au Pair

I liked that the narration often jumped back to the past in The Au Pair, so readers could try to put the pieces of the mystery together on their own.  Who exactly is Laura, the au pair, and what does she know?  Why did Seraphine's mother act the way she did? What drove her to allegedly jump off the cliffs?  As we spend more time in the past and read some chapters from Laura's viewpoint everything starts to become clearer.

The English manor house setting on the coast was fantastic and it reminded me of British novels I have read in the past that take place on sprawling estates all complete with fancy names.  Summerbourne was also surrounded by legends (there was talk of fairies, too!) and the townspeople often discussed it and the many unfortunate things that occurred there as the years went by.  It was such an interesting setting and it definitely added to the Gothic feel in The Au Pair.

My only gripe with The Au Pair was the lack of connection I felt with the characters.  While I cared about Seraphine, I wasn't overly invested in her or her plight. Sure, I wanted to know her family's secrets, but I can't say I connected with her tremendously. Perhaps the characterization could have been more fleshed out.

Nonetheless, if you love family mysteries with a Gothic vibe, give The Au Pair a try this winter.

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