Saturday, February 25, 2017

REVIEW: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

Wow, what a great read! As the final book in the All Souls trilogy, The Book of Life wrapped things up magnificently, even if I was slightly sad to see it end. I'll miss the characters—so bold and full of life—and the locations that were brought to life so vividly through the author's beautifully detailed writing. Historical books such as these also have a hidden educational aspect for me. I found myself using Wikipedia to learn more about many of the historical figures and places referenced in the story, more so for the second book which took place in the 16th century, but still....

As the ideal alchemical couple, Diana and Matthew are perfect together: light and dark, sun and moon, gold and silver. But still they struggle against the Congregation's archaic covenant which prohibits cross-species relationships, in their case a witch and a vampire. If they can manage to get their hands on the mysterious Ashmole 782 manuscript, otherwise known as The Book of Life, which has been eluding them through time, they're certain they'll have the ammunition they need to fight the Congregation. But there are others who'd love to get their hands on the peculiar manuscript too, and for much less noble and more nefarious reasons.

Overall, The Book of Life was an emotionally engaging read, bringing the All Souls Trilogy to an impactful and sublime end. I'd strongly recommend this trilogy to anyone, even those who normally aren't fans of the fantasy genre, for it's written in such a way that the issues faced by the protagonists can be applied in a non-fantasy setting as well, even if some of the solutions cannot. I'm anxiously looking forward to the upcoming television series—it should be awesome!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

REVIEW: The All Souls Real-time Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I read this book alongside A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, the first two books in Deborah Harkness's All Souls trilogy. I followed along, chapter by chapter, delving deeper into the world of All Souls that this reading guide provided. Pictures, historical facts, and additional detail provided a deeper understanding into the components that made up these books. Particularly useful during the historical 16th century parts, the guide shed light on many of the intricacies of the time with which I was not familiar, and for that reason, I found it very useful and enlightening.

I was slightly disappointed however to find that the final book in the trilogy, The Book of Life was not included in this guide. I will definitely miss it's companionship while reading that final book.

REVIEW: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Shadow of Night, the second book in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off. Having just timewalked back to 1590, Diana and Matthew find themselves back in Elizabethan London surrounded by Matthew's friends, the mysterious coterie known as the School of Night. Diana is quite impressed to find Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Harriot, and Henry Percy among those residing at Matthew's house, The Old Lodge in Woodstock.

Among this wily group of artists, astronomers, and spies, Diana and Matthew confide their secrets, and the goals they hope to accomplish while there—find out more about the mysterious manuscript Ashmole 782, as well as locate a witch tutor who can help Diana master her magic. But of course, all does not go according to plan, especially since they've landed themselves just outside of Scotland where the witch hunt is in full swing. The pair also doesn't even know for sure if the mysterious manuscript exists yet so they're left to just search blindly. All the while, they do their best to preserve history and not leave too much of a mark; for overstepping too much in the past can cause a great many changes in the future yet to come.

This book was quite good, though not necessarily quite as good as the first in the series. I loved meeting all the famous historical characters and getting to know their personality and quirks. The author does such a good job at bringing these characters to life, including the famous historical ones, that it felt as if they were my own friends I was cavorting with. Due to the breadth of new faces introduced, the list of characters at the end of the book was a welcome relief to help me keep track of who's who. I must also admit that the companion reading guide, The All Souls Real-time Reading Companion (free for Amazon Kindle), came in quite handy here as well, as did Wikipedia which is just a long press away on my Kindle. :)

Overall, this was a worthy second and a great follow-up to A Discovery of Witches, one that left me breathless to discover how it all wraps up in the last and final book, The Book of Life, which I plan to start reading right away.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

A Discovery of Witches was a fabulous story: a little love, a lot of history, and a whole lot of supernatural. I loved how the author, who's actually a historian herself as it turns out, is able to bring the feeling of different places to life so vividly. I could literally smell the warm cozy scents of the Bishop family home, and feel the chill in the air of the large French chateau.

The same can be said for the characters. They were all brought to life so richly, opening like flowers as they revealed their mysteries slowly and deliberately. In the beginning, I didn't much care for Diana—she was too academic and focused on her studies and seemed to have little interest in much else, using rowing, running, and yoga only as a way to work out her anxieties. It was only as she began to open up and feel comfortable with the devilishly handsome vampire Matthew that she became a bit more interesting.

The author has a unique way of looking at the world: vampires, witches, and daemons living among us, but each their own separate species distinct from humans. Yes, they are hiding in plain sight, attempting to keep their existence secret from humans by blending in with the rest of the world. I didn't quite understand how this was entirely possible in the beginning, but Ms. Harkness is so wonderful at world building that everything falls into place quite nicely, especially since these three species are able to tell one another apart based on their other senses in a way humans cannot.

As a natural born witch, we discover that Diana's been suppressing her magical abilities ever since her parents died when she was seven years old. But now these same abilities are bursting to get out of her, despite her lack of control, and all manner of creatures now have her on their radar. Danger starts to follow her around and despite Matthew's attempts to keep her safe, Diana must start to understand her magic if she's to figure out what the Congregation is after her for.

Overall, a delightfully engaging book that I'd recommend highly to lovers of books, history, and the supernatural. I anxiously look forward to reading Shadow of Night, the second book in the trilogy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

REVIEW: Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

The thrilling adventures of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children comes to a close in this highly satisfying and fulfilling conclusion to the trilogy. The story picks up right where the previous one left off, so it's best to read these books together if you can.

Jacob has discovered he possesses a peculiar skill that allows him to talk to the monsters that have been raiding the peculiars' time loops. Accompanied by fire girl Emma, and a talking dog named Addison, they set out through the bowels of London to rescue their peculiar friends and ymbrynes. If they can traverse the pirate-filled cesspool of Fever Ditch and back alleys of Devil's Acre without getting themselves killed—and Jacob can master this strange new talent of his—they may just be able to pull off this whole rescue mission without getting themselves killed.

The fast paced action in these books left me not wanting to put them down. I read them in record time (for me at least). I fell in love with (nearly) all the characters, so much so that I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I hope it does these wonderful books justice and don't mess with the story line too much. I'll be looking forward to Ransom Riggs's next project.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

REVIEW: Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Picking up right where Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children left off, Hollow City throws the reader right into the action. For that reason, you may want to read this trilogy all at once.

Jacob and the rest of the peculiar children have taken to the open sea, attempting to escape the monsters pursuing them on their little island and also to get help for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine, who is unwillingly stuck in bird form. But trouble continues to follow the children on their trek to London, and their perilous journey is rife with danger and adventure. When Jacob made the decision to stay in 1940, he didn't realize at the time how important he'd become to their survival. Will he ever get back to his parents in the present? Or will the past consume him, body and soul?

Though this installment contained all the thrilling adventure of the first, I liked it only slightly less, if only for a certain little plot twist that irked me. I can't say much without giving too much away, except this: How can such a large group, both children and adult, be overcome by one wily wight after they've managed to take down an entire army of them? There, that shouldn't have given too much away. But it felt like the whole book was a sequence of them running from the monsters, escaping or killing said monsters, rinse and repeat. Fortunately, it was kept interesting by the fact that circumstances were drastically different each time, but I think this volume might've suffered slightly from middle-book-itis. Note I still loved it enough to give it an 8, but it was almost a 7 for that reason, when I gave the first one a 9. I'm looking forward to reading Library of Souls next to see how it all wraps up.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

REVIEW: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

A stack of peculiar photographs and a mysterious letter send Jacob and his father to a remote island in Wales after his grandfather dies under strange circumstances. Having grown up hearing all his grandfather's unbelievable stories of peculiar children—one who can levitate, another who can fly, one with bees living inside him, and yet another with inhuman strength—Jacob is determined to follow the bread crumbs his grandfather left him to discover the truth. When they arrive at Cairnholm Island, what they discover is certainly not what Jacob expected. It's even better! Or is it???

This was an amazing read I couldn't put down. The pacing was spot on and all the characters were so well developed I felt as if I was right there living it all with Jacob.

The relationship between Jacob and Emma felt much more real than any of the relationships Jacob had back in Florida, so I think he's definitely where he belongs now. :)

Now that I've finally read the book, I'm very much looking forward to the movie, waiting in my Netflix queue.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

REVIEW: Fellside by M. R. Carey

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It's a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

Will she listen?
The story started off a bit slow—Jess Moulson as a junkie who winds up in the hospital and then prison, a horrible situation we've seen one too many times. It's terribly sad how heroin can over one's life and push everything else to the background. So though I wasn't impressed with the story throughout the first quarter of the book, it nevertheless managed to build a solid background and foundation for the main character.

I actually considered not finishing it if things didn't pick up as this definitely wasn't the story I signed up for. But I'm glad I persevered because by 25% in, a new ghostly character was introduced that shook things up considerably. In the end, I was was rewarded with a very satisfying, albeit sad, story.

Thank you to Orbit Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.