The City of Lost Fortunes (Bryan Camp)

I received a free copy of The City of Lost Fortunes in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still rebuilding. Jude Dubuisson carries the burden of his past and of a magical secret. He has the ability to find lost things, something passed down to him from a father he has never met, one who just happens to be a god. When the fortune god of New Orleans calls in a favor, Jude finds himself involved in a poker game with the gods of New Orleans and stakes much higher than he ever could have imagined.

The City of Lost Fortunes is definitely a book that one could do a pretty in depth analysis of. However, if you have ever read my reviews before, that’s not really my thing. For one thing, I definitely need to read it again. There is so much going on here. The cast of characters is not only eclectic, but large. Fortunately, not to a confusing degree.

Jude himself is a bit of a rogue, certainly no boy scout, but he’s interesting enough, it makes him fairly likeable. Regal was a personal favorite, but there are more than a few fascinating characters here that I wouldn’t mind reading more about. In particular, Sal the psychopomp.

This was a book I found to be best savored, a perfect summer read. The mashup of mythologies set in a wonderfully dark New Orleans made for a surprisingly enjoyable combination. It’s a little fantasy, a little mystery and a lot Southern Gothic. This being Bryan Camp’s first novel, I certainly cannot wait to read more from him.

Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Yes. I’m leading with the cover on this one, because look at it. Stunning.

When magic disappeared from Orïsha, Zélie lost not only her mother to the hate of the ruthless King Saran, but all hope, as well. Now, in a twist of fate Zélie has the chance to bring magic back to her people with the help of a runaway princess and her own non-magical brother. Will they be able to navigate the many dangers and escape from the crown prince who hunts them single-mindedly?

This is a book that I had been anticipating for quite awhile, along with, I suspect a ridiculous number of other people. I read a few other reviews of Children and Blood and Bone after I finished the book, and found I did not agree with them. They were critical of it for being unoriginal and overlong. I can’t totally speak for the unoriginal critique, as I’m not familiar with The Last Airbender, which was apparently a strong inspiration. I could see some of the parallels with Ember in the Ashes, but overall, it felt original to me. As to it being overlong, well, I love really long books. Most of the chapters were quite short, so that helped keep the pace up for me.

Overall, I thought it was wonderful. I finished it and immediately had to look online to see if there were going to be more books. While I loved Zélie, I particularly enjoyed Amari. It was fantastic seeing her grow from fearful and damaged into someone much stronger. I’m also just desperate to see what happens with Inan in the next book. There is so much potential here and I’m super excited to see where it’s all going.

YA and Wine

If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know I enjoy pairing books and booze. And if there are two things I’m particularly passionate about, it’s young adult novels and a decent glass of wine. I can’t honestly claim to be an expert on either, but I can’t think of many things that would go better together. It’s likely that I’ve mentioned some of these series before on other lists, however, they are certainly worth mentioning again.

 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This is a series I have definitely mentioned before, probably paired with a cocktail. I stand by that, but I feel like it would pair equally well with a good mead. I know, typically it would be something better suited to a more medieval setting, but bear with me here. Southerners like their tea sweet, right? Why not their wine too? Being that Beautiful Creatures is very Southern, it just makes sense to me. And mead feels a little more “grown up” to me than most other sweet wines. Any mead will obviously do, but my absolute favorite is actually local for me, from just down the highway in Hermann, MO, an orange blossom mead.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is a series I only recently finally picked up. It’s still ongoing, with the third book in the series coming out this May. While there is definitely hope to be found, they are still pretty dark, so I endorse something dark (and pretty strong). Sip on a nice port. It’s certainly a wine that can stand on it’s own feet, like Laia.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This is another series I’ve only recently given a shot, but quite surprised myself by enjoying. I’ve only read the first book so far, but I plan on picking up the rest of the series. It’s a little bit like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but with better fashion. It’s not all pretty dresses and wooing a prince, but it still feels like it needs something pretty and a little decadent. I would suggest a nice, dry, sparkling rosé.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I’ll be honest, I initially picked up this book because I thought the cover was pretty. I really wasn’t sure what it was about, but I really ended up enjoying it. Pretend like you are rich and perfect enough to live in the penthouse of The Tower and dive in with a nice (but cheap) champagne.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I’ve previously reviewed this book here, but if you haven’t checked that out, I cannot stress enough how fun it is. It seems fitting that the wine I chose to pair with it is a little old fashioned; pretty much every 18th century and Regency set novel I’ve ever read has gentlemen drinking claret. It’s not a wine you see much these days, but Coppola Winery has a particularly nice one. I can’t normally recommend a specific wine, but this is the only time I can remember seeing a claret and it’s definitely well worth it if you can track it down.

Do you have any wine and YA pairings you’d like to recommend? Share them with me below!

Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt (in60Learning)

I received a free copy of Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t affect my opinion of the book.

Much like this book, my review is going to be quick and painless. While there are definitely people like me out there who are happy to dive into massive biographies or histories, I completely understand that they aren’t for everyone. With this series, each book is designed to be read in about an hour. For me, it was a solid 30 minutes, with some distraction.

I chose something ancient Egyptian for my review, because since that it a topic I feel really passionate about (I’ve been OBSESSED with ancient Egypt since the 3rd grade), I felt like I could be a reasonably good judge of accuracy. I’m no expert, by any means. My qualifications include 20+ years of personal interest and a degree in Art History and Archaeology with a history minor. This seemed pretty accurate to me, I certainly didn’t see any egregious errors.

It was also fresh and engaging. I can see this being pretty important to those who don’t want to spend a great deal of time reading. It also helps that Hatshepsut is extremely interesting.

Personally, I’ll stick with more in-depth books, but I really love the idea of this series. Being someone who LOVES history, I’m whole-heartedly behind something that makes it more accessible to a wider audience. I’m looking forward to a volume on my favorite phararoh, Akhenaten (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Learn more here.

The Case for Jamie (Brittany Cavallaro)

Holmes and Watson are back- not only Charlotte and Jamie, but Leander and James, as well.

It’s been a year since Jamie Watson (or anyone else, for that matter) has seen Charlotte Holmes. After the events that lead to the death of August Moriarty, Jamie has been going through the motions, trying to finish his final year at school. When strange things start to happen, he can’t help but wonder if it’s his imagination running wild, or if Lucien Moriarty could be behind it all.

This third installment in the Charlotte Holmes series is definitely chock full of teenage angst, but what might have been cloying, works here. The chapters rotate between narration from Jamie and Charlotte. While it would be easy to write Jamie’s affection for Holmes off as misguided, her chapters help add a layer of insight into why she is the way she is. Removed from Watson’s pedestal, she’s more human. Damaged, absolutely, but far more like the rest of us than she ever previously seemed. Hearing from Charlotte herself was one of the things I really enjoyed in the last book, and I was pleased to see it employed more here.

Jamie’s girlfriend Elizabeth proved to be an interesting character, as well. While I know she was in the first book in the series, A Study in Charlotte, she’s a complete blank for me. Here, she proved something of a surprise, not only for me, but for Jamie Watson, as well.

A Case for Jamie provides all the twists and turns that one should expect from a Holmesian novel. There is plenty of action and more than a few surprises tempered by emotions, but all in all, it strikes a good balance. While I have enjoyed all the books in the series so far, this one might be my favorite. The Last of August (see my review of that one here) got a little hard to follow at times. I like complex mysteries, but I don’t like to be left in the dust.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I really feel like this series is a do not miss. Same if you are a fan of YA.

The Thirteenth Gate (Kat Ross)

Sorry that there has been a bit of a delay on posts. I spent last month working on another book related project that I might be sharing some time in the future. Anyway, on to The Thirteenth Gate.

Last year, you may recall I review Kat Ross’s The Daemoniac (catch up on that review here). That book was a prequel to this one, which is the first in the Dominion Mysteries series. While The Daemoniac ends just shortly before the Jack the Ripper murders, this one picks up shortly after they ended.

Here we met Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec Lawrence, on their way to the Greymoor Lunatic Asylum in the dead of a rainy night. Really, can a book begin in a better way? Initially, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have more adventures with Harry and John. They do show up and play a major role, but not until a little ways into the book.

That disappointment did not last long. This book somehow managed to delve even further into the supernatural, but still managed to maintain the mystery element that was particularly fun in the previous book.

It did lead me even further down the rabbit hole, however. Now, having been introduced to Vivienne and Alec, I wanted to know more. I knew Kat Ross had other books that had a connection to this series, but I had not yet sought them out. As it turns out, Midnight Sea is available to read for free. It was, of course, amazing. I picked up the entire trilogy and devoured them. She is also two books in to another connected series. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on those yet, but I will and I definitely recommend you do to.

So, if you feel like losing yourself for awhile, you really can’t go wrong with a little Kat Ross.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride (Cary Elwes and Joe Layden)

So, I’m starting out the year with a book that isn’t exactly new, but it’s new to me. Somehow, I never knew about this book, despite the fact that I love The Princess Bride (and, admittedly, had a crush on Cary Elwes for years). It showed up on one of the websites I follow for ebook deals a short time ago, so naturally, I had to scoop it up.

I am absolutely so pleased that I did. The book is utterly charming. It was such fun to have an insider’s view on the film-making process, particularly as the movie is an all time favorite. Cary Elwes enjoyment was clear and overall left me brimming with warm-fuzziness. The book also includes asides from director Rob Reiner and many others, including much of the cast.

While it’s possible there is a certain amount of sugar coating going on (there was nothing scandalous or really even all that unpleasant), the narratives do come off as genuine. Ultimately, being a romantic, I choose to go with it. Particularly notable are the reflections of the cast and crew about the late André the Giant.

Finishing the book, of course, merited a rewatch of the movie, which was all the more enjoyable because A) I had the best company ever and B) I could pick out many of the fun little details that I had read about.

If you are a fan of The Princess Bride this book is well worth your time. Plus, right now, it’s still only $1.99 for the Kindle. And if you need a cocktail to go with your reading, as you wish, you can find my recommendation here.

2017 Reading Round-up

Happy New Year!

Shall we dive right in? I had a few goals for 2017: read 100 books, finish my first novel and review at least one book every two weeks.

Long story short: I failed every single one of them. And you know what? That’s ok.

It wasn’t an easy year. Very little went as I intended, but I realize more and more, that’s just life. Yes, I neglected my blog, but I took more time to take care of myself which is an easy trade. I’ve written before about my relationship with books (Why I Love Books) and that is still true, but in the end, I think it was good to step away for awhile and focus on the real world.

But, it’s not all bad news. I did accomplish a few things. I still read 76 books. I not only started my novel, but have made reasonably good progress on it (by the way, if you are interested in possibly beta reading for me, we should chat). There is no pressure. I’ll finish it when I finish it. Ultimately, I’m really happy with where I ended the year, both personally and as a reader. The year had it challenges, but it was all worth it in the end. I’m calling it a win.

Back to those books I did read. As usual, my YA reading was a standout for me. I started the year with two great ones: The Blazing Star and A Study in Charlotte. It only got better and better. King’s Cage, The Last of August, Caraval, Crooked Kingdom. My favorite of the year was probably Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. It was brilliantly fun. You can explore the full list of everything I read on my Goodreads page.

My to-read stack for this year is already full and there are going to be several books coming out through the year that I am really looking forward to getting my hands on: War Storm, Queen of Air and Darkness, Legendary, My Plain Jane, The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, just to name a few.

I should be back to sharing reviews with you soon and hopefully will be able to share some updates on my own book with you as well. I plan on making 2018 a really amazing year.

Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem (Jennifer Arntson)

I received a free copy of Scavenger Girl in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

In Ashlund, Una and her family are Scavengers: forced to live on the fringes of society and scrounge out a life where they can. While their family bond runs deep, it becomes more clear that there are also secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Soon, Una will be forced to choose between the life she knows and a life of privilege that rejects much of what she holds dear.

Where should I begin? Overall, I’m intrigued by this book. It is the first book in a series and the world that Jennifer Arntson has built is a very interesting one. It’s dark and the issues Una is taking on are difficult ones. It’s does have a few things I didn’t like, but overall, it was nothing so egregious I couldn’t overlook it.

Initially, I was a little irritated with Una. When things got rough, she fell apart. More than once. However, I thought about it. Would I have really handled the situations any differently? Merely because she didn’t deal with some admittedly pretty nasty situations with the typical dystopian heroine’s hard-ass attitude was no reason to discount her. Deep down, Una is tough, and she does make some decisions that, in all honesty,  are very mature and probably not the ones I would have made myself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This book does get pretty intense. I certainly didn’t finish it as quickly as I normally would. I had to step away every once in awhile just to give my emotions a break. One scene in particular was difficult to get through. When things go wrong in Ashlund, they go very, very wrong.

Scavenger Girl is definitely a different take on young adult dystopian fiction. If that’s something you are interested in, it’s worth your time. I, for one, am very interested to see where things go in the rest of the series.

Halloween Nonfiction and a Giveaway!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!!

Most of you know that Halloween tops my list of holidays. Last year, I did a list of books and cocktail suggestions to make your Halloween a little better (you can read that here). This year, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route and share with you my favorite nonfiction works with a more macabre theme.

  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Let’s get death positive for Halloween! Caitlin Doughty helps to bring a refreshing dose of humor to death. Her video series Ask a Mortician has long been a favorite of mine and her books are filled with fascinating anecdotes and her signature irreverence. She somehow helps make death a more approachable experience.

  • The Great Mortality by John Kelly

An engrossing and often heart-wrenching history of the black death, which decimated Europe in the Middle Ages. It’s educational, obviously, but it definitely has moments that help to convey the more human aspects of a tragedy that may seem very distant to us now.

  • Death’s Acre by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

Dr. Bass is probably THE leading pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology. This book discusses how he helped develop the field as well as offering intriguing looks into actual cases and giving readers a peek into the Body Farm.

  • Beyond the Dark Veil

If you have ever seen The Others, then you are familiar with the Victorian practice of post-mortem photography. This book takes an look at the practice in an intimate, often poignant manner.

  • Empire of Death, Memento Mori and Heavenly Bodies by Paul Koudounaris

If you like skeletons, you will love Paul Koudounaris’ work. Whether he’s exploring medieval ossuaries or taking in bedazzled saints, his work is visually stunning and endlessly fascinating. These books are probably my favorites on this list, and that’s saying something.

NOW… giveaway time!! For quite awhile now, I have been following The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice, a fantastic blog on medical history from Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. She recently published The Butchering Art. I have not read it yet, but, having read her blog, I can’t imagine that it’s not fantastic. Long story short (basically, awesome boyfriend), I have an extra copy and I’m giving it away!

Sorry, this one is also US only and will stay open through midnight on Halloween!

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris