Maiden Flight (Harry Haskell)

I received a copy of Maiden Flight free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

9781613736371

After reading Crossing the Horizon earlier this year, I found myself ready to do some more exploring into the people involved in the early days of flight. Maiden Flight turned out to be the perfect opportunity to dig in further.

Katherine Wright, the sister of Wilbur and Orville, was famous in her own right, but her story is one I had never heard before. After spending most of her life caring for her family, Katherine found romance with a friend from her college days. But her happiness would have a profound impact on her formerly very close relationship with her bother, Orville.

This story is told from three different viewpoints, Katherine, her brother Orville, and reporter Harry Haskell, which I thought at first would be a struggle. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Harry Haskell (grandson of the Harry Haskell in the story) did an amazing job creating three distinct voices. The meticulous research really paid off. It didn’t take long to “hear” each of three as individuals as I read.

I usually find a historical fiction book pretty successful if it sends me scurrying off to find more information. I did this several times while I was reading. It turns out my knowledge of the accomplishments of the Wrights was woefully inadequate, but this gave me ample opportunity to brush up. You by no means need to be an expert to enjoy the book, but a little background knowledge helps make the story easier to follow.

For me, this wasn’t a book to settle in and get buried it. I don’t mean that it wasn’t good, but, it was more a book to take slowly, little bits at a time. While my usual reading style is to binge read, it was a nice change of pace. Since it is not totally chronological, that made it easier to do just that. It is written more in the way that people think, not just a straight narrative. While that did take a little getting used to, it made for a pleasant reading experience.

While Maiden Flight didn’t totally knock my socks off, it was still a book I can recommend. Katherine Wright is definitely a figure I’m glad I was able to get to know. Take note! For all you romance lovers out there, while this book does have romance, it is decidedly “G” rated. Take that for what you will.

Victoria (Daisy Goodwin)

I received a copy of Victoria free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t change my opinion of the book.

51e3y0cfeyl

Many of you know I have a passionate fascination with the British monarchy. For the most part though, I have mostly focused on the Tudors, with a few forays into Eleanor of Aquitane and then the more recent royals (The King’s Speech started that… what can I say?). For some reason, I never really got into Queen Victoria. Lately, though, for some reason, I’ve felt like maybe I should. When I found this book, it seemed like a good place for me to start.

Victoria begins very shortly before the death of William IV, with the teenage Victoria just breaths away from the throne. She has spent her life closely guarded and isolated by her mother, the Duchess of Kent and the domineering Lord John Conroy. She’s not even able to walked down the stairs unattended. When the king dies, she immediately begins to come into her own, shedding the name she hates, Alexandrina- or Drina to her mother-, and becomes Victoria. She causes further rift with her mother when she demands a room of her own and insists that she will meet with her ministers alone.

Victoria becomes particularly close to the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who would eventually become her private secretary. As their relationship grows closer, it also grows rather more controversial. Lord Melbourne, like many others, pushes her to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Coburg, but she insists she is not interested.

I really love this book as a dramatic introduction to Queen Victoria. It made an intimating woman seem much more accessible. While she was every inch a queen, she was also an inexperienced teenager. It made her feel more real to me, just the idea of her being a real teenager, pretty much like anyone else.

Everything I’ve read since this doesn’t indicate to me that there was anything romantic between the young queen and her prime minister. I have to assume this was a little dramatic license to help spice up a work of fiction. Still, I can’t be too irritable about it, the whole thing was well done. I can give up a little accuracy for some entertainment, in this case.

Daisy Goodwin has also written a series for TV as well. It’s out on the other side of the pond, but we here in America have to wait until January to see it. It does have Jenna Coleman as Victoria, though, so as an enormous Doctor Who fan, I of course want to check it out. The pictures I’ve found online look fantastic.

My Favorite Book to Television Adaptations

Don’t say Game of Thrones.

I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just that I haven’t watched the show yet. I was hoping to finish the book series first (I’ll be discussing this more in a future post). Trying to avoid the constant spoilers is next to impossible… Facebook’s tendency to show me things people I know have liked that happen to be spoilers has enraged me on more than one occasion.

However, there are plenty of other great adaptations of books out there that have been made for TV. I have mentioned a few of them in the past, such as The Thorn Birds and Bones. I won’t rehash them here, but those are definitely high on my list.

Rizzoli and Isles

Based on Tess Gerritsen’s mysteries, this one is a series I really enjoyed, despite being almost nothing like the books. The two do share a few characters other than the titular Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli, and a few plot plots, but otherwise they are very different in both tone and plot. Both are excellent. I binged watched most the the series over the summer and really enjoyed it. However, I haven’t yet brought myself to watch the last few episodes yet. I’ve had to part with too many shows I love in the last few years. I’m having issues letting go.

The Andromeda Strain

medic-hospital-laboratory-medical-40559

The one has actually been adapted twice that I know of. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1969 book, the original movie came out in the 70s. I remember watching it in high school and it was a pretty decent movie that followed the book fairly well. But, I’m looking more at the 2008 miniseries which starred Benjamin Bratt. It’s definitely an update to the original story, but I really liked it. For me, it captured the scariness of the book a little bit better.

Shadowhunters

This series is adapted from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. It veered pretty far from the source material, but it’s full of such pretty people and is still a good enough story that I keep coming back. Of course part of it is just that I really like to look at Matthew Daddario.

pexels-photo-26298

Sherlock

This one might not be totally fair of me to list. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never actually read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the great detective. But, for real guys, have you watched the BBC’s Sherlock? It’s amazing.

Pride and Prejudice

Another great entry from the Brits. This was not my first run in with Austen (that milestone goes to Sense and Sensibility, which I’m still obsessed with to this day), but it’s certainly one of the favorites. Why? Let’s be honest: Colin Firth. I love the man. And the scene where he comes dripping wet out of the lake, although nowhere to be found in the books, was one of the greatest television moments.

I know there are tons more, many of which I haven’t seen, or I have but I have not read the books. What are your favorites?

Indiana Belle (John A. Heldt)

I received a free copy of Indiana Belle from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

51xlqnu7xml

When doctoral student Cameron Coelho opens a package of historical documents in 2017, he could never guess just where it will lead him. Beyond simply helping him with his dissertation, he finds the picture of a beautiful society writer from Evansville, Indiana who was brutally murdered in 1925. In a series of events that would have seemed unlikely just a short time before, Cameron finds himself in the 1920s and an adventure he could never have imagined.

Honestly, my typical time travel book contains a lot more burly Scotsmen. What Indiana Belle lacks in men in kilts, it makes up for with a solid story. Did it totally floor me? Not particularly, but it was a very enjoyable book. It was a little bit of a slow starter for me, but there are a few twists and ultimately a nice ending. Cameron is a good, if slightly staid, guy. And while Candice didn’t stand up to a modern feminist ideal, taken in the frame of the 1920s, she was positively rebellious.

John Heldt definitely did a great job making the ’20s seem real and positively familiar. He clearly did his research and uses it to great advantage, while not bashing the reader over the head with it. And, while part of a series, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything not having read the others. It can easily be taken alone.

My only real criticism of the book is a little strange: the use of the word “chuckled”. It’s in there so many times. Seriously, just so many. However, minus that, Indiana Belle was a good book, with a little romance (light enough to keep it guy friendly, I think), a little mystery and a little history. It has plenty of appeal for lovers of many different genres.

The Bone Collection (Kathy Reichs)

I might have a slight obsession with Kathy Reichs.

9780399593222
Image via Penguin Random House

I started out reading her books and eventually started watching Bones, as well. While my affection for Bones could now be qualified as “unhealthy”, I have by no means turned my back on the books. Although my degree is in Art History, the very best class I took during college was my forensic anthropology class. I was interested before, but it’s really blossomed into a love affair.

For anyone who is a fan only of the show, you have to keep in mind that you are dealing with two very different Temperance Brennans. For those that might find the TV Tempe a little haughty and cold (I, of course, love her anyway), book Tempe is a much more approachable, human person altogether.

One thing I love about Kathy Reichs’ books is the consistency. With 18 novels in the series, she has never failed to entertain me. She knows what she’s talking about, and it shows. I’ve found it rather rare for someone who is an expert on a topic to really tell a gripping fictional story, but she has the knack. Unlike some other series with a forensic bent I could name (but won’t), I’ve never found myself bored or forcing myself to get to the end.

This collection of four novellas was no exception. Three of the stories have previously been published, Bones in Her Pocket, Swamp Bones, and Bones on Ice. I managed to miss all three, so they were new to me. The final novella, First Bones, is exactly what it sounds like, an origin story. It reveals what got Brennan into forensics.

No surprise, I really enjoyed all of these. Bones on Ice was definitely my favorite, but all were very enjoyable. The great thing with novellas is that they are short enough to not be a huge commitment if you are in a hurry, but long enough to to be satisfying (usually). A nice compromise between short stories and full novel.

Tempe gets herself into her usual amount of danger, which I’ve come to expect. For an intelligent person, she does have a real tendency to make poor decisions where criminals are involved. However, that’s just something I’ve come to expect out of her.

Each story draws attention to different issues, in their own way. While all were important, particularly poignant for me was the plea to adopt rescue dogs and help shut down puppy mills. As mom to a rescue dog myself, I have a major soft spot for our four-legged friends.

1009161403a
That’s all the excuse I need to insert an adorable puppy pic.

So, check out The Bone Collection! What are you waiting for?

I Died Yesterday (Andy Graham)

Happy Halloween!

Given that it’s a holiday, I decided I would give you all a little bonus review for the week- consider it a treat. This will be a pretty short little review, but that seems fitting, because the book itself is a short read.

andygraham2001_i_died_yesterday
You know how I love a good cover…

But, by no means was it what I would call an easy read. I Died Yesterday is a collection of five short stories. While they are all very different stories, they do share the fact that they are all very dark, even bleak.

I always feel like I should enjoy short stories more than I do. It’s just a personal preference, but I’m always left wanting more. I’m a fan of giant tomes with massive page counts and series that keep bringing me back into a particular world. That being said, I did like this book, but was definitely left wishing there was more to it.

The writing was solid and evocative, which is all the more important when you are dealing with short stories. I particularly liked the final story in the book, A View. Another, Sunflower, definitely made my skin crawl. There is something here for any fan of the dark or macabre. The title story I Died Yesterday is scary in a way that could be very real for some readers. Each story is very different. There is some gore, but it’s not overwhelming. No monsters here, except the ones that wear a human face.

If you’re seeking a peek into the darkness, I Died Yesterday is the perfect place to start. You can also check out more from Andy Graham here, including plenty more to reading for those of you who are intrigued. Happy Halloween everyone!!

The Daemoniac (Kat Ross) and The Lost Property Office (James R. Hannibal)

I received a free copy of The Daemoniac and The Lost Property Office from the publishers in exchange for a review. This did not change my opinion of the books.

Today I’m going for a twofer, since these two books share a common thread.

I have a soft spot for Sherlock Holmes. But, I will confess, I’ve never read the books. I know. It’s shocking. Rather, my affection comes from the BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are my Sherlock and Watson. Nevertheless, I still enjoy a little nod to the characters in my reading. Perhaps someday I’ll even get around to the books.

The Daemoniac

the-daemoniac-ebook_3

It’s the summer of 1888 in New York, a mere three weeks before Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror in London. Detective Harrison Fearing Pell and her friend John Weston take a case that looks like demonic possession. Harry is not convinced that the killer is anything other than flesh and blood. The case will take them from the dangers of the Five Points to the mansions of Fifth Avenue.

I was skeptical of this book from page one. The opening chapter was a little awkward and felt like it wanted to be Sherlock Holmes way too much. However, it ended up being an extremely fun Victorian mystery, with hints of magic. It paid homage to Sherlock without, ultimately, being too heavy handed.

While I loved all the characters, I particularly love the inclusion of Nellie Bly and Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry (who, by the way, is female) is not some know-it-all detective but a smart, capable sleuth and Weston is a charming and able side-kick.

It was a super enjoyable read and I would love to read more of Harry’s adventures in the future. I actually just found out that this is connected to the other books Kat Ross has written. Hmm… guess I’ve got some reading to do.

The Lost Property Office

the-lost-property-office-9781481467094_hr

Thirteen year old Jack Buckles’ father has gone missing in London, and while Jack has a better than normal knack for finding missing items, unfortunately, his father isn’t one of them. After his sister follows someone she thinks is their father out of the hotel, Jack discovers The Lost Property Office and uncovers a secret. His father is member of a secret society of detectives who have served the crown for generations. Now, the only way Jack can save his father is to find the Ember and defeat the Clockmaker before it’s too late.

This book was absolutely SO much fun. Again, this book also owes some of it’s origins Sherlock Holmes as well, The Lost Property Office itself is on Baker Street. You’ll also find other delightful bits and pieces as you read.

In particular I absolutely loved the scene in the archives. I won’t give it away. You should definitely read this book and see for yourself.

While this is clearly for a somewhat younger crowd (middle grades maybe? I’m a bad judge of these things.), it never condescends. It’s full of smart characters and assumes the readers are as well.

While these two books are fairly disparate, I think they both have something for everyone to enjoy.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Giveaway!

I’ll be totally honest: I have been working a bunch of extra hours at my day job, so I have been slacking off a little bit on reading and writing posts.

img_20161021_061258

BUT I’m willing to make the lack of a review up to you buy giving away one of my favorite books of all time… with the original Stephen Gammell illustrations. I can’t promise it to you by Halloween, but if you’re anything like me, it’s good all year round.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Treasury Giveaway

Other Books I’ve Been Reading

If you keep track of my little Goodreads shelf over on the sidebar, you may have noticed I’m reading quite a few books that I’m not writing up. There are several reasons for this. Some were just bad. Others were ok, but I didn’t have strong enough feelings about them to write an entire review. Yet others are books I’ll be reviewing at a later date.

I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty summary of some of those, since just because I didn’t rave about them, doesn’t mean you won’t.

Useless Bay (MJ Beaufrand)

pexels-photo-188029

This was actually a fairly enjoyable book. Geared more toward middle grades, it was really well written, but left too many questions hanging for me to really enjoy it thoroughly. It centers around the larger than life Gray quintuplets, the unofficial search and rescue team of Whidbey Island. This one is out October 18.

 

Chasing Embers (James Bennett)

I really want to like urban fantasy, but I nearly always struggle with them. This one isn’t bad, a little wordy at times but a fairly solid read. I have a soft spot for dragons, so that may be part of the appeal for me. I can’t really gush about it, but I will likely read the next book when it comes out.

A Rustle of Silk (Alys Clare)

A decent mystery set against the backdrop of early Stuart England.  Overall, it was an enjoyable mystery, but there were a few moments that I didn’t really think fit and overall the mystery was just a little too easily solved for me. I won’t give away exactly what those parts were, but just be fair warned if you decide to pick this one up.

The Apothecary’s Curse (Barbara Bennett)

This urban fantasy, I actually did enjoy. The story moves between modern and Victorian timelines, but I found that kept me really interested. Victorian doctor Simon Bell and and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune became immortal and now must stop a modern pharmaceutical from exploiting their secret.

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.)

Talk about books that will make your skin crawl, this was beyond just creepy. Much of the story is told in Dennis Rader’s own words and while it’s interesting, it’s also scary as hell.

Garden District Gothic (Greg Herren)

It could be that I wasn’t super excited about this book because I hadn’t read any of the others in the series (this is the 7th Scotty Bradley book). The worst part for me was that the mystery seemed to be just too easily solved. It had the build up to be a really great mystery and I was really let down. I was a little iffy at the beginning because it really seemed to want to be the gayest thing that ever was gay, but things leveled off so that I wasn’t constantly saying to myself, “OK, I get it, these guys are gay!” It’s gay fiction and it seriously wants you to know it. Regardless, ultimately I found the super easy wrap up to be the deal breaker here.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays (Mike MacDonald, Jilly Gagnon)

santa-claus-christmas-man-bart-41159

I wanted to love this. It was (supposed) to be pure nostalgia for me, since I grew up with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. This was a humorous take on how much the holidays can suck. It was okay, I suppose. Cute. But, it was clearly written from a purely male perspective and I quickly lost interest.

The Private Lives of the Tudors (Tracy Borman)

I absolutely loved this one. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a passion for all things Tudor and this really gave me a lot of new insight into the everyday lives of the Tudor monarchs. I decided to forgo a full review of this one, just because I don’t know many people that would get as excited about the minutiae of Henry VIII’s private life as I do.

The Red Ripper (Peter Conradi)

Another book about a creepy serial killer, this time it’s Russian killer Andrei Chikatilo. It was an interesting read, but didn’t really expand on anything I hadn’t read previously.

Iron Cast (Destiny Soria)

In the interest of being totally aboveboard here, I received a free digital review copy of Iron Cast from the publisher in exchange for a review. Don’t worry, I’ll still give 100% honest opinions of it.

9781419721922
This awesome cover courtesy Abrams Books.

I was extremely excited to read this book for a number of reasons. 1) It was the first ARC (advanced reader copy, for those who don’t know already) I was ever approved for. 2) The cover looked interesting. Because as many of you may know, yes, sometimes I DO judge books (at least a little) by their covers. 3) The blurb sounded very interesting. And 4) It was described as a book perfect for fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Some of you may recall I have mentioned that particular series before as one I thoroughly enjoyed. Iron Cast surprised me. I really think it surpassed The Diviners. Long story short- it’s completely spectacular.

Before the story itself even begins, Destiny Soria says that she wanted to write a book where the female characters were real and complex. I think she succeeded brilliantly.

Set in Boston in 1919, with Prohibition looming on the horizon, Corrine and Ada are both hemopaths- they suffer an “affliction” that makes it possible for them to control peoples’ minds with art. They work for gangster Johnny Dervish in his club, The Cast Iron. After breaking Ada out of the notorious hemopath asylum, Haversham, both girls think they will be returning to the safety of their home at The Cast Iron. But, when several employees are shot and Johnny disappears, they will have to fight to find the truth behind everything that’s happened and make their lives safe once more.

This book was wonderful, engaging and with a richly built world. It was impossible for me not to love it. The friendship between Corinne and Ada was one I think all women can aspire to. The love between them as friends is what makes the entire story possible. I always find it refreshing to read a young adult novel where the romantic element is not the most important part of the entire plot. While there were romantic relationships in the book, they were far from the most significant.

All of the characters you meet are multifaceted and seem very real. Very few of them are exactly as they seem when you first meet them. I love it when I book keeps me guessing, and this certainly did. I found myself more that once nervous about whether or not Ada and Corrine could trust those around them. Anytime a book can draw me into the story so much that I’m feeling anxiety for them, I’d say it was quite well written.

I could not wait to finish the book and was sad when it ended. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. Iron Cast will be released in just a few days on October 11. I have pre-ordered my copy and my fingers are absolutely itching to get my hands on it.  I cannot recommend Iron Cast enough and I absolutely cannot wait to read more from this author!