Tag: book blog

Beneath the Sugar Sky – Seanan McGuire Review

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Series: Wayward Children #3

Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

Goodreads Link

Synopsis: Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

Beaneath the Sugar Sky Seanan McGuire Elaine Howlin Literary Blog
Instagram @elainehowlin_ & @elaine_reads_romance

What I thought about the book:  I think this one would be 3.5 stars (probably the lowest rating I’ve ever given a Seanan McGuire book). I just didn’t find the story as interesting as the others but it was still very enjoyable.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository 

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“Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonal floods or carried off by tornadoes. Children have always traveled, and because they are young and bright and full of contradictions, they haven’t always restricted their travel to the possible.”

― Seanan McGuire, Beneath the Sugar Sky

Wayward Children Series

 Every Heart a Doorway

Down Among the Sticks and Bones Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Beneath the Sugar Sky Beneath the Sugar Sky

In an Absent Dream In an Absent Dream

Synopsis from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard Review

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Title: Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Red Queen #1

Goodreads Rating: 4.07/5

Goodreads Link

Synopsis:  

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard Elaine Howlin Literary Blog
Instagram @elainehowlin_ & @elaine_reads_romance

What I thought about the book: Ok, I’m not (usually) a fan of YA but I really enjoyed this. It was so suspenseful with lots of action and intrigue that kept me guessing. The love triangle didn’t even annoy me.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository 

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Synopsis and book cover from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_

December Wrap Up

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

I had such a wonderful December filled with family, friends and LOTS of delicious food. I’m pretty sad I no longer have an excuse to add the auld drop of Baileys to my coffee but it’s time to get back to normal now anyway.

How was your holiday season?

With all the family fun I got very little reading done and what I did read were mostly audiobooks.

I’m still slowly reading The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (since November) I’m enjoying it but I hope to finish it up in January.

eBooks

Voyeur by Fiona Cole ★★★★☆

Contemporary Romance, Erotica

I think 3.5 stars for this one. Voyeur follows Oaklyn and Callum who are college student and teacher. Oaklyn is desperate for a job in order to pay for college and on the advice of a friend gets a job in Voyeur, a club where clients can watch people having sex and/or masturbating. Unbeknownst to Oaklyn, her new teacher Callum is a regular of the club. Callum has some issues that make a normal relationship very difficult and becomes slightly obsessed with Oaklyn… or infatuated if you want to be a bit nicer. I actually really enjoyed this story but it dragged a bit.

Audiobooks

I Thee Wed (Vanza #2) by Amanda Quick ★★★★☆

Historical Romance, Mystery

My first Amanda Quick book and I am now a fan. I didn’t realise this would have a mystery in it (suits me perfectly since I’m doing Cloak and Dagger Christmas). I love when historical romances have a mystery in them as well.

This book follows Emma and Edison who are attending an event in a country house. Emma is a lady’s companion at the party when circumstances lead her to being assistant to Edison in his investigations for a book of arcane potions he believes was stolen by one of the guests.

Wicked Widow (Vanza #3) by Amanda Quick ★★★★★

Historical Romance, Mystery

Loved this one! Here we follow Madeline and Artemis  who are being plagued by the apparent ghost of Madeline’s husband. The husband everyone believes she murdered. The ghost wrecks havoc with Artemis’s plans for revenge on the men responsible for the death of his lover so the two team up to discover who the ghost is and what he’s after.

Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1) by Kerry Greenwood ★★★★☆

Historical, Cosy Mystery

I thought I would enjoy this more since I really like the TV show but there’s something about Phryne in this that annoys me. She’s a little bit of a Mary-Sue… The woman can do anything including dance like a professional, have the perfect body and solve crimes. It was a bit much but still enjoyable. I’ll keep going with the series and see if Phryne calms down a bit.

Murphy’s Law (Molly Murphy Mysteries #1) by Rhys Bowen ★★★★☆

Historical, Cosy Mystery

This was really enjoyable even if it was a bit unrealistic. That’s totally fine for a cosy mystery though. It should be more enjoyable and fun to read than gritty and real.

Here we follow Molly Murphy in 1901 making her way from Ireland to New York. When she arrives she gets entangled in a murder on Ellis Island and must clear her name and the name of her friend. The reason I found it a bit unrealistic is because Molly is very independent and has very trouble running around New York investigating a murder by herself.

I really loved the language in the book. It’s the best Irish dialogue written from a non-Irish person I’ve read.

Death of Riley (Molly Murphy Mysteries #2) by Rhys Bowen ★★★★☆

Historical, Cosy Mystery

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first but it was still very good. In this one Molly gets a job working for a private investigator but he ends up murdered and she sets herself the task of finding out who done it


So that was it for December. I was in a tizzy over what book to bring to my parents for Christmas week and in the end I had no time to read anyway!

I’ll hopefully read a bit more in January. What was your favourite read in December?

Interesting Articles

Same, but Different: Why We Love Revisiting Famous Literary Characters

I recently watched a brand-new dramatization of a classic work of literature — if, that is, the definition of literature includes manga.

The work in question is Hana Yori Dango, usually translated into English as Boys Over Flowers, the all-time most popular shōjo manga, i.e., manga aimed at a teenage female readership. It ran for twelve years in a biweekly magazine and was collected in thirty-seven volumes, which have sold more than sixty million copies. – SHERRY THOMAS, Signature

Cărturești Carusel Bookstore

This wonderful building was built in 1903 by a wealthy family of Greek bankers, only to be confiscated by the Communist regime in the 1950s. It was turned into a general store and later abandoned and left to decay as Communism collapsed. – Atlas Obscura

Audible Black Friday 2018 Offer

Awards Introduction: 6 Literary Prizes and a Few Winning Books We Love

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Earlier this year the Nobel Prize Committee announced it wouldn’t be awarding a prize for literature this year due to an internal sex scandal within the Swedish Academy, which oversees the prize. So readers who look forward each October to discovering new international writers – or cheering for the victory of a beloved favorite – will have to wait a year, until fall 2019, to find out who the winner is. The Academy plans to award two prizes next year. (While you wait, though, consider the book by the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad’s The Last Girl.)  In the meantime, there are plenty of other literary contests to watch (or, in the case of a rich award like the Man Booker, bet on.) Read on to get a sense of what the prizes are and who’s won in the past. –  JENNIE YABROFF, Signature

In Perfect Harmony: Why Music and Fiction Work Well Together

There is an inherent problem about writing fiction that concerns another art form – especially if you’re claiming that your fictional artist has real talent, or is exceptionally good at what he or she does.  How can you prove it? It’s not so hard if you’re writing about a writer – the qualities and textures of the prose that you, the author, employ will almost do the job for you. The examples you cite about the fictional author will surely reflect your own standards. This perhaps explains why there are more novels about novelists than any of the other potential artists and art forms on offer. How do you prove that your fictional painter, dancer, sculptor, composer, filmmaker are worthwhile, genuinely gifted? It’s tricky. – WILLIAM BOYD, Signature

2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

It’s time for New Year reading challenges, yay! The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by Passages to the Past which is an amazing blog focusing on historical fiction. All subgenres of historical fiction are welcome so romance, young adult, mystery, whatever, all are welcome 🙂

The challenge runs from January 1st to December 31st 2019 and has 6 levels.

20th Century Reader – 2 books
Victorian Reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 books
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History – 25 books
Prehistoric – 50+ books

I’m going to aim for Ancient History – 25 books. In 2018 I read about 20 historical books so 25 should be attainable. 

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Historical Fiction MBR

MBR stands for “might be read”.

I often see classics being tagged historical fiction so I’m including them in my list. I’m just going to pick out 5 books now because I will most likely discover some new ones throughout 2019.

The-Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-by-Hazel-Gaynor-Elaine-Howlin-Literary-Blog
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The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

“They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”

1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.

1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

I received this book from Harper Collins a few months ago, started reading it, liked it but stopped for whatever reason. I recently listened to the audio of Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb and loved it so. I’m really excited to read more by both of them. Heather Webb has a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that I will likely pick up in 2019 as well.


With This Ring (Vanza #1) by Amanda Quick

With This Ring  (Vanza, #1)

Leo Drake, the “Mad Monk of Monkcrest,” is notoriously eccentric and unquestionably reclusive. But he is also a noted antiquities expert, which is why Beatrice Poole has demanded his reluctant assistance. The freethinking authoress of “horrid novels,” Beatrice is searching for the Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite, a mythic treasure she suspects played a role in her uncle’s death. Beatrice finds Leo every bit as fascinating as one of the heroes in her novels-and she’s convinced he’s the only one who can help her. But after only five minutes in her company, Leo is sure he’s never met a woman more infuriating…and more likely to rescue him from boredom. Yet the alliance may well prove to be the biggest mistake of their lives. For a villain lurks in London, waiting for the pair to unearth the Forbidden Rings-knowing that when they do, that day will be their last….

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

So, I did the unspeakable and read the second and third books in this series before reading the first book. It seems like a strange thing to do but I had those two and had to wait for this one. I also read a review on the second book that said there was no tangible connection between them and could be read as a stand-alone so I went with it. Now I can read the first one and get the series straightened up.


Notorious Pleasure (Maiden Lane #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2)

Their lives were perfect…
Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn’t bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother…

Until they met each other.
Lord Griffin Reading is far from perfect – and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire—desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero’s wedding nears, and Griffin’s enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love?

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

I read the first book in this series in 2016 and loved it. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to decide to continue with the series but here we are.


Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Gothic Tales

‘Such whispered tales, such old temptations and hauntings, and devilish terrors’

Elizabeth Gaskell’s chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. ‘Disappearances’, inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings, mixes gossip and fact; ‘Lois the Witch’, a novella based on an account of the Salem witch hunts, shows how sexual desire and jealousy lead to hysteria; while in ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ a mysterious child roams the freezing Northumberland moors. Whether darkly surreal, such as ‘The Poor Clare’, where an evil doppelganger is formed by a woman’s bitter curse, or mischievous like ‘Curious, if True’, a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the pieces in this volume form a start contrast to the social realism of Gaskell’s novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.

Laura Kranzler’s introduction discusses how Gaskell’s tales, with their ghostly doublings and transgressive passions, show the Gothic underside of female identity, domestic relations and male authority. This edition also contains a chronology, further reading and explanatory notes.

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

This one I will probably hold out reading until #victober in October which is a Victorian literature readathon. It’s perfect for that time of year.


Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man in Havana

Graham Greene’s classic Cuban spy story, now with a new package and a new introduction

First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates to this day. Conceived as one of Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments,’ it tells of MI6’s man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

I read The End of the Affair by Greene in 2018 and loved it so I want to pick up some more books by him. 


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Do you have any historical fiction recommendations?