November 30, 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is... (2)

I'm counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)!

  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

19486412 From Goodreads:

"Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive
I've read her books What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret. What Liane Moriarty does really well is create fantastically flawed characters and put them in complicated situations. I have no doubt there will be more of that in Big Little Lies!

What books are you hoping Santa delivers this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

November 26, 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is... (1)

Yes, it's my yearly Christmas book wishlist countdown! What better way to spend the next few weeks before Christmas than by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)

First up is:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764 From Goodreads:

"'Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.'

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I've been seeing so many positive reviews for this adult fantasy read, right across the board. It's been a while since I've been swept up in an epic fantasy, so I'm hoping this will be the one. Plus, that cover!

What books are you hoping to find under the tree this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

November 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Gilded Cage

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray (translated by Melissa Albert)

Goodreads' description:

"A historical psychological suspense and murder mystery for teens, with all the trappings of Downton Abbey.

After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?

This Gothic murder mystery is filled with history, psychological suspense, and all the trappings of Downton Abbey.

I'm a sucker for Gothics, and also a fan of Downton Abbey (although, it looks like this one is set much earlier than the Edwardian era, so I'm not sure how accurate the comparison is)... so this one sounds right up my alley!
What books are you waiting for?

November 1, 2015

Servant of the Crown: A Snapshot

Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShane

25777000"Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.

When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.

Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?
" (from Goodreads)

The subject: Alison, the Countess of Waxwold, as she navigates the political challenges of being Royal Librarian, and the emotional challenges of falling in love.

The setting: the kingdom of Tremontane, and in particular, the palace there. I kinda liked that we were shown the decisions Alison had to make around running a Royal Library; while it wasn't especially thrilling, it was neat that these daily realities were considered. 

Shutter speed: Unpredictable. The first third or so of the book focuses on the romance, and was paced pretty well. But then that storyline comes to a halt (given something that Alison finds out), and the next two-thirds are mostly about Alison taking on the position of Royal Librarian and the political consequences of that. Perhaps it was because I ended up reading this book in multiple sittings (and taking long breaks in between, which I think was less about the book and more about my own mood at the time) but I didn't feel that the political storyline held my interest as much as the relationship one. This focus on the politics of Alison running the Royal Library also means that the ending we eventually get to the romantic storyline didn't feel so satisfying.  

I also wish that the non-romantic storyline had been bigger in scope. While the fact that the plot was primarily political meant that it was quite realistic (for a fantasy novel), it also meant that I didn't find it really engaging.

What's in the background? A fantasy world that we end up knowing virtually nothing about, sadly. There was very little description of the setting, and oh, how I wish the magic system had been explored! Magic gets used to heal people, and also to power "Devices" (technology), and there's something called a "family bond" that seems like it could be magical... but the reader only gets these teasing tidbits. Why bother making it a fantasy novel if you're not going to play around with the magical aspects of the world?

Zoom in on: Zara! She was by far my favourite character. I mean, Alison was an alright protagonist (although kinda hung up on the whole 'guys only compliment me because of my looks' thing) and I liked the fact that Anthony undergoes character development, but Zara was just awesome from the start and stayed that way. She's a very commanding character (not too surprising, considering she's the queen), and clever — able and willing to manipulate things to suit what she wants to get done. However, she is also fair, ultimately wanting justice to win out, even if her means are sometimes questionable. She is clearly dedicated to her work. While she's not particularly physically or verbally affectionate — I'd say she's efficient with her words, to the point of being curt or abrupt at times — she obviously cares about the people in her life.

Anything out of focus? I think the climactic scene could have been a lot more effective if the revelations hadn't been so confusingly explained. In particular, the whole subplot involving Anthony's reputation (spoiler, highlight to read: that an ex-lover of his was claiming
her child was his, and that he had known this but had refused to acknowledge it) was resolved in a way that left me scratching my head going, "Huh?" and re-reading that bit in the hopes it would clear things up (unfortunately, it didn't). I also still don't really get what the point of Zara's little scheme was (spoiler: she voted in favour of funding the endowment to the Scholia, I guess to lure the Scholia into a false sense of security...but I'm not too sure how that helped all that much?).

Also, I sometimes found the dialogue a little on the dry, boring side, since there were a lot of conversations revolving around the political machinations going on.

Ready? Say...  Royal Library!

Click! 3 shooting stars. Servant of the Crown's premise had a lot of potential, but the end result was a little disappointing for me.

Disclaimer: I received this e-book from the author for review. 

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