Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

34208430

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I picked up an ARC from NYCC in October.

At First In Line I showed them the email I received in exchange for the Blood Rose Rebellion. I got very excited when I read the jacket because I have a friend from Hungary named Noémi (No-amy). I messaged her about the book and asked if her name is popular in Hungary. She said:
“It’s not a very common name, actually. It was a writer who came up with it in 1872. In that book the main guy is an aristocrat and he goes on his boat and discovers an island where only a mom and the daughter lives. He falls in love with the daughter, whose name is noèmi. It means beautiful. So then he starts going back and forth between his real life and the mysterious island with his beautiful lover. And writers like to use the name in their books ever since.”

I liked the character Noémi and wish there was more of a storyline for her. Perhaps in book 2. I really appreciated the glossary and the character guide in the back. It helped immensely. I still pronounced words and names wrong. I would ask my friend Noémi if I was saying it correctly and I was embarrassingly wrong.

As the world building goes, I liked that magic was not a secret society but out in the open and controlled by the aristocracy. I think the mix with some Hungarian historical events made it an interesting historical fantasy novel. I don’t know much about Hungarian history so I learned a little bit.

I was glad I read The Bear and the Nightingale first so that I was familiar with some of the mythical creatures that make an appearance.

There were many things I did like about the story, like Anna’s struggle with her decision and how breaking the binding was not done in a simple 1,2,3 rushed plot. It took a few tries. However, towards the end of the book I lost motivation to finish. I pushed to finish and even started to skim it. I can’t say why I lost steam because I liked the story and the characters, but it took me more than a month to finish.

I can’t say I’ll go out and buy the second book of the series, but if I see an ARC at Comic Con or Book Con I’ll pick it up.

3 out of 5 Broken Spells.

The One Man, by Andrew Gross

28221006.jpg

1944. Physics professor Alfred Mendl is separated from his family and sent to the men’s camp, where all of his belongings are tossed on a roaring fire. His books, his papers, his life’s work. The Nazis have no idea what they have just destroyed. And without that physical record, Alfred is one of only two people in the world with his particular knowledge. Knowledge that could start a war, or end it.
Nathan Blum works behind a desk at an intelligence office in Washington, DC, but he longs to contribute to the war effort in a more meaningful way, and he has a particular skill set the U.S. suddenly needs. Nathan is fluent in German and Polish, he is Semitic looking, and he proved his scrappiness at a young age when he escaped from the Polish ghetto. Now, the government wants him to take on the most dangerous assignment of his life: Nathan must sneak into Auschwitz, on a mission to find and escape with one man.

The One Man, a historical thriller from New York Times bestseller Andrew Gross, is a deeply affecting, unputdownable series of twists and turns through a landscape at times horrifyingly familiar but still completely compelling.

This novel is near to perfection. The characters were well developed and their emotions are expressed in an intense and compelling way. I certainly felt their grief, fear, guilt, and hope too. By the end I was a crying, and on public transportation.

There were moments of suspense and for the last 100 pages, or so, impossible to put down. I also loved the hope the story brought, even in such a dark story. There was a line Alfred said about “where there is hope, there is life. And where there is life… there is more to learn.”

I did get a little bit lost when Alfred was teaching Leo the formulas and other mathematical equations, and I’ll admit that I did skim those parts. But the story is not bogged down by it. There’s just enough mentioned to get the point across.

There is much more I want to say, but sometimes when I love a story so much I have trouble articulating my thoughts and feeling. Especially while trying to remain spoiler free. My sister actually won a Goodreads giveaway and after she read it gave it to me to read. We discussed some big moments in the book.

I also liked the Author’s Note at the end. Gross explained his inspirations for the book and the small historical liberties he took to tell this story. Which are very, very minute, and were interesting to learn. It may seem like breaking into and out of Auschwitz is far fetched but Gross explains that, in fact, there were two men who escaped (they appear in the story); and there was a man who wrote a memoir about how he broke into Auschwitz for a single night, then broke out. The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz, by Dennis Avery. Once I have recovered from the sadness of this book perhaps I will read the memoir.

The One Man has become one of my favorite WWII historical fiction novels and I recommend it to anyone who is also a reader of that genre.

5 out 5 rooks.

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, by H.P. Wood

30206236.jpg

A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled menage of circus freaks.

Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island’s newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty’s mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty’s new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island…or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.

With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where “normal” is the exception to the rule.”

I received this book through Net Galley.

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet was a wonderful story. I really felt for many of the characters and their journey. I even loved the weird and mystical Curiosity Cabinet, which was a character too. The Cabinet and Timur’s inventions reminded me a bit of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Because of that magical feeling I put aside some of my reservations about the end and how quickly some characters recovered.

They say write what you know and it shows. The author is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. I also loved the author’s notes about what was historically accurate and what was historical fiction. I am interested in looking into some of her recommendations that helped her writing.

I have family in Brooklyn near Coney Island, so I have spent time there, and I loved reading the descriptions of the place. It felt like home and I became giddy as I recognized the places.

When Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island were mentioned I knew exactly where they were. In the early 1900s, the islands were used as a quarantine station, housing immigrants found to have been carrying contagious diseases when they landed at Ellis Island.

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is a spectacular story and definitely worth reading, especially if you like magical and anything Unusual.

4 out 5 Boxing Kangaroos

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

25614492.jpg

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

“The sinking of the Gustloff is the largest maritime disaster, yet the world still knows nothing of it. I often wonder, will that ever change or will it remain just another secret swallowed by war?” – page 178.

I loved Salt to the Sea. The true events in this historical fiction is sadly a forgotten part of history. I am glad that Ruta wrote this novel so that people will know about the disaster and over 9,000 lives lost (5,000 were children) when the Wilhelm Gustloff sank. I love what she said in her author’s note at the end (which I encourage any reader to read before starting the story),

“When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please give them a voice.”

The multiple character POVs was well done. We got to see the war and people’s experiences through different eyes. I loved the evolution of the characters’ secrets. The introductions were brilliantly done to set the tone: Guilt/fate/shame/fear is a hunter.

The Wilhelm Gustloff sunk in under an hour and so the suspense during the sinking was fast and intense.

I am going to get into some spoilers below. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

I received an ARC from First In Line. Thank you, First In Line! It was their pick of the month for December. (Yes, I know I am late but it is what it is.) The novel’s release date is January 26th.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a really beautiful story. It is being compared to The Book Thief, both were edited by Erin Clarke (she stated so herself in her letter to the readers). The biggest similarities are that both take place during World War II and center around a young girl.

The prose of Anna and the Swallow Man took some time to get used to. Savit is very poetic in his descriptions of the characters and the settings. There were many uses of metaphors (Wolves for the German Nazis and Bears for the Soviet Russians) that I liked. What also appealed to me was that both Anna and the Swallow Man were multi-linual. Language was a big factor in the story and one line that really stood out to me was “‘War’ is a heavy word in every language.”

I loved the characters (I loved Reb Hirschl most of all – he brought a lighter heart to the story). At times I felt fear for them, as well as hope. There was suspense, some magic, folklore, and heartbreak.
Continue reading

Book Review of Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton.

20821076

Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.

One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava–whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a “man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death–the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where “abracadabra” originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.

 

This was a difficult novel for me to finish. It shouldn’t take me over 2 weeks to finish a novel. I received an ARC through First to Read from Penguin Group. It is actually the sequel to Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery, but I did not know that until I finished reading and looked up other reviews on Goodreads.

I will start on a positive note and say it was interesting to learn about Talmudic lore and the history of Babylonia. The story is incredibly well researched.

However, I found at times the story would get weighted down with too many discussions or debats on Jeweish laws and customs, especially when the topic was not relevant to the central story. After a while I began to skim those parts.

There was much potential but I felt the focus of the story was slow and often had no direction.

Also I feel the pacing can be summed up well through this quote from page 362:
“That year in Pumbedita before Rava and I became betrothed had felt interminable, yet now it seemed that no sooner did we dismantle one year’s sukkah than it was time to build another.”
Slow beginning with the end often being described in a summary year to year.

There was so much time spent on Hisdadukh and Rava’s courtship and not enough on her sorcery. Training with her mother would have been cool to see. I mean the title is Enchantress after all.

The end battle was anti-climatic because the rivalry with the evil sorceress, Zafnat, was incredibly underdeveloped. Her presence in the story happens less than a handful of times.

The family dynamics were well developed. There were some humorous parts as well.

I did like Hisdadukh very much. She was strong, intelligent, could hold her own in difficult situations and was independently wealthy from her husband. I also liked that Rava was a supportive husband. He had his issues with his ego, and sometimes I would roll my eyes, but he wasn’t a bad guy. They were two people I would root for.

Ultimately, it was too slow to develop and I often felt uninspired to continue. I kept waiting for Zafnat to evoke the Evil Eye and create many conflicts directly toward Hisdadukh. (Even Ashmedai the Demon King was boring.) Instead it felt very much like reading a day by day, or a year by year diary.

2.5 out of 5 Incantation Bowls. 

I do like the book cover. I think it is so pretty.

Book Review: Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

17987214

Savage Girl introduces us to Bronwyn, a strong, independent girl who is adopted by a wealthy Manhattan couple. She takes her new world by storm as suitors find her irresistible…and deadly.


A riveting tale from the author of The Orphanmaster about a wild girl from Nevada who lands in Manhattan’s Gilded Age society

Jean Zimmerman’s new novel tells of the dramatic events that transpire when an alluring, blazingly smart eighteen-year-old girl named Bronwyn, reputedly raised by wolves in the wilds of Nevada, is adopted in 1875 by the Delegates, an outlandishly wealthy Manhattan couple, and taken back East to be civilized and introduced into high society.

Bronwyn hits the highly mannered world of Edith Wharton–era Manhattan like a bomb. A series of suitors, both young and old, find her irresistible, but the willful girl’s illicit lovers begin to turn up murdered.

Zimmerman’s tale is narrated by the Delegate’s son, a Harvard anatomy student. The tormented, self-dramatizing Hugo Delegate speaks from a prison cell where he is prepared to take the fall for his beloved Savage Girl. This narrative—a love story and a mystery with a powerful sense of fable—is his confession.

(Note: I originally wrote this review on March 14, 2014)

I was randomly selected to receive an advanced digital copy of this novel through this site I signed up to. Which is pretty cool and exciting.

It really took me a while to get used to the prose. At times the descriptions would be quite poetic. (Page 80: No other landscape I had ever experienced more proved the point that beauty and terror are sisters. I stared out at the desert and felt its challenge.)

I liked the historical fiction aspect when it came to reading about America’s landscape and city life in the late 1800’s. However, the author would get too carried away until it became a rambling tangent that interrupted the narrative. It also did not make it easier to read when it came to Hugo’s present day confession and the words exchanged between Hugo and his laywers were not in quotations. I often had to reread paragraphs to figure out what was said out loud and by whom.

I understand why Hugo was the narrator, it is a confession after all and makes for an interesting twist, but I often found him unlikable. Also, when he was not at home with Bronwyn I found him a bit dull. I was curious to see Bronwyn’s transformation through another character’s point of view. Perhaps Tu-Li or Tahktoo.

All that being said, I pushed through. I found it picked up in Part 2 and became an interesting mystery. I liked the philosophical nature vs. nurture brought up in the story. I enjoyed the story and am glad I pushed through to finish it, but I cannot say I loved it.

Overall I would rate it 3 out of 5 suitors.