Tuesday, March 31, 2015

O.o.O.C.: "Born to Be" by (Emmanuel) Taylor Gordon

Out of Orbit Critiques (O.o.O.C.) are on books not in my usual genres that I review about once a month. This book is a memoir.

Usually, I review books that are relatively mainstream (i.e. you don't have to look hard to find them) but this book is a bit harder to find, even though it is on Amazon (with a different cover). I'm reviewing this for the benefit of those interested in Montana history, and African Americans in the Old West.

Although the cover might lead you to think most of the book would consist of the exploits of a musician, most of it actually is about coming to that version of happily ever after. Undoubtedly, it wasn't an easy journey- Mr. Gordon had to first work his way out of Montana, then discover his talents (he doesn't appear to realize his talents until much later). A part of the book I loved were the anecdotes he had about growing up in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

White Sulphur Springs, Montana isn't exactly the hoppingest town nowadays. When I visited in 2012, half the town was for sale: the industries that once sustained its population boom have long since left. Nonetheless, the town is absolutely gorgeous: the mountains and rock formations that surround it are breathtaking, and the buildings of the town are mostly built around the time Mr. Gordon grew up there, lending it a ghost town vibe. If you like this book enough, it's definitely worth the time to stop by and visit their "world famous" hot springs.

The Plot:
Emmanuel "Mannie" Taylor Gordon grows up in White Sulphur Springs circa late 1800s, early 1900s. While he doesn't want for much, White Sulphur Springs isn't the best place to get rich, so he leaves, finding odd jobs that lead to travel across the United States. Although he tries his best, he can't seem to make much money- will he ever find his calling?

I'm usually not interested in books about Montana, mostly because I was subjected to so many folk tales from there during my first twenty years living there. My knowledge is mostly from having half of my predecessors running amuck in Butte for roughly a century before my birth, and so with every family reunion came lots of interesting stories. Nonetheless, I found myself chuckling at Taylor Gordon's small town anecdotes of living in the Old West- the games he played with the other children, the odd jobs he took to make ends meet (including one as an errand boy in a brothel), his listening to stories from people imprisoned in the town jail, and those now-treatable illnesses that were deadly back then (he had Scarlet fever at one point).

One of the more interesting parts of the book is the chapter entitled "My People". Despite its title, you get the sense than Mr. Gordon felt almost apart from most African Americans for most of this book, which might be explained by his relative isolation with his family while he grew up in Montana. He regularly has run-ins with racism (all outside Montana, which must be taken with lots of salt), but luckily he manages to escape without physical scars. His thoughts in this chapter are relatively outdated ideas, but they give you a sense of how bad racism was back in those days.

Mr. Gordon's writing is at its best when he's describing his love of the 'spirituals'. It's evocative, making you feel like you really know him when he has already passed away. This is a rather large sample, but it's absolutely gorgeous:

"A spiritual makes some people cry, others laugh, and arouses another's passion. All these things can be done with one song. I don't know any other music that can get the same results... When I sing to people, ten thousand sing to me."

         ~Taylor Gordon, Born to Be page 191 (in my edition)

Born to Be is a meandering memoir that covers a time in history when the color of your skin often determined your future prospects in life. Taylor Gordon never set out to be a singer or a writer, but those talents led him farther than most Montanans would dream of going. If you're interested in African American history in the Western States, one of the singers behind the rise of the 'spirituals', or Harlem during the Roaring Twenties, you'd be remiss to pass this memoir up.

Famous Last Line of the Book: "I wonder what I was born to be?"

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great look at the beginnings of Taylor Gordon, in his own words.

Content: Racial slurs (what you'd expect, as well as some for Asian people), racism, references to illicit activities (brothels, prostitution, drugs, gambling, back alley abortions, etc.). Suitable for ages 16+.

Page Count: 235 pages in my 1975 paperback edition.

Places in Montana Mentioned in This Book: Martinsdale, Two Dot, Harlowton (where my mom lived as a teen), Butte, Anaconda, Helena, Ringling, Yellowstone Nat'l Park, Glacier Nat'l Park, and Dorsey (which Google doesn't know about- I can't find it).

Places Outside Montana Mr. Gordon Visits in This Book: Minneapolis, Duluth, and St. Paul, Minnesota, The Red River Valley, Chicago, Portland (Oregon), Saskatune- I think he meant 'Saskatoon' (Canada), Seattle and Spokane (Washington), New York City, Sarasota (Florida), Ardmore (Oklahoma), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana), St. Louis (Missouri), Omaha (Nebraska), Louisville (Kentucky), Atlanta (Georgia), Bridgeport (Connecticut), Baraboo (Wisconsin), St. Thomas (the island), St. Lucia,  Barbados, Saint Vincent, Utica (New York), Fort Dix (called Camp Dix in the book- New Jersey), St. Louis (Missouri), Moose Jaw (Canada), Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Kansas City (I'm assuming Missouri), Tuskegee (Alabama), Los Angeles (California), Paris (France), London (England), and Harlem (New York) where he was living at the end of the book.

Here's a map I made of his travels (and the towns he mentioned in MT), because it shows how expansive this memoir really is:

The Map Key:

More Yellow = Earlier Days
More Red = Later in the Memoir

Stars = His hometown, and where he toured after he hit it big musically.
Circles = Towns mentioned from his Montana time (not sure if he visited them).
Diamonds = Where he traveled in his early days, by himself, with Mr. John Ringling, or while he was working as a porter on the railroad.
Squares = Where he traveled for odder jobs, and the early days of his music career.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SFF: The 5 Books with Endings that Made You Mad

The Sunday Fun Five #24

Sunday Fun 5:
#19: The 5 Books To Kickstart Your Reading Journey
#20: The 5 Character Couples that are Matches Made in Heaven
#21: The 5 Unconventional Romances that Somehow Worked for You
#22: The 5 Books That Remind You of Spring
#23: The 5 Irish Authors Whose Works You Want to Read More Of
#24: The 5 Books With Endings that Made You Mad
For the 12th of April: #25: The 5 Sunday Fun Fives I Had the Most Fun With
Feel free to participate by commenting below or writing a blog post: I wrote up some guidelines for blog participation here.

 A Countdown of

The 5 Books With Endings that Made You Mad

Although it's technically a 'fun five' list, this also a scale I could rate 'bad' endings on. An Embers ending would be an ending that made me mad at first, but eventually won me over, and a Life of Pi ending would be an automatic:

As always, there will be no spoilers, just pure ending angst on my part.

5. Embers by Sándor Márai
When I finished Embers for the Travel the World in Books Readathon, I was supremely irritated. The ending bothered me, to the point I took it upon myself to think of a better ending. Alas, I could not- the irritable ending was a perfect fit for this book, making the reader actually think instead of: 

From We <3 It

4. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
Although this is technically a novella, I had been expecting it to be a bit longer than it was: the Kindle version deceived me into thinking I'd get 40 more pages (which were instead an essay and interview). That wasn't the only thing wrong with the ending, I lacked some serious resolution, but it wasn't too bad- just deceitful.

3. A Dance With Dragons (ASoIaF #5) by George R.R. Martin
From the master of fantasy suspense: way to keep us hangin', Mr. Martin. You'd think with 1000+ pages of (usually) chock-full plotting, it would be a satisfactory installment. Nope. And, the tv series will soon surpass this book, leading to an outbreak of reader-only angst. I think I'll stick with my books anyway...

2. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
Grr... Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. But she seriously wronged me with this book. The ending, from what I remember, was a bit like this: fa lala lala- THE END. I didn't take it seriously- I reread it. The ending still sucked. We're not yet in 'kill it with fire' range, but I admit I considered crisping this book's edges, and perhaps rewriting that ending myself.

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I honestly didn't like this book that much, even before I came to the ending. But, I always feel like some endings can redeem the entire book, and others just make you want to gnash your teeth. This is a major teeth gnasher for me, although it seems so well beloved by most others. Well, guess what- this is my ultimate least satisfactory ending- as of now. Hopefully I won't find another book I want to throw into the fires of Mount Doom, because it takes a long time to bring even small objects there.

Was there ever a book ending that made you want to 'kill it with fire'? What constitutes a bad ending in your opinion?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prequel Review: "The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister #0.5)" by Courtney Milan

Novellas aren't usually my thing, especially when it comes to romance. How does one craft a believable love story with so few pages, involving weighty subjects and matters of classism? And all this, without the boon of either party being a wealthy aristocrat?

Apparently, it isn't inconceivable for Courtney Milan. When I waxed poetic about my love for the secondary love affair in The Heiress Effect, I may have mentioned the first couple didn't work for me because Oliver was nothing like his father. Well in these 101 pages, I grew to admire the father more than I admired the son with his larger share of 280 pages- mostly because where Oliver was wishy-washy, Hugo is direct and knows what he wants.

The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'She will not give up…
'Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.
'He cannot give in…
'Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…'

Serena is a woman on a mission, and a woman Hugo must prevent from getting what she wants, if he's to expand his influence. What links both these characters is they are both insanely stubborn and determined to get what they want, even if it costs the other dearly. This makes for quite a few sparks flying between them and the tension of their situations ramp up.

Because it isn't disclosed in the summary, I won't be discussing the main plot point of this book explicitly. Although it isn't particularly unheard of, it is unusual to have it in a historical romance, and the author has used this 'twist' previously in another book of hers I enjoyed, though not quite in the same manner. All in all, it's employed tastefully, even though it makes you twitch in your seat once you learn of it.

The Governess Affair may be short in page count, but it has more than the bare bones you'd expect of it. And again, how often in historical romance are the love stories of the 'lower classes' and non-wealthy people told? Try once every quadrillion other books. This novella is one of the rare ones that meet and exceed my expectations with flying colors. If you're looking for a respite from the doldrums of the usual historical romance tropes, this little novella may be just the thing for you to read.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a prequel I liked better than the first book of the series!

Content: Ages 18+ for sexual content and violence.

Page Count: 101 pages

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Casino Royale (James Bond #1)" by Ian Fleming

I feel slimy after reading this book. I didn't expect to ever feel slimy from reading a book, but I do. I would consider this a cross between reading A Game of Thrones, where Dany is subjected to some pretty unethical treatment, and reading a book I deem a bad romance, where the hero is clearly an abusive troll and the heroine follows his every command.

The only way I was able to read this was by the boon of reinvention: I made James and Vesper swap roles, so Vesper could tell James to get back in the kitchen with his "pots and pans". I also reglazed my eyes while James told Vesper how gambling works, researched an obscure ancestor of mine known as "Black Jack" who ran a casino in Las Vegas, then skimmed through large chunks of book I didn't give a ha'penny about.

So yes, the first half of this book is completely snore-worthy. The action you'd think would be instantaneous in a Bond novel doesn't kick in 'til later.

The Plot:
James is set to break Le Chiffre's bank (via gambling) so he can't be an evil mastermind and support the Communist cause. With a little help from his friends Mathis, Vesper, and Felix Leiter (a Texan who clearly is the prime example of why U.S. is in debt right now), will Bond be able to pull it off?

Hmm... you want me to say something nice about this book, like why I gave it three stars? Fine. It's like this: once it picks up, it's everything you'd expect from having watched Bond movies. Torture, death threats, car chases, oh my! I stand by the fact that reimagining this book makes it more bearable, but it's still weird reading it when you happen to be female. I imagine it's much like the discomfort of men reading Fifty Shades of Grey: "Is this what women think of men? Good God- I don't think I can go on, but it's strangely compelling."

By far the strangest part of this book was the ending. Of course, I can't discuss at length why the ending was so strange, but it seemed like the characters were very 'out of character'. There is an odd sense of instalove, which makes one wonder if men like this in their thriller romances, as opposed to what I thought was the 'popular' opinion: instalove = very bad.

*Random Musings*:

My favorite part of the book was seeing Le Chiffre get his moment in the spotlight.

I'm beginning to think James Bond's mother was Dolores Umbridge, because how else could he have turned out so subpar?

I've read Bibles less patriarchal than this book...

*End Random Musings*

Casino Royale isn't what you expect it would be, if you loved the Bond movies (like I still do). Thankfully, even if you hate the main character in books, there is always the villain to cheer for. That is the case with this book- it is so gauchely sexist at times that I found myself gnashing my teeth while waiting for the villain to have his moments. And he did. And it was well worth wading through Bond's morass of idiotic misogyny just to embrace my darker side.

I recommend this book only to those willing to put up with its outdated ideals and strange chemistry- if you're not a fan of Bond movies, it probably isn't worth your time.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good plot with a villain to cheer for!

Content: Ages 18+ for torture scenes, misogyny (including, but not limited to name calling), and weird, borderline creepy instalove.

Page Count: 189 pages in the Kindle edition.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)" by Suzanne Collins

If you haven't read or seen The Hunger Games book or movie, there might be spoilers in this review for you. My review of The Hunger Games is here.

Personally, I don't think Catching Fire and Mockingjay add much to the excellence of the original book. If you really, really loved The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, and her lovesick puppy Peeta, then you'll definitely want to read this book. This is a pretty great book, but compared with its predecessor, it lacks a certain something.

I think the biggest drawback for me of this book was the focus on what I'd call 'politics' and romance. Katniss must convince Panem that she's madly in love with Peeta, all while enduring flashbacks and what we'd label Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But then there's a twist that changes the course of the book, and we, the readers, are then sent off in another direction altogether.

The Plot:
Katniss and Peeta give their 'victory' tour, all while Katniss valiantly tries to convince the world she's in love with Peeta. But with an apparent rebellion beginning to heat up, will they be able to stifle it?

Because the synopsis doesn't mention it, I won't be discussing the major plot twist this book packs. What I will be discussing is although this book has a lot of plot points in it, it didn't strike a chord with me the way the first book did. Maybe because I never quite connected with the central characters, and without the one person I loved in the first book, Rue, I didn't feel all that sad when something bad happened to another character I didn't care about. The enigma that is Katniss Everdeen continues, and although I am *always* her when I take the book character quizzes, I still have no idea why. Perhaps because I don't feel anything for this book's characters?

Not that it matters that much now that the third book (and one of the third book's movies) is out, but the ending for this book is a cliffhanger. And I am of the opinion that this cliffhanger is not acceptable. It stops, I kid you not, in the middle of a conversation. Galling is the word I'd use to describe that lovely ending, and galling is not a lovely word.

Catching Fire is great, but has nothing on The Hunger Games. It's hard for a sequel to live up to its potential, and with this book, it had enormous shoes to fill and great expectations from me. I will admit, I'm a little hard to please with just about any book I read, and second books rarely seem to please me more than the first, but still. I recommend this one to those who love a good dystopian rebellion build-up, as long as you have Mockingjay on hand to finish the journey.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a sequel with a wince-worthy ending.

Content: Ages 14+ for the same reasons as its predecessor.

Page Count: 472 pages in my paperback edition.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

NQAC: Biweekly Update #8: Book Buying Binge, Zoolander Face, and Hardcore Chew Toys

So, I may have started buying books (in earnest) again, as I've seen deals floating around that I can't help myself from buying. I'm a bit of an addict, which you might see when I'm featured on the Daily Mayo's Libraries In Real Life interview later this month. If you haven't seen what that's all about, click the link and head over: lots of pictures of beautiful shelf spaces and interviews with fellow book bloggers and bookworms.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

Thrift Shopping:

Rarely do I ever find anything I really love at the Idaho thrift shops (Montana's are better- Montana has the most bookstores per capita, leading to excess books), BUT this time I found some nice books. In particular, Daughter of the Forest, which I've been looking for (for years) in thrift shops, finally came into my possession. All of these books were $2 or less each, which makes me a happy bargain bookworm (who is gleefully neglecting her New Year's resolutions).

The Queen's Bastard (Inheritor's Cycle #1) by C.E. Murphy
I have Murphy's Urban Shaman series (which I have yet to read) but decided to pick this nicely preserved paperback as well. As it turns out, this book isn't that well-loved among the Goodreads folks, with a rating average of 3.11, but I've been known to like many an unloved book that's come to me before.

The Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride #1) by Kate Forsyth
I have a soft spot for mythical creatures (and creatures in general) so when I saw the cover, which features a dual-curvy-horned Pegasus-type critter, I had to pick it up.

The Road to Underfall (Loremasters of Elundium #1) by Mike Jefferies
Another cover-lust impulse buy, this is an older fantasy novel of the traditional bent. Some of the Goodreads reviews are disheartening, but again, I have unusual taste and sometimes, the unpopular opinion.

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier
I mentioned I was looking for this book for years, and it's true- I was unwilling to pay full price to get it. I saw it when I first joined Goodreads (roughly three years ago) and have been looking for it for cheap ever since. What makes this find better is I had previously bought the second book of the Sevenwaters, so I now have the first two of the series to read (whenever I get around to it).


Forging Divinity (The War of Broken Mirrors #1) by Andrew Rowe
This is an indie book (with a beautiful cover) I saw offered on the Kindle Countdown Deals for less than a buck. A reviewer also recommended this for fans of Brandon Sanderson, which naturally applies to me. I'm hoping this ends up on the adult side of fantasy, but I've been tricked before.

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
A Kindle Daily Deal and an epic generational saga, I simply had to pick up The Midnight Rose. The average rating for this book is off the charts at 4.23, leading me to believe if I don't love it, I'll at least like it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A major buzz book I've seen on other blogs, Station Eleven sounds like a good dystopia to read about. Plus, that cover's mighty fine looking, and I really was on a streak as far as book buying, at this point.

History of the Rain by Niall Williams
This is a book about Ireland, which of course, given the current month, I thought this would be appropriate to buy. I'm also lacking on books about Ireland for my Travel the World in Books Challenge, which contributed to my buy impulse.

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews
What sucks for me with this book is I couldn't find it at Christmas when I looked in Barnes and Noble (so far I have no physical copies of Ilona Andrews' books, and I love them). But luckily, it was recently on sale for Kindle for $0.99- a steal when I was thinking of buying it at $4+ previously.

Also, take a look at those covers. One was rejected (and is from Ilona Andrews' blog). One is also cooler. Of course, they rejected the cool one. The only thing to like about the 'accepted' one is the man has serious Zoolander face going on. Don't believe me?

Yep, it's there. That guy better get a gig in the new movie, as Ben Stiller's stand-in. He's really, really, ridiculously good-looking, but belongs on a contemporary or military romance cover.


I went a little wild (for me) on NetGalley and requested three books, one of which is a preview of a full book. I was actually really surprised I got approved for Unseemly Science, the second book of The Fall of the Gaslit Empire, because I've never been greenlighted for a book from Angry Robot until that one. I always tell myself when I request something "Nah, you won't get it- you're a small fish, Litha." and then I end up with a lot of books (all coming out in May).

Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan
Expected Publication: May 5th
I really enjoyed the previous volume, The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, and can't wait to see what mischief Elizabeth and her 'brother' get up to next. I think one of the key elements of my enjoyment of the first book was the lack of romance, but we shall see if Unseemly Science will be as unromantic.

Dreams of Shreds and Tatters by Amanda Downum
Expected Publication: May 12th
This is urban fantasy, but what drew me to the book was that cover. I love a good graphic design on the cover, even if it is in my least favorite color. The blurb on the cover says "Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy, Beautifully Written, and Beautifully Paced." Hopefully it will live up to that promise.

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner (Preview Excerpt)
Expected Publication: May 19th
This is blurbed to be a book for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, who is one of my favorite authors. I'm also a fan of darker fantasy, which this is supposed to be. I think it will be a little odd to review a preview excerpt, but I've reviewed shorter things before.


I won a lovely signed copy of Four Rubbings (Stone Witch #1) by Jennifer Hotes, along with some book swag (a magnet and bookmark), which was express-shipped to me (making me feel special). This sounds like the perfect spooky story, which is being billed as a YA thriller. The title comes from the characters actions: they go to a cemetery (on Halloween, no less) to rub grave inscriptions onto paper (I just take photos of the graves I like). The cover is actually really cool in person, which is a shame because when you first see it on Goodreads it looks computer generated or Photoshopped (when in actuality it looks like an oil painting).

Thank you, Jennifer Hotes and Booktrope Publishing!

Currently Reading:

Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan

Dreams of Shreds and Tatters by Amanda Downum

The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman
Holocaust memoirs are always a difficult read, but I've seen the film version of this (which is magnificent) so I may as well read the book. I've been in the mood for a lot of books that I've already seen the film of, though I'm not sure why. Maybe so I can know the basic plot won't disappoint me?

The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon
(Rereading for the third time) I'm rereading this for the Travel the World in Books Readalong, but I think I may remember a little too much of it for it to be compelling for me. Still, I love the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and all the bookish quotes within these pages.

Finished These Books:

Hmm... I haven't finished a lot of books lately (other than the ones I've reviewed here) due to my ongoing physical therapy (which is actually easing up my neck and posture problems). I'm also kind of unsure what to read, as I'm not in the mood for anything special, when usually I have a specific mindset for a genre. Mostly, I'm trying to eat up my review copies and review those so I can free-range read whatever I like whenever I want (like a normal person).

In the Blogosphere:

I'm scrapping my 'in the blogosphere' segment this week because I have been lax about saving posts on Bloglovin' and 1+ing posts on G+ (which may or may not live that long anyway).

In My Life:

I've often said my dogs are crazy, but recently I verified my Dorkie's insane certificate. Keisha what I call a 'witch's hut' set up under my mom's bed, with a dust ruffle door, where she hides things (various rags, soft pajamas, you name it). About a week ago, when I came into my mom's room, she dragged out what I assumed to be a dental pick (plastic flosser) from her witch's hut, but upon examination, it turned out to be something less innocuous.

That, of course, is not a chew toy. That is a disposable razor. It has dangerously thin strips of metal which are easy to cut yourself on. Keisha must have pica, because honestly, what kind of dog sees a razor as a chew toy? I looked at her little mouth, and from what I could tell there was no lasting damage (and/or self-amputation of her tongue). I'm just lucky she chose to show me what she had in her witch's hut, because that could've ended badly. I've also explained to my mom the importance of keeping sharp objects away from Keisha's reach, because she acts like a two year old human, instead of a six year old Dorkie.

Do you have any book covers you love to hate?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2)" by Courtney Milan

This is part of the Brothers Sinister series, but can be read as a standalone, even though you get more out of it if you've read the prequel and first book of the series. Spoilers? Not for this review.

I don't usually review a lot of (historical) romance here, because, quite frankly, a lot of them don't impress me. There isn't much variation to the formulation of the plot, and although I can like the characters, it never usually goes beyond like and I often forget about them as soon as I go on to the next book. Courtney Milan is usually where those assumptions of mine end. There is always something so compelling about the characters she writes, something different with the plot. In short, her books rarely disappoint me.

This book is unusual because, despite having high hopes for the main couple, I ended up liking the secondary one better. I imagine the reason for this was Oliver was nothing like his adoptive father, who I read about in The Governess Affair. Also because the secondary heroine, Jane's sister Emily, has epilepsy.

The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.
'And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.
'Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.'

Jane is one of the more fun main heroines I've come across in romantic fiction. She knows she's got the 'marry-me' formula wrong, and does it on purpose to stave off suitors. One of my favorite parts of the book was reading about her fantastically awry gowns- and usually I skip past dress descriptions in romance books (because they bore me). Oliver and Jane's chemistry was off the charts, but... again, I wasn't that in love with Oliver's actions and thoughts.

Emily strikes up an acquaintance with Mr. Anjan Bhattacharya, after escaping her uncle's house to explore a nearby town. As his name suggests, Anjan is of Indian descent, trying to pass his exams with flying colors so he might have influence in England. Emily is unused to having any relationships outside her uncle's dwelling, because her uncle assumes keeping her under lock and key is 'better' for her seizures. If you have any idea what constituted medical care back in the mid to late 1800s, you have some idea of where this story might progress, hence the content warnings.

The Heiress Effect is refreshing. You don't see enough historical romances with people who have medical difficulties, or with spectacularly atrocious dresses. Really, we need more of that, and less of the bodice ripper covers, cave men heroes, and insipid plots you see in almost every other historical. If you love romance, but loathe the boring plots, I recommend adding The Heiress Effect to your TBR pile.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a secondary romance that outshone the first.

Content: Violence (physical abuse), emotional abuse, and sexual content. Recommended for Ages 18+.

Page Count: 280 pages

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Release Day Review: "The Secret (Irin Chronicles #3)" by Elizabeth Hunter

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest take on it.

This review features a book that is the third in the Irin Chronicles series, and has spoilers for those who have not read The Scribe and The Singer. My review of the first book can be found here.

The main difficulty I had with this book came from the knowledge this would be the last Ava and Malachi hurrah. I kept putting it off, trying to savor it, but when the publication date changed, I decided to break out the super-reader within and go for it. I have to say, sometimes with characters in series, you aren't left wanting when the series (or the character's parts) end. With this book however...

As the title forbodes, this book does indeed revolve around 'the secret'. But as it turns out, there's a lot more to the secret than you'd expect- it's more like 'the secrets'. As you could imagine, this series gives you a lot to wonder about with the first two books, and with the third, almost everything I've wondered about is revealed.

The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'Only when the darkness falls can you see the light of the stars.
'For thousands of years, the scribes and singers of the Irin race have existed to protect humanity and guard the gifts of the Forgiven. They have lived in the shadows. They have kept their secrets.
'But the Irin aren’t the only race with secrets.
'Ava and Malachi have found each other, but wounds as deep as theirs don’t heal overnight. While the Irin world struggles to correct the power imbalance left by the Rending of the Irina, Malachi and Ava struggle to connect their past with their present.
'The Fallen may scheme, but Ava has found her power and refuses to be an angel’s pawn. And while Malachi may have forgotten his history, the scribe’s relentless search for answers leads both him and his mate to the heart of the Irin power structure in Vienna, where knowledge is guarded more closely than gold and those with power will do anything to keep it.
'Malachi and Ava have survived the darkness, but will they ever discover its secrets? A powerful cabal of the Fallen may hold the answers, but to surrender them, it wants the Irin race to finally face their enemies. Both those coming from the outside, and those raging within.
'THE SECRET is the third book in the contemporary fantasy series, the Irin Chronicles, and the conclusion of Ava and Malachi’s journey.'

Ava really comes into her own in this book. With the previous volumes, she has had to deal with feeling like she was completely insane or completely alone, none of which came to be true. In this book, although she has doubts about her abilities and what they might be, she knows she has Malachi and the Irina at her side, raising her confidence.

One thing I love to love about Ava and Malachi's relationship is that Ava is just as strong as Malachi. Often in some romance, I'm subject to making faces every time the heroine bows down to the hero's will without a fight. Ava and Malachi fight- like normal people (who aren't so normal), and Ava's reactions to Malachi's poor choices of words are completely priceless, because, again, with some romance, the hero domineers the heroine and the heroine just goes with it. And I lose all respect I had for that cowed heroine in a matter of seconds.

One of my favorite parts of this book is we get to see different sides of the Fallen. My new favorite, Vasu, reminds me of the Norse god Loki because of his mischievous ways: he isn't completely what he appears to be. Jaron, who has been a mainstay of the series, is more fleshed out in this book than any preceding it- we learn his cryptic motivations and reasons for protecting (and yet not protecting) Ava.

The Secret is another exceptional addition to the Irin Chronicles. Although I'm sad this is the end to Ava and Malachi's tale, I'm excited to know Elizabeth Hunter will not be closing the book on the Irin Chronicles world. I recommend The Secret to anyone as enthralled with this series and these characters as I am.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptional end to Ava and Malachi's story!

Content: Ages 18+ for rockstar cursing, sex scenes, and angelic violence that looks like child's play.

Page Count: 373 pages

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/mm6uycp
iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/lkf3vdf
B&N: http://tinyurl.com/n4bgcwk
Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/mcbz57b
(I do not derive a monetary benefit from these links- they are here for your expediency).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Birthday, a Holiday, and a Reason to Watch TV

A Birthday:

Torrie's unofficial birthday is today! Why unofficial? As a previously homeless dog, Torrie had no owner to tell the rescue group when she was born. Therefore, they got the vet to estimate her age, and then put it on the nearest holiday: in Torrie's case, St. Patrick's Day. She's somewhere in the range of 6-8 years old, and is still going strong, albeit with a few silver hairs on her chin.

A Holiday:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Luckily enough, I never have to wear green so people won't pinch me. My surname can be traced back to the Emerald Isle, specifically the northern section. As it turns out, 34.7 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry, so I'm probably not the only one not wearing green.

And, a Reason to Watch TV:

Mark your calendars, historical fiction people, as well as those who love a little magical realism with their history: The Dovekeepers, a CBS mini-series, will premiere March 31st. This series is obviously based on one of my favorite books (with the toughest heroines) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (check out my review here).

Here's the preview I've been salivating over:

[Link to Youtube video for mobile users]

Well, that's all for today. I haven't been around these parts (the internet) much lately because I'm undergoing physical therapy, which also eats into my reading/reviewing/commenting-back time. I'm hoping by Thursday I'll have a release day review of The Singer (Irin Chronicles #3) by Elizabeth Hunter, which is playing with my feelings as of now (still reading... I don't want to say goodbye to Malachi and Ava!).

                       Until Thursday,

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SFF: The 5 Irish Authors You Whose Works You Want to Read More Of

The Sunday Fun Five #23

Sunday Fun 5:
#19: The 5 Books To Kickstart Your Reading Journey
#20: The 5 Character Couples that are Matches Made in Heaven
#21: The 5 Unconventional Romances that Somehow Worked for You
#22: The 5 Books That Remind You of Spring
#23: The 5 Irish Authors Whose Works You Want to Read More Of
For the 29th of March: #24: The 5 Books You've Read with Endings that Made You Mad
Feel free to participate by commenting below or writing a blog post: I wrote up some guidelines for blog participation here.

 A Countdown of

The 5 Irish Authors Whose Works You Want to Read More Of

*I haven't read that many Irish authors, so that's why the wording of my list is wacky.*

Image From Wikipedia
5. Frank McCourt, Author of Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man
Technically, Frank McCourt wasn't born in Ireland, but due to his famous memoir of his Irish childhood, I consider him Irish. I've read Angela's Ashes, which may have made me cry, and have his two other memoirs in my pile.

Image From Wikipedia
4. Bram Stoker, Author of Dracula, and other books
I did not know Bram Stoker was Irish, but a quick Googling revealed he was. I also have not read Dracula, a feat that needs to be amended, (perhaps by next Halloween?). In any case, if I'm to retain my 'Vampires' tag, I must find and read the rest of the vampire fiction I've been missing out on, especially Dracula.

Image From Wikipedia
3. Elizabeth Bowen, Author of The Death of the Heart, and other books
The last owner of Bowen's Court, where many other notable novelists came to visit (Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, etc.), Elizabeth Bowen also was a notable novelist in her own right. According to Wikipedia, she "was greatly interested in "life with the lid on and what happens when the lid comes off"", which makes me want to read her books.

Image From Goodreads
2. Kate O’Brien, Author of The Land of Spices and other books
Her book, The Land of Spices, was apparently banned because of one sentence. When I learned that, I knew she had to be pretty high on this list- I fully believe banned books are often the best books because they push people to react (and/or think about why they're reacting to the book).

Image From Wikipedia
1. Oscar Wilde, Author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, multiple plays, essays, and poems
Many of you might know I very much admire Oscar Wilde- he's one of my favorite authors, maybe because he has only one 'technical' book that I absolutely adored. He's also one of the most quotable authors of wry witticisms, like this gem: "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

Do you have any Irish authors you want to read more of? 

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