Fiction, Fiction Reviews, Netgalley/ARCs, Reviews

Mini Review: “The Last Flight of Poxl West” by Daniel Torday


*This ARC was provided for free by the publisher through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 3/17/2105

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

4 of 5 stars ★★★★☆

This book is incredible. The writing style is unique, but the stories seem to rise from the page. I skimmed this book, so I’m holding off giving it a full review. I’ve just worn myself out on WWII lit for a while. From what I’ve read, it will be a really good read from start to finish. Here’s the summary via Goodreads:

All his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art and literature. But when Poxl publishes a memoir of how he was forced to leave his home north of Prague at the start of WWII and then avenged the deaths of his parents by flying RAF bombers over Germany during the war, killing thousands of German citizens, Elijah watches as the carefully constructed world his uncle has created begins to unravel. As Elijah discovers the darker truth of Poxl’s past, he comes to understand that the fearless war hero he always revered is in fact a broken and devastated man who suffered unimaginable losses from which he has never recovered.

The Last Flight of Poxl West beautifully weaves together what it means to be a family in the shadow of war— to love, to lose, and to heal.

If you’re a fan of All the Light We Cannot See, Life After Life, and other WWII era reads, then go and check this one out!
Full review to come.

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Fiction, Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “Making History” by Stephen Fry

4 Stars of 5 ★★★★☆

I love Stephen Fry. He’s so poignant and yet hilarious, and there’s some quotes in this novel that really strike home. This story though? It’s okay. I’m giving it four stars just because of my love for this quote: “The biggest challenge facing the great teachers and communicators of history is not to teach history itself, nor even the lessons of history, but why history matters. How to ignite the first spark of the will o’the wisp, the Jack o’lantern, the ignis fatuus [foolish fire] beloved of poets, which lights up one source of history and then another, zigzagging across the marsh, connecting and linking and writing bright words across the dark face of the present. There’s no phrase I can come up that will encapsulate in a winning sound-bite why history matters. We know that history matters, we know that it is thrilling, absorbing, fascinating, delightful and infuriating, that it is life. Yet I can’t help wondering if it’s a bit like being a Wagnerite; you just have to get used to the fact that some people are never going to listen.”

This pretty such much sums up the theme of the novel. A person that doesn’t understand history will think that by erasing one negative aspect(in this case a person), everything will change for the better. It doesn’t work that way. History doesn’t work that way.

The novel basically goes like this: So, you just found out you can travel in time. What do you want to do first?

Well, okay. It’s been done, but what the hay. Every time travel novel ever has something to do with WWII and/or the erasing of Hitler, but I digress.

Oh, so you don’t want to kill Hitler, just erase him? Okay…done.

The world’s different. Everything has to be better, right? Things are strange. Wait, wait, wait. Give me a history book. Oh, boy. Things are worse? There is a guy that’s chill, so that’s a plus but, wow. We screwed up.

What to do next? Well, it’s simple really. Fix it.

Here’s the summary, for those who want more detail (via Goodreads):

Those of us who have already discovered Stephen Fry know him as the brilliant British comedian behind TV series such as Jeeves & Wooster and Blackadder, and the author of two enormously funny novels, The Liar and The Hippopotamus. But his new film (in which he plays Oscar Wilde) and his new novel (this one) represent a somewhat alarming departure from his previous work: They’re more serious. Though humor is still an essential ingredient of both, Fry’s fans are finally getting to witness the emotional depth that this brilliant polymath usually keeps hidden.

In Making History, Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason–and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf’s conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours–but in most ways even worse. Fry’s experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind’s darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times.

There are some powerful messages in this novel, but it’s presented in an entertaining way so readers don’t roll their eyes at the Main Character’s awkwardness. It’s a good read. I recommend it. It’s, here again, not his best work, but it’s up there.

Fiction Reviews, Netgalley/ARCs, Reviews, Series Reviews, Young Adult books, Young Adult Reveiws

Review: “K-9” by Rohan Gavin (Knightley and Son book 2)

4 stars of 5 ★★★★☆

Publication date: 2-17-15

*This book was provided free on Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was very well written, the characters were very fleshed out, and the story was well thought-out and engaging for kids, teens, and adults to enjoy. Plus, it reminded me( a little) of Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith (who is one of my all-time favorites). I can see reluctant readers and avid readers alike being drawn into this story. Here’s the summary:

Darkus Knightley, tweed-wearing, mega-brained, thoroughly logical 13-year-old investigator of the weird, was just getting used to having his dad back in his life. Then Alan Knightley went off-radar, again, leaving Darkus with a traumatised ex-bomb-disposal dog as his only partner in crime-solving. Now things are getting even stranger. Family pets are being savaged by a beast at a top London beauty spot. Policemen have been tracked and attacked by a particularly aggressive canine. And two curiously alert hounds seem to be watching Darkus’s house. No one is using the word werewolf – yet – but as the full moon approaches, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that someone or something sinister is messing with the minds of London’s dog population. A mysterious canine conspiracy is howling for the attention of Knightley & Son . . .Criminally good detective adventure, perfect for fans of Sherlock and sharp-minded sleuths of all shapes and sizes.

This is the second installment of the Knightley and Son series, but I honestly read a detailed summary of the first book and moved on to this one and it was still enjoyable. That’s mainly because this is a Middle Grade/Tween book so it heavily explained what happened in the last book so kids can remember without having to re-read. The first book is called Knightley and Son. I’ve moved it further up on my to-read list after reading its sequel. Click the picture below for more information:

I definitely recommend both books for lovers of Middle Grade/YA mystery.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews, Series Reviews, Young Adult books

Review: The Agency Series by Y.S. Lee

the_agency_series

Series overall rating: 4 stars ★★★★☆

I read this series last year, and I loved it. It’s a YA series consisting of four books: A Spy in the House, The Body in the Tower, The Traitor in the Tunnel, and Rivals in the City. It’s set during the 1850s in London and is centered around Mary, who is not only trying to remove herself from her criminal past, but from half her identity as half-Chinese. Here’s the summary for A Spy in the House:

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past

See? It just sounds interesting, and I’m here to tell you that it is. I’ve read all four books in the series (somehow I got an UK edition of Rivals in the City in America. I wish the US covers were as pretty as the UK ones.and I enjoyed each book, but with more fervor as the series wore on.

Mary Quinn is everything a good main character should be in order not to annoy the reader. She is smart, headstrong, a survivor, awkward, resilient, and she learns as the series wears on. She learns not to hide her heritage so much (she doesn’t embrace it but she opens up) and she learns that women don’t  have to  be either a career-women (I hate that word) or a wife/mother. They can be both or neither. IMAGINE THAT.

Y.S. Lee holds a PhD in Victorian Literature and Culture, so she knows what she’s talking about, which makes this another reason why I loved this series. I know quite a bit about Victorian Britain (it’s my obsession okay) and to be able to read a series and LEARN some things all the while being entertained–sign me up for that any time.

Oh, and there’s romance. James was cute. Okay, enough of that.

Anyways, this series was awesome and I feel like if you’ve read Libba Bray or Robin LaFevers (or any YA historical author) and enjoyed it, you would love this series too. Recommend it, all the way.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews, Series Reviews, Young Adult books, Young Adult Reveiws

Review: “Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, bk1)

4 Stars ★★★★☆

I really, really, liked this one. It’s got old pagan gods, pretty dresses, history, and a convent of specially trained girls that will f*ck you up, if their god so desires.

How much more do you need? A summary? Okay

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Yeah, there’s romance, but you just have to deal with that if it’s not your thing. She fights the notion, so at least it’s not that love at first sight bull. What I loved was the historical background, because as much as I love history and as much as I had studied it, I knew very little about the country and later duchy of Brittany, where the novel takes place.Of course not all the events in the novel took place, including the major story-line, but Anne and other characters and the events that surround them happened, and I find that fascinating.

This is part of the His Fair Assassin series, with Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart the next two books. Each book follows a character seen in Grave Mercy, and from what I’ve heard, they are better than the first book. Am I going to bother with them? Hell to the yes.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews, Young Adult Reveiws

Review: “Tsarina” by J. Nelle Patrick (a.k.a. Jackson Pearce)

Rating: ★★★★☆

I really enjoyed this book. Like I said previously, I am entranced by the Romanov family, the revolution, everything. This book did not disappoint, but there were some inaccuracies that had me confused and retracing my perceived notice of the revolution. The main confusing bit (possible spoilers ahead) is that Alexei, the future tsar, died in 1917,when he was thirteen, but in this Tsarina, he’s like seventeen but everything basically happens as it did in 1917. It’s never stated how old Alexei is, but our girl Natalya is seventeen and if (a not-so-spoiler but just in case) they’re an item, they have to be close to the same age right?

Any who, the author’s note explains that the history surrounding the story is essentially true, even if the main characters that were real people stories are somewhat inaccurate.

Here’s the summary, via Goodreads:

Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia’s Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it’s not in the right hands.

Like I said, I enjoyed it. I thought Natalya (protagonist) and her friend Emillia were particularly well written characters, not just high-society girls that could do nothing more than complain. They were useful even when taken out of their comfort zones. There were other characters (especially the main bad-ish person Maria) that could of been developed more, and not just used as a way to make the plot carry forward.

There was only the tiniest bit of the Romanov family, which was really unexpected. I figured they’d plan more into it then just being talked about. Maybe that’s just my wistful longing for more Anastasia and Co. Rasputin could have been played up too, now that I think about it. He was mentioned all the damn time, but only in connect to the egg and how much he lusted after Alexandra. He was actually fairly important to the development of another character, and I think discussing him could have helped fleshed out that other character’s back story.

I liked this book. It was quick. It featured stuff I like. It dealt with Leos (coughcough I’m a leo), Russia, mysticism, and romance. I’d definitely recommend it.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

15783514Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I think he’s an amazing author and person. I’ve read a good bit of his work, and while some of it is really weird (looking at you Neverwhere), the majority of it is great. The Ocean at the End of the Land definitely upheld my view of Neil Gaiman’s superior storytelling talent.

Here’s the summary:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The story reads like a myth or campfire legend, where tales are always tall and nearly unbelievable. It starts off seemingly normal and then, just like with Gaiman’s other work, sh*t gets weird. The weird, though, is set in the English countryside, with is a perfect setting for sort-of witches and lonely children.

I don’t want to do my usual in-dept review, because I don’t think I could do this story justice, and because this story is somewhat too short to summarize. It’s a great book. It won the Goodread’s Choice in 2013. It’s by Neil Gaiman. So just do yourself a favor and buy it, borrow it, or check it out at the library.