Book 462: The Courtesan – Alexandra Curry

curry-alexandra-the-courtesanWhen Dutton reached out to me about a copy* of this book for its new paperback release I jumped at it because of my trip to China this summer! What I didn’t realize was that it was predominantly set in two of the cities I visited: Suzhou and Beijing! It was really neat to read through the fictionalized life of Sai Jinhua and actually feel like I know what and where she was talking about for the post part!

This is a debut novel that I probably would not have read just because I don’t read too many, but with my trip to China, the cover and having someone reach out to me about it, I figured I would give it a chance and I’m glad I did. Add in that the book also featured a subplot line about the one non-English classic from Asia I chose for my Classics Club list: Dream of the Red Chamber and it was well worth the read.

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Book 459: Girl Underwater – Claire Kells

kells-claire-girl-underwaterI’m not one to generally read debut novels unless I hear from a friend that it’s great. However, with all of the great books coming out of Dutton recently, when they reached out to me about this one and I was intrigued by the blurb, I of course said yes.*

This being said, I of course probably should’ve re-read the blurb on the back before I started, but I didn’t and it was a bit of a shocker to all of a sudden be thrown into a plane crash! But if I would’ve re-read the blurb I would’ve remembered that it was set in Boston, and a large part of my excitement reading the book would’ve been lost! Thankfully, it was well written and interesting AND I got to experience the Boston portions as if I had NO idea (because I didn’t) that they were there! Seriously, she spent a half page on Anna’s Taqueria! [Anna’s website] Swoon!

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Book 454: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) – Deborah Harkness

Harkness, Deborah - The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)Where do I begin with this?

It’s very rare that a series starts off and continues to pick up steam the entire way through. In my previous experience, there is usually a middle-book slump. In the case of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy the middle book of the trilogy, Shadow of NIght, was the stand out, followed closely by The Book of Life and in a distant third, the trilogy opener A Discovery of Witches.

This could be because the entire series takes place over about a year (give or take a few months because of time travel), but more than likely I think it has to do with the amount of action continuously increasing as the series moved forward. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing as I’ll talk about below, but that’s my conjecture. Continue reading

Book 453: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) – Deborah Harkness

Harkness, Deborah - Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)Picking up where A Discovery of Witches leaves off we are right back in the story of Diana and Matthew! It’s hard to hide spoilers, especially the one at the end of the first book because it sets up the entire second book, so if you plan on reading the series skip my response!

I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am, but I am a little surprised at how much I enjoyed book two of the All Souls Trilogy. For everything that was missing in book one, Harkness made a great effort to bring it back to this book. She reined in the over descriptions, she brought a little more sass to her characters, and she wrote 16th century Europe wonderfully. Continue reading

Book 452: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) – Deborah Harkness

Harkness, Deborah - A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)I probably would have read this book closer to its release, but unfortunately it’s part of a trilogy (this followed by (Shadow of Night and  The Book of Life) and I didn’t want to read the books as they came out so I waited to read it. I really wanted to read it a lot sooner because a lot of my blogger friends who really enjoyed it. That being said, I’m a little grumpy as I’ve just found out that Harkness will continue writing in this universe with the release of The Serpent’s Mirror next year. So bah.

If I had to break this down into a one sentence review it would be: Harry Potter meets Twilight for adults. That’s definitely a bit reductionist, but as I was reading that’s what I kept thinking. It wasn’t as much of a compulsive read as either of those series, but A Discovery of Witches definitely stands on its own.

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Book 441: The Madwoman Upstairs – Catherine Lowell

Lowell, Catherine - The Madwoman UpstairsBack-to-back Brontë fan-fictions you say? Hell yes, I say! I honestly didn’t plan it this way, but both books were burning holes on my TBR pile and I wanted to read them before I headed out to China.

I really do need to up my game though, I had no idea this (or Jane Steele) were coming out this year. Unlike Jane Steele, this one doesn’t seem to be making as big of a splash. It could be because it’s a debut novel, or it could be because it’s by a smaller publisher, but I couldn’t tell you for sure what it is.

I know I stumbled across The Madwoman Upstairs after I finally got around to reading an article from The Daily Beast titled Life Lessons From the Brontë Sisters (article link). So of course I reached out to the publisher and they kindly sent a review copy*, which once I started reading I blazed through.

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Book 440: Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye

Faye, Lyndsay - Jane SteeleThis was incredibly entertaining and fascinatingly fun to read, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. I think perhaps I’ve read too many Austen fan-fiction novels that fit into one of two molds: modern retelling or prequel/sequel. There are the occasional paranormal/sci-fi mash-ups but mostly they fit within those first two molds. This novel was completely different.

I knew it would be different because the Brontë’s are such different writers, but I wasn’t aware how different it would be in terms of fan-fiction. I’ve only read a few Brontë fan-fiction works, 50% or more of which made me want better stories or better writing. When I reached out to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for a review copy I didn’t quite know what I was getting into, but I’m definitely glad I requested it!*

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