Kim’s Review of Sapphire Blue (Edelstein Trilogie #2) by Kerstin Gier

sbAs you may remember from my review of Ruby Red, the first book in the Edelstein Trilogie (which can be found here), I can’t get enough of the covers on these books.  What’s more, not only are the covers stunning, but so is the writing.  Gier did a wonderful job at crafting a complex story that spans multiple time periods and included interesting characters.  The cliffhanger at the end of Ruby Red nearly did me in.  Luckily for me Sapphire Blue was already available to read, making my depression short lived.

Plot from Goodreads: Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

When I started reading Sapphire Blue I didn’t think this series could get any more epic,  but upon finishing this book I think it totally blew Ruby Red out of the water!  Gideon and Gwen are thrust into a dual-sided battle of words as they try to decipher who is telling them the truth about the power the chronograph will unleash.  Sapphire Blue gives a little more depth into each side’s reasoning behind their belief in what the power is, but left just enough mystery to make reading Emerald Green a no-brainer.

As I suspected, Sapphire Blue delved deeper into Gwen’s mind and her ever growing/changing feelings for Gideon.  The lack of over-the-top intricacies on the “how-to” of time traveling allows the reader to be impressed with other elements Gier presents.  The comedy of Gier’s writing truly shines in this second installment, as Gwen is given a crash course in Georgian history.  Her study of the culture and customs is rife with humorous moments, most especially her dance lessons.  I didn’t think it could get any funnier, but then she’s actually transported back to 1782 and winds up getting drunk on punch.  I became so endeared to Gwen as she struggled to do her best while dealing with the turmoil of discovering that she was a time traveler and confusion over her feelings for Gideon.

In all, if you’re still on the fence about reading the Edelstein Trilogie, take it from me that both of the books have been a delight, and it is definitely worth your while to pick up a copy of both.  Just like Ruby RedSapphire Blue left me on the edge of my seat, and it looks like I’ll have to wait until October, when Emerald Green, the third book in the trilogy, will come out.  Until then, we’ll have to find a way to occupy ourselves and not think of this incredible cliffhanger!  So, if you haven’t already, go out and read this book!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Henry Holt and Co (2012)
Hardcover: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780805092660

Kim’s Review of Ruby Red (Edelstein Trilogie #1) by Kerstin Gier

rrFriends. I have a confession to make. I totally judged a book by its cover.  I saw the cover for Ruby Red and immediately HAD to have it.   Turns out it was a great judgement, because the book was AWESOME.  Ruby Red is the first book in Kerstin Gier’s Edelstein Trilogie, which was originally published in Germany.  

As the plot is a bit complex (time traveling!!), I’ll let Goodreads guide you through it:

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

I am honestly so surprised that I haven’t come across more people who have read this series.  This book hooked me from start to finish. It had time-traveling, secret societies, intrigue, visions of the dead, secret signet rings, mystery, sword fights and so much more.  There is an incredible amount of story packed into this book.  The time traveling element allowed for great variety of time periods to be visited, which helped set a fast pace.  Since Gwen was never prepared to be a time traveler, her quick lessons in how to time travel, as well as the history of The Guardians society (the secret society helping the time travelers), led to some great comedic moments.  There were times where I felt these moments felt stilted, which I think is mainly due to the translation (the books were originally published in German).  Other than that I think the translation is excellently done.  Gwen’s voice totally draws you in to the story and describes the woes of her life as a teenage time traveler perfectly.

Ruby Red definitely sets up what is sure to be a phenomenal trilogy.  I’m interested in seeing how Gwen and Gideon grow from here.  They’re both in their teens, yet thrust into extraordinary circumstances far beyond what 16 and 17 year-olds should have to deal with.  We’re not given too much depth with their characters, but I’d expect that to change as we travel through time with them in the second and third books.  I know that I keep talking about the future of the series and I’ll explain why.  Having already read book two, Sapphire Blue, I know it picks up quite literally after the last sentence of Ruby Red.  I think when Emerald Green (book three) comes out it’ll be more apparent that the story is one long story split up through three books.  The development of the characters will happen gradually throughout the three books since it’s one massive conflict that is trying to be resolved.  I’m usually not a fan of series’ written like this, but surprisingly the good outweighs the bad here.  Ruby Red was just too damn fun! Gwen and Gideon are, to put it simply, hilarious.

My goal before Emerald Green is released in October is to get the word out about this series.  It’s seriously one you don’t want to miss.  I hope that those of you who choose to read it out there decide to share it with your friends! This is a series that definitely needs to be shared more.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my fourth completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

This is my second completed review for the Book to Movie Challenge

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Henry Holt and Co (2011)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN: 9780805092523

Kim’s Review of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

theexileSo 2013 has turned into the year of the Outlander series for me.  I’ve made it through three of the main novels (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amberand Voyagerand am moving on to Gabaldon’s Lord John spin-off series before starting book four in the series, Drums of Autumn.  With all that being said, imagine my surprise when Todd and I went into our local Barnes & Noble and found an Outlander graphic novel in the bargain bin!! For $4 I got to be the lucky new parent of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel.  Never has a person been more excited about a bargain than this one right here. 

The Exile is the first 1/3 of Outlander but told from Jamie’s perspective.  I won’t regurgitate the plot of Outlander myself, I’ll let Goodreads do it for me!

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.

And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his  compassion . . . and arouse his desire. 
 
But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere. 

So I knew going into this that I would already love the story Gabaldon was telling.  Jamie and Claire’s story is truly one of my favorites…..ever. Like Darcy and Elizabeth level love.  Therefore I was incredibly surprised to see how weakly their story translated over into a graphic novel.  As I sit here writing this I’m not sure where the graphic novel fell short.  The illustrations I thought were perfectly suited for the story.  Nguyen is a wonderful artist and captured the imagery of the story magnificently.  It’s possible that because the Outlander book is so detailed and long and the graphic novel so much shorter, that description and story embellishment went missing.  The eBook of Outlander I read was 800+ pages while this graphic novel was 224.  That’s a small amount of pages/illustrations to translate nearly 300 pages of text to.

While it’s not sharing anything new to us plot-wise as readers, it was fun to get inside Jamie’s head for a short period of time.  To get his perspective on the speed and depth in which he fell in love with Claire adds a new dimension to their love.   I’ll admit, it was also great to see how far Murtagh was willing to go with his fierce loyalty to Jamie.  I think fans of the Outlander series will ultimately have the same response that I’ve had to this graphic novel: it’s ok.

3 out of 5 stars

This is my eleventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen
Random House (2010)
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 9780345505385

Kim’s Review of Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

10987As most of you know by now, I’ve been working my way through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and enjoying them thoroughly.   You can see my review of Outlander (book 1) here and Dragonfly In Amber (book two) here.  Actually, “enjoying thoroughly” is a bit of an understatement; I love this series!  As I mentioned in my review of Dragonfly In Amber, there is quite a cliffhanger ending, so I was excited to move on to the next book in the series, Voyager, to see what happens to Jamie and Claire!

I’ve been sticking with the Goodreads plot summaries for this series, as there is too much that I could let slip! Plus with all the time-traveling elements I’m pretty sure I’d just confuse you with all I wanted to tell you! SO, once again, from Goodreads:

Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

After the cliffhanger that ended Dragonfly in Amber I wasn’t sure my heart could take any more.  I needed a period of emotional mourning, stability, and recovery before I could pick up my shattered heart, begin book three, and risk it shattering all over again.  I can honestly say that the Outlander Series has taken me on a deep and tumultuous emotional journey that I’ve never felt with any other book/series I’ve read.  Sure I’ve had emotional reactions to books before, but I’ve never reacted quite the way I have with this series.  Voyager was no less of a riotous journey, but it’s told with such beauty and passion that you gladly go back for the laughter, tears, heartache, and smiles that Gabaldon’s prose brings.

As much as I love Jamie and Claire and their timeless love story, much praise has to be reigned on Gabaldon for all of the other intriguing things she adds into her novels.  In Voyager we’re given a glimpse into slave plantations and slave markets of the Caribbean in the late 1700’s.  We’re also given a lesson in Chinese culture and the deep seeded racism that existed for the Chinese people in Scotland and the surrounding countries.  There is a great depth to her works; depth that is obviously and meticulously well researched and presented in a way that adds to the plot as well as opens the eyes of the readers to what life was like back in the day.  Gabaldon pulls no punches in presenting what she finds.  All of it is not pleasant and I love that she doesn’t try to sugarcoat it and make it pleasing to read.  She respects history and for that I bow down to her.

With all this being said, it’s no wonder I keep going back for more in this series.  Every time I think Gabaldon won’t get any better, she blows away my expectations.  I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next in the series with Drums of Autumn, the fourth installment, especially considering that it takes place in my home country, America.  Look out for my review coming soon!

5 out of 5 stars

This is my tenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Random House (2004)
eBook: 1044 pages
ISBN: 9780440335153

Kim’s Review of Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano

sldsAs I’ve said before, the third book in a trilogy is usually my least favorite.  This is mainly due to the fact that expectations become so high that it becomes extremely difficult to meet them, if not exceed them.  After reading the spectacular first two books in the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, Wither and Fever, I knew that the stakes would be just as high for her third and final book, Sever.

From Goodreads: With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

After reviewing many a suspense/thriller novel over the years, one of my favorite attributes of the genre is the plot twist.  I love a good plot twist.  There was no question that Sever fit in this category, as the plot twists came hard and fast.  When I thought I had a plot line figured out, DeStefano went in a whole new direction.  When I thought I knew what one character would do, a completely different character did it.  More than that, DeStefano was able to make these changes on the fly, making the plot seem like a jumbled puzzle that came together at the last second.  Even though the pace seemed frantic, the plot development was well-paced and the overarching storyline was moving along well, that is until I got to the end.  I felt as though there was enough time to bring the book to a great conclusion, but instead it felt rushed and abrupt.  Although it was the only fault I found with this book, it did put a damper on my feelings upon finishing.  Despite this, however, DeStefano should be lauded for her ability to create such a great ending piece for an amazing trilogy.  You can definitely count me in as a huge DeStefano groupie that will be eagerly awaiting her next series, The Internment Chronicles.  Book one is entitled Perfect Ruin.  Exciting!

4 out of 5 Stars

Sever by Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (2013)
Hardcover 371 pages
ISBN: 9781442409095

Todd’s Review of Targets of Revenge (Jordan Sandor #2) by Jeffrey S. Stephens

9781451688726_p0_v1_s260x420After reading the first two books in Jeffrey S. Stephens’ Jordan Sandor series, Targets of Opportunity and its prequel Targets of Deception, I knew I was in for a great third addition to the series.  Some foreshadowing in Targets of Opportunity lead the reader to believe that there is a large showdown looming between Jordan and the man responsible for his plight.  I’ve always been interested in spy/thriller books in general, and I knew going in to this book that I’d enjoy it, but little did I know that I would be reading the best book in the series!

Targets of Revenge begins with Jordan crashing a glider into the jungle along the coast of Venezuela, hot on the trail of a man known as Rafel Cabello, who goes by the moniker Adina.  He was the mastermind of the deadly terrorist attacks from the previous two books, notably the downing of a jet in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of one of Jordan’s best friends, Kurt Zimmermann.  Now that Jordan finally was able to place a name behind all of the attacks that have caused him such pain over the last year, he finally sets out to kill him.  After landing the glider, Jordan discovers a small lab in the jungle that houses not only Adina’s hideaway, but a hastily constructed lab that contains a cocaine refinery operation as well as something much deadlier: anthrax.  Although this finding puts his original plan to exterminate Adina on hold, Jordan is able to escape with crucial information that hopefully will uncover Adina’s purpose for the manufacture of such a deadly toxin.  The trail then leads him to Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, where he meets with a Russian drug lord who is involved in the operation.  After surviving a harrowing SCUBA related assassination attempt, Jordan then heads to Russia, and finally, New York City, where he discovers Adina’s deadly plan.  Now out of time and options, Jordan must stop Adina at all costs before it is too late.

As I’ve stated earlier in my reviews of Stephens’ works, I enjoy how much he plays up both sides of the spy/thriller coin when crafting his stories.  He gets into the geo-political aspects of the story, explaining the diplomatic relationships between the US and various other nations without getting too complex.  On the other hand, there is more than enough action to go around, balancing out the diplomatic aspects of the story.  In Targets of Revenge, it seems that Stephens has tipped the scales more towards the action side of things, as the pace escalated quickly from the beginning and didn’t let up until the end.  To be honest, I had a blast reading all the action and it was a great respite from everything I’ve been doing for work and school recently.  It was like taking a reading vacation, and Stephens did a great job at pulling me in at the beginning and keeping up the pressure.  Sandor is a great character, and he’s got a good combination of diplomacy and a good old-fashioned bravado that mixes well and makes him incredibly likable.  I’m happy to say that I have no regrets in giving all three of these books 5 stars each, they definitely deserved them.

5 out of 5 Stars

Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery Books (2013)
Hardcover 441 pages
ISBN: 9781451688726

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Kim’s Review of Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

dragonfly2bin2bamber2bmodernAs I stated in my review of the first book in the Outlander series, I never thought someone would replace Darcy as the leading man in my life.  That was before I met Jamie Fraser.  Then everything changed.  After reading Outlander I finally found out what all the fuss was about.  I needed more.  Jamie has everything I could ever ask for, and the story of Jamie and Claire kept me captivated from the get go.  So, where do we go from here?  On to book two: Dragonfly in Amber.

As the plot is fairly complex and involves time travel, I’ll let Goodreads do the talking here:

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves….

I think the most important thing to say about this series is how multi-dimensional it is, not only on a genre level, but on an emotional level.  On a genre level, this is more than just a series about Jamie and Claire’s love, it’s about political upheaval in Scotland, witchcraft and women’s rights, honor, integrity, standing up for what you believe in, and accepting the repercussions of being/doing wrong.  This is a historical fiction novel at heart, but it’s also an adventure novel, a romance novel, and a science fiction novel.  There’s so much passion in Gabaldon’s writing and storytelling that it becomes difficult to find a place to begin speaking about why these books are so amazing.  I’ll admit, the book did move a bit slower than the first in the series, but there were a good number of surprises sprinkled throughout the plot that made the book seem fresh and intriguing.  That cliffhanger at the end?  Utter perfection.  Another integral part of this book (and this series in general) is how Gabaldon is able to manipulate the reader’s emotions.  It’s like an abusive relationship: she rips out your heart with amazingly heart-wrenching scenes and then puts it back together by restoring your faith in her characters, only to then repeat the cycle all over again!  Her ability to elicit such strong emotion in her readers is one of the reasons why she is such a phenomenal writer.  I strongly urge you to not only read this book, but the series as a whole.  I’ve heard amazing things about book three, Voyager, which I’ll be sure to finish in the coming weeks.  Look out for my review!

4 out of 5 stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my third completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Random House (2001)
Paperback 752 pages
ISBN: 9780385335973

 

Kim’s Review of The Warrior Trilogy by Lara Adrian

 

……….wllYesterday was Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate (a day late) than reviewing some romance novels?  Last year I became entranced by Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian.  How can you go wrong with medieval knights? Seriously, knights fighting with swords over a woman’s honor? What wouldn’t I give to be one of those ladies?  Anyway, I chose to read Adrian’s Warrior Trilogy after Lord of Vengeance because of how fantastic Adrian’s medieval world was.  It was gritty, real, and showcased both the good and bad of that time period. And if I’m being honest, I also wanted more hot knights.

Book one of the trilogy is White Lion’s Lady. Plot summary from Goodreads:

Abducted on the way to her wedding, heiress Isabel de Lamere is unaware that the scoundrel planning to use her for his own gain is the cherished champion of her childhood: Griffin, the White Lion. Yet even as she discovers his treachery, Isabel cannot deny that Griffin lingers in her dreams, awakening the passion in her steadfast heart.

Then a twist of fate puts a price on both their heads, embroiling them in a life-and-death chase that will force Griffin to choose between his own freedom and his fierce desire for the woman who would redeem his noble spirit. But to reclaim his lost honor, the White Lion could lose Isabel forever. . . .

Who doesn’t love a good redemption story?  Griffin was Isabel’s knight in shining armor as a child, saving her from a wild boar in the woods.  From that moment on Isabel believes Griffin will grow to be the most deserving, honorable, and cherished knight there is.  When he kidnaps her off the highway ten years later and holds her  for ransom she quickly wonders what happened to him during the years of their separation.  She wonders how a boy who dwelt so much on doing good turned into this passionless, dark, empty soul of a man.  As she is forced into his company on their long journey to her fiance, she begins to understand more of the hardships he underwent during  their separation and how becoming this calm, calculating man was his way to survive.

To watch Griffin’s transformation back to the man he used to be was in a word, breathtaking.  The way he strives to become a good and honorable man/knight not only for Isabel but for himself too is a journey you won’t want to miss.  I sometimes lose interest in books where characters just change to appease their partners. What is the point of that?  I believe change to be something that should come from your own heart and mind, not those of another.  Because Adrian had Griffin transform mostly for himself  I give this work high marks!

Isabelle, on the other hand, is one of those characters that is literally good down to her bones.  She tries to see positive traits in everyone and always tries to have an optimistic point of view.  At times, this led her into bad situations and it was interesting to see how Adrian portrayed this characteristic in a negative and positive light.  It felt like a realistic approach to the character, and I’m glad that Adrian was able to give us another wonderful character to flesh out her work.  In all, this is one you definitely don’t want to miss.

5 out of 5 Stars

White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 795 pages
ISBN: 2940014447201

blbBook two of the trilogy is Black Lion’s Bride.  Plot summary from Goodreads:

Daughter of the King of the Assassins, Zahirah was trained to be as deadly as she is beautiful. When she steals into the desert camp of the English army, she has one goal: to banish the crusaders from her homeland by murdering King Richard the Lionheart. Her deceptive strategy delivers her into the hands of the enemy–and puts her at the mercy of the dashing Black Lion, Sebastian of Montborne.

Fighting for peace in a dangerous, exotic land, Sebastian never dreamed that the tides of war would bring him a mysterious beauty in need of his protection. Nor could he guess that the lady who ignites his heart is the very enemy he has sworn to destroy on behalf of his king. Caught in a deadly game of passion and deception, their unbidden love could cost Sebastian and Zahirah their lives. . . .

Black Lion’s Bride was definitely my least favorite of the three.  It went downhill for me from the start, mainly due to the problems I had with Zahirah’s character. Let’s go through what we know of her. She’s the ONLY female Assassin of her kind and is apparently one of the BEST.  Well of course she’s one of the best. Who else but the best would be given the massive responsibility of assassinating King Richard?  Yet she’s barely able to defend herself, help in an ambush, etc.  Every time the reader is given a chance to witness her abilities, she flails and fails.  While the words say she should be strong and lethal, she comes off as weak and defenseless.  Basically, this made me lose faith in her as a character, and it made my reading experience fall flat.

I found the whole ending of the book to be a bit far-fetched and unbelievable.  Between the outcome of the plot to kill the king and the big secret Zahirah’s been keeping, etc, I was asked to suspend too much disbelief as a reader.  While the details of the book fell flat for me, the writing at its base was still strong.

2 out of 5 Stars

Black Lion’s Bride by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 847 pages
ISBN: 2940014447447

lovBook three of the trilogy is Lady of Valor. Plot summary from Goodreads:

Left a widow by her cruel husband’s death, Lady Emmalyn of Fallonmour is determined to control her own destiny, until her hard-won vows of independence are threatened by the mysterious warrior sent to protect her castle on order of the king. Emmalyn is now at the mercy of Sir Cabal, a feared knight known as Blackheart.

Skilled at war and hiding a tormented past, Cabal swears allegiance to no one but himself and his country. But once he meets Emmalyn, he finds his strength tested by this proud beauty who stirs his blood with desire, tempting him to defy his king and surrender his heart. . . .

Who doesn’t love a good redemption story?  Cabal has the blackest of hearts and a soul that is as devoid of emotion as a cold winter’s night.  He is the best mercenary and soldier that the King has at his disposal, due to Cabal’s emotionless personality.  When I started reading this book, I had no idea how Adrian would make this character redeemable and worth my time.  As she slowly gives the reader glimpses into his past, he becomes less of a blackened personality and more of a mysterious puzzle.  Emmalyn’s past, on the other hand, is given to us in a rather straightforward way, and her life is an open book.  Her story, most specifically her marriage to her first husband, is devastatingly cruel.  She is a battered woman before the term was ever coined.  Years of psychological and physical abuse took a toll on her and as such, she’s hesitant to trust or reveal her heart to anyone.  These two shells of people battling to become whole once again while struggling to understand new feelings of the heart are wonderful foundations for this work.  This was a great way to end the trilogy, and I’m glad I stuck with it until the end!

4 out of 5 Stars

Lady of Valor by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 853 pages
ISBN: 2940014436823

This is my fourth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my second completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Kim and Sam Review Shades of Earth (Across the Universe Trilogy #3) by Beth Revis

shadesI get REALLY nervous when I start reading the first book in a trilogy.  Not because I think it’ll be bad, but because I’ve had the luck where I get sucked in by the first two books, read the third, and find myself incredibly disappointed.  This happened to me with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games ( 1, 2, 3), Tessa Dare’s Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy, and Lauren Royal’s Flower Trilogy just to name a few.  Now this isn’t to say that I’ve had bad luck with ALL trilogies, I had just enough of the above experience happen to cause a nervousness when an author announces a trilogy.

When I first heard about the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis I’ll admit I was excited at the prospect of a dystopic sci-fi adventure in space.  When I finished Across the Universe and A Million Suns my nervousness hit an all time high.  A Million Suns had blown book one out of the water for me.  I was so impressed with the new heights that Revis had taken Amy and Elder to, that I knew she had set an unattainable (in my eyes) precedent that book three just would not be able to reach.  Now that I’ve read book three, I’m happy to say that Revis has proven me wrong.  I’ve asked fellow staffer Sam to join me today to discuss Shades of Earth, book three in the Across the Universe trilogy.  I hope you’ll join our discussion below!

From Goodreads:

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They’re ready to start life afresh–to build a home–on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn’t the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed’s former passengers aren’t alone on this planet. And if they’re going to stay, they’ll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who–or what–else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been for nothing.

Kim: I am so (x 100) impressed with Shades of Earth.  I think it’s the most beautifully written of the three and the most mature.  I don’t say mature as a bad thing (like risqué content), I say mature because we see Amy and Elder in these massively responsible roles, with the weight of a new society on their shoulders.  The people of Godspeed look to them to help transition them from “space folk” to “Earth folk.”  Not only is this massive transition happening, but people are going missing, strange animals are popping up, people are having weird reactions to the natural fauna, etc.  Throughout all of this they must deal with their own personal relationship and how it fits into their new lives.

Sam: My biggest problem with trilogies is that they tend to be a major letdown by the third book. However, like Kim, I was very impressed and satisfied with Shades of Earth. What I really enjoyed about the writing was that Revis stays true to herself as a science fiction writer. She didn’t disappoint with her beautifully crafted alien planet. Every detail that she included was purposeful and painted a clear picture of a world unknown.

Kim: I have to agree with your statement about the alien planet being beautifully crafted.  Revis’ descriptions of the flowers, the mountains, the lake, etc were exquisitely detailed.  The world visually came to life right before my eyes.  I especially liked the first rainstorm and how all the Godspeed folk thought the sky was exploding.  Their responses to things that we as “Earth folk” just “know” was humorous but also eye-opening.  It made me think, gee, if I had never been outside before how would I react to rain, snow, thunder, or lightening?  Not only was the world beautifully crafted, but the characters were too.

Sam: I was the most taken by Elder’s evolution. In this book he becomes a true leader in his own right, the one that all of his people needed and that I as a reader really wanted him to be. In the previous installments we see him training to be a leader, then trying desperately to actually be one without much guidance. When Amy shows up in his life, all of his thinking starts to change. By book 3 we see him taking what he’s learned from his leadership training and fusing it with what he now knows to be true. This book is the first time that we see Elder making his own decisions without someone prompting him. I like that way that his people seem to follow him, not just because he’s the Eldest, but because he has finally earned the title. He can hold his own now and his merit as a leader is clearest when we realize all of the sacrifices he is willing to make for those who love and respect him. I think that’s what I love most about this character.

Kim:  Ditto to everything Sam said about Elder.  I think that I’ve seen him evolve so much in the past two books and Amy so little, that I expected Amy’s transformation to take center stage in Shades of Earth.  Revis does an incredible job of maturing Amy.  Amy has seemed super selfish at times in the past two books (and in the beginning of Shades of Earth).  Here, dealing with all she is forced to, she begins to see things in a new light and begins thinking of how much she’s grown, changed, and learned.  At one point her father (now unfrozen) asks her what she’s learned during her time awake in space.  Her response (below) definitely shows a new, mature Amy.

I learned that life is so, so fragile. I learned that you can know someone for just days and never forget the impression he left on you. I learned that art can be beautiful and sad at the same time. I learned that if someone loves you, he’ll wait for you to love him back. I learned that how much you want something doesn’t determine whether you get it or not, that “no” might not be enough, that life isn’t fair, that my parents can’t save me, that maybe no one can.

I think that Amy’s transformation is due in part to two things. 1. She sees how much Elder has taken responsibility for and tries to emulate him. 2. The way her parents treat her when they wake up definitely impacts her future behavior   Her parents just continue to treat her like a spoiled brat and ignore the changes she knows have personally happened.  When her parents refuse to see the changes she’s made, that’s when I think she realizes that maybe those changes aren’t so visible after all.  Maybe she needs to work on herself just a bit more.

Sam: One theme that really resonated with me was the idea that no one is ever completely trustworthy. No matter how much Amy tries to find someone who she can confide in and really rely on, they always seem to let her down. Even Elder keeps certain truths from her in an effort to protect her. The one character who seemed to be the most likely to betray Amy and Elder, was Orion. Yet, in the end, it was his knowledge and wisdom that helped them discover the truth about Centauri Earth.

Kim: I have to agree here.  It’s the old adage of don’t judge a book by its cover.  Orion is definitely the one in A Million Suns that you just wanted to smack by the end.  The scavenger hunt (while awesome as a plot device) was so frustrating for Amy and Elder.  Orion refuses to cooperate and just help.  I found it interesting that he always made you earn the knowledge he had.  Every time I think about him, I think that he would have made a horrible Eldest.  Had he truly cared about the people on Godspeed he would have shared all the knowledge he had, instead of slinking around everywhere making Elder and Amy search for clues.  And even when they did figure out what the clues meant, he still wouldn’t be upfront. (Can you tell he frustrates me!?!)

Sam: “To be a Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light or give off darkness. Be a candle, or the night.” I am not going to go so far as to say that Orion is Yoda in this book, however, I think that Elder never would have made the choices he did if Orion had simply told him what was happening below Godspeed. I think that he had to lead Elder on that scavenger hunt, to uncover the truth. As a good leader, Elder had to choose. Be the candle to lead them all to the unknown, or, like so many Eldests before him, be the night that kept them “safe” in the shadows. Perhaps he would have been a horrible Eldest, but I think he was a pretty decent if not slimy mentor.

Kim: Damn. You’re good.

Sam: I was disappointed in the way that Amy’s parents, particularly her father, couldn’t see how much she had grown and changed. He didn’t take the time to see that she was an equal in terms of leadership capabilities. As Kim mentioned before, Amy has matured a lot on this voyage. She has completely transformed into such an intelligent woman. I think her father didn’t know quite how to handle that.

Kim: Yes! Amy’s dad was THE WORST.  When he’s initially unfrozen and finds out that Amy’s been awake for a few months he freaks. Instead of taking a few minutes and letting her catch him up on what’s been going on, he delegates her to a corner to just sit quietly.  He refuses to accept that his daughter and her teenage boyfriend could have any knowledge or authority that could help him.  He was extremely nazi-like to be honest.  I get that he just woke up after being frozen for hundreds of years, but have some faith in your daughter.  His complete dismissal of anything she said from beginning to end of the novel really irked me.  And his attitude toward Elder? COMPLETELY uncalled for.  He deserves everything he got.

Amy’s mom on the other hand seems incredibly naive.  She can’t even fathom that Amy’s father is hiding things from her and the others.  At times she reminded me of a battered woman.  Her husband’s word was law and there was no disputing it.  She focused on her research and Amy, two things that served to be the beginning foundation towards her “new” life.

Sam: I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know what it was about Elder that bothered dad so much, given the company that he was keeping. Also, mom. I think Kim said it all. She was so absorbed in her research that she couldn’t see anything that was going on around her, and there was A LOT to take in. This family just doesn’t really stand a chance for getting back together. They’ve moved so far away from each other even though they had been just inches from one another for hundreds of years.

The elephant in the room is of course, Chris. From the moment he waltzed up behind Amy’s Dad and totally stepped into Elder’s territory, I did not like him. He did NOTHING to try to redeem himself throughout the story, and in the end turned out to be even worse than I wanted to imagine. So what if he has big blue eyes, Amy! This is not the man who helped you survive for three months without any family, or protected you from ridicule, or loved you for you. This is just some guy your father is obsessed with because he’s some kind of super soldier tech guy.

To her credit, Amy does figure this out eventually. But it took far too long if you ask me. I was not a fan of her whole “what if Elder wasn’t the last guy on Earth” routine.

Kim: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.  I found myself getting so angry with Amy at multiple sections of this book. My biggest yelling out loud moment? The time she leaves Elder’s house and goes for a stroll with Chris and kisses him. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU, YOU BIG HUSSY? Elder has protected you, saved you, trusted you, shared himself with you, and basically (in essentials) given his life to you. Do you disregard the value of his love so much that you can just turn your back on him and go for midnight strolls with anyone giving you attention!? Jeez.

Sam: Absolutely! The other part, and I still don’t know how I feel about it, is that Elder just lets it go. He spies on them, gives her space, but never once makes her feel bad about blatantly flirting with Chris, sometimes RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. On the one hand I respect Elder for letting her be her own woman and trusting Amy that much. On the other hand, come on… stand up for yourself, Elder!

Kim: This is just another example of why Elder is the better guy.  He never tries to force Amy to make a decision to be or not to be with him.  I find it interesting that the people of Godspeed had no religious belief.  Interesting, because Elder has a lot of faith that things will be ok and will work themselves out.  He lets Amy have her space and do what she wants with it, knowing that his love is the strongest and will win.

Sam: I wasn’t going to go for the religious belief stuff, but since you mention it 🙂 I really loved that Amy’s faith was so strong in this series. There were so many references to her cross and her faith in something more. I think that it was that faith that helped her stay strong and really gave her something to latch on to. In this series, Revis asks these characters to have a lot of faith in things unseen. Planets and people far away. I think that Amy was better prepared to handle the faith in something unknown because of her religion. As for the people of Godspeed, I found that in the absence of religion they put all of their faith in the “Eldest” system. The Eldest was the one person who was going to make choices and decisions for them all, he was the one they looked to when they weren’t sure of their fate.

Kim: Exactly! The “Eldest” of the time became their deity and the one they looked to for guidance and leadership.  Their faith didn’t have to follow a sight unseen rule as Amy’s did.  I actually think that theirs might have been a more difficult road to follow.  If something happened that wasn’t to their benefit or how they wanted it to be, they could directly go to their “deity” and complain and wish it wasn’t so.  They could tangibly make their “deity” change things for their benefit or their detriment.  If the Eldest didn’t change it for you, the road stopped. No matter how much you “prayed” on it, it wouldn’t change. I believe that this in essence is a more difficult faith to have, because your life (and the control to change it) is completely out of your hands.

Sam: Earlier we talked about Orion’s little scavenger hunt for Elder and Amy. In that he gave them clues to try to find a deeper meaning, to uncover the truth about what was really going on with Godspeed and Centauri Earth. Ever since Revis released the title of this third book, Shades of Earth, I’ve felt a little like Elder. I am a VERY BIG fan of the Beatles so I noticed right away that the lyric wasn’t quite right. It’s meant to be “shades of life.” Why would she just go for it with the Beatles lyric in the first two and then change it up for the last book? Now, maybe there’s nothing to it, but maybe, just maybe it means something.

This whole series really centers around what it means to be alive, really living. Amy can’t really cope with life on Godspeed. To her it is too confining. She can’t run. Can’t feel the real sun on her face or the real rain on her skin. In that way, it is just a shadow of a life. For Elder, he can’t really cope with being the only one his age, groomed for his position as Eldest. His life without a true companion and confidante is a shadow of a life that he desperately wants. So there are the dark shades of their lives.

But, what about the light parts? First, Amy’s bright red hair. A color so vibrant that all at once it makes Elder come to life and he has to know her, to unfreeze her and see such a color for himself up close. Next, the adventure. A shade of life that both terrifies and excites them. Finally, their love for each other. All of these elements combined create the canvas of a life so bright, yet dark that it seems to mirror one of Harley’s haunting yet beautiful paintings. The shades of their life together. The life that they are going to create here on Centauri Earth, which is merely a different shade of the same planet they left behind.

Kim:  Fellow readers, there you have it.  Sam couldn’t have said it any better.  The Across the Universe trilogy is filled with amazing imagery, exquisite characters, thrilling plots, and above all else, depth.  Beth Revis may have written these books with the young adult crowd in mind, but she has written with such vitality that she’s hooked the adult crowd too.  This trilogy defies convention and refuses to be boxed in for a certain genre or age group.  Sam and I both highly recommend it.  There is so much more within these novels than what meets the eye.  Give them a shot and see what you make of them.

Kim’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Sam’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my first completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
Razorbill (2013)
Hardcover: 369 pages
ISBN: 9781595143990

Kim’s Review of Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

outlanderPride and Prejudice has been my favorite novel since I read it for the first time over a decade ago.  In that time period the ONLY book to produce a hero that could come close to Fitzwilliam Darcy was Persuasion.  Captain Frederick Wentworth and Darcy were, in my opinion, the epitome of what you wanted in a man.  They both were strong, confident men who were able to admit they were wrong and change for their lady loves.  Come on ladies, who wouldn’t want a man like them?  Fast forward to last month when I was on Twitter and saw an infographic that allowed readers to select their favorite male literary hero.  Maybe it’s just me being arrogant, but I thought Darcy had it in the bag.  I clicked on the link, and to my great surprise the name that popped as the winner was James Fraser.  I immediately did a Google search to figure out what book he was from.  Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, was the response I got, and thus began my journey to figure out how this Scottish Highlander could possibly beat out the love of my life, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Claire Randall is a combat nurse back from World War II in 1945.  Married before the war began, Claire is separated from her husband during the war and is finally reunited with him after hostilities are over.  Out on their second honeymoon in Scotland, Claire falls through a portal that transports her to the year 1743.  Once there she must find a way to become part of the past until she can return to the future.  Her journey is filled with a forced marriage, an attempted burning at the stake, claims of witchcraft and prostitution, and countless other atrocities.  The silver lining in this, however, is her forced marriage to a Scottish Highlander named Jamie Fraser.  He pledges to protect her, body and soul, and in many instances, does.  Will she ever be able to tell him where she really comes from?  Will they ever be able to figure out a way to get her back to the present?  With her growing feelings for Jamie, will she even want to go?

Let me start out by saying: JAMIE FRASER. OH MY GOD.  I totally “get” how women ranked him higher than Darcy!  He’s mysterious, funny, kind-hearted, at times arrogantly confident, strong, and devastating.  There are times you want to smack him for his cockiness, and other times you want to hug him for the brutality that he’s had to face.  In short, he is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read.

At times Jamie and the other men of the period are barbaric, but when you look at the time period (the 1700’s) it’s historically accurate.  There is one scene in the book where Jamie whips Claire for disobeying him and putting his clansmen in extreme danger.  While I don’t agree with the beating, his explanation of why he did it (it’s expected by his clansman for retribution due to the danger they’ve been placed in) makes sense.  Even Claire understands and accepts it (and she’s a modern woman!)  Jamie is extremely remorseful over the entire incident and agrees to make a pact to Claire that he’d never do it again, regardless of the traditions he lives by.  This brought a question to my mind: are we able to accept abuses of women when placed into the context of the past?  If I read a book that took place in contemporary times there would be NO WAY IN HELL that I’d accept abuse as a viable plot point.  But when placed into a story where it’s truly indicative of the way people acted, I can accept it as “historically relevant.”  Do you agree?

Now, on to Gabaldon’s writing style.  At times the book got a little wordy, but by and large it created a world that you can’t help but  become mesmerized by.  Jamie’s revelations near the end of the book about what happened to him in prison are probably some of the darkest and most heart wrenching scenes I’ve ever read.  His vulnerability as he is telling Claire of his pain and shame is both awe-inspiring and deeply depressing.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as deeply for a character as I did for Jamie in that scene.

A word of caution: there is a rape scene in the novel, and as I’ve stated in other book reviews in the past, I feel that this should be noted somewhere.  You never know what a reader has gone through in his/her own life and what a scene like that (explicit or not), could trigger for them.

In all, I think this work is incredibly multidimensional.  It fits in so many genre “boxes” that you can’t help but identify with it.  It is heartwarming, touching, and a beautiful piece.  I urge all of you to see for yourself how great of a work Gabaldon has created.  Maybe Jamie will rate as high on your list of male heroes as he now does on mine?

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my second completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my first completed review for the Book to Movie Challenge

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Random House Publishing (2004)
eBook: 818 pages
ISBN: 9780440335160