Thursday, December 29, 2011

To Play the LadyTo Play the Lady by Naomi Lane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I totally loved this book! I have only read a handful of high fantasy and almost all of them have been in the last year or so. The reason I have not been able to read high fantasy before is that I had an aversion to author-developed worlds, hence my preference for urban fantasy which is also not something I have always read. Previous to my introduction to urban fantasies I was strictly mysteries and thrillers and that period was the longest for me in my reading history. I have to see something in the book synopsis that leads me to believe that a book will draw me into its world. I kept seeing great reviews for To Play the Lady. I eventually downloaded the sample and knew I would enjoy it.

Jenna is a girl that you care about from the moment you see that she and her brother Peter are different from all of the other teenagers coming to court. The other girls studying with the Queen as her ladies are all nobles as are the boys training to be knights like Peter. Peter seems to not have as difficult a time with his peers as Jenna has with some of the older girls. Not only is she not a noble, but, she comes from a wealthy family, is darker skinned and comes from a dessert area. In addition, she continuously stands out for her many talents despite her age and there is nothing meaner than a teenage girl so Jenna has to overcome a lot of petty jealousies as well. She stands out even from her brother who is also very talented.

One of the great things about To Play the Lady is that Jenna is learning about herself at the same time as we are learning about her gifts and about some of her family's history. It serves as a bit of intrigue because as much as she and Peter try to keep their family's secrets the more things happen to expose them. Another great thing about this story is how Jenna's gifts are discovered. She doesn't magically have a bunch of gifts and suddenly knows how to use them. She grows in every way in this book including her magical gifts. She has some talents that she has trained in as a child might when their parents invest in piano lessons or gymnastics lessons or the myriad of other things my parents invested in for me as a child to help me develop as a well-rounded individual. Jenna did not spring up perfect with a ton of friends with no problems. This story shows how kids, even in medieval times, are subjected to prejudices and abuse. It demonstrates how they can persevere when they have the right tools and support. The princes, Sebastian, Eamon and Dominic all have very different personalities but, they have friendship between them just as the love and friendship is very apparent between Jenna and Peter. I think there are several mysteries with other relationships at court waiting to be exposed.
There are twists and turns everywhere you look in this book. There is a bad guy who we can all see and something else in the works on that front along with the many machinations and politics of court life. I was not finished reading the book before I was researching more about the author and hoping that there were more books on the horizon. I cannot compare it to other fantasy books and even if I had read more than a handful I prefer to take it on its own merits and this book is great, with good character development, good world building, and a great story. I look forward to the next installment!

Review can also be seen at http://ladytechiesbookmusings.blogspot.c...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Last Breath (The Morganville Vampires, #11)Last Breath by Rachel Caine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me these books always entertain to the fullest. I may not have everything go the way I want. But, the vampires are always vampires and always protect themselves first. There is a very delicate balance between them and the humans. One of the things I'm curious about is when they say that Emily founded Morganville does this mean she founded and created this town? If so, I understand that they need some humans to remain there and those that come and go have a different relationship with the vampires than those that area aware of them. How did Michael, Shane and the others that knew each other since they were kids end up locked there? Were their families there already when Emily "found" Morganville or did they migrate there and get trapped there?

Claire is always the lynch pin for the stories but, for the most part this entire thing centers on how she came to Morganville, and her relationship with the vampires so when things happen like they did in this story then you have to wonder what happens when Claire's relationship with the vampires changes.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was poetically written. Laini Taylor has a wonderful gift with words. I kept trying to tie being a daughter of smoke and bone to literal things. I was able to trace her definitely being a daughter of bone. I'm still a little unsure of the smoke but, that might not be a literal translation so I will have to give it more consideration.

I opted to take a risk and buy this on audiobook. The risk comes from the chance that having the wrong narrator completely ruining the experience of the story. I love listening to audiobooks. The narrator in this instance, Khristine Hvam, did a great job. There were one or two spots, mostly at the end when someone distracted me that I had to listen to the last 3 or 4 minutes a couple of times to ensure I did not miss anything. I was hoping that despite how hurt both sides had been due to the war there might be some form of peace without loss of Karu's family members. As both sides of the story are told you see that that each fight really does have two sides and it all depends upon perspective. Possibly, in the beginning there was one clear wrong, but, over the many, many years the wrongs on both sides were perpetuated. There were so many shocks and twists with the war and determining who was who in this story. It did not detract from the beauty of the story. You found yourself wishing for forgiveness all around and seeing similarities in this story to so many aspects of history.

One of the best parts is the author’s vivid imagery of place. I was already dreaming of visiting Prague after seeing a travel show with the bridge full of sculptures. It was great having Laini Taylor confirm its beauty through the gift of her words. I am imaging a place full of culture and art that will take my breath away the same way Rome totally amazed me with its history, people and culture. Another great part of this story is despite all the heartbreak and sadness that war can bring was Karu’s hope and I look forward to the next book in this series.

Review can also be seen at http://ladytechiesbookmusings.blogspot.c...

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Friday, December 9, 2011

The Hedgewitch Queen (Hedgewitch #1 )The Hedgewitch Queen by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is a little harder to review. I loved the story but, I am at a crossroads about how I feel about Vianne. Hedgewitch Queen was pretty well written with wonderful characters, imagery, and language. We only get a cursory glance into each of the main actors in this saga. The story is very focused on the current events beginning with some very serious court intrigue, which is one of my favorite topics.

Vianne is an interesting character but, I'm not sure she is very loyal to anyone other than the princess. It may be because of years of living and navigating the arena of high court or how things happened with her parents. But, the end of this story along with several of the thoughts that she had throughout the book leads me to believe that possibly her loyalty is a bit fleeting. It is not necessarily based upon her relationship with people like Tristan and the other guards, a relationship based upon months of traveling together, supporting each other and protecting each other. But, it appears words from people she met and has only known for a very short time can undo all that was built or possibly change her mind. She doesn’t know the character of many of the people she meets but, she has a chance to judge people based upon how they have treated her. Well there is the rub. This book ends in a huge cliffhanger wherein I do not get to make up my mind about her until I see which way the wind blows in the next book. I'm seeing ulterior motives in the whisperings of new found family members because I can say first hand that not all family has your best interests at heart.

I had to take a peek at Lilith Saintcrow's website to get a hint of what might be on the horizon for the next book and see it is to be released in June of 2012. The title and cover has me a bit worried. At least we already know it is a two-part series so we know things will be tied up and I hope everyone, but Duc and his vile sidekick, gets what they want!

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grave Mercy
By Robin LaFevers
Release Date: April 2012

I was interested in Grave Mercy from the moment I caught wind of it on I am grateful to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing me to obtain a copy of an ARC. The first thing that caught my attention in the synopsis was the sentence that said, “If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death.” That sentence is full of contradictions. I may not be Catholic, but, I do not remember convents being full of assassins. I was under the impression that they were full of women married to God who spend their time praying and doing community service. Apparently there is more going on in some of those places than I initially thought!

Ismae is taken there when she is a young teenager and she is happy to serve St. Mortain after the life she has escaped where an entire village both feared and hated her. Robin LaFevers does an amazing job of telling the little details. You cannot help but become involved in Ismae’s life at the convent. She makes friends and finally knows what it is like to have people be kind to her and treat her like a human being.

I love reading about the history of things and places. History was part of my major in my undergraduate degree, though I did get fixated on the history of China’s dynasties. Whenever I read a book that uses real places I tend to take Internet fieldtrips. When I read that most of this story was taking place in Brittany I hit the Internet to see if there really was a St. Mortain and find out the history of this country. I found information on Mortain but it looks like the storyline in Grave Mercy was a very well-developed story that Robin LaFevers did a wonderful job of developing. I was watching DVR recordings I have of re-runs of Passport to Europe and to my great surprise and delight I had one of what is now Brittany, France. Of course that tells me a lot about what the results of the fight that Brittany had with France to keep its independence. This book tells the story about the hearts and minds of the people who fought so hard to keep Brittany its own independent country. Interestingly enough Brittany was full of British people so of course they would not want to be annexed by France.

Grave Mercy is full of court intrigue and in-fighting that is so underhanded that you cannot tell who is truly working on behalf of Brittany and who is working on behalf of the France regent. The interesting part of this also is that the duchess, Anne is only 12 years old and despite her royal background we really get to see the inner workings of how things were for women of all stations in this book. Can you imagine not being able to walk around a party unescorted by an adult male or female for fear of what it would do to your reputation? Well that has not changed all that much depending upon how you behave while walking around a party these days!

Character development was very well done in Grave Mercy. You did not always know who the bad guy was in this story. The fantasy elements were exciting and the mythology surrounding St. Mortain was interesting and I hope we will get to see that mythology developed more. The fight scenes, though occasionally one sided, were well written. Death’s handmaidens were some kick-butt chicks. I am not sure how many books are in the series but, it appears the next book surrounds another of the girls from the convent. I look forward to that read!

Review can also be seen at http://ladytechiesbookmusings.blogspot.c...

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Shadows in Death by J.D. Robb My rating: 5 of 5 stars Is it possible for an author to be 51 books into a series and still have those book...