Review: Daughters of the War by Lizzie Page

daughters of the war

Title: Daughters of the War
Author:
 Lizzie Page
Publication Date: November 12, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5 Stars


An emotional tale of wartime love and sacrifice, inspired by an incredible true story…

As a teenager in Chicago, May always dreamed of travelling the world. So when she meets handsome George Turner, she jumps at the chance to return to London as his wife. Ten years later, May is wondering if she’s made a terrible mistake.

It’s 1914 and war has been declared in Europe. All around, brave young men are being called up to serve. George, banned from conscription himself, has taken to the bottle, and May suspects he’s seeing other women too. She longs for a way to escape.

The chance comes when May meets veteran nurse Elsie, who persuades May to join the war effort. May knows nothing of nursing – it will be difficult, dangerous work, but her heart is telling her it’s the right thing to do.

But then George does the unthinkable and May’s future is put at risk. Will she have to make the impossible choice between duty to her family and her promise to the soldiers on the front line? And can she live with the consequences if her husband goes through with what he’s threatening to do?


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Daughters of the War is the second of three books by Lizzie Page focusing on female nurses during WWI, all of which can be read separately (although I suspect there were a few Easter eggs included tying in the first book which I missed). The actual subject of this book is what drew me in and made me request a copy. Female war stories are my favorite to read about, and it’s fairly rare to find a WWI story with the market so saturated by WWII at the moment.

Unfortunately, this book and I weren’t as well suited for each other as I had hoped. May, the main character, was a bit too gloomy and morose for me. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the author chose to depict mental illness, especially in a time period where it was still very taboo, but it drug the story down a bit for me. The plot of the story (nursing wounded soldiers, an unhappy marriage, etc.) was grim already, and while it’s understandable that a character faced with a life of grim realities would be depressed, I felt that there was too much doom and gloom. Because I had such a hard time connecting with May, I had a very difficult time engaging in the story and I found myself skimming for the action-y bits.

If you’re a fan of WWI or female war stories, I would encourage you to give this a try in spite of my qualms. It’s been very well received by others. If only May and I had gotten along better!

2.5 Stars

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows
Title: Six of Crows 
Author:
 Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars


Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone… A convict with a thirst for revenge, a sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager, a runaway with a privileged past, a spy known as the Wraith, a Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums, a thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.


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WOW.

Wow wow wow wow wow. 

I finished this book approximately five minutes ago and my brain is still reeling, trying to figure out how someone can put words together in such a magical, unique way.

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This is my first dive into the Grishaverse and I loved every. single. second. Every single word lived up to the hype and then some and I’ve been beating myself up from the moment I finished the first chapter for not reading Six of Crows sooner. On the other hand I’m beyond glad that I don’t have to wait for Crooked Kingdom to come out and can start it as soon as I want!

The world building in this book is phenomenal – like, rivals Harry Potter phenomenal. I haven’t read the Grisha trilogy that started the world, but I wasn’t lost reading Six of Crows in the slightest. Everything was so vivid. The countries were distinct and incredibly well defined, even though I couldn’t point a single moment out in the book where Bardugo blatantly describes a nation. She does it sneakily, the way the best writers can, and all off a sudden you feel like you live in the Barrel or have walked in the Ice Court or been a soldier in Ravka. There’s just enough real world influence in the foundation of the countries Bardugo created to make them feel completely believable.

And the characters. Oh my gosh, the characters. Like the nations that are so completely distinct, each of the six marauders thrown together are entirely their own. Each filled with a different fire, fighting for a different reason, hailing from a different place, but all so likable despite their damnable qualities and shady pasts you start to wonder if your moral compass is as wonky as theirs. I loved reading from all of the different perspectives and wasn’t bored in the slightest by any of them, which is a big plus when a writer uses multiple perspectives.

The story line itself was out of this world. I’m always amazed that authors of thrillers and mysteries are able to get an aerial view of something like a completely impossible heist that’s never been done before, and then find a way to have the characters view it. That alone is magical to me, never mind the actual fantastical elements that Bardugo masterfully wound into the world. I can only imagine the hours upon hours she spent pacing in front of a white board, moving all the puzzle pieces around.

The Grishaverse is officially my favorite magical universe behind the Harry Potter series, although it’s a close, close second. This is the type of 5 star rating that makes me look back at all the other books I’ve given 5 stars too and shake my head. I can’t wait to read Crooked Kingdom and Grisha trilogy!

5 Stars

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Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Battle of the LabyrinthTitle: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Author:
 Rick Riordan
Publication Date: March 6, 2008
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars


Percy Jackson isn’t expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears at his potential new school, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to worse.

In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop the invasion, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth – a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn.


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Each Percy Jackson book is better than the last, which means that The Battle of the Labyrinth is my new favorite in the series. I know, I’ve only said that about, um, every other book.

This was the strongest so far for a couple of different reasons. First of all, a Labyrinth filled with life threatening obstacles is just plain fun. The maze at the end of the Triwizard Tournament in the fourth Harry Potter books was one of my favorite moments of the series, and the Labyrinth in this book had a similar energy. The challenges they faced were all interesting and kept the book moving forward.

Second of all, we’re finally starting to get answers to some questions that have been boiling away since Riordan dropped hints in the first book. Annabeth and Percy finally admit they have feelings of some sort for each other, Kronos gets himself together – literally, – the mysterious Pan is finally found, and the second titan war begins. Those are a lot of loose ends to tie up in one book!

As always, the characters are really what draw me into the Percy Jackson stories. I wasn’t super keen on Daedalus, but Nico’s become one of my favorite characters of the entire series and I’m SUPER eager to see how his story plays out in the last book. I’m ready for the last one!

5 Stars

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Review: Susanna’s Christmas Wish by Jerry S. Eicher

Susanna's Christmas Wish
Title:
Susanna’s Christmas Wish
Author:
Jerry S. Eicher
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Genre: Amish Romance, Christmas
Rating: 3.5 Stars


From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. Fans will be delighted by this peek at an Amish Christmas, complete with the romantic wish of Susanna Byler to spend the holidays with the man of her dreams. But who is the man of her dreams? Is it the competent but plain Amish man she married for convenience…or is it her first love-an Englisha man with whom she has recently had an unexpected encounter-and who wants her back in his life? A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.


Review_Susanna’s Christmas Wish was a quick, cute, Christmas-y read!

The story centers mainly around Susanna’s internal conflicts as she tries to adjust to a new marriage – including her new husband’s strict views on Christmas – and her first love popping into town at the most inconvenient time possible. As she works through her dismay at missing her family’s Christmas gathering she’s also trying to come to terms with being jilted by the man she thought she loved and, as if that isn’t enough, she’s trying to grow her love for her new husband and prove to him that she’s committed. She’s got a lot on her plate.

I really enjoyed the story line and all of the Amish culture sprinkled throughout the book, but it took me a while to warm up to the characters. Susanna came across as a bit weepy and emotional, while Herman initially seemed a bit cold and distant. The polar opposite personalities were a bit jarring and made some of their first interactions a bit odd, but endearing nonetheless. By the end of the story I’d come to enjoy them both though, so maybe that’s a testament to their character growth! Their love was sweet and so pure, and I think Eicher did a great job of capturing the period of adjustment that every newlywed couple goes through, Amish or not.

I don’t read very much Amish fiction, although I know it’s a popular alternative (and sometimes subgenre) to historical fiction. When I picked this novella up I wasn’t familiar with Jerry S. Eicher, but I’ve since come to learn he’s one of the biggest authors in the genre. I got subtle Janette Oke vibes as I was reading and I absolutely love everything I’ve read from her so far. I definitely want to check out some of his other series – and I really hope there are more stories about Susanna and Herman in store!

3.5 Stars

Review: A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

A Holiday by GaslightTitle: A Holiday by Gaslight
Author: Mimi Matthews
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating:5 Stars


A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.


Review_Okay, before I even get into this review can we please talk about this cover? That dress, that lettering, the mistletoe rimming the sides, the snowy, gas-lit background…

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It’s only made better by the fact that every single detail on the cover plays a part in the story. I think I’m in love.

So, to be completely candid, Victorian Christmas stories are sort of my kryptonite. I work in a Victorian house that decorates to the hilt for a period-accurate Christmas, I wrote my final thesis for my bachelor’s degree on Victorian Christmas traditions… you get the idea. So when I saw this book on Netgalley I had it requested and loaded on my Kindle before I knew what was happening. I’m sooooo glad I broke my no ARC rule for October and snagged it because it was hands down one of my favorite reads of the year.

At risk of sounding like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mimi Matthews did everything just right. The romance wasn’t too strong or too subtle and the side characters weren’t too involved or too obscure. Sophie, the main female character, was strong and confident without seeming to be from a different time period, but not so demure that she was boring and bland. I really, really enjoyed her personality and thought that it was a perfect fit for the time period and the situation she was in. Ned was just as likable, especially given the fact that the poor man was a fish out of water. I’m obviously a fan of dual perspectives, especially from romance, and I was thrilled when I hit chapter two and found myself reading from Ned’s perspective. It added so much depth to the story and made the dance the characters were doing around each other that much more enjoyable to read.

There was an interesting mix of Victorian Christmas traditions and current events happening in the background, and the author did a great job of using them to push the story along instead of info-dumping and then moving back to the story. Darwin, the spread of gaslighting, plumbing, and Prince Albert all make appearances, not including all the Christmas-y bits.

The thing I loved most about it was its length. Not because I was ready for it to end (I’m actually desperately hoping that Mimi Matthews writes more about these characters), but because it was just the right length for the story being told. It wasn’t stretched thin over 250 pages with a bunch of extra stuff bogging the story down. It was short, sweet, and perfectly innocent.

I’m planning on buying a few hard copies of this for my coworkers this Christmas. I know they’ll love it as much as I did!

5 Stars

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review

 

Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse

Title: The Titan’s Curse
Author:
 Rick Riordan
Publication Date: May 5, 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars

It’s not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, half-human.

But when you’re the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that not all of us will survive…


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The Titan’s Curse lived up to the first two books in the Percy Jackson series and is officially my favorite (out of the first three I’ve read, that is). As always, I’m living for the humorous narration, dialog, and chapter titles. It’s so refreshing.

“The cafe windows wrapped all the way around the observation floor, which gave us a beautiful panoramic view of the skeleton army that had come to kill us.” 

“Love conquers all,” Aphrodite promised. “Look at Helen and Paris. Did they let anything come between them?”
“Didn’t they start the Trojan War and get thousands of people killed?”
“Pfft. That’s not the point. Follow your heart.” 

As always, the new characters blended right in. The Huntresses were my favorite of the newbies and I reaaaaaaally hope they’re in the fourth and fifth books. I think Nico is really going to shine in the last two books too, and I can’t wait to see how his relationship with Percy develops. It was a bit of a bummer that Annabeth was missing for most of the book because she’s definitely my fav, but Thalia was a good temporary replacement.

As good as the characters were (and always are) the plot is still the highlight of the series. Even though Percy Jackson is middle grade and you would think the story would be fairly transparent, I was shook by a plot twist at the end of the book. I didn’t see it coming in the slightest, maybe because I was distracted by all of the other crazy things going on, but either way it caught me off guard and made me ten times more excited for the next book. I could feel the tension building for an action packed ending that I’m beyond ready for!

5 Stars

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Review: Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim

Title: The Paper Wife
Author:
 Laila Ibrahim
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife.

On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl named Siew under her wing. Dreams of a better life in America give Mei Ling the strength to endure the treacherous journey and detainment on Angel Island. But when she finally reaches San Francisco, she’s met with a surprise. Her husband, Chinn Kai Li, is a houseboy, not the successful merchant he led her to believe.

Mei Ling is penniless, pregnant, and bound to a man she doesn’t know. Her fragile marriage is tested further when she discovers that Siew will likely be forced into prostitution. Desperate to rescue Siew, she must convince her husband that an orphan’s life is worth fighting for. Can Mei Ling find a way to make a real family—even if it’s built on a paper foundation?


Review_I haven’t read very many (if any at all) historical fiction books centered around Asian culture, so Paper Wife was very alluring. The story starts in the early 1920’s and is rich in historical detail – both Chinese and American. If you’ve never heard of paper wives (I hadn’t either until I read this book) and you’re a history nerd like me, you should do a quick Google search. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

Mei Ling, the feisty main character, is thrust into a marriage that she neither wants nor chooses and finds herself on the way to America as a paper wife. She’s not being honest about her identity with her new husband and before long she realizes he’s not being honest with her either, which sort of sets the foundation for Mei Ling’s internal conflict. Aside from that, there were plenty of subplots to keep the story moving right along and quite a few secondary characters that accompanied them. Some of the subplots were a little harder to believe than others, not because they couldn’t happen but because by the third or fourth unusual thing it seemed like the main characters had the worst luck in the world! Overall I think they did add to the story, though, and also furthered my understanding of the Chinese experience in the 1920’s.

What impressed me the most about this book was the extraordinary amount of research that must have gone into it. Just the research Ibrahim would’ve had to do for the small portion of the book that actually took place in China is staggering. Add to that the research for immigrant experiences on the ship over, detention before being admitted to the country, and daily life in California for a Chinese immigrant in the 1920’s…. phew. That’s a lot of work! I also loved the way the author used ‘——‘ when Mei Ling was around someone speaking English. It’s so nice to have an author acknowledge that a MC that doesn’t speak the language they’re listening to wouldn’t understand what’s going on!

3 Stars

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review