Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book Review: The Blue, by Nancy Bilyeau @Tudorscribe @EndeavourQuill

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau book cover and review
I thoroughly enjoyed Bilyeau's Johanna Stafford Series, so when I was offered the chance to read The Blue, it was an easy decision. I was not disappointed.

Genevieve Planché wants to be an artist. But in 18th century London, a woman artist can do nothing but paint on silk or "the most seductive of commodities," porcelain. When Genevieve makes a serious social blunder, her grandfather makes arrangements to send her away to a porcelain factory in Devon.

Her encounter with Sir Gabriel Courtenay changes everything. He promises her that if she will help him steal the formula for a new blue color from the porcelain factory, he will help her get to Venice where she can be tutored by real artists and pursue her dream.

Genevieve doesn't want to be a spy but agrees to the arrangement because she is so desperate to get out of this life she is being forced to lead. She has no idea what she is getting herself into.

You wouldn't think the pursuit of a new shade of blue would serve as such compelling reading. But Bilyeau manages to keep the tension mounting and the hopelessness sustained. Genevieve becomes a sympathetic character, mired deeper and deeper in what turns out to be much more than a theft of a formula for blue. And there is a believable romance which complicated the situation even more.

I was enlightened about the politics of the war between France and England (not sure which one--The French & Indian War?), the porcelain industry and its competitive nature, the difficulty in producing the color blue, and the plight of the Huguenot refugees, as Genevieve is one of them. All the while being connected to the characters and drawn into their plight.

I wish there had been a historical note included. I did some research on porcelain and the color blue after I finished The Blue. I wanted to know how much of the history was accurate. UPDATE: The author has informed me that historical notes will be included in the final copy. Yay!

Bilyeau is a given for me. And historical fiction is my fav...so...I was destined to enjoy The Blue. If you are a fan of 18th-century history, I'm sure you'll enjoy it too.

Published by Endeavour Quill, December 3, 2018
eARC obtained from the publisher
 430 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review: Master of His Fate, by Barbara Taylor Bradford @StMartinsPress

Master of His Fate, by Barbara Taylor Bradford book cover and review
I don't think I've ever read anything by Barbara Taylor Bradford, so when I saw that Master of His Fate is the beginning of a new series (The House of Falconer), and it is historical, I decided to jump in.

James Falconer is everything you would want in a grandson.  Ambitions, hard-working, intelligent, and sensible.  He intends to fulfill his legacy, helping his father in his market stall.  But James wants to be the boss.  When he is discovered by the head of the market, Henry Malvern, he's on his way to reaching his goals.

Alexis Malvern, Henry's daughter, is the heir to his fortune. She is also intelligent and hardworking.  She has no interest in getting married, for in Victorian London her fortune would then belong to her husband. She is perfectly happy working for her father and being a businesswoman.

We follow the stories of these two for most of the book.  It isn't too obvious how their stories will come together, but they eventually do.  There is a lot of introduction to the characters and families, beginning with James' grandparents, who are successful, but not nobility, and have had a great influence on all of their children and grandchildren. It is all very interesting and didn't bore me at all. The descriptions of the people, surroundings, activities, and clothing were all quite enjoyable. The book blurb says Master of His Fate is "intricately detailed" and that is entirely accurate.  What I had a problem with is the mention of seemingly unimportant details like his turning off the light and locking the door when he left. I thought maybe we got this information because someone was going to try to break in later? But no, just extraneous information that I found annoying. These types of descriptions happen throughout the book.

Master of His Fate is still a very interesting story, and I enjoyed it very much. I am invested in what is going to happen and will probably someday read the following books in The House of Falconer. Just be aware that when the description says "detailed," it is an accurate description!

Published by St. Martin's, November 20, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation by Stephen King book cover and review
I didn’t realize that Elevation was a novella which normally I avoid.  But I’ve always said I’ll read anything Stephen King writes, and Elevation is no exception.  The man could write about paint drying and make it interesting.

Scott is losing weight at a rapid pace. But he doesn’t look like it. He still has a gut hanging over his pants. And it doesn’t matter how much he eats, he still loses weight. The other thing is that it doesn’t matter what he’s carrying or what is in his pocket — his weight is still the same.

He tells this to his retired doctor friend, but they are both stumped. Scott feels great, and seems to have boundless energy. He is happy and not stressed about his situation. He uses his time to try and mend fences with his neighbors, who are lesbians. They own a local restaurant which isn’t doing well. Probably because they are lesbians. So Scott makes it his mission to break through the chip that one of the women has on her shoulder and help them make a success of the restaurant.

This is really a story about friendship and making connections. About giving people a chance to be what they are and be happy. Ironically, Scott’s disease serves to bring out the best in his small circle of friends.

Elevation is a quick, feel-good read that will warm your heart and give you hope. Give it a try if you have a couple of hours. After all, it is Stephen King.

Published by Scribner, October 30, 2018
eBook obtained from the library
160 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston @ashley_elston ‏

The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston book cover and review
I really enjoyed The Lying Woods. It kept me wondering and surprised me several times.

Owen's life has been turned upside down. His mother has had to take him out of his exclusive private school because his dad has embezzled all the money from his business and left them penniless. His dad is on the run and Owen has no idea where he is.  Owen's dad owned the largest employer in the town so there are a lot of people who have lost everything. And they are blaming Owen and his mom. Going back to his old, local school is hard, and when Owen tries to connect with old friends they aren't very receptive.

Owen comes upon an old pecan farm and the lonely farmer, Gus. Gus offers to let Owen work there after school and allows Owen to use his beat-up truck to get around. Gus tells Owen that Owen's father worked for Gus when he was younger and lived in an old run down house on the farm.

We get the perspective of Owen's father from the past, as he lives and works on the farm and meets Owen's mother, a girl from town, who he shouldn't have a chance with. But she falls for him, and they have a secret romance, since her parents would never approve.

The information about how pecans are grown and harvested is an added bonus that I found very interesting. I even had to look up pictures of the shakers to see how they really worked.

Owen's and his mother's life is hard. His dad's life from the past is hard. I felt totally invested in finding out what the heck happened to get them where they are.  There are some other details and characters that add mystery to the story, and some element of danger, since Owen and his mother are being threatened by someone. It all made for an intriguing mystery that managed to totally surprise me in the end.

I'm always looking for good YA mysteries, and I can highly recommend The Lying Woods to teens and adults alike.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, November 13, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
336 pages

Rating:  4.5/5

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Book Review: The XY by Virginia Bergin

The XY by Virginia Bergin book cover and review
While parts of the premise are a bit far-fetched, I did find The XY compelling and it serves to get you thinking, which is always a good thing.

The setting is a near future where there are no more males in the population.  A virulent virus killed males, and those that were able to be saved and newborn males are all kept in sanctuaries around the world. Women are the rulers and the caretakers of the earth.  Almost all countries have signed "The Global Agreements" that consist of things like rejecting all violence and vows to always all help each other.

So they live in this utopia, where there are no more wars and life is simple. I need to make a couple of somewhat negative comments before we go on.  Just because you tell people to play nice, whether they are female or not, doesn't mean that's going to happen. And also, society seemed very primitive.  I was saddened by this because, in essence, the author is saying that if there weren't any males, technology would fail and women wouldn't be able to fix it. Thirdly, an amazing amount of physical labor was done by everyone -- even small children -- and it just didn't seem like life should be that hard. There were also several things I really liked about this new society too, so I don't want to sound too harsh.

River is a teen girl who runs into an XY (a boy) who is almost dead along the road. She manages to get him to her home, and all of the women are sure he's going to die of the virus. But he doesn't.  They begin to learn that life in the sanctuaries is a living hell -- not the life that the women thought their men were being given. There are several moral dilemmas for River and her mom and granmmumma, as well as the other women of the town. They are breaking The Global Agreements, but they also are beginning to think the government is keeping secrets from them. Granmummas are the older women who still remember life before the virus. And River's Granmumma Kate is a bright spot.

Like I said, The XY left me with a lot to think about.  I think there is enough material here for a sequel, but I have no idea if it is being planned. The XY is a quick read, and even though I struggled with some of the premises, I would still recommend it to teens who are interested in futuristic stories of this type.

Published by Sourcebooks Fire, November 6, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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