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Monday, May 13, 2019

(Belated) April Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
Okay Spring, can we slow down a little? Work has gotten busy and not only have I not been able to read very much lately because I've been both busy and tired, but I also suddenly realized it's mid-May and I hadn't posted my April wrap up yet.  So, here it is...

What I read in April:

Audiobooks I Own 
Morning Star by Pierce Brown *5 star*
Devil May Care by Pippa DaCosta
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *5 star* 
White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland
Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely (novella)
Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter
Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan Howard
Faerie Blood by Emma Adams *5 star* 

Physical Books I Own
Getting Hot with the Scot by Melonie Johnson *5 star*
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - group read

eBooks I Own
Thrall by Carina Cook *5 star*

Required Reading
(for work) Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney
(for review) An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

As I mentioned work has gotten quite busy and I was also traveling to and from meetings quite a lot. So the majority of my reading was actually done via audiobook this month. I had a very hard time actually sitting down to read. Thankfully, the majority of the audiobooks I listened to were pretty stellar and eight is not too shabby a number to cross off my list! LOL.  The physical books I squeezed in were all pretty great, too, so overall it was a pretty good reading month.  I had one book that turned out to be a HUGE disappointment, but that happens. I also finished my group read of the Infernal Devices trilogy in April, and while I was really glad to have read them, I didn't love them as much as I'd expected to, so they got donated to the library.

How was your reading in April?

Monday, April 15, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #7 - Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
Princess Academy, book three
Published Feb 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Format Read: Print book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
After a year at the king's palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen's interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

My Review: 
It had been so long since I'd read book two in this series, The Palace of Stone, that I was worried I wouldn't be able to fall into this world easily again.  On the contrary, I almost think the extra time between books enhanced my experience. It reintroduced me to Miri, Peder, and some of the other characters, while also drawing me into a new part of the world as Miri travels to Lesser Alva to meet three "cousins" of the royal family.  

Readers get to see smart, resilient Miri turn from student to teacher, and yet still learn some lessons along her way to the final ending.  I loved that these books demonstrate how much we can learn from one another and how we interact with and treat other people.  Friends, family, strangers, each are important and each touch and color our life experience.  I especially loved how Miri passes on things she knows to the sisters, but internalizes the things she can learn from them, as well.  And the fact that she, again, finds the solution to a MAJOR problem in the kingdom... we need to keep recognizing and valuing girls like Miri in real life.  

This book was definitely a shade darker than the first two, but as the characters had matured, it seemed only fitting.  I think these books tackle more than readers expect by looking at the covers and I cannot wait to pass them on to my niece when she's old enough. 

Recommended to readers ten and above looking for a smart, kind heroine in a neat fantasy setting.  But, start with Princess Academy so you can take Miri's journey along with her! 

Monday, April 8, 2019

ARC Review - An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber
Lady Darby Mysteries, book seven
Published April 2019 by Berkley

Format Read: print ARC received from publisher for review

Modified Description from Goodreads:
November 1831. After fleeing London in infamy more than two years prior, Lady Kiera Darby’s return to the city is anything but mundane. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling their bodies to medical schools. Then Kiera’s past—a past she thought she’d finally made peace with—rises up to haunt her.

All of London is horrified by the evidence that “burkers” are, indeed, at work in their city. The terrified populace hovers on a knife’s edge, ready to take their enmity out on any likely suspect. And when Kiera receives a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge details about her late anatomist husband’s involvement with the body snatchers and wrongfully implicate her, she begins to apprehend just how precarious her situation is. Not only for herself, but also her new husband and investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, and their unborn child.

My Review: 
While this series has been on my radar for a couple of years, this is honestly the first Lady Darby book I've read.  I was somewhat worried that it would be difficult to pick things up seven books into the series, but Huber was skillful at inserting all the backstory I needed to be able to follow along without a problem.  

Lady Kiera (Darby) Gage is a very strong-minded likable heroine. She knows her mind and is quick at matching wits with others when needed. She's also artistic and very much a lady of her time.  I loved the realistic blend of historical accuracy and chutzpah in the sense that while Kiera acts as an investigative partner to her husband, she still maintains her role in society and the author was careful to find the perfect balance between the two roles.  She carries a gun, but doesn't chase down criminals herself.  She attends grand soirees and also sketches criminals when needed for the police.  

I also really loved the relationship between Kiera and her husband Sebastian.  I need to go back and read the earlier books to experience their falling in love and getting married! It's always amazing when you read about a man who really values his wife for her intelligence and personality.  Admiring her as she is and not as he's expecting her to be... and they have what seems to be a perfectly mutually respectful partnership... with a side of passion. This particular book was a great introduction to their relationship, as well, because it forces both of them to really explore the abuses Kiera suffered in her first marriage and how they feel about each other and their marriage in general.  Kiera receives a lot of beautiful support from friends and family in this book. 

The mystery was built around an interesting historical phenomenon, as well. I had heard vaguely about people digging up bodies illegally for cadaver autopsies, but I'd never actually heard of "burking." It made for both an interesting history lesson and a great cover for the murderer's motives... I won't say more for fear of spoiling things.  

I'll just end with a hearty recommendation to readers who love historical mysteries and the comment that I will be going back at some point to start this series from the beginning!!