Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Scent of Butterflies

Scent of ButterfliesAuthor: Dora Levy Mossanen
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebook Landmark

A novel singed by the flavors of Tehran, imbued with the Iranian roots of Persepolis and the culture clash of Rooftops of Tehran, this is a striking, nuanced story of a woman caught between two worlds, from the bestselling author of Harem, Courtesan, and The Last Romanov.

A Love So Deep Can Forever Scar the Soul

Such audacity she has, Soraya, a woman who dares to break free of the diamond-studded leash of her culture. A woman who refuses to accept the devastating betrayal her husband has perpetrated. A woman who refuses to forgive her best friend.

Soraya turns her back on Iran, fleeing to America to plot her intricate revenge. The Shah has fallen, her country is in turmoil, her marriage has crumbled, and she is unraveling. The cruel and intimate blow her husband has dealt her awakens an obsessive streak that explodes in the heated world of Los Angeles.

Yet the secret Soraya discovers proves far more devastating than anything she had imagined, unleashing a whirlwind of unexpected events that will leave the reader breathless.

I carry alien genes – green eyes, blond hair, fair skin, and a height of five feet, nine inches, which intimidates and offends Iranians. Such audacity, they murmur among themselves, to step beyond the permitted boundaries of our women. Boundaries drawn by men, I should add, who masculinity depends on the diamond-studded leash they’ve wrapped twice around their women’s ankles.

I am a photographer. A collector of exotic animals. A nurturer of rare plants.

I’m on Air France, destined for Los Angeles. Fleeing Aziz, my husband of twenty years, the man I married when I was fifteen. The only lover I’ve ever known. He believes that I will return to him. I will not. Why? Because I can’t resist his drunken eyes, velvet words, and persuasive hands that know where to press softly and where to stroke hard, where to linger and where to slither away, where to cup and hold and warm.

In Tehran, in place of the chador, I wore the dark, opaque stockings and roopoosh over dresses of the latest fashion purchased on trips to Europe. A scarf would cover my hair, and my face would have no makeup. But as soon as the chauffeur dropped me off at a friend or relative’s house for our evening get-together, I’d remove my roopoosh and head cover and join other women in the makeup vestibule.

This book is a lot heavier and more heart-clenching than I was expecting at first. The language is very heavy and the writing is very eloquent. I love reading about other cultures and finding out what certain areas of the world are like other than our own. Soraya is a Jewish woman from Iran, and from the very start of this book we see how she feels about her “backward” country and the way that women are treated. Soraya is on a plane heading for America when we first meet her and we find out that she has left behind the culture she doesn’t not agree with and the husband she has been married to for most of her life. Readers will later be able to connect all the pieces of Soraya’s life and share in her heartbreak.

The writing and the language in this book was one its best selling points. I, of course being an English major, love the sometimes wordy nature of people who loves books and reading just as much as me. This book was beautifully detailed and Soraya’s point of view read with such ease and fluidity. Mossanen, the author, shifts from present to flashbacks nicely, and believe me I have read authors that have a difficult time doing this successfully.

My only complaint with this book is that sometimes I found myself having strong feelings of dislike towards Soraya. Then there were other times where she had flashbacks and I could understand the reasons for her broken heart. There were times when I questioned her intentions and her actions, but then she would do something so totally redeeming. I would definitely say that Soraya and I had a love/hate relationship. Listening to her speak about the Iranian culture was one of the most fascinating parts for me because I actually felt like I was talking to a real person for a moment in time.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Fragile Spirits

Fragile Spirits (Souls, #2)Author: Mary Lindsey
Publication Date: January 23, 2014
Publisher: Philomel
Series: Souls # 2

Paul has always known he was a Protector, fated to serve a Speaker who could hear the voices of spirits lingering after death and help those souls find peace.

Vivienne ignores the voices of the dead.

Paul has always followed the Protector’s rule book, preparing diligently for the day when he’d be matched with his Speaker and fulfill his destiny.

Vivienne never does what she’s told.

So when Paul is matched with Vivienne, they both find the pairing less than satisfactory. But a kidnapping, a malevolent spirit and power stronger than both of them may just prove that they are two halves of the same whole.

In a stunning story about the beauty of fate and the power of secrets, Mary Lindsey returns to the world of Shattered Souls with a breathtaking thrill-ride of a novel.

After meeting Vivienne, I’d been certain things couldn’t get worse. Man, oh, man, had I been wrong.

I hated feeling out of control, and it was as if every ounce of control had been sucked away the minute I met Vivienne.

If nothing else, she was genuine…and prickly, harsh, obnoxious, and an overall pain in the butt.

“Are you okay, Vivienne?”
“Ghosts suck.” Her fear spiked and zapped through me, causing my heart to pound.

After I had gotten about two or three chapters into this book I realized that this is not the first book in a series! However, when I checked on Goodreads there was a nice note from the author explaining that the first book is not required reading for this addition! I just love books like that and authors that explain this to you. However, now that I have read this book I am definitely going to pick up the first book, Shattered Souls, because a lot of bloggers that I trust have given it high ratings. This book starts almost where the last one leaves off. This story follows Paul who is a Protector, a law abiding citizen, and a Speaker named Vivienne, love the name, who doesn’t care one way or the other whose law she is breaking! These two were sure to make a great combination right from the start.

Vivienne was definitely my favorite part of this book. Getting to know her was well worth picking up this book. Her attitude and tone throughout the entire book was enough to put her on my “Favorite Character Shelf.” This type of heroine was just what I was in the mood for. I know this may sound crazy, but I loved that I had the picture on the front cover of this book to remind myself what Vivienne was supposed to look like. She even looks awesome. I loved seeing her interact with other characters, especially Paul. They were definitely polar opposites, but still had enough in common to connect on a personal level.

Paul had his awesome character traits as well, however. Vivienne brought out a side of him that at first you think is impossible. He is a rule follower and always wants to do what is right. When I said that he and Vivienne had enough in common, I was referring to their back stories. Paul’s is unexpected and definitely draws you closer to him while you are reading.

This is a must read for anyone who loves supernatural novels!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Philomel in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Revell Blog Tour: Dare to Love Again

Dare to Love Again (The Heart of San Francisco, #2)Author: Julie Lessman
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Revell
Series: The Heart of San Francisco # 2

Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman, resorting to a mammoth hat pin for protection on her way to and from the school where she teaches. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast she quickly discovers she is no match for rum-soaked brute strength.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite jiu-jitsu, but it seems he has little choice in the matter. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But when Nick suddenly leaves town, Allison realizes he’s a fraud just like all the rest of the men she’s cared for. Does she dare love again?

Merciful Providence…I smell a rat! Nose in the air, Allison McClare sniffed, the unmistakable scent of Bay Rum drifting into her empty classroom of the Hand of Hope School. Although not uncommon for an antiquated Victorian house a stone’s throw from the sewers of the Barbary Coast, this smell of “rat” was altogether different and far more frightening. She wrinkled her nose. The man kind.

“Go – pester somebody who’s actually breaking the law, you oversized bully, or I’ll give you something to arrest me for.”

“Well, that explains a lot,” he said with a grunt. “Another rich dame appeasing her guilt by dabbling in charity between high tea and tennis on the lawn.” He started down, knuckles clenched on the jacket in his hand. “She’d have to be blood related to hire a sassy mouth like you.”

Julie Lessman never disappoints and allows readers to feel the passion that she puts into her books. In the second book in The Heart of San Francisco series, Lessman takes readers again to the vibrant, bustling city of San Fran and another wild, but heartwarming, adventure ensues. And of course I am drawn to this book and it will forever sit atop my beautiful shelves because our heroine, Allison McClare, has a passion for teaching, and teaching underprivileged girls at that! Allison has recently suffered from a broken heart, and we know how painful those can be, but she has decided to put all that behind her and build a new life at her mother’s new school! That is until a handsome detective shows up in her classroom!

I take my bouts as far as when I want to get absorbed in a romance novel because let’s face it, sometimes I am just not in the mood for it. However, Julie Lessman always wins me over because her books are written not in a insta-love manner, but in a realistic and tasteful way. Nick Barone and Allison McClare could not be more different, but the things that we find out about them allow us to see where the chemistry comes from. The relationship they develop is so sweet and heart-warming. This was a perfect book to read close to Valentine’s Day!

I loved seeing some of the characters from the first book in this series resurface in this book. Julie Lessman has a way of surprising readers and making them feel so cozy and comfortable. And what a better way to do that than bring back Cassie and Jamie?! I highly suggest that you pick up the first book in this series, not because you need it to read the second but just because it was a wonderful read as well. This will be a great series to own even in years to come!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Revell in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: The Witch Is Back

The Witch is Back (Life's a Witch, #3)Author: Brittany Geragotelis
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: Life’s A Witch # 3

When two gorgeous, popular witches clash over a man, it’s magical mayhem in this conclusion to the Life’s a Witch trilogy!

It’s been a trying year for teen witch Hadley Bishop—she led her coven into battle against the Parrishables and lost her mother in a surprise attack. Now that the Parrishables and their leader, Samuel Parris, have been defeated, Hadley is looking forward to a relaxing, love-filled summer with boyfriend Asher Astley.

Hadley’s summer plans take an unexpected turn though when she and her coven head off to a witchy summer intensive. Once there, Hadley immediately finds herself in a power struggle with Brooklyn Sparks. Like Hadley, Brooklyn is gorgeous and popular, but she’s also…Asher’s ex-girlfriend?!

As if this news isn’t enough to rattle Hadley, there are rumors of a rogue witch in the woods, and someone is playing dangerous pranks around camp. Hadley suspects that Brooklyn is behind the pranks, but is she willing to risk losing her friends and Asher to prove it? In this electrifying conclusion to the Life’s a Witch series, Hadley will discover that love is more powerful than any spell—but it comes with a price.

The funny thing about betrayal is that by the time you know about it, the damage has already been done.

Please don’t let her be pretty…give her a hideous growth on her chin or an awkward limp or even blah brown hair. Anything that would make me feel better about the look that is currently on Asher’s face.

Call me crazy, but I feel like powerful people have a duty to use their positions in the public eye for good, not evil. Like the saying goes, you catch more bees with honey.

“The Witch in the Woods isn’t just some folktale,” Colette repeated. “She’s real.”

The third book in the Life’s A Witch series, is sure to please readers that have enjoyed this series right from the start. Geragotelis creates characters that quickly find a place in your heart. Her world of witchcraft is adventurous and I especially love all the Salem Witch Trial references. Brooklyn and Hadley are two very different heroines whose backgrounds I find extremely interesting. Brittany, the author, writes her characters in an extremely unforgettable way. She also makes herself available to bloggers and readers alike. She has a great network; this is the kind of author we all love to support!

The book opens up with another look into the past life of Bridget Bishop, one of the women who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. This entire series has dipped its pages in history’s ink and as a huge history nerd and English teacher, I must say that this has been one of my favorite parts. I think Geragotelis was wise in writing in this extra piece to the story. It really helps readers connect to the witchcraft going on all around them, and it helps fuel the main character’s desires and passions!

Everything comes together in this final book. I enjoyed seeing characters come together and fight together. If you have not looked into this series as of yet, then I highly recommend that you do. This author is one that really deserves the praise of readers. She worked hard to get her book out there and with good reason!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Simon and Schuster in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Afterparty

AfterpartyAuthor: Anne Redisch Stampler
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop...

This explosive, sexy, and harrowing follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler's spectacular teen debut, Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.

I think it’s the edge of Paradise.

It is the first time he has mentioned her – She Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken, the unmentionable junkie otherwise known as my mother – since Baltimore, two cities ago.

In my defense, Emma the Good did not slide easily into the realm of the formerly good.

I am determined not to, Emma the Good, Emma the, all right, considerably less than good. Every cell and eyelash of me is determined not to disappoint. Meaning: He can’t find out. Anything. Ever.

Emma is on a cross country trip when readers meet her, going from Canada to California with her dad. Emma has, so far, been the ideal daughter for her father. She abides by all his rules, is extremely cautious, and never “colors outside the lines.” California is a huge wake-up call for Emma and is not quite what she is expecting. Not everyone is welcoming and she realizes right away that it is going to be hard for her to fit in. Once Emma starts to make friends, especially with a girl named Siobhan, the rules that her dad expects her to follow get sadly left behind. Emma realizes quickly that Siobhan lives her life a little on the edge, and she may be a little wilder than Emma bargained for!

I could not put this book down once I started reading it. It was one of those storylines that are just so full of drama, gossip, and good girls gone bad that I felt like I was watching an addicting reality television show, except this was way better. Siobhan was one of the highlights of the story because of how much she really broke Emma out of her overly sheltered life. Siobhan is the exact opposite of Emma, but this was a welcoming change. While I loved Emma, I also loved seeing the side of her that Siobhan brought out as well. She was a highly energetic character and totally fit the California lifestyle!

This book digs heavily into many issues that are prevalent in a lot of teenager’s lives today. It touches on drugs, sex, alcohol, and relationship issues as well relating to both friends and family. I think more teens should read books like this one to make them aware of what all these issues look like to people on the outside looking in. Many teenagers experience a lot of the same things that Emma and her friends go through, and a lot can be said for an author that writes realistically about these issues and doesn’t just push them under the rug.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Simon Pulse in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, January 20, 2014

Litfuse Blog Tour: The Dancing Master

The Dancing MasterAuthor: Julie Klassen
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

“No, not only on Sabbath,” Uncle Ramsay said, “Dancing is not allowed here in general.”

On his first full day in Devonshire, Alec Valcourt left the village church still seeing Julia Midwinter’s lovely face in his mind. She was beautiful, yes. And she knew it. She reminded him of too many spoiled young ladies he had met who enjoyed flirting – practicing both their seduction and dance skills with him, but only in hopes of snaring a more suitable gentleman in future.

Time to gird up your loins, Valcourt, he told himself. You can do this.

Julie Klassen is on my must read list; she is just one of those authors that when I find she has written and released a new book I am all over it! This book did not let me down. It will be placed right alongside her other books on my shelf. This story is told from the point of view of three different characters: Alec Valcourt, the dancing master, Julia Midwinter, and her mother Amelia Midwinter. When Alec moves to the small town of Devonshire, in hopes of finding new employment, he is shocked and completely dismayed to learn that dancing, his profession, is outlawed in this small town. Alec is soon hired on, to work in their lovely estate, by Mrs. Amelia Midwinter, the woman who is responsible for the outlawing of dancing. Alec quickly becomes introduced to Julia, and together these two break the rules and devise a plan to bring life and magic back to the lonely little town.

I was so glad that Klassen incorporated so much of Alec’s life, background, and point of view in the story. I did appreciate him more as a character than Julia. I found myself thinking how selfish she came off at times, but I knew that Alec would be just the person to soften her. The way that Alec was written made me cling to his character and root for his ambitions and dreams all throughout the book. I liked seeing him interact with the Midwinters and I especially loved his reaction to the law of “No Dancing.” I thought he was a noble man for taking such good care of his mother and sister. Small actions like these say more for a character than words do.

Do not worry. Change came over Julia and her mother, Amelia in more ways than one. From the start of the book I was hoping for a change for both of their hearts, and of course Klassen doesn’t disappoint. Julia did a lot of maturing and growing up by the end of the book and that was very refreshing to see. Amelia Midwinter is full of hurt and anguish and this is apparent very early on in the book. It was so nice to see the thick layer of ice around her heart melted away!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Bethany House and Litfuse in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: Stormbringer

Stormbringer (Weather Witch, #2)Author: Shannon Delany
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Weather Witch # 2

The second book in the Weather Witch series in which Jordan Astrea learns of her true powers

In the intrigue-filled follow up to Weather Witch, Jordan Astraea, once a young Philadelphia lady of good social standing, is now in the final stages of her brutal training to become a Conductor—the Weather Witch who serves as a living battery to keep the massive airliner Artemesia aloft. Meanwhile, Rowen, determined to rescue her after losing his only other true friend and being wanted for murder, has found himself forced aboard a much different air vessel, this one manned by a dangerous crew and carrying a cargo so treasonous, that, if finding its destination, will herald a storm of revolution for the still young United States.

With a spirit for adventure, romance, fantastic world building and cunning imagination, Shannon Delany delivers the sensational follow up to Weather Witch in the second book of the trilogy.

He needed a strategy to get from this ship to the other. He needed a strategy to get to Jordan (whom he certainly was not in love with, no matter what people suggested).

Things could never go back to what they had been before with the money and the parties and so much promise ahead of him. There was no returning to life as he’d know it when he was simply another cog fitting comfortably in the wheel of Philadelphia’s wealthiest society, the social ranks living high on the Hill.

Toss lightning into a government building in protest?
Destroy crops by withholding rain from a region?
Drown an entire town?

There were a multitude of reasons to maintain Witches, and even more reasons to maintain control over Witches.

After reading the first book in this series back in June of last year, I was anxious and excited to find out that the second book was going to release rather quickly. This book picks up almost exactly where the last one left off, and I was very intrigued to continue this story in Delany’s world of magic, steampunk, and lots of adventure. Our heroine, Jordan Astraea, has recently landed herself in a bit of trouble, and not all by her own doing. On her birthday she was outed as a witch, which is not a good thing in Delany’s imagined world. Now Jordan is training to fulfill a prophecy that could be set out for her. She is angry and somewhat confused but full of willpower; this is truly what makes a makes a great heroine, right?

There are things that I do not like about this series, or should I say an issue that I prefer not to read about. However, I have tried to put my feelings on that topic aside because there are so many more things that I enjoy about this book. The characters in this book have grabbed a hold of my soul, heart, and mind and I am constantly rooting for them to come out on top. I have read some reviews in which people were not too fond of Jordan, but I for one cannot agree. Jordan is a phenomenal character and a stand up witch! I love following her through this world that Delany has envisioned. Jordan faces dangerous situations and a lot of action and adventure around every corner.  I love that she handles herself and others that she cares about as well!

As I alluded to earlier, this book is full of some dark elements, but at the same time is so wonderfully imaginative that it just cannot be passed up. I am very excited for the next book in this series, which I am hearing will release in May of this year. If you are a fan of witchcraft or steampunk then I highly recommend this book to you!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant (V, #1)Author: Joanna Wiebe
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: BenBella Books
Series: The V Trilogy # 1

So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in
and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth
and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

Here’s something nobody tells rich people: they die too.

I saw those delusional richies on a regular basis, back when I would sit quietly in the shadows at the top of the stairs and, with my sketchbook in hand, observe black-veiled parades marching somberly through the hallways of my house. See, our home is the second story of the Fair Oaks Funeral Home, where my dad’s the lowly mortician and terribly paid funeral director and where we Merchants have the distinct pleasure of being the only broke-ass family for miles.

“Now you’re just Anne Merchant, a junior at Cania Christy Preparatory Academy. No one knows anything about you, which means -” I pause to tweak the tie so it draws a little less attention to my chest “-you can rewrite your history.”

Anne Merchant has just been sent off to a secluded boarding school on a mysterious and strange island after losing her mother to suicide. For reasons unknown to Anne, at first, her father decides that it is best for her to attend Cania Christy, an elite boarding school where only the finest and brightest are admitted. When Anne arrives on the island she decides to give the school and the people involved with it a chance, that is until mysterious things start happening. Things that she or no one else can explain. She starts to discover that this elite boarding school was not what she pictured it to be at all!

First of all let me just say, if you have a story set in a boarding school I am 100% there! The supernatural twist given to this particular setting is very alluring, and even in the very first chapter I was mesmerized by the descriptions Wiebe used when talking about Cania Christy. One of the best parts of this story was being able to follow Anne around the school and listen as she was introduced to so many new people, as she made friends, and quite a few enemies. When I was in middle and high school I loved to play the virtual Nancy Drew mystery games; I cannot even begin to tell you that this is exactly what reading this novel felt like. There were spooks around every corner, and I was keeping up with all the clues as I went along.

I usually do not care for love triangles, but in this book I found it to be quite tasteful, only because it did not get in the way of the plot at all. I mostly loved finding about Ben and Pilot and why their past brought them to Cania Christy. As I was reading I noticed that everyone seemed to have a far-fetched, but completely amusing past, as to why and how they ended up at this particular boarding school. Ben and Pilot’s stories amused me the most, and I loved watching them both interact with Anne mainly because of how different they were from each other.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at BenBella Books in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ARC Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

A Mad, Wicked FollyAuthor: Sharon Biggs Waller
Publication Date: January 23, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

He didn’t care if the artist was male or female; he let the work speak.

I never set out to pose nude. I didn’t, honestly. But when the opportunity arose, I took it.

When I was ten years old, I laid eyes for the first time on a painting called A Mermaid, which hung in the Royal Academy in London. The mermaid’s eyes seemed to call to me, telling me that creating someone like her was within my grasp. And like her maker, J.W. Waterhouse, I wanted to be considered among the best artists in the world. I wanted critics to laud my work. But most of all, I wanted to express myself through my art as I fancied, and not be told what or whom I could draw or paint. For all of these I needed knowledge and the connection with other artists who could introduce me to the mysterious society that made up the art world.


The synopsis and the cover of this book were telling and showing me everything that I wanted to hear and see. It promised to combine a wonderful Edwardian England setting and issues such as the suffragist movement with the beauty and splendor of the upper class, while throwing in a dash of romance. Fortunately for me, Susan Biggs Waller delivered on all of the above! This book met every single expectation I had for it, and left me wanting more from this debut author. This book combines art, history, a rebellious heroine with plenty of girl power, and a setting as beautiful and imaginable as Downton Abbey! I was pleased the entire way through.

Victoria Darling won my attention when she got kicked out of school for posing nude in front of some up and coming artists! Vicky is a very likeable character and it is so easy to be on her side throughout the entire book. I would like to think that if I were a young girl growing up in Edwardian England that I would be just as passionate and ambitious as she is about pursuing her dreams. Her journey starts on the very first page, and doesn’t stop until well over page four hundred! She is an excitable character that lets

The issue of women’s suffrage or the right to vote was talked about heavily in this novel. I, being the feminist that I am, could not have been happier. Women’s suffrage was even used to bring together our leading couple, Will and Vicky, as they met at a suffrage protest. I believe that Waller did a fantastic job of characterizing this movement and the people involved in it just like they were years ago. She recalls avid details and events that very well could have happened and she gave life and passion to the characters involved that were protesting for these rights! I loved every second of it.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Viking Juvenile in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Review: Belle Cora

Belle CoraAuthor: Phillip Margulies
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday

In the grand tradition of Moll Flanders and Vanity Fair, this is the story of a good girl who became a bad woman. At the old homestead her name is never spoken and her picture is turned to the wall, but in the vast world beyond everyone remembers her as the celebrated madam of the finest parlor house in San Francisco. Now, at the end of her life, after half a century of successfully hiding the details of her scarlet past, Belle has decided to reveal all her secrets.
In 1838, Arabella Godwin and her beloved younger brother, Lewis, are orphaned and shipped away from their home in New York City to live on their aunt's desolate farm upstate. The comforts she has always known are replaced with grueling work and a pair of cunning enemies in her cousins Agnes and Matthew. Amid this bleak existence, there emerges light in the form of a local boy, Jeptha Talbot.  He is everything good that Arabella craves. His love saves her and becomes an obsession that will last her whole life.
Time and again she will be broken and remade. She will bear a gambler’s child, build a fortune, commit murder, leave a trail of aliases in her wake and sacrifice almost everything—though perhaps not enough--for the man whose love she cannot bear to lose.  At last her destiny will take her to Gold Rush California, to riches and power.
Until the day she mysteriously disappears.
Told with unflagging wit and verve, Belle Cora brings to life a turbulent era and an untamed America on the cusp of greatness. Its heroine is a woman in conflict with her time, who nevertheless epitomizes it with her fighting spirit, her gift for self-invention, and her determination to chart her own fate.

There is a story about a girl who took the wrong path, and rues it all her life. She is too trusting. She is too passionate. The result: an error that can’t be corrected, a stain that can’t be washed out.

In the sky, they were watching us, Mama and Papa, together and glad to see that their children were being kind to each other. I pictured them. They had beautiful white wings. The stars behind their heads seemed larger because they were so near.

My strongest, sweetest memories of the farm are of that first year, when I was in despair. Living without hope from moment to moment, I absorbed new sensations defenselessly, like a much younger child.

This book, at almost 600 pages, looked a bit intimidating. However, it has been awhile since I have read a book of this size, and I decided this would be the perfect title to branch out with. This story is loosely based on real events and a real person by the same name, Belle Cora. Our heroine tells her own story as she finds herself traveling from the east coast all the way to the west. Arabella Goodwin, our heroine, was a privileged girl from New York who shares her story with us as she experiences a list of tragedies that cause her to change her life. She ends up moving out west to the beautiful, airy California where she will become a very successful ‘madam.’ She started as a simple call girl and then found herself quickly rising to the top. Margulies, the author, brought such life to this character and gives readers an inside look at the California Gold Rush.

I can see how some people might be turned off if they believe that this story focuses around a prostitute or a “good girl gone bad.” However, I am here to set the story straight on accounts. The first is that Arabella suffered many hardships, more than the average person, and because of all she endured she had several choices to make and ultimately she had to do what was necessary to survive. Remember that this was different time and age. Secondly, Arabella is not like most call girls who make excuses for their lifestyle. Arabella is bold and courageous and doesn’t feel like she owes anyone an apology. If you can’t tell already, I absolutely loved her character!

Not only does Margulies do justice to Arabella’s character, but he also gives me a pretty vivid picture of San Francisco, California and the Gold Rush. His descriptions are so vibrant and colorful. For someone who has never stepped foot in California, I felt like I had vacationed there for a week or so. Margulies did an excellent job building historical context, and even the dialogue used by the characters is specific to the time period he is writing in.

I was extremely pleased with this novel and recommend it to anyone who likes a good protagonist with an awesome backstory!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Doubleday in exchange for my honest review***