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Professional Reader 2016 NetGalley Challenge 25 Book Reviews

2017 Reading Challenge

Jill Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 150 books.
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Book Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

I really enjoyed this one. I have read a great many things set in the Victorian era, and was familiar with Victoria’s later (post-Albert) years, but knew very little about her pre-accession and early-reign years, so this one caught my eye immediately. I am so glad it did!

Goodwin’s story-telling style is very engaging and easy-going. She really brought the characters to life. Historical fiction can be tricky – so much history is full of features that seem to defy the bounds of reality, that it can be difficult to write a fictionalized version that feels authentic. This book did not suffer from that at all – it felt like reading the best non-fiction: a great intermingling of information and storytelling. I was surprised at much of what I learned in the reading – early-years Victoria and later-years Victoria were VERY different people… This should be surprising given the length of her reign and the changes in the world around her during its course, but it somehow was nevertheless. It made for more than a few “no way?!” moments while reading, which are always fun.

Upon finishing this one I was immediately drawn to find out more – particularly about the Albert/Victoria partnership years. I had picked up a non-fiction piece about precisely that as a kindle daily deal shortly before beginning this one, and turned to that next. That’s where I started to get a little, well, less enthusiastic about this Goodwin book…
Continue reading Book Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Guest Post: Five Awesome Author Sites that Bring Books to Life by Dane Cobain

Today I’m pleased to offer you the following interesting insights from author Dane Cobain. For more of Dane’s work, click here or here – or visit him on your own…

Five Awesome Author Sites that Bring Books to Life
by Dane Cobain

Ernest Hemingway didn’t have a website. Neither did Charles Dickens, nor William Shakespeare, Jane Austin or George Orwell.

But authors today have a whole host of tools at their disposal to get the word out about their work. Some opt for static ‘brochure’ sites, which are rarely updated but serve as a digital billboard for them to advertise their releases. Some go a step further and launch a blog so that they can keep their fans updated while helping new readers to discover them through search engines.

Most serious authors run a website, a blog and a social networking presence, but that alone is no longer enough to cut through the noise. That’s why some people take it a step further, creating a digital home that offers fans more than mere information – they offer an experience.

And so, without further ado, here are five sites that do just that.
Continue reading Guest Post: Five Awesome Author Sites that Bring Books to Life by Dane Cobain

A Truly Delightful Catalog of Books that You Should Check Out…

I wanted to take a minute today to share with you an absolutely marvelous collection of children’s books by a series of talented authors/illustrators. The imprint is The English Schoolhouse, and it is one of my favorite finds of 2016 (yes, it took me a little while to get this posted – sorry, both to my readers AND to the oh-so-patient Frenchaire, to whom I owed this post months ago…). Whether you are aware of it or not, I introduced you to The English Schoolhouse and its author, Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, last year, when I reviewed Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO. That was my first exposure, and it intrigued me enough to warrant further investigation and, ultimately, the decision that the results of that investigation had to be shared.

I cannot say enough good things about these books, or the people who write, illustrate, and promote them. In a world that seems to be ever devaluing children and childhood, particularly early childhood learning, they are a bright spotlight bringing attention to the universality of children’s issues even among the diversity of childhood experiences… The English Schoolhouse started life as the “coolest and best language school in Rome” (self-proclaimed, although it comes as no surprise to me to hear it described that way). The decision was made to expand upon that experience and allow it to evolve into a boutique publisher (based in Texas, run in Rome – Italy, that is, not Georgia or New York – which gives you a nutshell picture of the diverse experiences and expectations on the table) and soon to be multi-platform distributor of delightful children’s entertainment and education. They also run a YouTube channel – and the videos are exactly as lovely as I would have expected…
Continue reading A Truly Delightful Catalog of Books that You Should Check Out…

Book Review and Author Q&A: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

“…there’s no such thing as the life you’re supposed to have.”

First my review.

Wow – there is a LOT going on here. I was originally drawn to the book because of the time travel angle – one I really enjoy. I rather rapidly discovered that it was so much more than that though – mostly in a good way, but sometimes in a slightly over-reaching one… The main plot line is still about time travel and the law of unintended consequences. But the book is not just about time – it is also a love story, a family drama, a “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale, a dystopian warning, a self-help/personal growth narrative, a techno-thriller, and an exegesis on the dangers of dissatisfaction. That’s a lot of things to cover in less than 400 pages…

For the most part, the multiple topics/genres are handled well, although there are times that they feel a little too much. There were some eye rolls, where I feared we were heading into trope territory, but they usually resolved themselves in some odd or unusual way that fed back into the main narrative points without too much distraction. All in all, this is a complicated work from a talented author – juggling that many ideas while still maintaining an essential, underlying theme (self-stated: “there’s no such thing as the life you’re supposed to have”) is difficult; doing it with aplomb in a readable, thought-provoking AND entertaining fashion must be nigh on impossible – yet Mastai manages handily.

* * *

And now, I’m pleased to share some thoughts on the book and the writing process, courtesy of the author and the publisher (Dutton). Continue reading Book Review and Author Q&A: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Book Review: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Berry

I was very pleased to see Brunonia Berry return to the world of The Lace Reader – I read it years ago when it first came out and really enjoyed it. Well, it had been a while, so I decided I had to re-read it before I could give this latest installment a go. I’m glad I did – I’ve seen a few reviews/comments indicate that you don’t have to read the earlier book to enjoy this one. That may technically be true, but you’d lose a lot I think – the mystery in this new book is not dependent on backstory or information from the earlier book, but the depth of the supporting characters would be completely lost if you had not read it…

I enjoyed this one. The mystery at its heart – what exactly happened to The Goddesses on the night of their murder, and who exactly was responsible – is wild and complicated and intense. The plot is engaging (although, I will admit, not quite as much to me so as that of the earlier book) and the secrets are thick on the ground. But, once again, Berry’s true magic is in her characters… And that’s where I think reading The Lace Reader before this one really turns this book into something special. She has an uncanny ability to write complicated, flawed, all too human characters that are likeable and believable even when they are at their most outlandish (or most badly behaved). The plot of this one occasionally felt a little distended to me – there were times when I just had to set the book down, because things felt a little draggy. But I always came back, and they always picked back up again. And the ending – wow. It really grabbed and held me.

All in all, I found this read a little more difficult than I hoped for, but it was still quite enjoyable to read – even when the story took me to some of its darkest places. I’m starting to think that may be a key element of Berry’s style – her lovely and fragile (and often broken, albeit not permanently so) characters are forced through the fire more often than I’m comfortable with, but they (and we, as readers) always manage to come out the other side. We – like they – just have to persevere…

My review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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