Legacy Rewound

LWBlurb: Magic and mystery entwine… hidden in the web of time.

Melinda knew Kalek’s music created powerful visions, but it wasn’t supposed to actually send her into the past!

It definitely wasn’t supposed to bring someone back to the present with her. Especially not someone tied so tightly to Melinda’s own past, someone to prove, once again, that her family ancestry was made up of psychopaths who should never have existed.

Now it’s her chance to change her lineage–and history–forever.

Legacy Rewound is the third and final volume of the Toch Island Chronicles by Kat Hechenbach. It picks up immediately after Seeking Unseen and again is told primarily from the perspective of Melinda though Angel still has several chapters written from her perspective. (Though I didn’t really see how they were necessary or added anything that couldn’t have just been done from the Melinda’s point of view.)

The blurb pretty much tells the premise – the combination of Melinda and Kalek’s talent results in inadvertently sending her to the past and accidentally bringing someone back with her. Melinda and her friends have to find this person and set things right the damage to the timeline is irrevocable. The time-travel was interesting – one of those “she was always supposed to have been there” situations but then Melinda did things in the past for no reason other than she knew it was supposed to be that way in the future which frustrated me. I prefer when things happen in the past and that explains why things are in the future, not when they are deliberately done because that’s how it’s supposed to be someday…

I’m also a little confused about some of the core issues in the story – supposedly humans always had magic but forgot it, but then an elf seemed to be giving it to the humans and I wasn’t sure if he was the one responsible for humans having magic or just rediscovering it? But only some humans have it, right? He also seemed like he was supposed to be a Christ-like figure but I wasn’t sure why he was so special? And throughout the story there was an emphasis that we are all special, even as ordinary humans, but then at the end of the book I felt like that message was diluted by certain discoveries.

The romance was much better this time – still a little instalove but I finally got the pairing I’d been looking forward to. 😉 And one of the questions I had from Seeking Unseen was addressed so that was a pleasant surprise. All in all, this was a nice wrap-up to the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Darkened Hope

DHBlurb: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients. 

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself. 

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

Darkened Hope is book 2 in the Hidden Dagger series by J.L. Mwebe. I read it just as quickly as I did the first volume and I liked it more. The story picks up immediately after the first volume as our heroine and her companions continue their quest. The world is huge and fascinating. The races and creatures are interesting and obviously deeply understood by the author though I found the amount of them overwhelming and sometimes difficult to keep straight. Past events were referenced a lot but not very explained so it was sometimes confusing (and I read part one 6 months ago so you’d think it’d be slightly less confusing, for me at least). After finishing, I’m still not clear when or how certain events happened. But I was so wrapped up in the story I didn’t really care.

There was a lot of introspection but actions didn’t always correlate so I found Alya and Kael frustrating to understand. They’d decide one thing and then do something else and then change their minds just as quickly. But it was two steps forward, one step back so I was happy that things progressed at least. And I was much happier with the romance this time around – there may have been a happy squee or two. 😉

My personal opinion is there is a great story here but I still feel it would only improve with a bit more refining. I am really looking forward to reading the last one when it comes out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Blurb: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

I’d seen Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Tiggs around but wasn’t intrigued enough to go out of my way to read it. But someone from work had read it, loved it and happily plopped their copy on my desk with an enthusiastic, “you have to read it and let me know what you think!”  So I did. And I have mixed thoughts about it.

Mostly – it’s a very odd book. If I liked it more, I’d joke that it was peculiar. 😉 The idea of peculiar children (think X-Men mutants but weirder) hiding the way they are was unique. And the reason they are hiding from the bad guys was different. The book started off interesting, then got very draggy, and then got very interesting again. I was mildly hooked by the excitement at the end and was debating reading the next in the series. But the more time that passes, the more I feel this book was mediocre and really not worth the attention it is getting. The story was missing something critical. And I think that “something” is mainly because the book, and entire series, is based on the gimmick of the photos.

See, it’s very obvious that Riggs loves collecting old, odd photographs. And it’s equally obvious most of the book was written around and to include said photographs. I read the first part of the book quite happily – it was a little creepy but intriguing and I was curious to learn more. And then the photos started showing up, wedged in as part of his grandfather’s journal. And I hated them. Everything was already visualized in my head and, honestly, I was picturing everyone more anime-style than anything so the photos yanked me out of the world.  And there were so many elements in the story that felt included merely to show a photo. It was heavy-handed and left me with a bad taste. I very quickly got to the point where I would skip the photos but that didn’t fix the problem of the story pausing while Jacob would browse through or reminisce on journals and photo albums.

I also thought many of the characters were one-dimensional and the romance was not only fast but a little icky. And, unfortunately, the entire book ends up being a very long set-up with not really much happening until the very end where it ends on a cliff-hanger. Honestly, I think the book could be pared down to a few chapters – it’s really only the beginning of the story and almost nothing happens to actually move the story along. (It’d be like reading The Fellowship of the Ring only the book ends with the hobbits in Bree and you’ve spent 300 pages getting there.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Flaming Sword

Blurb: Sadie Larcen and her family are slowly recovering from their life-altering trek to the Tethered World. That is until their aunt arrives clutching a mysterious letter and sporting a black eye. The letter that Aunt Jules shares with the family writhes with sinister implications. A new and menacing enemy has slunk from the shadows and is conspiring to seize the most powerful piece of weaponry in the land: The Flaming Sword of Cherubythe. The sword must—at all costs—be kept from the enemies who lust for its power.

The threat extends to Sadie’s autistic brother Brock. As High King in training, he now resides in the Tethered World, within close proximity to the sword. It’s apparent that drastic measures will be required by all in order to protect what’s most important. Can Sadie once again confront her disabling fear, stare evil in the face, and walk away whole—let alone alive? How can one teenage girl and her family save a sword with the potential to start a world war? Will lines be crossed even as Sadie’s faith is tested? Sadie knows it’s going to take a lot more than strength, grit, and courage to survive.

I enjoyed The Tethered World quite a bit so I jumped at the chance to read the ARC of The Flaming Sword (The Tethered World Chronicles #2 by Heather L.L. FitzGerald). And I managed to inhale it in two sittings, too. 😉  The story picks up almost immediately after the last one ended and while there is some recapping to refresh readers memories, it has a good balance for those who need it and those who don’t. This time we get two point-of-views and I especially enjoyed learning more about Sadie’s brother Brady. It’s always fun watching a character grow and mature and he’s a very likable character. You may remember I thought the first book leaned a little more toward MG than YA – well, I didn’t have that feeling with this one. It is just a touch more serious, a touch more mature. The romance is still mild but highly enjoyable.

Oh – I don’t remember noticing in The Tethered World (because it’s stated simply and not emphasized) but there’s a lot of ethnic diversity among the gnomes and Nephilim – it’s a nice element that makes the world-building fuller and I expect many readers appreciate. If there was one thing that slightly bothered me, it was at times I felt like the travels were repetitive – mainly because Sadie and Brady’s separate adventures covered the same ground, just at different times. We also learn some Larcen family history and, while the story wraps up neatly, there are several questions raised that I am hoping will be answered in the finale due out in 2017. I can’t wait!

Do you notice when there is ethnic diversity in books?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy by the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

The Poisoner’s Handbook

Blurb: Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner’s Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. 

Drama unfolds case by case as the heroes of The Poisoner’s Handbook—chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler—investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey’s Famous Blue Man, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler work with a creativity that rivals that of the most imaginative murderer, creating revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. Yet in the tricky game of toxins, even science can’t always be trusted, as proven when one of Gettler’s experiments erroneously sets free a suburban housewife later nicknamed “America’s Lucretia Borgia” to continue her nefarious work. 

From the vantage of Norris and Gettler’s laboratory in the infamous Bellevue Hospital it becomes clear that killers aren’t the only toxic threat to New Yorkers. Modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner. Automobiles choke the city streets with carbon monoxide; potent compounds, such as morphine, can be found on store shelves in products ranging from pesticides to cosmetics. Prohibition incites a chemist’s war between bootleggers and government chemists while in Gotham’s crowded speakeasies each round of cocktails becomes a game of Russian roulette. Norris and Gettler triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice during a remarkably deadly time. A beguiling concoction that is equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner’s Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten New York. 

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum was engrossing. I love reading interesting parts of history and this is a lesser-known but fascinating bit. We’ve all heard stories about some of the ingredients we used to have in products but reading about how prevalent it was, and how government/business sometimes disregarded the danger, was eye-opening. It’s made me look at today’s world with more open eyes, too. Whether it be vaccines, sunscreen, vitamins, corn syrup – we would do well to be informed and not blindly trusting. Though I also believe in using discernment and not going overboard either. I also learned a lot more about prohibition and I can see how some people might correlate prohibition with the marijuana debate. I’ll be mulling all of that over for a long while.

There are many critical reviews online that dislike the science as explained in the book. Science is not one of my fortes – plus I was interested in the stories, not the chemistry details. So I have absolutely no idea on the matter. With so many complaints, I’d assume there’s truth in the scientific inaccuracy; it’s just not something I cared about.

One other dorky aside: it tickled me a little too much that the chief medical examiner’s name was Charles Norris. It made me want to make a bunch of Chuck Norris memes involving forensic science. 😉

A caveat: the tests the doctors used were… icky (gory details plus a lot of animal testing). As were the details of what some of these poisons do to a person. (I had no idea how nasty mustard gas is – no wonder chemical weapons are banned!) I tended to skim those parts. I can be very sensitive to certain content but this book didn’t bother me as long as I flew past those parts and didn’t think about them. As the book itself points out, this was in the days before dry chemistry – no drops of blood or strands of hair testing here. Frankly, this just made me respect those doctors all the more.

All in all, a recommended read! 🙂  And it gave me some food for thought on one of my works in progress!
How important is scientific accuracy to you when reading historical nonfiction?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Secrets Kept

Blurb: With a curse, she will build an army.
With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice.
But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper.

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

I enjoyed Secrets Kept (Hidden Dagger #1) by J.L. Mwebe and read it quickly – a lot happens and I had a difficult time putting it down or not thinking about it when I was doing other things. I adored a few characters and despised a few others. And I can’t wait to read the next because of those adored characters. Ayianna herself is understandable but frustrating. She’s got some major growing up to do and I hope she does it quickly. Nalu is a rich, complex world full of interesting peoples and imaginative creatures. I love books that contain detailed cultures and unique mythos and Secrets Kept really delivered there.

However sometimes I felt like the complexity was also its Achilles heel. Keeping the core main characters straight isn’t too difficult but there is such an abundance of characters (and places) that I had a difficult time keeping them all straight. The book would really benefit from a glossary to keep track of the people and explain some of the creatures. There’s also a map in the beginning of the book but it’s too small and missing half the references so I found it only helpful in giving me a vague sense of direction. Lastly, so much happened in the book but the story itself didn’t progress very far – it’s like The Fellowship of the Ring, lots of journeying but not much progress made yet.

Truthfully, I found the premise fascinating and the story itself gripping but there were little things that made me feel like it was published a smidge too soon. Characters that I gave up trying to figure out who they were, creatures/peoples that weren’t explained quickly enough (or at all), a lot of points of view. And lastly, a few things confused me about the specific genre Secrets Kept is trying to be. It has elements of epic or sword & sorcery fantasy but lacks other essential aspects. It also has elements of YA coming-of-age/romantic fantasy but breaks a few standard rules of the genre, etc. (e.g. Ayianna can be hard to relate to because of her age and inexperience but the book itself is too complex and mature for it to be aimed at younger YA readers. The romance felt a bit shoehorned into the last quarter of the book and is 85% aimed at the wrong guy.) It’s disappointing because I feel like those little elements are just enough to keep this really good story from being a great one.

Do you prefer traditional takes on magical creatures or imaginative spinnings on them?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Captive Maiden

Blurb: Happily Ever After…
Or Happily Nevermore?

Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke’s son, Valten–the boy she has daydreamed about for years–and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

I liked The Captive Maiden (Hagenheim #4) by Melanie Dickerson though it was the least imaginative of the retellings so far – or at least the first half was. It was Cinderella, the classic version, barely changed until the midnight escape from the ball which was when the story finally went an entirely different direction. I liked the story (jousting!) but there were several times I thought it stretched believability. The second half was interesting since it was covering new ground – except it got repetitive so the new ground was…not so new very quickly.

Specifically: I thought it was a real stretch to believe the bad guy (or his men) were able to sneak in, get in touch with evil girls, and kidnap Gisela all while soldiers were on guard searching. And then the escape, get caught, escape, get caught, escape… Was it just me or did Valten shorten their hiding every other sentence? They hide in the cave, he said, “We’ll hide 2-3 days.” They wake up, he says, “We’ll hide a couple days.” They eat breakfast, he says, “We’ll leave tonight”. So I can’t say I was surprised when they got caught after essentially *not* hiding. Most especially, the climactic ending made little sense to me. The random blindfold for no reason and then throwing them in a tower was crazy. Why would any sane bad guy leave his captives alone together? And then they escape (again) only to discover two more seconds and they’d have been rescued anyway. Honestly, I felt like the whole tower scenario was written just so there could be a “making out blindfolded” scene. Also, the big reveal at the end was too sudden. Some foreshadowing could easily have been worked in earlier.)

There was a moment during the grand climax that I expected something to happen and was  disappointed when it did not. I felt like there was an opportunity for a more complex resolution to occur and the author opted for the easy way out instead. The romance was sweet and funny but I never quite bought into it.  After 4 books, my feelings about the series have cemented – very cute but simple. I still love the series but they’re categorized as light YA romances in my brain now so I can stop expecting more complexity.

Do you ever have a hard time classifying books? (Does it even matter to you?)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.