Review Copy: Irish Meadows

Disclaimer: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason was provided by Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he’s put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures. Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O’Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father’s machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

I don’t know if it was because of the horses or not, but I actually really enjoyed Irish Meadows. It was still as formulaic as most of these review copies are, and nothing was particularly new—but I liked what Mason did with the characters and I liked the characters themselves, especially Colleen.

Brianna’s and Gilbert’s relationships (and their characters themselves) were nothing new (and, in fact, I got increasingly annoyed at the “I like him/her, but I can’t show it, but I just can’t help myself and I’ll show it anyway” back-and-forth throughout the novel, and Gilbert’s lack of spine), and in fact there were several times when I wondered if their relationship was just there to pair off the characters, especially in the more dicey bits when I thought, “Wow, this isn’t really healthy at all.” But Mason does have their relationship in a place at the end that I think is realistic and good for both of them.

But I loved Colleen, and her relationship growth with Rylan, because that is the sort of thing I like to read: not a “wham, bam! He’s handsome! I love him!” type of thing, but more of a slow burn where the characters actually interact and talk with each other and grow their relationship from that. And Colleen’s character growth, in particular, is quite heartbreaking, and it’s quite fulfilling at the end to see her really come into her own and move forward with hope and joy and love.

So, yes, Irish Meadows doesn’t really establish anything new and it’s formulaic and predictable—but I enjoyed it all the same, mainly because of Colleen’s arc. And Brianna and Gilbert, though annoying at first, do get better—and so does their relationship, which is a good thing.

My rating: 4/5

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: Irish Meadows

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland: Wonderfully Imaginative

 The Boy Who Lost Fairyland is written by Catherynne M Valente. It was published in 2015 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.

When a young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland by the Golden Wind, he becomes a changeling—a human boy—in the strange city of Chicago, a place no less bizarre and magical than Fairyland when seen through trollish eyes. Left with a human family, Hawthorn struggles with his troll nature and his changeling fate. But when he turns twelve, he stumbles upon a way back home, only to a Fairyland much changed from the one he remembered.

I loved The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, but was disappointed with the next two books. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, however, restores my love for Valente’s Fairyland: it doesn’t have the great villain that the first book did (or any villain at all, really) but it’s a wonderfully imaginative and beautiful book. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland revels in imagination and wonder and shows how a little imagination can go a long way in terms of making people’s lives better.

The book also has a surprisingly simple plot, compared to the first three books. There’s no main villain and most of the book is just “The Adventures of Hawthorn and Tamburlaine,” which is probably why I found this book so charming. It’s only until the end that we get glimpses of where the plot is going in regards to September and the fifth book. And that’s not a bad thing, since the simplicity of the plot means that you get to enjoy the beauty of the world more.

So, yes, I found Boy a significant improvement over the last two books in Fairyland; the simplicity of it was refreshing and I had more time to indulge in the world—and thus I spent less time getting bored with how long it was taking the main character to get things done (cough The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland cough). And that’s a good thing, since this book doesn’t just take you from Earth to Fairyland. It also brings Fairyland to Earth.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“The Laws of the Kingdom of School,” he squeaked. “One: A Teacher is the same thing as an Empress only a Teacher wears skirts and uses a ruler instead of a scepter. Two: Be present at eight o’clock sharp or you will be marked Tardy and if you are Tardy enough you will be banished to the Land of Detention, where no food or joy can live. Three: If you write that you shall not do a thing five hundred times you cannot do it again for your whole life. Only Teachers possess this magic, as Mother and Father have never tried it. Four: A race of Giants live in the Kingdom of School. They are the Big Kids and they dwell in the Upperclassmen’s Wing. They must be treated as dragons and never bothered or they will destroy us, for they know great and terrible magic as well as how to drive cars. Five:; when the clock strikes three in the afternoon, the power of the Teacher is broken with the pealing of a bell and all go free. Six: There is a curse called Homework a Teacher may cast if she longs for her power to continue after the great bell has rung….”

Thomas stopped. Twenty children stared at him. Twenty children gawped at Thomas the Un-Normal in the wet, gray play yard. Finally, Max coughed.

“You got any more?” he whispered.

Overall Review:

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland brings back what I loved about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland: not the intricacies and twists of the plot, but the sheer beauty and wonder of Fairyland itself, and the beauty and power of imagination. And Boy is probably better off for its simplicity, in the end, because Fairyland now shines through without the burden of a complex plot weighing it down and distracting people from the real beauty of it.

You can buy this here: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

The Iron Trial: Shades Of Harry Potter

The Iron Trial is written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. It was published in 2014 by Scholastic.

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst—and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come.

There are shades of Harry Potter throughout this book, especially the “magic school” bit, as well as shades of Avatar: The Last Airbender with the elemental magic, but even though nothing they use is really new, Black and Clare manage to give it a fresh twist. I wish that we had gotten to see more of the world, but perhaps that will come later on in the series.

I went into the book thinking I knew how it was going to end, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out differently. However, there is very little of any sort of continuing plot in this book, as it is mainly set-up and more involved with character development, so I was left wondering what could possibly be in four more books. What I thought would have been more interesting is if Black and Clare had held off on the big plot reveal for another book, because right now it feels as if they revealed their hand too early. Like I said, I have no idea why they need four more books, unless they just wanted one for each school year (like Harry Potter…sigh).

I’m glad that Jasper ends up not so much of the school rival as he starts out. Rivals/antagonists like that serve to drive the plot/character development, but the trope as a whole is really overused, especially in school stories, and I’m glad that Jasper isn’t as much of a Draco Malfoy as he appears.

Also overused is the loner protagonist who thinks everybody hates him. At least Black and Clare gave him a good reason to think that way.

The book intrigued me enough to read the next one when it comes out, but I hope Black and Clare improve on worldbuilding and use of tropes.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“So send me home,” he burst out. “If you just took me because you don’t feel like one of the other mages should have to teach me, send me home.”

Rufus shook his head. “You still don’t understand,” he said. “Uncontrolled magic like yours is a danger. Sending you home to your small town would be the equivalent of dropping a bomb on them. But make no mistake, Callum. If you persist in disobedience, if you refuse to learn to control your magic, then I will send you home. But I will bind your magic first.”

Overall Review:

The Iron Trial, although relying a little too much on old tropes like the magical school, the rival, elemental magic, and the self-contained, set-up plot of a first book in a series, still builds a nice world (what we see of it), has memorable characters, and promises exciting things to come. I do wish that Clare & Black had saved the big twist until later on in the series, as I feel it would have had more punch and right now I can’t really see where the series is going.

You can buy this here: The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)

Greenglass House: A Beautiful Book

Greenglass House is written by Kate Milford. It was published in 2014 by Clarion.

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cooks’ daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.

Greenglass House turned into something I was completely not expecting, in the best possible way. When it first started, I thought, “Well, this is interesting, I guess.” Then the roleplaying game stuff started, and all I could think was, “Is this really necessary?” (although a big YES to depicting a girl being the one to suggest the idea of the game in the first place. Girl gamers unite!) And then the rest of the novel unfolded like one big, beautiful story, and I was swept up in it.

I say “story” but really the novel is a compilation of multiple stories, told a la The Canterbury Tales. Not only do the guests tell stories, but Milo reads a book that is also a bunch of stories. And the whole thing is really beautiful coupled with the winter imagery that Milford brings out. This book is the perfect book to read on a snowy evening next to a fire drinking your hot beverage of choice, because that’s exactly what the characters do when they’re telling/listening to a story.

Not only are the stories beautiful, but the mystery is also really complex, complete with such a shocking reveal at the end that I am being incredibly careful not to accidentally spoil it in this post, since I want my reaction to be everybody’s reaction when they read it. Let’s just say the reveal took the book in a whole new direction, and it was a little strange but wonderful at the same time, and it didn’t feel out of place at all, not with the lore Milford had already set up earlier.

The only thing I thought was a tad overdone was a certain moment where one character expresses her feelings about two other characters. It felt a little melodramatic and over-the-top to me, but perhaps that’s just me.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Guns

Genre: Realistic, Middle Grade

 “What sort of stories do people tell in the book?” Clem asked curiously. “Is there…I don’t know…a right sort or wrong sort for this kind of occasion?” She scratched her head. “I don’t honestly know if I’ve ever told a story before.”

“You’ve never told a story?” Negret asked. “Not ever, not to anyone? You must have.”

“Well, not like this,” she protested. “This isn’t the same as when you tell someone how your day went, is it?”

He opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t quite like that, not exactly—but then he stopped himself. “It can be any kind of story you want. The point is that you share something with everyone. It’s supposed to be a fun thing. I don’t think you can do it wrong, if that’s what you mean.”

Overall Review:

Greenglass House is wonderful, the sort of book that you will want to read over and over, not just to soak all the beautiful stories and images in, but also to catch all the little hints and clues placed for the resolution of the mystery. The mystery was quite good, but the most memorable moment for me was so memorable that I tried to leave out anything in this review that would even marginally point to what it is.

You can buy this here: Greenglass House

Glamour In Glass: Wherein Jane Becomes Awesome

Glamour in Glass is written by Mary Robinette Kowal. It was published in 2012 by Tor. It is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey. 

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it. Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to set things right…and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.

Let me start off by saying how awesome Jane is in this novel, striding around the countryside in men’s clothes trying to rescue Vincent, and all the while thinking about how her legs are in full view of everyone. Oh, Jane. You’re such a dear.

Glamour in Glass has a lot more action and tension than did Shades of Milk and Honey, but it also expands even more on the subtle magic of the world and the political and social ramifications of that magic. It also has the expected marital angst with Jane, but it’s done very well and stems from what we already know of the character. It was pretty obvious what one of the plot twists would be, but even though I knew it would happen, it still was quite a tragic moment.

I also like how this book, and Shades of Milk and Honey, are at their heart stand-alone novels (Shades more so than Glamour, obviously). These books remind me more of a series of mystery novels, where the plots do not overlap but the characters do. I like that Kowal doesn’t hook you into the next book, and although she hints at future things to come like with the significance of the glass sphere, it’s not an obvious plot thread that is left hanging to be fulfilled later.

This book reminds me quite a lot of The Grand Tour, especially since they both deal with Napoleon and the succession. Given the time period both portray, that’s not surprising.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

As they passed within the Sphère Obscurcie, [Mathieu] popped into view, frowning as he tried to understand the excitement apparent on their faces. Of course, being in the centre of the Sphère, he had no way of knowing that for a few moments, he had been invisible. Vincent explained as best he could, and then Jane took Mathieu by the arm to lead him out of the Sphère.

When she turned him to face whence they had come, the boy’s jaw dropped. He stood gaping like a fish.

Overall Review:

Glamour in Glass is a bit more tension-centric than was Shades of Milk and Honey, and although the Regency aspect is definitely still there, some of the Jane Austen charm has left. However, the book functions well without the Austen ties and my love for the characters and the world has only increased since Shades. Jane is so delightfully shocked at everything.

You can buy this here: Glamour in Glass

The Wizard Heir: Starts Off Slow, But Ends Satisfyingly

The Wizard Heir is written by Cinda Williams Chima. It was published in 2007 by Hyperion. It is the sequel to The Warrior Heir.

Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years being kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And its not his attitude that’s the problem: it’s the trail of magical accidents—lately, disasters—that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained, and his powers are escalating out of control. After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys’ school on the coast of Maine. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph’s enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students’ powers to serve his own wicked agenda.

I liked The Wizard Heir a little better than The Warrior Heir, mainly because I was used to the world and the difference in Chima’s style (from the Seven Realms series) all ready. It was nice to see a new character, but also see that new character interact with the old ones. I think I like Hastings even more in this novel, too.

While the beginning took a little bit for me to get into, simply because Seph didn’t start out the type of character I enjoy reading, the middle/ending was really well done in terms of action and tension and kept me reading. The first big plot twist Chima pulls was pretty obvious, especially since her viewpoint switches give it away, but the second one I did not expect at all and was pretty awesome. I also like how each book so far has a stand-alone arc (yes, this one doesn’t end on a cliffhanger! Happiness!) in addition to the continuous one (that I can see more clearly in this one as opposed to the first) and that the main villain of this one is dispatched at the end–not a lot of threads left hanging, everything ends pretty tidily.

The inclusion of Madison Moss seemed a little too convenient, although how they used her Super Special Power was really neat.

The next book has Jason as the main viewpoint, apparently, which I’m not really looking forward to since I found him annoying in this book (but hopefully he’ll be more endearing if I’m in his head).

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

“Jason, what do you know about Joseph McCauley?” The voice was complex, full of fire and ice, sorcery and menace.

Jason toyed with his earring, frowning, as if struggling to remember. “He’s the one you told me about, right? He spent a lot of time in this building over winter break. I think I’ve seen him in the workout rooms.”

“We’ve been working with him all year, but we aren’t making the kind of progress we would like. He’s hallucinating. Delusional. Dangerously symptomatic. But refuses our help. And now there’s been a change in his behavior that makes me think perhaps he’s been spending time with you.” The voice was gently on the surface, but then was steel underneath. “Do you remember our discussion about your negative influence on the other boys?”

Overall Review:

I am starting to like the world of The Wizard Heir a little better, and although the book starts out a little slow, by the end it’s fast-paced and gripping. Madison Moss is a little too convenient and is more of a Chekhov’s Gun than anything else but her power is cool. Hastings really fits the role of Enigmatic, Powerful Wizard well and is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. The book is still a little strange and Chima’s prose could be a little better, but the series seems to be improving.

You can buy this here: The Wizard Heir

A Spy In The House: Girl Power And Mystery

A Spy in the House is written by Y. S. Lee. It was published in 2009 by Candlewick Press.

Orphan Mary Quinn lives on the edge. Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, she’s rescued from the gallows by a woman posing as a prison warden. In her new home, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and a surprising opportunity. The school is a cover for the Agency—an elite, top secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results—and at seventeen, Mary’s about to join their ranks. With London all but paralyzed by a noxious heat wave, Mary must work fast in the guise of lady’s companion to infiltrate a rich merchant’s home with hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the Thorold household is full of dangerous secrets, and people are not what they seem—least of all Mary.

A Spy in the House is really heavy-handed at the beginning, almost choking you with the amount of “Women don’t have to get married! They can be successful like the men! We can do things too!” and infodumping that’s present in the first two chapters. However, after those first two chapters, Lee weaves that sort of thing more intricately with the story, so it’s not nearly as noticeable and “let me hit you in the face with a brick” level of subtlety  as it is in the beginning. Angelica rebels against marriage and one of the villains is a female, but other than that Lee tones down the Girl Power for most of the rest of the book.

(There’s not anything wrong with Girl Power, by the way. It’s just so heavy-handed in the book (and delivered in a very mechanical, expositional way) that it reads more like a pamphlet than a novel, at the beginning.)

The novel takes place in the 1850s, where apparently a ton of Regency mannerisms sort of died away, because men and women called each other by their first names and didn’t worry about not being introduced. For the first part of the book, I kept thinking, “They weren’t introduced! Scandal! She called him Michael! Scandal!” I guess I’ve read too many Regency novels lately…

The mystery is nice, but I thought the best reveal was the one about Mary. I’m also eagerly looking forward to seeing where the relationship between Mary and James goes, especially since Lee has hammered the “women don’t have to get married” theme so much already that I can’t actually see them getting together. But we shall see, I suppose.

Is the cigar box lost forever? Will Mary ever find out what her father left for her? I see you, continuous plot arc!

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Murder, a small amount of violence.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult

Calmly, slowly, she reached behind with her left hand and came up against—yes, fabric. Fine linen, to be precise. So far, so good: she was inside a wardrobe, after all. The only problem was that this linen was oddly warm. Body warm. Beneath the tentative pressure of her palm, it seemed to be moving….

With terrifying suddenness, an ungloved hand clamped roughly over her nose and mouth. A long arm pinned her arms against her sides. She was held tightly against a hard, warm surface.

“Hush,” whispered a pair of lips pressed to her left ear. “If you scream, we are both lost.”

Overall Review:

A Spy in the House is a nice start to what looks like a promising and fun mystery series, although I hope Lee slightly turns down the amount of Girl Power because it’s not being incorporated very fluidly into the story. I’m looking forward to seeing where the relationship between James and Mary goes (although I’m slightly trepidatious, as well) and although the Agency mystery was good, I loved Mary’s personal mystery even more.

You can buy this here: The Agency 1: A Spy in the House

Rose: Cool World, But Nothing Special Overall

Rose is written by Holly Webb. It was published in 2009 by Orchard Books.

Mr. Fountain’s grand residence is a world away from the dark orphanage Rose has left behind. For the house is overflowing with sparkling magic—she can feel it. And soon Rose realizes that she might be just a little bit magical, too…But when orphans begin mysteriously disappearing, Rose’s magic is put to the test. Can she find the missing children before it’s too late?

Quick note: You may have noticed that there was no Fairy Tale Friday update. That’s because I’ve had  less time to read and so have exhausted my supply of fairy tale reviews for the time being. Fear not! Fairy Tale Friday will resume in a few weeks.

Rose has a really interesting world that I wished had been explored slightly more, although for a children’s book the world is pretty complex all ready. I don’t think it’s ever mentioned where the book takes place, but it reminded me of an 1800s, Dickensian, magical London (like in How To Catch A Bogle), but any book that takes place in a city with orphans running around makes me think it’s London (probably because of Dickens).

The magic is a little strange, because there’s the chemical aspect of it but then there’s Rose, who can tame wild elemental spirits with a single glare, so I’m not sure of the rules. But again, it’s a children’s book, and you don’t really have to know how magic works to enjoy it (although I tend to enjoy magic more if I can at least grasp some of what makes it tick).

The plot and mechanics aren’t too special, especially not the talking cat, and Rose is a bit too Girl With Powerful Magic Who Can Do Things No One Else Can, and the plot in general is too Children Somehow Defeat Powerful Adult Villain Despite Lack Of Training (Thanks To Aforementioned Girl) Because The Other Adults Are Incompetent, but overall, a decent book.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Alchemy, blood magic.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s

Rose watched Gustavus give Freddie a considering look, then the cat turned his parti-coloured eyes on her. “Where did you learn to hear cats talk, girl?”

Rose shook her head. “I don’t know. I never knew they could. The cat at the orphanage never said anything, not that I heard. You just talked to me about the cream that first morning I saw you. Last week.”

The cat sniffed. “Who knows. You wouldn’t expect a servant child to have magic—”

“Magic!” Freddie interrupted scornfully. “Of course she doesn’t have magic. Little guttersnipe.”

Overall Review:

Rose doesn’t do much to stake out new territory in fantasy, but what it does use is familiar and fairly complex. I loved the Dickensian London feel and the small look at the way magic is used in this world, such as the moving glass in the church. The cover is really cute, too. Its only flaw is that it’s not really anything special.

You can buy this here: Rose

The Thief: The First Book In My New Favorite Series

The Thief is written by Megan Whalen Turner. It was published in 1996 by Greenwillow.

The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

The Thief does a first-person point of view similar to Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince (vice versa, really, since The Thief came first), and when I realized it, I was excited because I loved the limited first-person view that Nielsen did in The False Prince. And The Thief one-ups The False Prince by including gorgeous Greek mythology in a fantasy world that is just one step removed from the actual one.

Turner gives you just enough hints to realize that Gen is not all that he says he is, but not enough to make you frustrated at all the secrecy. And the twists that occur that don’t include Gen I never saw coming, but once they arrived I realized how they had been foreshadowed earlier on. I absolutely adore books that are so well-crafted that each time you read it you discover something new, and all the praise I’ve seen on other book blogs is deserving (not that I was really doubting).

I don’t know why, but I love how the magus was always called “the magus” and never named, not even at the end where you might expect him to be.

Also, when I read the summary and opened the book, I literally said out loud, “Wait, I thought this was about a girl!” (Don’t ask me how I came to that conclusion. I don’t know.) And then half the book I expected Gen to be a girl in disguise. Nope.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some small swordfighting violence, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“What had happened to the stone?” asked Sophos.

“It had been hidden by the king of Eddis, and he died without passing it to his son and without revealing its hiding place. It has remained hidden ever since.”

“Do you think it could ever be found?” Sophos asked.

The magus nodded. There was a short silence.

“You think you can find it?” asked Ambiades, his face pinched with eagerness and probably greed, I thought.

The magus nodded.

“Do you mean,” I squawked, “that we are out here in the dark looking for something from a fairy tale?”

Overall Review:

The Thief utilizes a limited (to the reader) first-person point of view that reminds me of The False Prince and Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and definitely needs to be used more in books because it shows how well-crafted the plot is. Gen is endearing and the Greek myths are beautiful. A fantastic book all around.

You can buy this here: The Thief (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1)

Review Copy: The Innocent

Disclaimer: The Innocent by Ann H. Gabhart was provided by Revell in exchange for an honest review.

Carlyn Kearney has spent two lonely years not knowing whether to mourn or to hope after she receives word from the Union Army that her husband is missing. When the war ends without further word, Carlyn finds herself penniless, in debt, and forced from her home. With nowhere else to go, she seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill. The Shakers profess peace through simply living, but to Carlyn, the Shaker life seems anything but simple. When mysterious deaths disturb the peace of the village, Carlyn falls under intense scrutiny. Can a kind sheriff help her expose the true culprit?

The Innocent gives an interesting look at the Shaker life, which I must admit I didn’t know about except for a brief mention in Robert Newton Peck’s book A Day No Pigs Would Die. It was interesting to see what they believed and how Carlyn managed to live among them when they had such radically different beliefs from hers.

However, The Innocent is, quite frankly, boring, and it plods along noticeably. Even the attempts at mystery and tension fall flat, since they are spaced far apart and in between the same things happen over and over: Carlyn wonders how she will ever manage to live with the Shakers when they have such different beliefs, she thinks about Ambrose, she thinks about the sheriff, she thinks about her dog, and she acts like a shrinking violet. Then there’s an interlude where the sheriff thinks about how beautiful/strong/alluring Carlyn is and then talks to her dog. Then there’s some sort of tension or mystery, then the same pattern repeats.

I honestly could not stand Carlyn as a character. She was too squishy for me. She had a sort of faux-strength about her, as if the author wanted us to think she was a strong character but ended up just showing us how much Carlyn isn’t strong, in many ways. If something more exciting had happened in the novel, maybe I wouldn’t have thought that Carlyn was so vanilla, but she plodded along just as the plot did. And the romance was beyond predictable and, as a result, boring.

The Innocent, though with an interesting look at Shaker life and history, is ultimately boring. The mystery is stretched out way too much (and not completely resolved, to boot); the characters do and think the same things over and over; the romance is uninteresting; and I had to fight to actually finish the book.

My rating: 1/5

Warnings: Some violence, death.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: The Innocent: A Novel