A Review of In the Kingdom’s Name by Amy Jarecki

I was gifted this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I received this one awhile back but upon finding it was a sequel, I purchased the first book in the series and read it first. You can find the review for that book in this blog as well.

In the Kingdom’s Name finds Eva still in medieval Scotland, during the war to free themselves from English rule. Andrew Murray is on the brink of death and William all but forces Eva to use her newfangled healing to save him, something time does not want her to interfere with. Because of this, she is spirited away back to modern day and is desperate to get back. Will fate let her go back? Can she change time to save William Wallace’s fate.

This was a really good follow up as it helped to further develop Eva and William’s relationship but aside from the historical aspects of where the story had to go in order to still be true, the rest was kind of a let down. Jarecki explains her decision in the author’s notes and it makes sense but it didn’t feel right to me. I thought there were many things that could’ve happened to make the outcome more enjoyable. The last chapter of the book felt very forced to me and I never gained any real emotional connection to the resolution.

Another thing that bothered me, is that William Wallace is an extremely pious man. He had decided that he was going to take his vows into the priesthood until he decided to take up arms to fight the cause of his country. That being said, he very quickly jumped into a sexual relationship with Eva from the very beginning. While men can change their minds, he continued to read his psalter and to quote scripture all while this is taking place. So for me, I don’t feel like his character stayed true to himself and the whole sexual relationship was contrived to help the story further along.

This was a decent read but I liked the first installment of this saga better. I give it a 3 out of 5. This decision was mainly based on the fact that the ending was completely lost for me. I felt the author couldn’t figure out a way to make her original ending work and so this was plan B and everyone, including Eva, got the second best option. ¬†This book has strong sexual scenes so reader discretion is advised.

A Review of Rise of a Legend by Amy Jarecki

Eva MacKay is an archeological journalist fascinated by the legend of William Wallace. After he husband is brutally murdered she takes a job on a historical dig at the battleground of Loudoun Hill. One early morning, her professor gives her a necklace without telling her much about it. She falls asleep at Fail Monastery only to wake up amidst a historical battle in 1297 Scotland. Right as she thinks she’s going to die, she is rescued by a man of great size. After introductions, she realizes her savior is none other than William Wallace himself. Their chemistry is instant and so begins a tumultuous relationship during some of Scotland’s greatest massacres and battles.

This book caught my attention from the very first pages. Eva has known a lot of tragedy in her 27 years and you begin to feel for her right away. There is a lot of history in these pages the author went to great lengths researching the history of William Wallace that we know, while still injecting her own twist to what happens. This era in Scotland’s histories has quite a few holes so the author used multiple sources to weave her tale. William was a battle hardened man with a chip on his shoulder about the English monarchy. Jarecki gave a nice contrast between a man bent on taking back Scotland for his people and a ¬†softer man falling in love with a woman he doesn’t completely understand.

My one criticism is the numerous sex scenes. I, personally, don’t enjoy reading about extremely graphic sex. I would have enjoyed something a little more subtle to characterize their budding romance instead of gratuitous sex. The relationship between Eva and William starts out very carnal and this is shown throughout the book. I did, however, greatly enjoy the slow transition between lovers blowing off the steam of tragedy and the deeper love their grew to have for one another.

I give this book a 5 out of 5. Despite the graphic sexual content, the history and character development was amazing. I love time travel of any kind and historical romance is one of my favorite sub genres of this. There’s something so intriguing about someone from our own time finding themselves in way earlier time periods and falling in love with icons I’ve only read about in history books. To be front and center to histories battles would be incredible. I recommend this book to fans of historical romances. Definitely keep in mind that there is a lot of sex and very graphic depictions of death and battle of the period.

A Review of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I read this book because it was chosen to be read in the book club I run on facebook. This is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile anyway because I really enjoyed the Studio Ghibli movie they made from it. While the two differed quite a bit I enjoyed both.

Howl is a wizard known as the eater of young women’s souls. He is much feared in the lands his floating castle moves through. Sophie is a y0ung woman at the cusp of adulthood living a boring life in a hat shop, though she seemed to be very good at what she did. Then a woman came in and put a spell on her that ages her 60 years until she’s a very old woman. At that point she decides since she doesn’t have much time left she better go out to seek her fortune. When she comes to Wizard Howl’s castle she decides to go in and try to get a job with him since it is only young woman’s souls he’s after.

This book caught my attention from the very beginning and there was never a dull point. There was a lot going on and though it is pure fantasy there are many elements of mystery that you begin to see unfold throughout the story. I was not expecting the way the book ended at all. I had my guesses but I was caught completely off guard and the last 2 chapters in the book sunk it’s claws into my heart and I was captivated.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 and would give it even more if that was possible. I loved this book and easily put it in my top 10 books of all time. It is a quick and fun read and something I would consider rereading in the future, something I normally don’t do. I recommend this book to everyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre both young and all. There are no adult themes so this is something that would even make a great bed time story for children old enough for chapter books.

A Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

It has now been 22 years since the battle of Hogwarts and Voldemort’s ultimate defeat. Harry and Ginny are married with three children: James, Albus, and Lily. Ron and Hermione are married with two children of their own. This account revolves around Albus, the misfit of the family. He is so afraid he will be sorted into Slytherin and in his first year his worst fears are confirmed. These seem to be Harry’s worst fears too. An unexpected friendship with Scorpius Malfoy makes the relationship between Harry and Albus drift even further apart. After overhearing Amos beg Harry for what he believes to be the last remaining time turner in existence, Albus gets it in his head that by saving Cedric Diggory he can right all his father’s wrongs.

I really liked this installment in the Harry Potter saga. The screenplay format made it a quick and easy read. There was a lot of emotion and feeling. The middle part of the story was phenomenal. Without giving too much away, I loved seeing the alternate versions of the wizarding world. The reappearance of so many beloved characters was a real treat.

The one thing I didn’t like is that I felt like some of the characters weren’t true to their nature’s from the previous books in the series. Snape and Draco in particular. Though I did enjoy the direction they went with Draco and hearing his entire story made me understand more. Also, McGonagall was much more lax as headmistress when as a teacher she was extremely strict and a stickler for rules.

I would give this one a4 out of 5. I liked it. It had some really great parts while others fell flat. The resolution to the main plot was good but I thought the resolution to character relationships I thought was lacking. I would’ve liked to see a bit more development there. It is definitely worth reading for fans of the series!

 

A Review of The Watchmaker’s Hell: The Pit by LA Barnes

The Pit is book one in a series of four books. It begins with a group of people dropped randomly in hell. This story is told through the perspective of many different characters so I won’t get into one specific character as being the protagonist. Also, many characters are not what they seem so in order to not give anything away I won’t get into it much. The main conflict is a a war in hell some are trying to avoid while others are trying to figure out why they are in hell.

The character development in this book is exceptional. Each profile is given an extensive history and backstory. With that said, I feel like some of it is too much. This is an extremely long narrative and would serve its purpose better by cutting out some of it. As we navigate through perspectives there is a lot of rehashing of events both past and present and sometimes it becomes too redundant. This book shows there can be too much of a good thing. But honestly, this was my only complaint.

The story was told well and was always leaving me wanting more. There are a few twists that I wasn’t expecting and I was left wondering if what I was reading was the truth just like the characters. It’s fascinating to be left feeling betrayed because I often times felt very immersed in the plot.

Without giving too much away, my favorite sub plot was the reconnection of two characters, one who was the reincarnated lover of another. For most of the story I felt very drawn to them and their connection. I was rooting for them and vicariously living through their rekindling romance.

There is lots of foul language as well as sexual content both being discussed and implied acts. There are also a lot of religious overtones. The author goes into doctrines of many different belief systems. Besides being a bit too wordy in parts I did enjoy the book. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars and I think I would’ve given it a 5 if it had been edited more.

A Review of Revival by Stephen King

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago but I’ve had a crazy Christmas and New Year’s holiday with family visiting so I haven’t had time to write one up until now. Things have finally calmed down for me. I hope I can finally get some more reading done now.

Jamie Mortan first meets Pastor Charlie when he is only 6 years old. He comes to minister at the methodist church Jamie attends with his family. Even from this first meeting Jamie kn0ws that Pastor Charlie will be a lasting presence in his life.

This book doesn’t tell the details of a single event but rather gives an account of Jamie’s life and the many times Pastor Charlie has shown up, whether be coincidence or divine intervention. I feel like this is all I can tell you about this book without giving anything away as everything leads up to the big bang of an ending that this story has. What I can tell you is that we meet Jamie when he is six and his last account is in his sixties and his pastor friend has an unnatural fascination and grasp on electricity.

The pace of the book is unbelievably slow. All throughout I found myself at parts I really enjoyed but as soon as I started to really get into the story the arc would drop again into stuff I felt wasn’t necessary to the story. I think King was trying for a way to get the reader to really step into Jamie’s shoes but it became mundane too quickly.

With that said, the ending definitely went out with a bang. It is a slow lead up to a huge grand finale. But I’m not sure that I liked it even though it was intense. It was extremely bizarre with a major religious impact. That may be a turn off to some with strong religious convictions. I am a christian so that could be why I didn’t care for it. I generally like strange but this was a dismal strange to say the least.

I would say that it is my least favorite King work. I don’t think he was entirely successful in getting the reader to care for his characters and even though I can be a fan of slow burn horror, this was way too slow. I gave this one a 3 out of 5, the lowest I’ve ever scored a King book.

A Review of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is an unassuming man, good looking in his own right, with a steady job and a beautiful, if not a bit domineering, fiance. At the point we meet Richard he has started questioning his life and his future. Jessica may be beautiful but she’s all too formal and cares more about appearances than real substance and her life is lived circling the art gallery and her job there.

One evening, on their way to a diner with her boss, they come across a small small woman who appears to be hurt. Jessica wants to ignore who she believes to be a homeless person but Richard can’t. He is determined to help this young lady. He picks her up but the woman doesn’t want to go to a hospital. The only thing he can think of is to take her back to his apartment and nurse her back to health. Jessica is furious and goes on their previous engagement with her boss.

Later, Jessica calls and leaves several voicemails, the final saying she is done with him and is calling off their engagement. After, the woman, called Door, finally recovers, Richard’s life is turned upside down. He is no longer recognized in London Above and is quickly catapulted into an adventure in London Below, a gritty underworld that he did not previously knew existed.

The best way for me to describe this story without giving anything away is The Wizard of Oz meets Alice in Wonderland. It is a bizarre new world with interesting characters so different from our own. Richard is kind of a weak minded individual, but despite that he is incredibly loveable. He is very caring, even putting himself in danger for those he calls friends. I found myself quickly developing a literary crush on him and wishing for only the best for him and the other cast of characters. This is a book that draws you in from page one because of the richly detailed world Gaiman has woven and the events that transpire.

The only thing bad I have to say about this book is the ending. I did like it but found it far too abrupt and it left me yearning for more. It could’ve used some kind of epilogue that gave some follow up, either that or I’m desperate for a sequel. I would give this book a solid 5 out of 5. I’m very excited to read more of Gaiman’s works.