Tag: Book review

Book Review: Ivy’s Ever After

Ivy is a princess in a small southern kingdom with a standard tower/dragon treaty in place: she has to go into the locked tower at 14, be guarded by a dragon from the local flock (clan? herd? flight?), and wait for a prince to show up. Said prince must defeat the dragon to win the kingdom’s throne, the dragon’s hoard, and Ivy’s hand in marriage. If a prince is killed by the dragon, she must wait for the next prince. If she gets too old, let’s hope she has a younger sister to take her place.

Motherless Ivy wasn’t told about this until she turned 12, and she’s not been raised as the most delicate of females, but her father–the absent minded king–has put his foot down.  And when she turns 14, a suitor dutifully shows up from a northern icy kingdom.  He’s a handsome and condescending second son, who wants to use the forests in Ivy’s kingdom to take over his brother’s kingdom.

When her father won’t listen to warnings of her suitor’s intended treachery, Ivy decides to escape the tower the night before the challenge in search of her fairy godmother. On her way down the twisted bedsheets, she runs into Elridge: the dragon. Elridge is smaller than most dragons, can’t blow fire, and isn’t looking forward to being the sacrifice on the following morning.

Ivy and Elridge team up but they only have one night to find Ivy’s fairy godmother and find a solution to their problem before prince will show up to challenge for his right to the throne–can they make it back by dawn?

The Good:

This is a welcome  new addition to the non-insipid  princess stories.  Ivy is a blend of mischief, humor, and confusion as she’s facing a coming of age that she wasn’t prepared to have. Elridge has a wry sense of humor, fully admitting his own comebacks but willing to charge out on a potentially treacherous adventure. He also has a very special but very small hoard. Add in a fierce Dragon Queen and a talking goat with an attitude for a rollicking set of characters.

The Bad:

I had trouble empathizing with Ivy’s fairy godmother, who abandoned Ivy after her mother’s death and couldn’t be bothered to check in on her goddaughter.

Who is it for?

Give it to the girls who look at you funny when you suggest a “princess book.” Give it to parents looking for something girly but not vapid.  Pair it with Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and hand it to kids looking for a good, quick story with a funny dragon.

About those “Book Reviews”

A recent article suggests that female book bloggers are Faking It–making nice with the reviews for whatever reason one would like to throw out there. I hope you’re aware that’s not the case here. It’s true that I tend to only bother writing up blog reviews for books I’ve enjoyed–and LibraryThing Early Reviewers–but that’s more a personal choice. If I’m not enjoying a book these days, I stop reading at 50 pages–I don’t finish it and write up a snotty review. I don’t get to read enough as it is, let alone want to read books I don’t like. My library basket is overflowing, there are unread book piles all over the apartment and we won’t talk about how long the Google Spreadsheet of “To Read” is. I also have a draft box full of posts I want to finish–why would I add “Books I Didn’t Enjoy” to that pile? Y’all have enough other things to read in your inboxes and RSS feeds I trust. So while you may wish to discount these posts insofar as being formal book reviews, I hope you’ll continue to enjoy insight to what I’ve been reading. I’m still using the Book Review tag so you can find all of the posts together. A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy has a much more thoughtful look at and response to the faking it article. As for me? This is my blog, if I choose to say nice things, that’s my prerogative.

Book Review: Eye of the Red Tsar by Sam Eastland

Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

Eye of the Red Tsar
Sam Eastland

What if what we know about the Romanov’s death was wrong? What if the government itself didn’t know the truth? Who would they ask? Who could they trust? And if you found the most trusted and most feared adviser to the Tsar back from Siberia, what might he uncover?

The good:

Eastland creates and interesting premise of a top advisor/spy/investigator to the Tsar who, after the Revolution, was exiled to Siberia and is brought back to solve the mystery of what happened when the Romanovs disappeared. Told in a blend of flashbacks and present day, it gives a humanity to the Tsar and his family, a glimpse inside times just prior to the Revolution. 

There’s a decent level of intensity that keeps one going through the book–it was a surprisingly quick read. I got through it in an evening. I was slightly disappointed by the ending, though I could comprehend it. 

The bad:

I had an ARC so I won’t comment on the layout other than there were a lot of errors hopefully corrected before final print.

The history was imaginative. There was enough historically inaccurate that I was unsure how much to actually believe, and would err on the side of fiction rather than fact.

It could easily stand alone as a book, and I was disappointed to see that the author intends for it to be a series. A lot of what I enjoyed were the flashback sequences and I don’t think those would successfully hold up through more books. We’ve explored them, we understand the main character’s angst and what he’s been through. Reliving them over in future books would be less effective.

 Final Thoughts: If you’re up for suspense and willing to set aside the blatant historical inaccuracies, it’s an interesting read.  

Book Review: Elvis and the Grateful Dead by Peggy Webb

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

Elvis and the Grateful Dead
A Southern Cousins Mystery
by Peggy Webb

An Elvis impersonator festival and contest should be full of sequins, crooners, good music and food–especially when it’s being held in the King’s hometown. But when someone starts picking off the impersonators, it’s up to Callie Jones, her estranged mystery man ex-husband, and her basset hound Elvis (who IS the reincarnation of the King) to solve the mystery and keep cooking cousin Lovie out of the Jailhouse.

The good:
The story is told by both Callie and Elvis (the dog). Their voices are very distinct and amusing. Elvis spends a lot of time “singing” references, which can be a little distracting but I can imagine a friend of mine’s basset hound doing this. 

Well developed secondary characters. Though I never really felt for the Elvis’s who were being killed, I could completely recognize some of the other town characters. Callie’s Mom was delightfully outrageous and many will be able to identify a beloved Uncle who is ready to lend an ear, helping hand, and sage advice. 

I didn’t figure the mystery out until the end. That’s always a challenge for me, because very often one sees it coming and then you have to decide whether or not to slog on through. 

The bad:
Webb occasionally switches narration mid-chapter. That was a little confusing the first time as usually you got a fresh chapter.

Callie is obsessed with having children and a “good father” to go with that. Certainly that’s a big part of her character but the dwelling on having babies and how her ex isn’t good father material makes her less dynamic.

The confusing not-quite-ex-husband thing. Personally, I can’t say I’d let my soon-to-be-ex wash my back (literally) if it was serious enough that we were divorcing. It’s clear that he doesn’t want the divorce, but Callie’s a confused bundle of nerves. She vacillates from sleeping with her ex husband in Chapter 2 to a possible new love interest by the end of the book, which was a little overdone for me.

There’s some definite male as heroic rescuer that gets a little old. The whole idea of always needing a big strong man to rescue one grated a bit.  

Elvis’ constant singing could certainly get old after a while if one isn’t a fan of the King.

Slightly over-referenced book one of the series. I felt like I almost didn’t need to read it because everything was rehashed in book two.

What I’d like to see more of:
The relationship between Callie and her mother. It reminded me a bit of Donna Andrews’ style, which I adore, and I’d like to see more of that.

Overall?
A very cute addition to the cozy mystery section. Book one is going on the hold list at work.  Share with your animal and cozy mystery lovers.  

Book Review: Dusted to Death by Barbara Colley

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for reviewing it on LibraryThing.

 Dusted to Death
Barbara Colley

The plot:  Charlotte’s been called in to keep an eye on the house of one of her more difficult clients while they shoot a movie there. Amid the drama queen leading lady, her intimidating bodyguard, an attractive older male actor and the chaos of filming in an older New Orleans home, there is a messy murder. Not only does it ruin a rug, it might ruin the movie. 

Charlotte is a multi-faceted character, what with some romance with her next door neighbor, problems with her son, and the realities of not being a twenty something who spends all of her money on shoes, handbags, and fancy dates. Brought in to mind the movie set and make sure none of her client’s “treasures” are destroyed, she gets an interesting look behind the scenes of film-making. She has a crush on the leading man, an older actor whose heartthrob status has lasted and his gentlemanly nature only wins him more brownie points.

The book focuses behind the scenes on not only the actors but the people whose names only fly past up on the credits: prop masters etc and the creepy paparazzi that orbit that world. It’s nice to get a sense of their frenzy, frustration, and planning.  

Though I could tell I’d dropped into the middle of the series and probably wasn’t fully grasping the implications of all of the references, the book was able to stand by itself without a lot of filler backlog giving me history of books I hadn’t and might not ever read. I really liked that. The romantic aspect was really obvious, but it didn’t detract from the book. I got the sense that it would have been more well rounded had I read other books in the series. 

The biggest issue I had with the book was the film’s leading lady Angel’s, whose “real life” presented some confusion insofar as her age and personality. She  is supposed to be in the role of a young engenue, playing a younger girl, but the various descriptions given of her background seemed to add up to someone closer to 30. It seemed like too much had happened to her for her still to be playing a Catholic schoolgirl.That jarred me out of the story a bit. She also was fluxtuating a little too fast between being a sweet girl under pressure and being a royal Hollywood party girl diva. Her secret past required just a little too much abandoning of reality–particularly in this day and age where it’s hard to keep ones past buried.  

An enjoyable cozy mystery and, from the ending, one where I would be interested in going back and finding out some of the previous events leading up to it. Just as soon as I wade through my reading basket.