ARC, Historical Fiction, Romance

A Dangerous Legacy – Elizabeth Camden

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I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Going into this book I was not sure what to expect. This is the first Elizabeth Camden novel that I have had the pleasure of reading and it will not be my last. The authors ability to infuse a story surrounding intrigue, danger, and New York, with an accurate and exciting historical narrative caught me from the very beginning.

Camden is excellent in her dialogue, characterization, and her story telling is unparalleled when it comes to discussing the nuances of life in the early twentieth century. A strong, resourceful heroine, Lucy, who does not mind working and fights for the rights of the poor, an excellent brother/sister connection which only pulls me farther into the story, and an interesting look at a time where modern technology was only just being introduced, and the problems that come from that. Sometimes historical fiction can be burdensome with small details and references that I am not educated about, but A Dangerous Legacy gave just enough information about telegraphers and the inner working of twentieth century plumbing to keep me interested. Not to mention the inevitable romance, that does not feel forced, or rushed in any way between Lucy Drake and Sir Colin Beckwith.

Lucy and her brother Nick Drake, as part of the ‘family business’ after their father passes away, are drawn into a forty year old legal battle, at the hands of their rich uncle, Thomas Drake; the case, fought by two warring brothers, tells the tale of an invention of a water valve that can provide running water inside houses. The Drake siblings, not nearly as well off as their uncle who lives as Lord in a manor in a nearby town, scrape by in their small Greenwich Village apartment. The legal battle does not just test them physically, but the Drake siblings fight to honor their fathers memory and his vision. Since Nick is a plumber by occupation, he aims to use this valve to bring running water to the tenements at a fraction of the city cost.

In tandem with this overarching plot, we see Lucy’s experience with Reuters Agency, her job as a telegraph operator, and her ongoing relationship with Colin Beckwith. Here Camden shines as well with her ability to write historical fiction; she interestingly explains the history of Morse Code, Lucy’s job as a telegraph operator, and even discusses homing pigeons. The world Camden spins around Lucy and Colin is so exciting and important to the overall story. Lucy’s job, and her relationship with Colin, gives her the experience needed to help the Drake siblings fight the battle and help restore their fathers vision. With a few twist and turns thrown in there for good measure!

Camden excels at being nuanced and complex. Her character and world building, interspersed with accurate historical fiction and subtle religious themes help make this book a 4.5 stars for me. Add in the mystery and suspense, as well as a lovely romance plot and this book has everything going for it. While not what I usually read, I was surprised to find that I loved it so much. Will once again be picking up any Elizabeth Camden books in the future.

 

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ARC, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

The Goblins of Bellwater – Molly Ringle

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Before I get into my review of this book I want to thank NetGalley and Central Avenue Publishing for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, despite the absolute GORGEOUSNESS of this cover (seriously… it is AMAZING), I really did not enjoy this book. The book begins by quickly introducing us to the four main characters of the book… Kit, Grady, Livy, and Skye, and provides a meaningful explanation as to their importance within the story, as well as setting up the plot. From there, the book fails to add anything meaningful to that plot, until about 60% into the book.

Kit is your typical, rugged, bad boy character (I honestly pictured Chris Pine) who unfortunately, due to a generational agreement made from one of his ancestors, is entered into a pact with the ‘Goblins of Bellwater’; in the hopes of saving the town from the conniving goblins, he is to provide them with large sums of gold each month – as well as to fulfill the requirements of the pact. In return the goblins do not bother the citizens of the town. Kit’s cousin, Grady, who does not know about this pact, is visiting Bellwater in order to look for a job in the cooking industry. Little does he know, his entire life is about to change. A chance meeting in the forest with Skye, a young barista/artist, sets them both on the path to potential destruction. Livy, Skye’s older environmentalist sister, is tasked with helping Skye after she comes home from the woods one day forlorn and depressed, unable to talk much or show emotion.

The premise of this book is simply amazing, and incredibly unique. A fantastical world where goblins wreak havoc on a small town if their liaison, Kit, does not fulfill the pact requirements. One night he comes up short, and four lives are about to be changed forever.

However, I found four main issues with the book that almost had me DNF’ing the book at 35%, 50% and even up til 75%.

  1. The dialogue in this book is awkward at best, and absolutely cringe worthy in other spots. It portrays each character as being perfect, one-dimensional, and overly stilted and robotic. These conversations are never ones that would be had in real life. Not to mention the character’s need to over-explain quite a few things that were happening throughout the book.
  2. Characters in the book tended to be omnipresent; as in they were able to discern what was happening during another characters POV, but should not have been able to do so. And it was repetitive. Happening multiple times throughout the novel as a way to quickly progress the story. This is your standard “show” not “tell” issue. The characters tended to tell you (inferring out of nowhere – ‘deus ex machina’) rather than come to the conclusion naturally.
  3. Being able to read way too much in people’s faces. Although we can tell subtlety in people’s facial expressions, ‘She seemed mournful almost, as if there might be many things she regretted, but not this specifically,’ this seems a bit over the top, using elaborate facial descriptions in order to feed the plot line.
  4. A lack of communication. Honestly the first 50% of the book was not necessary. In the beginning, Kit questions whether or not Skye has been affected by the goblins in some way. He literally owns a letter from his ancestor explaining the symptoms of a goblin curse, but then thinks himself crazy for even thinking of mentioning it to Skye. Who is Experiencing. The. Same. Symptoms. If she wasn’t cursed, all he’d have to do was laugh it off as a joke. He questions whether she’s been affected at ~20% into the book, but doesn’t realize that he’s been right the entire time until ~50% of the book.

In conclusion, while I think the premise is super interesting and fun, I would have loved to see less of a focus on romance at the beginning, and a stronger fleshing out of the curse, the trials the four characters must go through to break the curse, and the aftermath of dealing with a relationship primarily formed through being forced together. I unfortunately have to give this book 1 star. However, the plot and atmospheric writing, will have me picking up another Molly Ringle book, when she releases something new.

Middle Grade, Zombies

Zombie Elementary – Howard Whitehouse

Howard Whitemore - Zombie Elementary
Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd.

“NNGAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!”

I must preface this by saying that I am not the target audience of this book. By far. Despite this, I loved this quick, entertaining read and I thank Tundra Books for approving my request for an e-book ARC. 

The reader is introduced to Larry Mullet, a fourth grader… and a zombie hunter. When weird things start to happen at Brooks Elementary, Larry and his friends must come to the rescue of the town, because the adults are seemingly oblivious to the entire debacle. The story is told from Larry’s POV, interspersed with random interview snippits between Larry and Kyle and hilarious “Zombie Tips”.

The characters were all very realistic and immediately brought me back to my elementary school days. I could immediately remember a person from my past who fit the description of nearly every person in this book with startling clarity. The nostalgic feeling, and the instances of humour that made me laugh out loud really made this a fun read. Then we add in zombies, hilarious zombie tropes, references to almost every amazing zombie movie… and Chuck. Love. Him. I feel like these references were added into the book by the author in case an adult or older child/teen had picked up this book out of curiosity. The younger demographic would come to know these movies and tropes later on in life but I found them to be a great addition and make this a book that almost anyone could read and find hilarious.

My only “issue” with the book was resolved as I read. I initially was put off by the idea that every adult in the town would be so oblivious to the zombie issue, however, I suspended my disbelief and replaced it with an understanding of what Howard Whitehouse was trying to do. The very hush hush kids are the only ones with imaginations who could see beyond rationalizations became a very prominent trope as I continued to read… and it made total sense by the end. You could almost believe that the kids were making everything up. Which I loved.

In the end, I gave this book 4/5. It is a book that I would highly recommend, and not just to the kids in my life. Anyone with an interest in zombies, humour, or even baseball, would get a kick out of this book.

Zombie Elementary is available to purchase online or in store September 9th, 2014.