Book Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

Book Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban AddisonThe Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-03-26
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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four-stars
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Lusaka, Zambia: Zoe Fleming is a young, idealistic American lawyer working with an NGO devoted to combatting the epidemic of child sexual assault in southern Africa. Zoe’s organization is called in to help when an adolescent girl is brutally assaulted. The girl’s identity is a mystery. Where did she come from? Was the attack a random street crime or a premeditated act?

A betrayal in her past gives the girl’s plight a special resonance for Zoe, and she is determined to find the perpetrator. She slowly forms a working relationship, and then a surprising friendship, with Joseph Kabuta, a Zambian police officer. Their search takes them from Lusaka’s roughest neighbourhoods to the wild waters of Victoria Falls, from the AIDS-stricken streets of Johannesburg to the matchless splendour of Cape Town.

As the investigation builds to a climax, threatening to send shockwaves through Zambian society, Zoe is forced to radically reshape her assumptions about love, loyalty, family and, especially, the meaning of justice.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Last Spring I was in a class that focused heavily on the issues surrounding the continent of Africa.  There were a lot of misconceptions, there was a lot of ignorance (myself included) and there was quite a bit of curiosity.  We watched movies, read short stories by South African authors, and were each assigned one country to thoroughly research – both the history as well as current events.  I was given the country of Nigeria – an assignment that has awakened a love for Nigerian literature (I just wish it wasn’t so hard to come by).  The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison is a story involving Zambia, a country is in the southern part of Africa.   Much like many of the other countries on the continent, Zambia struggles with corrupted politicians, massive amounts of crimes, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic – although the improvements in the last area are intense.

What Corban Addison does in The Garden of Burning Sand is shed light on the corrupt system and some of the issues that are very prevalent today.  Namely, the rape and abuse of young Zambian girls.  One of the focuses is on the myth that a young man with HIV can “transfer” the disease to a virgin girl – and who better to be a virgin than a child, in their minds.  Corban approaches the story from the point of view of Zoe, a young, American woman with a love gifted to her from her mother, for the people of Africa, and whose father is currently on the campaign trail to become the President of the United States.  There’s politics surrounding all of Zoe’s life, but her focus is on those who cannot defend themselves.

The Garden of Burning Sand is part legal thriller/part social justice commentary.  It’s interesting, quite unputdownable as far as stories go, and definitely does not pull punches. What I struggled with, a bit, was how neatly the story wrapped up – but that may be just personal taste, since many of the books and stories I’ve read out of other African countries do not end so neatly.

I would say if you are looking to learn more about Zambia or enjoy legal stories and want to branch away from more well-known places, then pick this one up.  I’m looking forward to reading Addison’s previous novel as well.

Check out these reviews!

  • The story was good with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and twists that did mean the ending was not a foregone conclusion. –  Books for my Briefcase
  • ‘”All the same, this is a fast paced legal crime book that cares.” –  Telling Stories
  • ” Corban Addison has woven a masterful tale, and it is hard to believe this is only his second novel.” - Christian Fiction Addiction

After the Book Deal – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

After The Book Deal Banner

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

 

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!

 

***

Day Four: A Night at the Movies

 

Yesterday, we talked about using social networks to spread the word about your book, today we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of book trailers.

 

Book trailers are a strange animal. Many casual readers don’t even know they exist, but within the book industry they can be extremely effective at building buzz. Case in point: super-librarian Mr. Schu has built a huge online following from sharing and spreading book trailers … if it’s good enough for Schu, it’s good enough for me!

 

Who’s Going to Make It? – before you embark on a book trailer, you’ll probably need to figure out who will be contributing the money and time to make it happen. Some possibilities …

 

Publisher: If your publisher is paying for a book trailer—congratulations! That’s a rare thing, and you should enjoy the support. For the vast majority of authors, however, book trailers are considered the domain of the author. (Whether this is fair is an entirely different question… which I’ll talk about in week four.)

 

Homebrew: If you like a challenge, you can always make your own trailer. Sometimes this takes the form of a talking-head video (easier) or a full-blown mini-move (hard). In the case of Peter Nimble, I decided to learn Adobe Flash and animate my own trailer which you can watch here. If you’re interested in this route, you might want to check out my blog post Five Things I Learned from Making my own Book Trailer, which goes into detail of the technical side of flash animation.

 

Going Pro: I get weekly emails from companies that produce book trailers for authors. The fees range anywhere from $500-$5000. I’ve seen demos from many of these companies, and have never been impressed with the product. While book trailers have some value, they do not justify this sort of expense.

 

Cheap Labor: Author EE Charlton-Trujillo recommends that authors get help from film school students—many of whom need a final project to graduate. Here’s an example of her most recent trailer for Fat Angie. While a good technique, I think it requires some serious know-how on the part of the author (lucky for EE, she’s a filmmaker herself).

Other Thoughts – Once you’ve figured out who will make the trailer, you now need to figure out what you want in your trailer. Some considerations …

 

Audience: Book trailers are perhaps even more valuable for younger readers. Not only are they internet natives, but some of them are reluctant readers—the excitement of a book trailer might be needed to help them get over reading anxiety. Take a look at your specific market and see if the books that succeed have trailers.

 

Length: Having watched a lot of book trailers, I would strongly recommend that your trailer fall under one minute. Usually after the first minute, trailers start accidentally giving reasons why not to read a book.

 

Timing: The ideal time to release a book trailer would probably be 2-3 weeks before launch. And don’t just uploat it to YouTube and wait for the crickets. Instead reach out to a blogger you respect and ask them if they will do an “exclusive” release of the trailer … turn its release into an EVENT!

 

Art: If you have an illustrated book, a trailer is much easier to make. Just use iMovie to throw together a little music, text, and floating images and you’re good to go. In this case, I would definitely say it’s worth your time.  (The master of this technique is the brilliant Dan Santat.)

 

Interest: This may seem obvious, but don’t waste time and energy on a book trailer unless you will ACTUALLY ENJOY doing it. If the thought of making a video makes you suicidal, then skip it. Many books succeed despite having no trailer.

 

Final Thoughts - Making my own book trailer for Peter Nimble was a huge pain, but I was glad I did it. It has 14,000 views, which is a lot of impact for the time and cost. Moreover, I have found the book trailer to be an invaluable tool for school visits (more on that in Week four).

 

So what about my Night Gardener book trailer? You’ll have to wait and see!

NightGardener Cover

 

 

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEALTomorrow at Smack Dab in the Middle, where I’ll be talking about Giveaways! Please-oh-please spread the word!

***

Jonthan Auxier Headshot - web square (1)JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May. You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS WORKS

PeterNimble Cover (1)

Book Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth GilbertThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated on 2013
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 512
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin Group USA
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five-stars
Buy the Book at AmazonBuy the Book at Indiebound
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction — into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist — but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

I received this book for free from Penguin Group USA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Ok. Stop right now and grab some paper, because I’m about to tell you what your next book club choice should be.  Wait, you may say.  Didn’t you really dislike Gilbert’s memoir, the well-loved Eat, Pray, Love?  Why yes, I did not connect well with that book at all and I almost didn’t pick up The Signature of All Things as a result but oh boy, am I glad I did.  This is proof positive, folks, that you don’t have to like the person of the author as portrayed in her memoirs, but you can absolutely love her fiction.

Because I did love it.  I adored every single page of The Signature of All Things – even the ones that made me uncomfortable (binding closet, I’m looking at you).  This is not a book for the faint of heart because Gilbert attacks everything – every want, desire, love, sorrow, and challenge of being a single woman in a time where being a single woman was 100x harder than it is today.  Alma Whittaker is a character who, in spite of all of our differences, I could relate to on the deepest level.  I felt her longing and pain, but understood her desire for unlimited time – to live life at a crawl in order to learn everything possible about her passion.

I also discovered that although I have zero interest in botany, it’s something that could catch my interest.  I saw on the sofa, midway through the book, discussing orchids and vanilla beans from Tahiti, and she looked at me like I was crazy and asked me how in the world I knew so much on the subject, and I have Gilbert’s extensive research to thank for that.

Over and over throughout the book I paused to look up information – to see what was real and what wasn’t and so much was based on actual history.  It was beyond fascinating and I’ve been unable to stop talking about this book to those around me since I put it down.  So when I say that The Signature of All Things needs to be next on your book club’s list, I mean it.  There will be no shortage of conversation (and I’m sure no shortage of people who are offended by some of the contents) but all of that makes for some really fascinating discussion and something I really wish I could have had when I finished the book.

Check out these reviews!

  • Usually, long books are difficult with my short attention span, but this novel kept me absolutely riveted for every second I spent with it.” –  S. Krishna’s Books
  • ‘”I recommend you forgive Gilbert the conceit of Eat, Pray, Love and pick this up.” –  Book’d Out
  • This book is bravely done, written with great pose and confidence. ” - Reading for Sanity

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Were Portrayed Well on the Screen

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

I really struggled with the fill in the blank for “Top Ten Characters Who X” – this weeks theme.  There are so many different things I could have inserted – Top Ten Characters Who Lived in Places I Want to Live, Top Ten Characters who made me want to be a boy, you know.. those are just two I came up with right away.  But after some thought, I really think that my chosen theme is one that will speak to all ages of books.

1. Megan Follows as Anne

Really, Megan Follows is iconic in her role as Anne with an E.  When I heard rumors recently about a re-do of the show it immediately had me up in arms.  The made for TV movie is a classic and although I first met Anne in a book, there was no better face that could have been paired with her.

2. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Really, do I need to say anything here about this one?  There’s no better actor to portray Mr. Darcy then the perfectly handsome, incredibly sexy Mr. Firth.

3.  Eddie Redmayne as Angel Clare

Have you seen this BBC series?  Seriously, it made me weep for days.  Tess of the d’Ubervilles is not one of my more favorite stories, but it’s such a tragic one and the beauty of this series is undeniable.  And Eddie Redmayne – oh how I love your freckled face (and I adored him in Les Mis too, folks).

4. Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale

I did enjoy North and South as a book, but it wasn’t until I saw Daniela Denby-Ashe’s stunning performance opposite Richard Armitage that the story really came to life for me.  She is stunning in this mini-series and I immediately fell in love with her portrayal of the strong Miss Hale.   This scene also.. man, the tears.

5. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Lawrence was an unknown to me.  I’ve since come to admire her as a person, but the first place she won me over was as Katniss.  This was another example of the face and mannerisms perfectly fitting what I had imagined while reading the book.

6. Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel

I’m going to say right now that The Life of Pi, as a book, really didn’t captivate me.  I enjoyed it, but the movie… the movie just blew me away.  It is, by far, one of the most visually stunning things I’ve ever seen.  And the other thing that blew me away was Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel.  You know it’s something special when the most gorgeous movie ever does not drown out the fantastic intensity of the actor who is surrounded by it.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby

The movie was a bit too artsy for me, but there’s no denying that when casting a modern actor as Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is the absolute perfect choice.

8. Mia Wosikowska as Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is such a hard role to cast.  It’s drummed into the reader of the book just how plain she is, so how can that translate to the big screen?  I think the casting of Woskowska was beyond brilliant – she has such a unique look to her and really played the part so well.

9. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

How could I not include a character from my absolute favorite show right now?  Peter Dinklage was the perfect choice for Tyrion – except he is a bit too handsome I think for the role, but man.. the man is brilliant and really makes the show.

10.  Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn

Really, nearly everyone in The Lord of the Rings trilogy was cast well, but Strider/Aragorn really took on life as portrayed by Mortensen.  Plus, he is so freaking handsome.

Who are some of your favorite characters to be portrayed on the silver screen?

Book Review: Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Book Review: Phoenix Island by John DixonPhoenix Island by John Dixon
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2014-01-07
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Simon and Schuster
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three-stars
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The judge told Carl that one day he'd have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be made for him.

A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a terminal facility, it's the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States and immune to its laws, the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname "Hollywood" as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the sweatbox. But that's nothing compared to what awaits him in the Chop Shop: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he's not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it's just the beginning. .

I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Before I start this review, I want to note that I had absolutely no idea that this book was being made into the TV series, Intelligence.  I have never seen that show, and I think that I would not be inclined to based on my reaction to Phoenix Island by John Dixon.  In short, the violence in this book was really over-the-top and had me scratching my head a few times as I tried to figure out how the world created in Dixon’s future could resist at that level.  That said, it did not fail to deliver in terms of suspense, action, and intrigue.

Phoenix Island is a toss-up of Hunger Games meets Frankenstein meets The Detainee by Peter Liney.  As a last resort, delinquents are shipped off to the island where they, essentially, drop off the map from their home countries.  It’s on the island that they learn that their future is a grim one and that their lives may, in fact, be forfeit.  Honest, I was really with the book as all of this is being explained.  I enjoyed the boxing lessons as they pertained to the protagonist, Carl Freeman, and I really was digging the sort of end of the world vibe the story gave off.  But then, something happened.

This is where the book really dove downhill for me.  While I’m not a fan of violence, and there was plenty, I can understand it in this sort of book.  I’m also not a fan of killing off characters because you can, but again… some of it made sense here.  What I hated was the complete giveaway that happened halfway through the book.  Seriously, having the main character find a book that details out exactly what is going on, instead of letting your readers discover it on their own, is bad form.  I got this horrible taste in my mouth and only finished because I wanted to see how Carl managed to finish off the story.

So while there is tons of action and blood and gore and fighting going on in Phoenix Island, the mystery is not so much.  And, since the main reason I was reading was to try to figure out what was going on… well, as you can imagine, my rating won’t be really high as I am a reader who very much dislikes having her hand held and everything explained outright to her.  I think had the intrigue been left alone in the story, the outcome would have been a bit different for me.  It’s a shame, really.

Check out these reviews!

  • “All in all it was a great read despite all the hardships and cruelness. The ending was amazing and it held such a good cliffhanger… I need more of this pronto!” –  Blog of Erised
  • ‘”I reckon people who enjoyed Lord of the Flies will also enjoy this one.” –  The Social Potato Reviews
  • ” Phoenix Island is extremely well-written and fast-packed making this an extremely enjoyable read. ” – Scott Reads It

Book Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Book Review: Perfect by Rachel JoycePerfect by Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House on 2013-07-04
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Random House
Add to Goodreads
four-stars
Buy the Book at AmazonBuy the Book at Indiebound
Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin 'Operation Perfect', a hapless mission to rescue Byron's mother from impending crisis.

Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights. Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything. And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

I received this book for free from Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Rachel Joyce has been on my radar for a while now.  I remember the first time I saw the cover of her first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – I was completely smitten with it.  In fact, I fell in love with it so much that I have yet to pick up the book for fear that it won’t live up to the cover.  But then, I picked up Perfect, excited to see it offered by NetGalley, and I was immediately sucked into the story.  The premise: two boys in 1972 and a problem with time, appealed to me and I couldn’t wait to find out what exactly the big mystery was.story of the story as well as the modern day problems of Jim.  I sympathized with the boys and wondered just when the mystery surrounding James would be completely revealed.  I was, frankly, obsessed.  I stayed up late to find out just what would happen and I will say that it was totally worth the reveal.

I have to say that I thoroughly admire Joyce’s way of weaving a web of a story.  I was captured completely by both the history of the story as well as the modern day problems of Jim.  I sympathized with the boys and wondered just when the mystery surrounding James would be completely revealed.  I was, frankly, obsessed.  I stayed up late to find out just what would happen and I will say that it was totally worth the reveal.

What I found most interesting, however, was Joyce’s treatment of differences.  I loved how sensitive she was when dealing with a modern-day Jim, and how patient she was in telling the back-story of Byron and James.  I will admit to being a bit frustrated, at times, at the leisurely path the story took to get to the ending, but I wasn’t disappointed.  I do want to say, however, that if you are looking for an ending that will make you gasp out loud and exclaim about how crazy good this book is, you may not find it here.  Instead, what I experienced was a deep sense of satisfaction when I closed the book.

I have to say that if a book moved a bit slowly at times is the only criticism I can make, then I have to say that Perfect by Rachel Joyce is just nearly … well, perfect.  I would recommend this story to any that feel as if they need to explore the quieter, but just as desperate, side of life.

Check out these reviews!

  • “This book is a well-crafted, strange little tale of what time means and how it can affect the most mundane parts of life.” –  The Blog of LitWits
  • ‘”Perfect is quirky, well written and, I suspect, just as great a book club selection as Harold Fry.” –  So Misguided
  • “With its lasting discussions of guilt and innocence, Perfect is the type of story that compels and haunts.” – That’s What She Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren’t Books) That I’d Like To Own

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you have a love of reading, you have a love of anything that reflects or enables that love.  A true bibliophile does not have just books on her most-wished-for list, she also has things on that list that will promote the good health and well-being of those books.  With that said, here are my top ten bookish things that I’d like to own.

1. A Litograph Poster

Really, I would love one of these.  There are so many that I am in love with that I could, literally, cover the walls to my reading room (someday) with them, but then where would the bookshelves go?

2. A Reading Room

Speaking of reading rooms… what bibliophile does not long for a space of their own to just fill with books?  Someday… someday….

3.  Jane Austen Temporary Tattoos

It’s no secret that I’m a wimp when it comes to physical pain – that’s why I think these Jane Austen temporary tattoos are just the thing.  Also, that way when I flip-flop from loving Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood more… then I can merely wash off and re-apply! (I know they are only $8 but still, it’s hard to justify spending $8 on something so silly but oh…I want it so)

4. Personal Library Kit

I would actually need several dozen of these, but oh how I’d love a more efficient way to keep track of the books I loan out.

5. Personal Library Embosser

Since the library kit may be a bit impractical for me, I thought I’d also include this lovely gadget.  Personalized with a seal of your own design, this would be a beautiful thing to own.

6. The Perfect Floor Lamp

Go away eye-strain.  I’m looking at floor lamps now for my room as I prepare to enter graduate school this fall and I’m drooling with desire over this one.  With the hefty price tag on it, however, I don’t see it happening.

7. These Toms

…but in size 10.  I cry that I missed my chance here.

8. Pride and Prejudice Flats

Speaking of cute shoes….

9. Bookish Coasters

These beautiful coasters top my list of things I will be getting soon.  Or something very like them.

10.  This bookish pillow

Every time I start to get lonely, I just think of the multitudes of characters I’ve spent the night with over the years … and all without having to worry about my health! =)  This pillow is perfect and I just adore it to pieces.

What are some of your favorite bookish items?

Book Review: Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin

Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin
Published by Poolbeg Press on 2012-01-01
Pages: 404
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Buy the Book at AmazonBuy the Book at Indiebound

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’ve noticed there are two distinct types of books about India that come across my reading desk.  The first is those books that showcase the lives of the privileged; the people who are without caste, who don’t struggle against poverty and the other injustices meted out by a flawed system.  The second are books that really dive deep into the lives of the underprivileged.  Those books tend to either produce an underdog who rises above or serve their purpose by educating the reader about a life that, quite frankly, 99.9% of those lucky enough to be reading the book, will probably never have to experience.  Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen is one of the books that fits the first category.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a good book.  I was thoroughly engrossed, I’ll readily admit to that.  But what I become completely enthralled with was a life that, on some level, I could relate to.  The forbidden romance, the struggles that, while terrifying in the form of Sophie’s mother, could be overcome and were overcome by the removal of Sophie from her life.  What I felt was lacking was more of the story of Sophie’s first love.  Instead, after making his brief and permanent mark on Sophie’s life, he disappears, leaving me with only Sophie to follow.

So I guess what I would have loved to see more of in Under the Jewelled Sky was a split narrative. While Sophie moved on with her life outside of India, I wanted to know what Jag was doing, what his life was like, how he managed to survive after the blow dealt to his family with the discovery of the forbidden romance.  Unfortunately, aside from a mere glimpse of Jag, the story focuses more on Sophie.

Now, don’t let that influence you, because I will say that Sophie’s life is pretty fantastic to follow.  She’s a strong woman who feels the pull to return to India and does what is necessary in order to life a “normal” life while still capturing that dream.  Still, compared to what Jag’s life must have been life, I felt like I was being robbed a bit.  It’s due to that feeling only that this book does not get a full five stars from me.

I enjoyed McQueen’s writing and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next.  I just hope, in her next novel, that she explores more the two sides that make up forbidden love and gives us more of a rounded picture.

Check out these reviews!

  • “The story, McQueen’s characterisation and Sophie’s intricate past and the way she finds closure is breathtakingly beautiful – I can’t recommend this highly enough.” –  Books, Biscuits, and Tea
  • ‘”Alison McQueen captures India in great detail but doesn’t gloss over the racism and violence that occurred during partition transition.” –  From Left to Write
  • ” I experienced a roller coaster of emotions – grief, compassion, heartache, sympathy, and internal turmoil – while reading this book.” – Library of Clean Reads

Book Review: Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen

Book Review: Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueenUnder the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen
Published by Orion Books Limited on 2013
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Royalty, War & Military
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Orion Books Limited
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four-stars
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London 1957. In a bid to erase her past and build the family she yearns for, Sophie Schofield accepts a wedding proposal from ambitious British diplomat, Lucien Grainger. When he is posted to New Delhi, into the glittering circle of ex-pat high society, old wounds begin to break open as she is confronted with the memory of her first, forbidden love and its devastating consequences.

The suffocating conformity of diplomatic life soon closes in on her. This is not the India she fell in love with ten years before when her father was a maharaja’s physician, the India of tigers and scorpions and palaces afloat on shimmering lakes; the India that ripped out her heart as Partition tore the country in two, separating her from her one true love. The past haunts her still, the guilt of her actions, the destruction it wreaked upon her fragile parents, and the boy with the tourmaline eyes.

Sophie had never meant to come back, yet the moment she stepped onto India’s burning soil as a newlywed wife, she realised her return was inevitable. And so begins the unravelling of an ill-fated marriage, setting in motion a devastating chain of events that will bring her face to face with a past she tried so desperately to forget, and a future she must fight for.

A story of love, loss of innocence, and the aftermath of a terrible decision no one knew how to avoid.

I received this book for free from Orion Books Limited in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’ve noticed there are two distinct types of books about India that come across my reading desk.  The first is those books that showcase the lives of the privileged; the people who are without caste, who don’t struggle against poverty and the other injustices meted out by a flawed system.  The second are books that really dive deep into the lives of the underprivileged.  Those books tend to either produce an underdog who rises above or serve their purpose by educating the reader about a life that, quite frankly, 99.9% of those lucky enough to be reading the book, will probably never have to experience.  Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen is one of the books that fits the first category.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a good book.  I was thoroughly engrossed, I’ll readily admit to that.  But what I become completely enthralled with was a life that, on some level, I could relate to.  The forbidden romance, the struggles that, while terrifying in the form of Sophie’s mother, could be overcome and were overcome by the removal of Sophie from her life.  What I felt was lacking was more of the story of Sophie’s first love.  Instead, after making his brief and permanent mark on Sophie’s life, he disappears, leaving me with only Sophie to follow.

So I guess what I would have loved to see more of in Under the Jewelled Sky was a split narrative. While Sophie moved on with her life outside of India, I wanted to know what Jag was doing, what his life was like, how he managed to survive after the blow dealt to his family with the discovery of the forbidden romance.  Unfortunately, aside from a mere glimpse of Jag, the story focuses more on Sophie.

Now, don’t let that influence you, because I will say that Sophie’s life is pretty fantastic to follow.  She’s a strong woman who feels the pull to return to India and does what is necessary in order to life a “normal” life while still capturing that dream.  Still, compared to what Jag’s life must have been life, I felt like I was being robbed a bit.  It’s due to that feeling only that this book does not get a full five stars from me.

I enjoyed McQueen’s writing and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next.  I just hope, in her next novel, that she explores more the two sides that make up forbidden love and gives us more of a rounded picture.

Check out these reviews!

  • “The story, McQueen’s characterisation and Sophie’s intricate past and the way she finds closure is breathtakingly beautiful – I can’t recommend this highly enough.” –  Books, Biscuits, and Tea
  • ‘”Alison McQueen captures India in great detail but doesn’t gloss over the racism and violence that occurred during partition transition.” –  From Left to Write
  • ” I experienced a roller coaster of emotions – grief, compassion, heartache, sympathy, and internal turmoil – while reading this book.” – Library of Clean Reads

Book Review: He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe

Book Review: He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex BledsoeHe Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe
Published by Macmillan on 2014-01-14
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Hard-Boiled, Mystery & Detective, Urban
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Macmillan
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four-stars
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For fans of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Glen Cook's Garrett PI novels, comes the newest installment in Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, He Drank and Saw the Spider.After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life.Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant.

He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.

They say a spider in your cup will poison you, but only if you see it. Eddie, helped by his smart, resourceful girlfriend Liz, must look through the dregs of the past to find the truth about the present—and risk what might happen if he, too, sees the spider.

I received this book for free from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

It’s settled.  I’m a fan, Alex Bledsoe.  I’m ready to dive in and explore all of the titles I’ve missed (especially the Eddie LaCrosse books – where have these been hiding?).  I haven’t been moved to laugh out loud at a book in a long time and just a page or so into He Drank, and Saw the Spider, I was snorting and looking around quickly after to make sure I hadn’t been heard.  Although this was #5 in the series, I never once felt like I was out of my depths.  Everything made perfect sense and I felt a connection to both Eddie and Liz that was strengthened as the story was told.

This book has it all.  It’s urban fantasy – medieval style.  Everything that is great about those times – sword fighting, kings and queens, intrigue … but cleaned up to include modern euphemisms and not quite so much smelliness, making the sexy times much, much sexier.  And the quest storyline was pretty damn strong too.  I do love a good quest storyline.

He Drank, and Saw the Spider takes you on a journey, that’s certain.  From the rescue of a baby that involves the slaying of a bear to the 16 years that pass by before that baby is grown and is in danger once more, this time as a young woman.  There’s romance, cheeky remarks, strange creatures that tug at the heartstrings, and… did I mention sexy-times?  Those were unlike anything I’ve read in urban fantasy as well – there’s a scene between Liz and Eddie that had me laughing out loud.  Have I mentioned I just thoroughly enjoyed this read?

If you are wanting series fantasy, then don’t go here.  This is a tongue-in-cheek, very clever book that combines some of the best elements of urban writing and yes, some of the worst, and manages to make quite the story out of them.  It’s fairly predictable, but it’s entertaining, and that’s what I was looking for.

Check out these reviews!

  • “With its usual good humor and quick pacing, this is a welcome addition to the series and if you were wondering, yes, you should be reading these.” –  Bookgasm
  • ‘”Still, while that reveal felt a bit contrived, the story as a whole was enough to keep me reading and left me wanting more Eddie LaCrosse.” – Roqoo Depot
  • “He Drank, And Saw The Spider is an amusing ride through the woods, but at the end, it is just an above average Urban Fantasy set in the Middle Ages.” – Acerbic Writing
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