Thursday, December 31, 2015

Would you travel with no baggage?

I have previously mentioned that every now and again I need a genre cleanse. I started reading way too many fantasy novels, and my head looses itself in the clouds. The whole world gets an aura of the unreal. So, I need a good grounding novel. I was searching through the ARC stack that had just come in to work. The title was intriguing; the cover was eye-catching; and the description seemed like a definite fit for my grounding experience. That is how I picked up No Baggage and definitely brought my head back to the Earth.

I hope everyone has a safe New Year's Eve and the best of wishes for 2016.

No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Benson

This year has been a year; let me tell you. I have had some very strong highs and some incredibly low lows. I have had an existential crisis. What is the entire meaning of my life? Am I really doing what I want with it? The questions that we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives. Hopefully most of you have answered those questions with less destruction than I have. I think that is a large reason why this book resonated on a high level with me.

Clara Benson comes to many of the same conclusions in life that I have. Except she had the bravery to take her leap of faith in life from a much higher diving platform. I went small. She went huge by walking onto an airplane with a man she had known for less than a month--with nothing but a purse. Inspiring.

I can see where some reviews will argue against this book. It has the kind of material that are going to make people love it or hate it. This is NOT a travel story. This is a mental health story where traveling with no baggage and falling in love play major roles in the author's development. There is no preaching, but we are also experiencing a very personal story with open observations about why something was something to Clara. All items that could impact a reader negatively if they go into this book with the wrong mindset. Read this book from the beginning from the right starting point. You will connect with it.

I give it 4 stars because it is incredibly well written, moves along quickly, is witty, and makes my heart constrict by the end. It also resonated with me and my year personally. I have read a lot this year (my husband would even say too much. And I am possibly inclined to believe him). Many of those books have now fallen into a vague, hazy book graveyard of story plots I don't quite remember. When recommending books, I notice a certain set cropping up every time, no matter the reader. This is one of the ones I remember--vividly.

This is one of the books that will be on my mind for awhile and has me itching to go on my own no baggage trip. So here is to 2015. I say good riddance and don't follow up. Hello, 2016. You look so beautiful. I am going to be grateful for you and appreciate you daily.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Post Christmas catch up

I apologize for falling behind. The holiday season is a very non-internet focused time for me. I truly hope every enjoyed their time however they choose to spend it. There is just something magical about the end of the year. For me, it is time to reflect and release all the tensions that I have unwittingly let build up. I eat way too much unhealthy food and waste time playing with toys (and am grateful for every minute that I get to do those things). I do miss the snow, though. When I was a kid, this was the time when the first snows were coming, and they added to the magic of Christmas. Now winter doesn't seem to come around until January. Sigh.

Two things for today

1. Congratulations to the contest winner Joyce M for getting an excellent book to kick off the New Year.

2. A book review

Devices Brightly Shining by Shelley Adina

Devices Brightly ShiningI bought this when it first released but saved it to read on Christmas day. I am really getting on board with the little holiday novella concept. And as I really love this series, it was just a brilliant surprise. This little story is also a great set up for the next set of novels featuring Gloria Merriweather-Astor. 

We are presented here with just a few nights that revolve around a ball celebrating The Lady and Andrew's wedding. But absolutely no characters are left out for the festivities. Alice and Ian are basking in their admitted feelings. The Mopsies are finally young women finding love themselves. So much magic is in the air. Perfect of Christmas and getting the spirits right. A supremely great novella.

Get ready for Book 10 in January!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Final Dragonsworn now out!

I am pleased to announce that this review also comes with a FREE BOOK! That is right. I have a giveaway for an autographed, first edition of Soul of Smoke to get you started with the series if you have been holding off to see my final review on the value of the entire trilogy. Take this chance to get your copy and get started down a path you won't regret.

Truth of Embers by Caitlyn McFarland

We have come to the conclusion of the Dragonsworn trilogy. And let me just say, it has been a journey. I felt the potential in the first novel, but that doesn't always pan out the way a reader hopes. I am very pleased that I decided to stick with this series. Every novel was better than the one before. The emotions were heartfelt, the tensions were greater, and the stakes for humankind were higher. We still get some excellent thrills from the dragon battles and tension from Juli the spy. 

The war between Rhys and Owen hits a new level of strategy and intrigue (and can I just say grossness). I really was amazed at how much this novel grew in plot and storytelling. Everything moves along without letting anything become overdone or too drawn out.

The love stories for all the characters are possibly going to disappoint some readers. You won't be needing a fan to cool yourself down. These are not mushy, over the top romances. They are real, gritty relationships. All of the characters came together in a realistic way. There is the heartsworn couple, the love triangle, the dismissed lover, the forbidden lovers, and the unheartsworn couple. Ms. McFarland provides us with all the types of love. What makes any of them more valuable? Are they all the same kind of love? You really get to think on relationships with this book (and that is my type of romance).

The final novel also deals with the different kinds of leadership. The struggles between wanting power and wanting to do something for the people around us. I really just ended up being impressed with how much a dragon romance could make me think about my own life. While I wanted to punch Kai in the first novel, the story does not leave much room for her continued whining. Life keeps throwing some very harsh lessons her way. She is no longer a 20 year old pampered college student; she is queen of the dragons. 

4 stars for the growth factor, and I greatly look forward to more from Caitlyn McFarland. Now hurry up and enter that giveaway above!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Murder mystery to make Sherlock Holmes jealous

So why did I pick this novel? The description actually gave me some hope for a good mystery, but mostly it was the name. It has been sitting on my Kindle shelf for a little while being neglected in favor of my more favorite authors. And that just really isn't fair of me. I have found some truly good new authors on Netgalley. Very few picks have led me astray. Most all of them have been in a mystery/thriller capacity. I seem to be very hard to please in that matter. But this one got an award. It has to be better, right? Found out below.

The Labyrinth of the Scriptorium by Hitoshi Goto

Can I just take a moment to say--cool title!! I have spent many hours pondering why mystery/thriller genre titles do not amuse me (I know, I know, what sane person wastes hours pondering such things?--a bookworm). Modern mystery writers are too glitzy. That is what I came up with in the end. The stories now are so focused on some action or racy, edgy detail to set their mystery apart from every other best seller. The world is getting faster, and our attention spans are getting shorter. No one seems to care if you know who-dun'it by the third chapter as long as it was a fun ride.

Now there is every possibility that some of this novel got lost in the translation, but I have a gut feeling that it is all very accurate. From the style of writing, it just seems to a have an easy ability to cross the language barrier. Goto is taking his narrative point from the great Sherlock Holmes detective writing. A mystery of layers and complexity. Open clues and hints amidst such detailed scene building. I got to the end of the story so perplexed I wasn't even sure which mystery I was trying to solve.

The whole story is a Russian nesting doll of mysteries. I have to admit I completely lost track of the details in such a good way. Some readers may find this to be too much. This is not light, entertaining filler. This is an honest-to-goodness brain tickler. You really have to think about what you are reading. You can even tell when something being presented in the narrative is clearly an important detail, yet you have no one idea who the murderer is at the end. 

Then he up and went with ending it solving a small fraction of one of the inner mysteries instead of the big reveal. That we will get in his second novel. Which frustratingly mixed news: it has been written but I have been unable to find any indication on a translation. Egad! It will be hard to recommend this to anyone like myself that gets hooked on having to know. If you can be satisfied with the resolution of a mini mystery and would enjoy a good stretch of the brain muscle, by all means, pick this up. It will be worth it.