Book Review: Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

Naamahs Blessing.jpgTitle: Naamah’s Blessing
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Series: Moirin Trilogy, Book 3; Kushiel’s Universe, Book 9
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover: 610 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Returning to Terre d’Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.

As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée’s oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest.

Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I can’t begin to express how much I adore these books. I started with Kushiel’s Dart in about 2007 and have read about one a year until I’ve now finally finished the overall series. These books are so immersive that I like taking my time through them and just enjoying the experience of reading about Phedre, or Imriel, or Moirin. It’s been a long journey with this series and I’m sad to see it end, but this series has been wonderful.

This book is the third of Moirin’s trilogy and the 9th of the Kushiel’s universe. Overall, Moirin’s series is a much different flavor from that of Phedre’s or Imriel’s, but this book is the closest to having the fully developed political scheming and intrigues as the first two trilogies. I greatly enjoyed the first two trilogies for including such in-depth political scheming and reading about how religion and relationships all played into how a country is run and how decisions are made.

It’s hard to go into depth without revealing spoilers, but this book is generally about tying up loose ends, since it is, after all, the last Terre d’Ange book. Basically, Moirin goes on a jungle adventure to save Jehanne’s daughter from being taken advantage of by people trying to raise their status in the realm, and to save the Courcel family in general. She has to finally face up to her past mistakes and make them right, which allows her to show how much she has grown and learned from her past adventures.

One thing that has always impressed me about these books, and continued to impress me in Naamah’s Blessing is just how difficult Carey makes it for her characters — they are not given easy choices to make and are put in just awful situations. The one that hurt me the most, at least, was when Moirin has to choose between remaining faithful to her husband or staying a night with a powerful man in order to move her expedition forward and basically save her country. With the previous books and with the Kushiel series in general, it’s obvious what choice she ends up making, but it’s a rough one and being married to someone I love wholeheartedly, I can’t imagine being in the same situation. (Luckily, we don’t live in a fantasy novel, so I doubt we’ll ever have to worry about that.)

I think that this was a fitting end to a wonderful series — loose ends are tied up and everyone seems to be fairly happy for the most part. I like that we’re able to return to Alba with Moirin so we can see her mother again. It really felt like everything came full circle, and while this wasn’t my favorite of the Kushiel trilogies, it was so, so nice to be back in Terre d’Ange one last time. If you like fully developed fantasies, you should try starting with Kushiel’s Dart. These books are long and the first 6 books of the series have a lot more to do with sex and romance, but they are intelligently written and have such wonderful characters to fall in love with.

Book Review: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

the woman who died a lotTitle: The Woman Who Died A Lot
Author: Jasper Fforde
Series: Thursday Next, Book 7
Publisher: Viking
Hardcover: 366 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer, Thursday Next, has been forced into a semiretirement following an assassination attempt, returning home to Swindon and her family to recuperate.

But Thursday’s children have problems that demand she become a mother of invention: Friday’s career struggles in the Chronoguard, where he is relegated to a might-have-been; Tuesday’s trouble perfecting the Anti-Smote shield, needed in time to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth; and the issue of Thursday’s third child, Jenny, who doesn’t exist except as a confusing and disturbing memory.

With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, and a call from the Bookworld to hunt down Pagerunners who have jumped into the Realworld, Thursday’s convalescence is going to be anything but restful as the week ahead promises to be one of the Next family’s oddest.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I am a proud Fforde fanatic, and I’ve sadly been a little lax in catching up with the Thursday Next series, but I’ve finally made it to this one! It’s really exciting when I get to read a book I’ve been meaning to read forever, so I was thrilled when I was able to request this from the library. I think it took me only a few days to get through it, because I was so happy to be back in this strange universe Fforde has created.

One of the things I’m most impressed about this series is how Fforde allows it to expand and grow. Seven books is a lot for one set of characters, but their stories don’t stagnate — it’s not seven books of a young Thursday Next fighting crime in the BookWorld; instead, she’s getting older now, and while she’s still focused on fighting crime, she has injuries and children and a husband, which means that each novel evolves to become a full-fledged story in its own right. I really love that and it’s sad how many series don’t allow their characters to develop and mature to another stage of life. Of course, with this particular universe, there’s a lot of flexibility for what Fforde can do, but I appreciate that he’s using it to its fullest extent.

I enjoyed the way this book developed all of the conflicts going on. I expected a lot of different things to happen, but I was always surprised by how things were resolved. As always, I appreciate Fforde’s humor; even when very serious, dramatic things are happening in the story, there is something to laugh about — a little embarrassing when you’re reading at work, but overall a good thing for the novel in general.

The new characters that are introduced in this book are amazing. I thought I was going to hate Phoebe Smalls for taking over what should have been Thursday’s position, but like Thursday, I grew to enjoy her enthusiasm and willingness to put herself in danger for the greater good. Without spoiling too many details, I also really appreciated reading about Tuesday’s attempts to be a normal high school student and the people she meets at high school.

This is a great addition to the Thursday Next series, and I’m so excited to continue the series when a new book comes out. If you’ve read the series, know that this one won’t be a disappointment. If you haven’t — it’s 7 books in, and I’m still loving it. If it sounds like your thing, give it a try. 🙂

Book Review: The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

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Title: The Song of the Quarkbeast
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2
Hardcover: 304 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Magic has been in a sad state in the Ununited Kingdom for years, but now it’s finally on the rise and boneheaded King Snodd IV knows it. If he succeeds at his plot, the very future of magic will be at risk! Sensible sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange, acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management and its hapless crew of sorcerers, has little chance against the king and his cronies—but there’s no way Kazam will let go of the noble powers of magic without a fight. A suspenseful, satirical story of Quarkbeasts, trolls, and wizidrical crackle!

 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at BookExpo America.*

I love Jasper Fforde’s style of writing, and even though I’ve only read YA and adult fiction from him up until now, this middle grade series did not disappoint. His humor, wordplay, and ability to create likeable characters and put them in ridiculously weird situations has made him one of my favorite authors.

The Song of the Quarkbeast is the second book of The Last Dragonslayer series. I haven’t read the first book, but I had no trouble following the action and the storyline. So, I don’t think it’s necessary to read this series in order, but I’m sure that reading the first book would make this one more enjoyable, since there are probably details and jokes carried over that I didn’t understand. The Song of the Quarkbeast follows Jennifer Strange, an indentured orphan who is acting manager of a magic company. She and her sorcerers have to go up against a rival magic company in a duel of wizarding skill in order to keep their rights to practice magic.

Like all of Fforde’s books, The Song of the Quarkbeast is just plain fun. It has adventure, mystery, suspense, action, and a bit of romance to top it all off. I love the strange-yet-vaguely-familiar world of the Ununited Kingdom, with its inept rulers and brutal laws. The characters are also fantastic. It’s told in first person perspective from Jennifer, who is mature and intelligent, which is unfortunately rare to see in a teenage character. And that’s great, because in addition to being great entertainment, this book teaches the importance of teamwork, and it shows how teenagers are capable of rising to a challenge and overcoming obstacles.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. If you’ve at all enjoyed Fforde’s previous works, you’ll love this. And if you are a fantasy fan and have yet to delve into Fforde’s wondrously weird worlds, you need to give him a try. I have read quite a few books by him and have yet to be disappointed.

Book Review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Title: Lost in a Good Book
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Penguin
Series: Thursday Next, Book 2
Paperback: 399 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The inventive, exuberant, and totally original literary fun that began with The Eyre Affair continues with Jasper Fforde’s magnificent second adventure starring the resourceful, fearless literary sleuth Thursday Next. When Landen, the love of her life, is eradicated by the corrupt multinational Goliath Corporation, Thursday must moonlight as a Prose Resource Operative of Jurisfiction, the police force inside books. She is apprenticed to the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens’s Great Expectations, who grudgingly shows Thursday the ropes. And she gains just enough skill to get herself in a real mess entering the pages of Poe’s “The Raven.” What she really wants is to get Landen back. But this latest mission is not without further complications. Along with jumping into the works of Kafka and Austen, and even Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, Thursday finds herself the target of a series of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Is it just me, or did this series take a bit of a dark turn? Not that I’m complaining. I love dark stories, I’m just surprised at the change. This isn’t to say that the first book of the series, The Eyre Affair, didn’t have some dark elements — Acheron Hades is one of the most terrifying villains ever. However, Lost in a Good Book makes the problems a lot more personal for Thursday. I like that a lot. The stakes are raised, and this series is rapidly becoming more complicated, terrifying, and way more addicting.

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Book Review: Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card

Title: Alvin Journeyman
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor
Paperback: 400 pages
Series: Tales of Alvin maker, Book 4
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Alvin Miller, a gifted seventh son of a seventh son, utilizes his skills as a Maker to help create a brighter future for America, but his task is further challenged by his ancient enemy, the Unmaker, who plots to end Alvin’s life.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

This is one of the best alternate history series I’ve ever read. It’s clever, well-researched, and incredibly entertaining. For those of you who know your early American history, you will appreciate Card’s rendition of mid-nineteenth century America. What I appreciate the most about this series is the writing. It’s clean and efficient, and he trusts his reader. Despite all the information he throws at you, he doesn’t stop and take the time to explain every little detail; he trusts that you’ll pick up on the historical references.

One of the main things I love about this series is that you get to see the characters grow. By the end of each book, all the characters have gone through obstacles and are changed because of it. In this particular novel, Alvin is put in jail and tried for the “theft” of the golden plow from Makepeace. We are introduced to some very interesting new characters and meet up with quite a few old faces from Hatrack River.

Alvin Journeyman is also one of the more suspenseful books so far in this series. Between the trial, Calvin’s troubles, and Peggy’s dilemma about whether or not to go back to Hatrack River and help Alvin, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It is a bit slower going in this novel because of the lack of war and action, but I didn’t enjoy it any less. It is a middle book in a series, so there’s going to be quite a bit of set-up for the end, and I’m sure there will be a payoff.

Overall, I like how this series is progressing. I love how Alvin isn’t the perfect hero — he has a good heart to be sure, but he has many flaws and a lot of doubts about his work in the world. The challenges between Alvin and the Unmaker are kept fresh, and now we’re seeing a big conflict coming up between Alvin and Calvin, something I saw coming, but I’m excited to read about nonetheless.

Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Series: Thursday Next, Book 1
Publisher: Viking Adult
Hardcover: 374 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very,very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

Overall Rating: 4/5

What I love about books is the mystery and the suspense. I love meeting characters who are more complicated and have more depth than some people I know in real life. And I LOVE good writing.

The Eyre Affair has it all.

Jasper Fforde is a genius, mixing the elements of a contemporary fiction/mystery story with science fiction to create a world that is at once familiar and strikingly different. It took me a while to get adjusted to this new world, where the Crimean war still rages on, and where forging Byronic verse is a serious offense and literature and art are highly prized by all. However, after 30 pages, I was fully involved in the story, flipping pages almost faster than I could read.

The characters are easy to relate to, and Thursday is everything I look for in a female protagonist. She’s funny, resourceful, and doesn’t let anybody boss her around or intimidate her. The fact that she seems to be way in over her head on this case makes it all the better. I like how she is forced to deal not only with hunting down a seemingly-invincible villain who has kidnapped her relatives and is about to change Martin Chuzzlewit and Jane Eyre forever, but also with her past and the death of her brother in the Crimean War.

The only problem I had with The Eyre Affair is that the ending is wrapped up a little too perfectly a little too quickly. After all that happened before, it just didn’t work for me. I’m a fan of nicely tied-up endings, but I like them to be realistic.

This is a book for book lovers (and who of us doesn’t love books?!). It makes more sense if you have some knowledge of history and classics in general, but it’s really not necessary. I definitely recommend giving The Eyre Affair a try.

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