Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: April 3rd 2012
My rating: 5 stars 

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Grace Mercy was a unanimous winner in my end of blog poll, as the book that I needed to pick up next from my tbr pile and I am so glad that so many of you gave me the extra push to pick this book sooner rather than later, as grave Mercy was one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. 

The lovely Siiri I planned to read this book together and because of our busy schedules we decided to read 10 chapters a day; however none of us imagined that we’d be dying to read more chapters, once we’d finished off our assigned reading. LaFevers just wonderfully knew how to throw you head first into the story. We found ourselves with our MC Ismae who’s just been married, a marriage arranged by her father. On the first night things end up going the way Ismae knew they would, but she didn’t think that she would be whisked away to a covenant and made to become a formidable figure under St. Mortain of death. Ismae was trained up to assassinate anyone who bore the marque. On her assignment Ismae asked no questions, but just did what was acquired of her. But when Gavriel Duval turns up at the covenant demanding that they at least question their supposed targets before just killing them, this has Ismae questioning whether what she is doing is right. Also on top of this the covenant need a person on the inside to keep on top of the Duchess’ dire situation and who better than Ismae who will pretend to be Duval’s mistress. 

I loved the situation that Ismae found herself, not only did she find herself questioning if she was doing the right thing, but she also found herself in an awkward position with Duval. He clearly didn’t like Ismae, but now he was stuck with her for the foreseeable future. Duval didn’t really give off the greatest impression, he came across as an enraged man who didn’t like people meddling in his business, but really did he expect Ismae to disregard what she was required to do? I loved how both were forced into this situation. (I always find book where two characters are forced in a situation or to work together the best, more so when the situation creates a lot of tension and swoony scenes between said characters and I had a feeling that we would be definitely getting a lot of this from these two characters). 

I loved the slow tense build up between Ismae and Duval; they started off as two characters that completely didn't trust one another, to two characters who knew they had to trust each other in order to support the Duchess. I loved the banter that developed between Ismae and Duval and how in situations where Ismae was doing her job, Duval would just turn up glaring to drag Ismae away. At times it did seem Ismae was getting somewhere with her role she was playing, but I did like it when Ismae found herself in an awkward situation and Duval unexpectedly came to her aid (not that she needed helping) but I liked how he knew to be at the right place at the right time. And these abrupt turn ups did really give us an insight into the sort of character he was. 

Duval really stole my heart in this book, not only was he loyal to his Duchess, he was intelligent, funny, and totally swoon worthy, I was told earlier about a few chapters which I would thoroughly enjoy and they were so worth it, but I think any scene which had Duval in it became a favourite. LaFevers also excelled in writing great characters other than Duval (I could probably talk about him for the rest of my review.) I adored Beast and De Lorrnay, I enjoyed the fun they had in their scenes (I really wished we had more of them). The same could be said of Sybella and Annith, both really shone in the little time we spent with them. And the rest of the characters from the young but brave Duchess to Abess all brought something different to the story. I truly admired the variety that LaFevers gave us. 

I also hugely enjoyed the mystery aspect to this book; we had some nice build up of tension, as we didn’t know who we really could trust. There were some characters which had me raging and needing a couple of slaps, but time and time again loyalties to the Duchess were tested. And finally after I did discover who could be the biggest ever fraud, I was still floored as to why they had deceived us so much in the first place. So Grace Mercy was definitely a book which kept on my toes with its great mystery, will she/ won’t they moments and of course continual aspects of fear that something could go horribly wrong. LeFevers weaves elements of sabotage in to this story wonderfully alongside aspects of heart break. (highlight to view spoiler) De Lornay *cries* why?. And for this reason I can say this is one of the best books I have read in a long time!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: Red Hill by Jaime McGuire

Red Hill
Red Hill by Jaime McGuire
Narrated by: Emma Galvin, January LaVoy, Zachary Webber
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 9 Hours 38 Minutes
Publication date: October 1st 2013
My rating: 4.5 stars

When the world ends, can love survive?

For Scarlet, raising her two daughters alone makes fighting for tomorrow an everyday battle. Nathan has a wife, but can’t remember what it’s like to be in love; only his young daughter Zoe makes coming home worthwhile. Miranda’s biggest concern is whether her new VW Bug is big enough to carry her sister and their boyfriends on a weekend escape from college finals.

When reports of a widespread, deadly “outbreak” begin to surface, these ordinary people face extraordinary circumstances and suddenly their fates are intertwined. Recognizing they can’t outrun the danger, Scarlet, Nathan, and Miranda desperately seek shelter at the same secluded ranch, Red Hill. Emotions run high while old and new relationships are tested in the face of a terrifying enemy—an enemy who no longer remembers what it’s like to be human.

Set against the backdrop of a brilliantly realized apocalyptic world, love somehow finds a way to survive. But what happens when the one you’d die for becomes the one who could destroy you?

Red Hill grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until its stunning conclusion. This is #1 New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire at her unforgettable best.

My Thoughts:
I’ve always been a fan of zombie stories, and usually they’re told in an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world type scenario, and I’ve always been attracted to those types of tales.  Not sure exactly what about them that appeals to me, but part of it is the challenges faced in the fight to survive.  Red Hill was a thrilling, personal story that brought out a mix of emotions, and I enjoyed every second of it!

Red Hill was the zombie apocalypse told from three perspectives: Scarlet, Nathan, and Miranda.

Scarlet is a divorced single mother desperately trying to find her two daughters after all hell broke loose.  She was separated from her girls when they go to spend the weekend with their father and she drives off to work.  Scarlet has one mission, one goal, and that is to reunite with her daughters and find someplace safe to hole up.  I felt a keen connection to Scarlet as a mother and could easily relate to the desperate determination she felt trying to find her girls.  I was rooting for her success and biting my nails nervously at every turn.  Scarlet was incredibly brave and one tough lady, and I admired her even when I didn’t completely agree with some of her decisions in the end. Would I make the same choices, knowing it endangered my life or those around me? Maybe. Probably.

Nathan, a recently abandoned husband and father to seven-year old, Zoe is scrambling to find a safe haven after the outbreak with his daughter in tow.  He was stuck in a loveless marriage and trying hold everything together for his daughter who has special needs.  I don’t think her condition was ever named but she might have had Asperger’s syndrome.  I felt his depression and sad resignation at his situation as the story began, but all that changed with the outbreak.  Ironically, the apocalypse sort gave Nathan a new lease on life, and I was hoping he’d get a happy ending.  Even though romance wasn’t the focus of this story I was hoping that Scarlet and Nathan would connect and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Miranda starts the story as a college student escaping for a weekend away with her sister and their boyfriends, and then a run for their lives when the situation becomes crazy.  They were on their way to her father’s weekend home, Red Hill to spend time with him and now they can’t get there fast enough. My heart broke for her and her boyfriend, Bryce at the situation they find themselves in when the get to Red Hill.

We get the end of the world told from each Scarlet, Nathan and Miranda’s personal perspectives, and I loved how their stories overlapped each other until they all come to the same point: Red Hill. Their struggles, emotional and otherwise felt real and made a zombie apocalypse feel very possible.

This is not the first story I’ve read and enjoyed of Jaime McGuire’s, but I was surprised Red Hill was so completely different from Beautiful Disaster.  Being able to switch from one genre to another and still manage to tell a moving story really impressed me.

I listened to the audio version of Red Hill, and I highly recommend it.  There were three different narrators: January LaVoy as Scarlet had an appealing, low, sultry voice, and the determination and sincerity as a mother on a mission came through loud and clear with her performance.  Zachary Webber as Nathan did an amazing job conveying his depression in the beginning, and boy was his voice ever sexy!  Emma Galvin as Miranda sounded age perfect: fresh, plucky and strong. I thought each did a brilliant job!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Review: The Temptations of Anna Jacobs by Robyn DeHart

The Temptations of Anna Jacobs (Dangerous Liaisons, #2)
The Temptations of Anna Jacobs (Dangerous Liaisons #2) by Robyn DeHart
Publisher: Intermix/Penguin
Publication date: April 15th 2014
My rating: 4 stars
Love and justice…

When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn't much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he's working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his "innocence."

Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society's ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard's best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn't count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss.

Anna's brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew's arms?

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to The Temptations of Anna Jacobs when I saw that gorgeous cover and then read it was a romance/mystery set in Victorian England! Add in Jack the Ripper (yes, I’m deranged!) and I was immediately sold! 

Annabelle Jacobs is not the typical Victorian woman.  She is going to medical school and has made her education her priority, much to her mother’s dismay.  Her mother thinks she should focus on finding a suitable husband and feels that her chosen studies chases away any desirable prospects.  Still, her mother won’t oppose her choice especially when Anna was encouraged by her father to take this path. While Anna would love to have a husband and family eventually, it’s not her primary concern.  Of course now that she’s not looking Anna meets Drew, a scoundrel who spent time in jail after being wrongfully accused of the Ripper murders and her heart is a lost cause.

After discovering his origins, Drew had spent a lot of time wallowing in self-pity, drinking himself into oblivion and womanizing to forget the pain of betrayal he felt from his father and mother. His careless behavior made him the perfect scapegoat and The Ripper took full advantage by setting him up.  Thankfully, the frame up didn’t stick.  Seeing that Drew was in The Ripper’s haunts and close enough to be set up, Scotland Yard drafts him to help catch the killer. When he meets Anna, the spirited medical student, Drew is immediately taken with her pluck and determination.  When The Ripper strikes again Anna’s medical knowledge and counsel proves to be a valuable asset in solving the crimes.  The more Drew is around Anna the more he can’t resist his growing attraction, but he feels unworthy with his questionable past.

Anna was a character I immediately bonded with. She had sass and spunk and I admired her courage going against the norms of the time by pursuing a medical degree.  She may not have attracted the conventional male who would’ve been threatened by Anna’s aspirations, but Drew found her talents and focus enticing! I just love a man who is confident enough to love a strong woman!

Drew pulled himself out of a nasty situation with the help of his best friend and the support of his brother.  Some could’ve used the situation as an excuse to sink further into self pity, but Drew counted himself fortunate and didn’t piss away his second chance. His connection to Anna is powerful because they’re attracted to each other both mentally and physically.  They fight and succumb to their desires in the middle of trying to solve the grisly murders taking place.  Danger and desire combine for some very steamy scenes; definitely scandalous for the time, but oh-so-delicious!  It was nice that in spite of some road blocks to their romance there were never any ridiculous or frustrating actions.  Yay for maturity in romance!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been drawn in by any documentary or story based on Jack the Ripper.  The horrific nature of the crimes and the fact that he got away with them fascinates and disturbs me. I think any mystery buff feels like there must be a way to figure his identity out! In this story, the mystery surrounding Jack the Ripper is part of an ongoing story arc for the series, so while a part was solved, the identity of The Ripper is still not revealed.  The mystery began in the previous installment The Secrets of Mia Danvers, but you don’t have to read it to appreciate and enjoy this story.  With that said, I would like to go back and read the first one.  Ms. DeHart sucked me with her thrilling story and I can’t wait to read the next!  I NEED to know who this fictionalized Ripper is!

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