The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Diana Biship and Matthew de Clairmont are dealing with the consequences of their quest for what vampires refer to as the Book of Life or Ashmole 782, according to witches. With Diana’s beloved second mother Emily murdered, the paranormal couple must act quickly and decisively to save themselves and their lives of those they love. But as centuries of secrets from the de Clairmonts continually mount, Matthew must revisit some of the darkest points in his life to complete their quest. And even with Diana’s increasing power and abilities, she still has her own obstacles to overcome in order to become the witch she is destined to be. Magical, enchanting and a true page turner, Harkness’ final installment in the All Souls Trilogy provides a dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best selling series.

Over one year and 30 books later I was happy to sink my teeth back into Harkness’ story of Diana Bishop and Matthew de Clairmont. The characters were as strong willed, judgmental and as devoted to each other as I remember. It took some time for me to recall the nuances of the complex plot line which detracted from the first portion of the text. I would have liked for Harnkess to include more subtle reminders of the first two books in this “The a Book of Life” to help establish a pace. However, once I got fully immersed there was no stopping. I got fully sucked into the story and needed to find out all of the secrets that Diana and Matthew were hunting for so long. I was rooting for them as a couple, and individually when they had to face their past in their own, and wanted to discover the reason why the congregation forbade creature interaction.

“The Book of Life” was expertly written and was full of different allusions and figurative language and elevated the text from a mere paranormal story into a superb read. With numerous themes present ranging from forgoing one’s fears to relying on help from freinds, any reader will find something to relate in the novel. For those who did not read “Discoery of Witches” and “Shadow of Night” I highly recommend doing so before picking up “The Book of Life” to fully appreciate different nuances and the multiple plot lines that Harkness uses throughout the trilogy. I recommend this series to those who like “Twilight” but want something a bit edgier or readers who are a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and would like a vampire and witch novel.

RATING: 4 Stars

Changeless by: Gail Carriger

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Alexia Maccoon follows her werewolf husband to Scotland to figure out the reason that supernaturals wont change. Along with a brigade of her stepsister, best friend Ivy, scientist Madame Lefoix and maid, Alexia tries to solve the 1800’s latest conundrum. With all of the flair of a Victorian Age tea party, Lady Maccoon confronts a danger directly related to being a preternatural, in more ways than one.

Gail Carriger’s “Changeless”, the second in the parasol protectorate series, picks up the same witty banter of “Soulless”. The novel is fully enjoyable and an imaginative read that challenges the reader to solve the mystery along with Alexia. Her marriage to Conall is the ideal werewolf/preternatural pair –if there ever was one—that features trust, romance, humor and parasols.

For those that adore steampunk, or simply want to try a unique and witty novel, this book is for you!

RATING: 4 Stars

Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

*** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Beatrice Lacey, the daughter of the Squire of Wideacre struggles with gender barriers in 18th century England. Her unable brother, Henry, is set to inherit the family estate upon their fathers death. However Beatrice believes that she is would make a better leader than Henry. Beatrice must decided how far she is willing to go to achieve her dream of being a Squire of Wideacre and if the ends justify the means.

I have read “Wideacre” by Philippa Gregory twice and still love it! It is one of my favorite books (hence it’s 6-star status!). Beatrice does a great job of narrating the book and it gives the reader a different perspective. Most books that are told from first person point of view are often told from a persons perspective who the reader likes and this is not the case. As a narrator, Beatrice explains all of her actions and the thought process behind them, which helps the reader stomach it is certain situations. For those who read the book and believe that the incest is an example of how sick Beatrice is I disagree with you. It shows how far she is willing to go to be Squire. I view it as a commentary on the time period and how society restricted women to household roles that they were forced to act like this. Beatrice stated on several occasions said that she did not like doing this but viewed it as ‘her rent’ for still living on Wideacre. 

Overall I loved this book, and the other ones in the series for that matter, and loved the depth of character that Gregory included.

RATING: 5 Stars

The Favored Child by Philippa Gregory

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Wideacre is ruined. The land is dead, poverty marks the tenants and the Lacey’s have no money or power to change it all. This is the second generation of Lacey’s – Richard and Julia – turn to rule over the estate and try to make it prosper once more. After John MacAndrew returns from India with a large fortune, the family believes that their luck – and more importantly Acre’s – has finally improved. Unfortunately they were all dead wrong.

I am a big fan of Gregory’s first novel in the trilogy, “Wideacre” (see review for details) and the second one does not disappoint. I have read “The Favored Child” three times to date and loved entering Gregory’s version of 1700’s England. I was able to notice things that I did not before about Julia and Richard in an attempt to understand their complex relationship. The author’s utilization of dramatic irony fuels the texts and has the reader screaming for Julia not to make the same mistakes Beatrice did.

Even though the first book proved to be too much for some readers, I still would recommend “The Favored Child”. The second installment in the trilogy is not plagued by an incestuous relationship that filled the pages of the first book. The continuation of themes is evident in “The Favored Child” and will come to fruition in the final book: “Meridon”.

The Wideacre Trilogy still proves why it is one of my favorite book series.

RATING: 5 stars

Brava, Valentine by: Adriana Trigiani

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Gianluca made his intentions clear to Valentine in Capri yet it was not meant to be. While attending her grandmother’s wedding in Tuscany, Valentine comes face to face with Gianluca once again. Their simmering romance ignites once again as the couple embark in the uncharted territory of a long distance relationship. Valentine’s work life stability is not much better as her grandmother names Valentine’s brother, Alfred, partner the family shoe company. As life continues to throw curve balls at Valentine, she can either step up to the plate or never reach her full potential.

I did not realize that this book was a second in a series and I have to commend Trigiani on providing background information in the story so readers understood the context. I read this novel via audio book and it was one of the better ones that I have listened to. I enjoyed the narrator and her various accents for the English, Spanish and Italian characters.

“Brava, Valentine” is a classic tale of a character maturing over the course of the story and developing into who they are supposed to be by the last page. The problem that Trigiani and ultimately Valentine ran into is that she is in her 30’s and acts with the maturity of a teenager. The highlight of the novel was Valentine’s quirky family that anyone could find some relatable aspect with.

In short, this book was underwhelming at best. Trigiani tried to do too much in a relatively short novel and bit off more than she could chew. There were too many subplots, undertones and social concepts that she tried to employ but it came off as sloppy. The protagonist Valentine was far from likeable and even verged on pathetic on several dozen instances.

 

RATING: 2 Stars

The Duke by: Gaelan Foley

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Robert Knight, the Duke of Hawkscliffe, is determined to solve the untimely death of his forbidden love and will stop at nothing to figure out the truth. During his quest for vengeance Hawkscliffe, stumbles upon one of London’s most renowned courtesans, Belinda Hamilton, who he enlists to help him. At the risk of scandal, his political career, family name and his heart, Hawscliffe is unaware of the lengths he is willing to go for the ones he loves and the ones he thought he loved.

Gaelan Foley’s “The Duke” is unlike any other historical romance book I have read from the quality of writing, plot structure and even the time period. This Regency Romance covered all emotions that top tier historical romances have from extreme happiness, sadness, love and betrayal yet Foley executed it superbly. Belinda and Hawkscliffe came alive off the page and I was truly rooting for them and their happiness. My favorite aspect of the book was the complex plot structure that utilized political undertones and multiple outside character story lines. Foley defied historical romance stereotypes that often plague the genre, such as an unplanned/forced wedding or unexpected pregnancy, and blazed a path for an enjoyable and steamy read.

I devoured the novel and could not put it down at home, work or late at night. I recommend this read for readers who like historical romance books but want something unique.

RATING 5 stars

Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

Reviewed By: Brittany Morgan

The Roman war hero, Titus Andronicus, returns home from battle with the Queen of the Goths, her three sons and Aaron. After Titus kills one of Queen Tamora’s sons, he soon learns that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

This early Shakespearian play the the best revenge story that I have ever found. The lengths that Tamora went to in order to avenge her son’s death is amazing and slightly disturbing. Typical to other Shakespearian tragedies the action is intense in the first three acts, shows during the fourth and all hell brakes loose in the final act. I have been dying to read this play for a good six months now and I am very happy that it delivered!

In general I am a huge fan of Shakespeare. I think he is a genius. The images, symbols rich characters and inappropriate jokes always keep me entertained. “Titus Andronicus” is definitely one of my favorite Shakespearian plays!

RATING: 5 stars