Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders # 1) by Robin Hobb

618211Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.


Ship of Magic is book one in The Liveship Traders series. It tells the story of the Vestrit family of traders from Bingtown. The story starts with the death of the patriarch Ephron Vestrit who dies on the Vivacia. The Vivacia is the family ship and a liveship, a magical ship made of Wizardwood (a substance that gives the ship its magical properties). When Ephron dies on board of the Vivacia, it allows the vessel to “quicken,” meaning the ship comes to life and becomes a sentient being. Althea is Ephron’s youngest daughter and the one who should have inherited the ship, but much to her surprise Ephron gives the ship to his older daughter Keffria who subsequently gives it to her husband, Kyle. Althea and Kyle cannot stand each other, and since the Vivacia needs a blood relative of the Vestrits to operate, Kyle orders his son Wintrow, who wanted to become a priest, to come on board of the ship making the boy’s life miserable. Parallel to this story, we meet Kennit, an ambitious pirate who dreams of one day uniting all pirate townships and conquering all pirate ships including the Vivacia.

If the 80s American soap-opera Dynasty had a nautical version, it would be called Ship of Magic. The amount of family drama in this book is unlike anything I have read in a long time. The first fifty percent of the book is just bickering between all members of the Vestrit family, especially between Althea and Kyle.

The pace of the book is irritatingly languid. To quote Stephen King, ” When a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with the powers of description and lost sight of his priority…” Indeed the majority of the book is descriptions of people and places to the point you wonder if anything is ever going to happen in this novel, or if this story even has a plot. Ship of Magic does have a plot, and things do eventually start happening but much later in the book, and by then I had read several other novels in between.

At a hefty eight hundred and eight pages, at the end of this book, you feel like you have been reading about Kyle, Althea, Wintrow, Vivacia, and trade families for years. That might have been Hobb’s idea all along since this is book one in the series and the introduction to all the characters and this magical, nautical world. I was happy to have stuck with it, and I actually loved the story all things concerned. However, if you enjoy your fantasy books a little faster paced, Ship of Magic might not be for you.


Format: Hardcover, 880 pages
Published: February 2nd, 1999 by Spectra (first published March 1998)
ISBN:0553575635
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Emily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby

42774228When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone. Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women. When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?


The book starts forty-seven years ago in the small, fictional town of Hesterville, GA, where a music festival akin to Woodstock is about to take place at Harold Baker’s farm. The townspeople, apprehensive about the festival and the type of audience it will attract, try to prevent the festival from happening to no avail.

The Dixons live close to the farm where the festival is taking place. Rachel, George and poor baby Emily have endured several nights of loud music and very little sleep. On the last day of the festival, when the music seemed to be dying out, Rachel tucked in baby Emily in her crib and went to bed exhausted. Unbeknownst to Rachel and George, their paths were about to cross with hippies Vicki and boyfriend Russ Murphy who were driving back from the festival stoned and starved.

Vicki asks Murph to stop to get her something to eat, but when he fails to find a place that’s open late at night, Vicki convinces him to pull over by a house where she can trespass and get something to eat. Although Murphy is initially not on board with the idea, he agrees to it as long as Vicki can go in and out of the house without raising anyone’s attention. When Vicki enters the Dixon family’s home, she finds a lot more than food, and a crime of opportunity presents itself in a way that will change the course of the Dixon’s and Vicki’s life forever.

I loved this book. As much as I hated Vicki, I could also understand her pain and where she was coming from as a woman and a mother. Things are never as simple as they seem and this book will have you question your preconceived notions on this topic.

This book is a page-turner that had me crying. The theme of this book is every parent’s worst nightmare, and Crosby did a fantastic job of telling such a compelling story with love and compassion. A heart-wrenching, beautiful story about forgiveness and ultimately love.

Emily, Gone is scheduled to be published on April 30th, 2019. I want to thank the author for providing me a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Format: Paperback, 398 pages
Published: expected to be published April 30th, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN:1542044928
Source: ARC provided by the Author
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

About The Author

Bette Lee Crosby

Bette Lee Crosby is the USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Twelfth Child and the Wyattsville series. She has been the recipient of the Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal, Reviewer’s Choice Award, FPA President’s Book Award, and International Book Award, among many others. Her 2016 novel, Baby Girl, was named Best Chick Lit of the Year by the Huffington Post. She laughingly admits to being a night owl and a workaholic, claiming that her guilty pleasure is late-night chats with fans and friends on Facebook and Goodreads. The Summer of New Beginnings, published by Lake Union, Took First Place in the Royal Palm Literary Award for Women’s Fiction and was a runner-up for book of the year. The sequel, A Year of Extraordinary Moments, is now available.

Website | Twitter |Facebook|Amazon

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

37912970Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle. But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….


Less than a perfect wife and mother, Alison is an attorney with a drinking problem who is having an affair with a co-worker, and she just landed her first murder case. She is married to Carl, a struggling therapist who is also a stay-at-home-dad and mother to five-year-old Matilda (Tilly). Alison’s life is spiraling down to a complete disaster, as her marriage to Carl is falling apart she struggles with her destructive drinking and sordid affair with Patrick. Faced with her first murder case to defend, will there be hopes for Alison to regenerate, save her marriage, and become the loving, present, mother her daughter Tilly deserves?

This is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, can’t-put-it-down sort of thriller. Tyce gets you hooked from the prologue. There are no slow, boring parts. You are taken down the same sordid and destructive path that Alison takes. Blood Orange is the sort of novel where you can’t tell the bad guys from the good guys and nothing; absolutely nothing is what it seems. My only gripe with this novel is that half-way through the book I felt the plot reminded me of some elements of another great British novel, B.A. Paris’s The Breakdown. I don’t want to reveal too much in fear that I might spoil the fun. Blood Orange is Harriet Tyce’s debut novel.


Format: Hardcover, 340 pages
Published: February 21st, 2019 by Wildfire (first published January 10th, 2019
ISBN:1472252756
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Thriller

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

82192Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.


The Crystal Cave is book one in the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart. Written in 1970, this is a book about Merlin. The famous wizard who played a crucial role in the birth and legend of King Arthur. I have been a fan of Arthurian stories for quite some time, and I was surprised that it took me so many years to read this book.

The book starts in Wales with Merlin still a child and the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess who refuses to name his father. Merlin grows up being ostracized for being a bastard, for having dark features (dark eyes and dark hair), and precognition abilities. All of these characteristics fed the myth that Merlin was the son of a demon. A claim that Stewart addresses later in the book.

The structure of the novel follows a first-person narrative told by Merlin and covers Merlin’s life from age six to when he becomes a young man. The book is divided into five parts. A prologue, part one (The Dove), which covers Merlin’s childhood, part two (The Falcon), a description of Merlin’s escape from his family, and his introduction to his magical studies by the hermit Galapas. Part three (The Red Dragon) relates to his time working with the High King Ambrosius and his rebuilding of Stonehenge. Part four (The Coming of The Bear) is the final part that relates to Merlin’s helping Uther Pendragon to seduce Ygraine, leading to the birth of King Arthur.

I truly enjoyed this novel and Stewart’s take on Merlin’s life. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

As to how this will be, it is with God. I can only tell you what I know. What powers is in me now is from him, and we are in his hands to make or to destroy. But I can tell you this also, Ygraine, that I have seen a bright fire burning, and in it a crown, and a sword standing in an altar like a cross.


Format: Hardcover, 527 pages
Published: June 1970 by William Morrow & Company Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st, 1970)
ISBN:0688013988
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Sanctuary

IMG_5193

Notre Dame de Paris, a medieval Catholic cathedral in Paris, France, is in flames today. My heart bleeds as eight centuries of history is ablaze. I think of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Quasimodo’s words “sanctuary, sanctuary…”

I feel lucky to have visited Notre Dame last December. We never think about the brevity of things. We humans take many people and places for granted. I recall planning to go back in the summer when the warm weather wouldn’t have made me shiver so much at the top of the cathedral. Paris this past December was pretty cold.
I told my kids about the fire, and I could tell they regretted having complained that they had to climb the three hundred plus steps it took us to get to the top of the cathedral and see the gargoyles.

I’m sad for the people who hold Notre-Dame as a place of worship, not just a touristic site, and today feel they lost their sanctuary.

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret. His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that…”

IMG_6880

IMG_6869

IMG_6874

IMG_6870

IMG_5195

IMG_5196

 

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2495567Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.


The book starts with the protagonist, Kvothe, living a low-profile life as an innkeeper at the Waystone Inn and going by the name of Kote in the fictional world of Temerant. Kote runs the inn together with his assistant Bast. When Kote saves a traveling scribe known as Chronicler from being attacked by spider-like creatures called scrael, the Chronicler immediately recognizes Kote as the renowned Kvothe—an unequaled sword fighter and magician. The Chronicler asks permission to record Kvothe’s story. After pondering about it, Kvothe agrees to tell his story to the Chronicler but warns him that it will take three days to tell his story. The Name Of The Wind corresponds to day one of Kvothe’s story in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.

It’s hard to believe that a book of this magnitude was Patrick Rothfuss’s first novel. Granted it took him several years to write it while he was pursuing his B.A. in English. The Name Of The Wind is not only an incredibly creative fantasy book, a coming-of-age like nothing I had read so far, but it is also a very well-written book. I loved the narrative, the poems, and songs in the story. Rothfuss’s use of a story-within-a-story format is what sets this book apart. To imagine an entire six-hundred-and-sixty-page book being day one in Kvothe’s story is mind-blowing, but it works because Rothfuss is so creative and descriptive with every scene in the book. I felt like I knew Kvothe on a personal level. You follow him from his early beginnings with his family—a troupe of traveling performers, through meeting his first teacher—Abenthy (Ben) to his years in the University. I’m not going to deny that as much as I loved Kvothe as a character, at times, I was annoyed by how good he was at everything. Even with this small flaw, Rothfuss still manages to make Kvothe a likable character who endures many challenges. Kvothe’s life is far from easy. He loses his family at the hands of evil mystical beings, the Chandrians, at a very early age, and his early life is plagued with violence and hunger.

When I first decided to read this novel, I remember being extremely skeptical. The Name Of The Wind is probably one of the best-rated fantasy books on Goodreads, right along legends such as Tolkien’s LOTR The Fellowship Of The Ring, with a rating of four and a half stars and more than five hundred thousand ratings. I have to admit after finishing book one in this trilogy that the hype is real and very well-deserved.

I’m definitely reading book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, and together with the fandom, I will anxiously await the release of the third book.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 


Format: Hardcover, 662 pages
Published: April 2007 by Penguin Group DAW (first published March 27th, 2007)
ISBN: 075640407X
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle

41832575Newlyweds Brooklyn and Derek are enjoying the final days of their honeymoon in Paris. As they’re browsing the book stalls along the Seine, Brooklyn finds the perfect gift for Derek, a first edition James Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me. When they bump into Ned, an old friend from Derek’s spy days, Brooklyn shows him her latest treasure. Once they’re back home in San Francisco, they visit a spy shop Ned mentioned. The owner begs them to let him display the book Brooklyn found in Paris as part of the shop’s first anniversary celebration. Before they agree, Derek makes sure the security is up to snuff—turns out, the unassuming book is worth a great deal more than sentimental value. Soon after, Derek is dismayed when he receives a mysterious letter from Paris announcing Ned’s death. Then late one night, someone is killed inside the spy shop. Are the murders connected to Brooklyn’s rare, pricey book? Is there something even more sinister afoot? Brooklyn and the spy who loves her will have to delve into the darkest parts of Derek’s past to unmask an enemy who’s been waiting for the chance to destroy everything they hold dear.


The Book Supremacy is the thirteenth book in the Bibliophile Mystery Series. I don’t usually read a book this far in a series if I haven’t read any of the previous books, but I decided to take a chance. I love cozy mysteries, and I kept hearing wonderful things about this series.

Indeed the plot was great! The mystery was good and not at all predictable. The pacing was just right with a narrative full of dynamic dialogues that made the story flow really smoothly. Brooklyn and Derek were great characters. Their relationship was cute–I just wished I knew more about their back story. I loved the fact that this book started in Paris and for the first chapters, I was really hooked. Having just visited Paris, it was a bit bitter-sweet for me, but Carlisle’s excellent descriptions of la Ville des Lumières really transported me back to one of my favorite cities in the world. Unfortunately, as the story went on, I just wasn’t as invested. The book has so many characters, friends, co-workers, and family members that had already been introduced in other installments, and since I’d never got to know these characters before, I had a hard time picturing them. I see why some people think this can be a standalone book. This book is a not a continuation of a previous story, per se, but I believe that for you to get into the story and appreciate these characters, you should read the earlier books in the series.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC, 288 pages
Published: June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H72R95G
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley, and Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cozy mystery

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

10803076As I Lay Dying starts with the family’s matriarch, Addie Bundren dying and looking out the window as her son Cash builds her coffin. The Bundren family live on a rural farm in Mississippi in the 1920s. After Addie dies, the family sets out on a journey to Jefferson, the place Addie wanted to be buried.  The trip is a difficult one because it is both long and the Bundrens are poverty-stricken. Anse is the husband determined to take his wife’s body to Jefferson, but when in reality plans on getting himself a new set of teeth. Dewey Dell is the daughter who has an agenda of her own. She wants to go to Jefferson because she is pregnant and intends to have an abortion. Cash is the carpenter of the family who built his mother’s coffin and plans on going to Jefferson to buy a record player. Jewel is the illegitimate son born out of wedlock when Addie and the town’s preacher had a fling. Vardaman is the youngest of the sons. Traumatized after his mother’s death, he decides she is just like the fish he had previously caught and killed and constantly repeats “My mother is a fish.” Darl is considered the feebleminded of the family. Darl is also very intuitive and suspects that the rest of the family has ulterior motives to go to Jefferson.

When the family arrives in Jefferson after surviving a series of incidents which include Cash’s leg becoming gangrenous, Dewey Dell trying to have an abortion but ending up having sex with a guy pretending to be a doctor, and Darl being declared insane and placed in an asylum. Anse goes into a house to borrow some shovels to bury Addie’s body and starts to flirt with the lady of the house. The novel ends with Cash losing a leg, Dewey Dell not getting an abortion, Anse taking the money the family had saved to buy himself a new set of teeth, and making the lady of the house the new Mrs. Bundren.

The structure of the novel consists of narrations from each member of the family. While they are on the journey to Jefferson, they relate to what happened in the past as each narrator has a reason for making the trip. Faulkner again uses a stream-of-consciousness style in his narrative that I really struggled to understand at times.

“Bananas are gone, eaten. Gone. When it runs on the track shines again. I said God made me. I did not said to God to made me in the country. If he can make the train, why can’t He make them all in the town because flour and sugar and coffee.”

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you…I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or am not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know whether he is or not.” 

To say that reading Faulkner is intense is an understatement. Although I managed to read and enjoy, some years ago, the massive stream of consciousness that is The Sound and The Fury,  reading As I Lay Dying was a much harder experience for me. Let me just say that I considered quitting the book in several different parts. The quote by Joe in the book You by Caroline Kepnes came to my mind many times while I read this novel.

“…Faulkner you’ll never finish, never start; Faulkner that will harden and calcify…”

This novel is on my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge.


Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Published: January 30th, 1991 by Vintage (first published 1930)
ISBN: 067973225X
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Literary fiction, Classics

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

35721194Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind. But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.


Stella Ainsley catches a break when she finally leaves her job as an engineer aboard the less than desirable Stalwart to become a governess on a private ship—the Rochester. Hugo Halifax is the captain of the Rochester and a drunk at nineteen. Stella is a great character, and I particularly liked the fact she was an engineer in space. Their romance was cute, but Hugo at nineteen was not as appealing to me as a forty-year-old Rochester.

I love retelling stories, such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, which have become as much a favorite as the original inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, retelling stories are not copycats. The reason so many retelling stories exist today is because the classics they are inspired by are great stories, with great characters that withstand the test of time. On that note, writing a retelling story can be incredibly daunting because now you are expected to produce a story that elicits the same, or very similar emotions to those experienced by readers who read those classic novels.

Brightly Burning is a lovely retelling of Jane Eyre set in space. Alexa Donne did a fantastic job at reviving the emotions of Brontë’s classic but to an entirely new YA audience who might have never read Charlotte Brontë’s novel. Brightly Burning is a creative and pleasant read.


Format: Hardcover, 394 pages
Published: May 1st, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN:1328948935
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: YA, Scifi, Romance

The Sunday Post

 

IMG_1619The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. A post to recap the past week, and share news about the upcoming week.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Another week has gone by in a flash. I hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather. At least I hope it’s getting warmer everywhere.

IMG_1620

Although this week has been extremely productive in terms of reading, I really only got around reviewing two books. I started the week with a review of:

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – This book tells the story of a young girl who escapes death when she is sent to a convent, The Convent of Sweet Mercy, where young girls are trained to be killers. This is a coming-of-age YA and was my first introduction to Mark Lawrence’s writing–it did not disappoint.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King – I just never get tired of praising Stephen King. I have read many of his books, even his fabulous book On Writing. This was a re-read for me. I first read Pet Sematary a long time ago in my early teens, and I have to say I still got just as scared now as I did then. Pet Sematary is still ranked in my top all-time great horror books.

IMG_1621

We’ll start the week with a review of a YA fantasy book that is a retelling of Jane Eyre called Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne.35721194

Next, we’ll read a review of  The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle.Image result for the book supremacy by kate carlisle

And we’ll finish this week with a review of another book in my Classics Club Challenge, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.10803076

How about you? How’s your Sunday going? What books do you plan on reviewing this week? Have you read any of the books listed? If you have, let me know your thoughts and Happy Reading! 🙂