ARC Review: Kingdom of Back

So not to surprise anyone, but this is the first Marie Lu book I’ve ever read. I managed to trade for an ARC of this book from a friend and it was so good! I love historical fiction and as a classically trained flute player I’ve played a lot of Mozart. To get to see a new side to the composer and his lesser known sister was an experience for me. And to mix fantasy into it? Even better.

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Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

As a musician, reading about their playing and composition struggles hit home for me. I had composed some small pieces myself in music theory classes, including a duet I co-composed between flute and clarinet. It was very relatable for me to see struggles that they were going through and sympathize with the doubts Nannerl felt. While my flute playing never brought in any money, even though it could have, it was interesting to see the historical differences for Wolfgang (Woferl) vs. Maria Anna (Nannerl).

As a woman, Nannerl can only perform until she is of age to marry and can never compose. Meanwhile, Woferl can play and compose until his dying breath (which he did). When Nannerl wishes to be remembered, she is approached by a Guardian spirit – Hyacinth, who strikes a deal with her: if you complete three tasks for me I will make sure you are remembered forever.

So, first off this is not high fantasy. This is more like urban fantasy where the fantastical elements are hidden from the modern world, except the modern world is 18th century Austria. While the Kingdom of Back moments are filled with faeries and monsters alike, it is written more like a dream than a world beyond. I thought the tone of it fit the story well as the Kingdom was “created” by two children looking to escape from their world of societal expectations and music. But don’t be fooled, this is not a high fantasy novel and most of the book is not set in the fantasy world.

Once you get past that expectation it does fluidly mix the fantasy world and real world together. Most of the story takes place in the real world and is primarily historical fiction mixed with some fantasy, but I love historical fiction so it wasn’t an issue for me. We have moments of hidden faces and unexpected images which I thought was even better than spending the entire book in the Kingdom. We get to see the children grow up and face real things that happened to them: Wolferl getting sick frequently, Nannerl’s secret compositions, and their journey around Europe.

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about the story honestly. I enjoyed seeing a young Wolfgang, since we really only hear about his scandalous days at court as a young man and not his childhood, and getting to learn about his sister Maria Anna. We see their relationship, their home life, their music careers. It reminds the reader that these were real people.

The thing that sealed the deal with this story was Marie’s author note at the end. This book was a decade long project for her and her objective made me cry. Nannerl did not get to grow up and be a musician and composer like Wolferl, but her music lives on, hidden in his work. Now, for the most part, girls can be whoever and do whatever they want. Nannerl’s wish was to live on forever and now she can, inspiring girls everywhere to live their dreams.

This book was a star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png//5 star read for me. The ending made me emotional and brought back the reasons why I love music. I miss the experience of performing someone’s creation long after they are gone and bringing to light the world as they saw it.

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If this book sounds interesting, check out Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.

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If you liked this review, please like this post, leave a comment, follow, share with your friends – anything is appreciated!

Review: Sensational

I received an e-ARC of Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review:

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Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months…so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition’s most popular exhibits.

Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she’s suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted.

 

I genuinely enjoyed this book and thought it was a great conclusion for this duology. We follow Nathalie as she continues her work helping the morgue and police with murder investigations. She has a suitor, is still working with Le Petite Journal, and while everything is going well, is still recovering from the Dark Artist murders two years earlier. It was sad to read that even two years later Nathalie is still suffering from the murder of her best friend. While I’m aware that grief does not have a timeline, I would have hoped she was feeling more comfortable and secure than we see her at the start of the book.

I also enjoyed getting to see more of her friends in this book. In Spectacle, we see a lot of the morgue, Le Petite Journal, and Aunt Bridgette. In Sensational, we see Nathalie with her friends more, going out and about. It was a nice change of pace from the first book and I liked the social interaction as well.

I thought the plot was great and even when I thought I knew the killer, I was still shocked to find myself wrong. It was interesting having the events coincide with the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris and to see what the exposition would have looked like through Nathalie’s eyes. It’s always fun to include a big historical event in a murder novel!

My only complaint was that there was sometimes too much of nothing in between scenes. The filler slowed down the book a lot in certain areas and it was preventing me from devouring the story like I did with Spectacle. Regardless, I like the plot, I like the ending, and I thought it was a great way to wrap up Nathalie’s story.

This book was a solid star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png//5 stars for me. I loved book 1 and book 2 was just as great.

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If this book sounds interesting, check out My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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If you liked this review, please like this post, leave a comment, follow, share with your friends – anything is appreciated!

Spectacle

I received an advance copy of Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok from NetGalley and I loved it. This book is currently published and available on all platforms, so if you like this review, feel free to purchase a copy for yourself or pick it up at your local library!

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To start off, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris.

Paris, 1887.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day’s new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered–from the perspective of the murderer himself.

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie’s search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie’s strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer’s identity–and she’ll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

As a historical fiction buff – I loved this story! The slight fantasy of it also made it that much more entertaining for me, especially since it added a lot to the story. Even though I wished it had a more prominent role, the biggest part of the story I loved was the historical fiction aspect of it, especially since it was 1880’s Paris – post Napoleon era.

The characters in this book, since most are women, seemed restrained, which makes sense for the times. While there were times I wished I saw more of a “screw the patriarchy” type of attitude from the characters, I can’t blame them for their reservations and their fears. It does show itself at times, but I had hoped for more moments of it.

Honestly, I loved this story so much, I couldn’t put it down at times. Since NetGalley gives out e-ARCs, I had to read this story on my kindle, which is something I don’t do often, so the fact that I couldn’t put the book down is saying something. As a person who has trouble reading on a kindle at times, the fact that I was obsessively reading this book means it’s good!

One of the problems I had with this book was the ending. It felt like it came out of nowhere and I was not prepared for the reveal when it happened. Usually with murder mysteries, there are some clues given to the reader so that they can start to guess who the killer is, but with this book I felt blindsided. I wish there had been a little more of a hint as to who it was and why they were doing it before the sudden reveal. On the other hand, it was also nice to be completely surprised at the fact that I didn’t guess the killer immediately. So if you like knowing who did it, this book is not for you! Get ready to be surprised.

Honestly, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was not only a suspenseful, enticing read but historically accurate, which is always lovely to read. As a historical fiction/fantasy buff – this book itched all my scratches and left me wanting more. I’m so excited to see what Zdrok comes out with next!

To wrap this up, I loved this story and I would give this book star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png/5 stars! I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves historical fiction as Zdrok does an amazing job incorporating history and fiction seamlessly.

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If you like historical fiction murder mysteries, I would recommend Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco or Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers!

Escaping From Houdini

Escaping from Houdini is the third book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco and will debut on September 18th, 2018. I received this as an ARC at BookCon and nearly died from it! (Seriously, I was almost trampled getting in line for this!) But, it was totally worth it! If you haven’t read Stalking Jack the Ripper or Hunting Prince Dracula, I will link their description on Goodreads so you can check them out!

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Here is part of the synopsis from Goodreads:

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. . .

(Please follow the link attached to read the rest of the synopsis!)

I read both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula last winter (I know, I know, I’m late to the party!) and absolutely adored them! If you have not read Stalking Jack the Ripper yet, here is the synopsis from Goodreads and here is the description for Hunting Prince Dracula on Goodreads.

These books are historical, young adult fiction and they are fantastic! They are all murder mysteries (I think I’m starting to see a trend here with my taste) but are so creative and witty at the same time. Audrey Rose is one of my favorite characters as she embodies the sass of the late 1800’s with grace and side eyes.

Meanwhile, Thomas, her uncle’s assistant and Audrey Rose’s soulmate (in my opinion) is hilariously sarcastic and witty with Audrey Rose, while also being aloof and professional. I loved both of them in the first two books and I loved them in this one too!

Just like books one and two, the plot leaves me questioning what the heck is happening! Every time someone is murdered, I find myself examining the scene along with Audrey Rose and trying to piece together the clues. I think Kerri does an amazing job hinting at who the killer is without making it too obvious, but not making it so hard that we’re all dumbfounded at the reveal.

The characters are all amazing and spunky, including the new ones introduced in this story. I thought each of their backstories and arcs were well defined and heartbreaking, while also being completely realistic. It was so refreshing to get to know these characters and add another layer to Audrey Rose’s character.

The one thing about this book that I disliked was the ending! Now, Kerri has confirmed that the ending is different in the final draft and the book is overall 40 pages longer. So, I am not going to talk about the ending, since it is being changed anyways and I am disregarding it in my review and rating until I’ve read the finished copy.

I honestly adored this book and I am so sad to hear we only get one more book after this and then it’s done! I want to keep following Audrey Rose and Thomas on their murder mystery journeys and see where their life goes. Unfortunately, my dreams will not come true and I am stuck enjoying these four books from Kerri.

Overall, I would give this bookImage result for starImage result for starImage result for starImage result for star stars and I would definitely recommend it to a friend!

If you haven’t read Stalking Jack the Ripper yet or Hunting Prince Dracula, make sure you do so before September 18th because you do not want to miss out on this book!

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If this book sounds good to you or you enjoy historical fiction, I would suggest A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee!

My Lady Janies

My Plain Jane is the sequel to My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton. This review is going to be a double whammy as I’m going to talk about BOTH MLJ and MPJ! 

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Here are the synopses for both My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane from Goodreads,

My Lady Jane:

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

(The synopsis continues on Goodreads, feel free to click the link to read more)

My Plain Jane:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

(The synopsis continues on Goodreads, feel free to click the link to read more)

I first read My Lady Jane on January 10, 2018. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I was so excited to read this spin off novel and I was not disappointed! I not only adore the concept of rewriting history, but the narration that Jane gives is hilarious! I honestly feel like we’re the same person (kinda). The book offers three different narrators and each of them are funny, witty, awkward, and brave. I loved the fantastical/magical aspect that was thrown in while also keeping the realism of the time, language, culture, and aesthetics.

As the story progresses, I’m not only drawn in by the utter sass, but the mystery. This novel not only turns history upside down, but throws in a murder mystery into too! (Which, are my favorite!) These ladies do it all.

While the characters are phenomenal, so are the history behind them. The authors keep a lot of the original history/story in the novel while explaining why it’s wrong, or simply changing minor details to make it work in the story; which is not only an amazing way to add to the story, but a lot of research, which I appreciate!

While I really enjoyed the story, I did feel like some parts of the novel flew by, and not because I was reading quickly (although sometimes I was). There are definitely times, especially leading up to or during big events, that it feels like the scenes are rushed through. I want more of the juicy details and sometimes I don’t get those.

Overall, this book is adorable and a great, fast paced read for anyone, especially historical fiction lovers! If you know the original history/story it not only makes the book more enjoyable, but funnier in my opinion.

As a result, I would give this bookImage result for starImage result for starImage result for starImage result for star stars!

Now, for My Plain Jane, I first read this book on July 9th, 2018. After reading, and loving, My Lady Jane in January, I was so excited to read the sequel!

While I loved the story line, and the added paranormal aspect to it, I felt like this story lacked what MLJ had. Both had fantastic, witty, and odd characters, but Charlotte’s point of view was sometimes, dull.

In MLJ I never felt like the character’s narration was boring, but sometimes I felt like Charlotte’s chapters dragged on in MPJ or were not important. While I adore her character, and think she added a lot to the story, there were times when her POV was boring, which I think is sad. She has all the potential to be an amazing character and I didn’t get that every time we saw her.

On the other hand, I loved the plot of MPJ much more than MLJ! My Plain Jane takes ghosts, which I love, and throws them into high society England, also something I love. The romance aspect of the book is something I found utterly hilarious, especially when explaining how quickly people fell in love back then!

While I loved the plot more, the lack of character spunk in this book (specifically Charlotte) made it harder for me to get through. I still love this book, but I would have to say that My Lady Jane was a better story.

As a result, I would give My Plain Jane Image result for starImage result for starImage result for star.5 stars!

Even though I liked My Lady Jane more, both of these books are wonderful, amazing historical fiction reads (with some fantasy thrown in) and if you haven’t read them, I definitely recommend them!

In total, the average between the two books would be Image result for starImage result for starImage result for star.75 stars! And both are available to check out at your library or for purchase!

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If you like these books, or this review sounds interesting, be sure to check out The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead! It’s historical fiction blended with science fiction and it’s a great young adult read!